http://almanacnews.com/square/print/2008/09/02/letter-haste-and-waste-in-downtown-planning


Town Square

Letter: Haste and waste in downtown planning

Original post made on Sep 2, 2008

Before he criticizes the pace of Menlo Park City Council action on the El Camino Real visioning effort, Rick Ciardella should pay heed to the well-established maxim that haste makes waste.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 3, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments

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Posted by A true Moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2008 at 10:42 pm

While Mr. Madison is accurate about the last council's rush to approve the Derry project and throw in the Cadillac site approvals at the same time, could there not be something better? Why do we have these endless studies this council is drowning in? Menlo Park should be able to find a moderate avenue that is somewhere between giving away the ranch and a referendum, especially one that despite its victory, never came back to the council so that the public could witness and participate. This was the legal remedy and the reason I signed the petition.

When are we ever going to have a council that listens, is reasonable and actually makes decisions that represent the time in which we now live? If no one has noticed, this council needs some new energy. This council needs to get rid of the obstructionist, the guy who answers to a small group of do nothing people. Yes, replace Cohen with Ciardella and let's move forward.


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Posted by another moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2008 at 8:34 am

I also signed the referendum petition, and the Council has discussed it several times. They still must act on the referendum. It's my understanding that the developer has modified the project and is coming forward with it very soon. That's OK with me.

Mayor Cohen is unique among politicians - he actively seeks input from a variety of perspectives and then makes up his own mind. I admire that and wish more of our councilmembers would do the same. If Boyle and Robinson would be more succinct, meetings wouldn't drone on into the night as they now do.

Regarding studies, some of them are due to major development projects that don't conform to existing city rules. The Santa Cruz sidewalk study is important so we don't end up with another controversy and no action. For El Camino/Downtown, the lengthy time so far has been due to a process designed by councilmembers John Boyle and Rich Cline. I certainly have not admired that they did not include community members in their process or that it took them a full year to propose a methodology to the rest of the council. On the other hand, they both have communicated that it's better to take more time now to gain community support of a plan than to have yet another failed exercise.


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Posted by OldTimer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Doesn't the Ciardella family own property on El Camino across from the Derry project or cadillac dealership?



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Posted by political moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2008 at 10:50 pm


Mr. Madison's editorial alleges a "rush" to approve the Derry Lane Project. If you check the history of the project Web Link you will find that it was over two years from the staff report for
the council study session, Jan 2004, to the staff report summarizing the issues for council in April 2006. Obviously, even before the first staff report, the O'Brien group worked with staff many months.


The council did take into account the general trend towards transit oriented development, considered "green" by most environmental groups. Council member Kelly Fergusson voted to support the project. When the referendum proved popular, the avatar of political opportunism that she is, switched sides to oppose it. Council member Cohen opposed it, since he is principled, his principle being that Menlo Park is his town, he likes it the way it is and he's not sharing it with anybody.

Mr. Madison is not satisfied with two to three years to review the project, probably because he wants its period of study and review to be beyond his lifetime. The rest of us DO care about the health of this town and even more important, care about respecting property rights.


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Posted by Moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 7, 2008 at 10:01 am

James Madison represents residentialists that want to stop progress in Menlo Park. 'Citizen participation' is their latest technique to achieve this goal. The original Derry Project went through a three year public hearing process. The referendum was created because they didn't like the building, not because they didn't like the process.

Andy Cohen is a residentialist. Because land use decisions affecting El Camino Real are the most serious issues facing Menlo Park, our lopsided council needs the balance offered by replacing Andy Cohen with Rick Ciardella. Rick has a masters degree from Harvard in Landscape Architecture and Urban design. He understands how great a new El Camino could be for our City.


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Posted by also a moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Well excuse me, but it was not until the final meeting about the original Derry proposal that anyone knew that the previous council was not seeking any public benefit for the windfall profits inherent in the upzoning the project approval represented.
Add to that the fact that the project exceeded by a lot existing city regulations, including the general plan. Most of us like following the rules and adhering to written plans. To do otherwise is not moderate at all. As a moderate, I still supported the referendum for those reasons.
What is wrong with being a residentialist? Most of the people I know like that are reasonable people who love living in a small town and who embrace change, but not spot zoning or defiance of existing rules.

I am pleased that the current council respects the need for written plans and for updating them, rather than favoring the spot zoning that had been occurring. I don't enjoy the time it takes, and hope that it can be accelerated, but think it's worth it in order to create plans that will persist for many years.
The prior council flat out rejected the idea of planning along El Camino as suggested by staff. It was the current council that set proper planning into motion. And it was John Boyle and Rich Cline who recommended the process, so don't go blaming the incumbents who are up for re-election.


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Posted by political moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2008 at 1:11 pm


"also a moderate" claims no public benefit in the original derry plan. Lets tally this. School impact fee, approx $450,000, Rec-lieu fee (for public parks), $4million. RE taxes (annual bill), 1% of sale price about $1.4mill. Finally, the original derry project had the developer give a parcel of land next to the tracks to create a public street.

So the two years delay by Brown, et al, has already cost the public close to $3million in property taxes. And DID YOU GET TO VOTE ON THE PROJECT???? emphatically no! having acquired the power, MR. Brown elected to negotiate in PRIVATE with the developer. This particularly weaselly council could have step in and either declare the original plan null, OR submitted to a referendum. It did neither, it empowered Mr. Brown! BTW, if Mr. Brown and his ilk hadn't spent $10,000 plus of his own money for professional signature gatherers, we would not have come to this point. Full disclosure, I don't own anything in that neighborhood or have ANY interest in that side of town. But I got interested in this story in the pages of the Almanac, filled in a few details with a search engine, and was totally outraged that this happened.

As for the critique of "spot zoning", what is wrong with that? If the original zoning plan done many years ago, didn't think of everything, why shouldn't we get creative to determine what works for our community TODAY. It's not every day that a three plus acre lot is available for our community to do a clean slate design with elements to appeal to many people.


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Posted by Menlo moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Political "moderate," I was one of the people who collected signatures for Derry. Most of us, including me, did not get paid (vs the Derry signature gatherers, who were ALL paid, no volunteers for that camp). It was not hard to collect signatures because I did not meet a single person except Elizabeth Lasensky who liked that project. Too dense, not appropriate for El Camino.

If it's all about maximizing revenues to the city, why not just put a WalMart on El Camino? Most of us who moved to this city did so because we like the village feel of the community. Excess density has a high price, and we don't want to pay it.

P.S. Those in lieu fees are a joke compared to the actual cost of educating children in the public school system and providing recreational facilities. And the city only gets a small fraction of property taxes.


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Posted by how to kill the moderate meaning
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2008 at 4:48 pm

None of you are moderates. You are frothy political party activists on each side and a lot of us are sick and tired of you claiming moderation. Political moderate starts it all with a scathing review of Kelly and Cohen. The Moderate follows up with a slam of Cohen and Madison. And so on and so forth...

Let's get out of the muck here and call it what it is, political season. Our downtown vision will be something to be proud of when it is done and as frustrated as you are, you will be equally pleased to have a plan and a zone for our future.

Derry is a mess. The public benefit return is not public benefit, it is what is required by developers who insist on building housing to the limit and above and want a way to pay off their obligations.

Public benefit is what we as a city should demand from giving density bonuses on top of the "pay out" developers use to have no parks and no responsibility for congestion and population growth.

You want bigger, you pay us. Our community, schools, environment is our equity and you have to earn it. This is why Mickie and the goons were rejected. They gave it away and it wasn't their to give.

You disagree, then it just proves your ignorance.


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Posted by Menlo moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2008 at 5:31 pm

I agree with you, how to kill. Can I still call myself a moderate?


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Posted by how to kill the moderate meaning
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2008 at 10:23 pm

No.


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Posted by political moderate
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Apparently, "how to" thinks it is political moderation to squeeze the developer for every penny right up to and possibly beyond the point of project feasibility. Never mind that ultimately, the squeezed are the hundred or so new families that might have added to the vitality of our town. That's right, THEY pay. Can't pay? Go away.

As for "menlo moderate", by what numbers do you opine that new housing doesn't pay it's own way in schools? It's OLD housing with Prop 13 that starves our schools. The new people pay MORE than their share to support the schools. Compare the tax bill of a house that hasn't sold in thirty years to one that sold last year, and esp to a NEW house. The latter can pay 10 to 20 times the tax of the old house.

Finally, if you look at the unit mix of old Derry, of 1 and 2 bedrooms, or of the new Derry, of 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms, you can easily project a new student load of 40 to 60 kids. That works out to a RE tax contribution of at least 25 to 40 thousand per kid, of which two thirds will go to the schools.

This forum is so useless, as the responders spew resentment and unexamined conventional wisdom. I'm signing off, never to waste my time again on the selfish cranks that spew here.


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Posted by Menlo mod
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Don't let the screen door hit you, pm.


P.S. May want to do some homework on basic aid school funding before you start spewing misinformation yourself.


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Posted by Try this one on for size.
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 14, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Patty Fry, Paul Collacchi, Morris Brown? Who else is speaking for this tired old mayor of ours? The puppet strings are stretched from north to south and west to east. Poor man. Give him a rest. His head must be hurting from all the incoming facts you people want him to remember.

The truth is that you people turned out to be another version of the Winkler Duboc show. Whether it's the sham about the pool or the two million dollar heist of the Derry developer, you're all a shameless lot. And none of you were elected by the voters.


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Posted by Mr. Gradgrind
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 15, 2008 at 3:52 pm

The reality is that the local school district is struggling to accomodate a surge in kids entering school. As Menlo Mod alluded to, the Menlo Park district doesn't get per pupil funding from the state, so more students means there is less money to go around. The amount of property tax from a condo is going to be a lot less than what the district would get from a new house.

The developer fees are to pay for facilities to accommodate the extra children (read: trailers) -- the problem is, the campuses are small and running out of space, and those fees aren't going to pay for more land.


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Posted by Out With The Incumbents!
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm

What do the following have in common?
* Park Theater
* Derry Project
* Stanford Convention Center
* Auto Park Row - next to 101
* Mattison Site
* BevMo
* Wholefoods
etc.(these are just the ones I could think of quickly
Yes, that's right, these were all opportunities that our "no growth at all costs" incumbents continue to push away, play with or delay. We've turned our town into a donut. Beautiful, fantastic, invested in, residential areas, and an absolute hole in the middle. We have to find a better, more creative alternative, process to help our commercial sites! The incumbents have no experience in this, and have a one track mind, that starts with, "No".
FYI - I counted 9 vacancies last night, just driving down Santa Cruz.
Embarrassing!


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Posted by supporter of incumbents
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Wow. Out With sure likes to blame incumbents for things that aren't even in their control (Whole Foods never tried to come to MP), seems to think that some things that remain in the planning process are just not going to happen (Stanford Park conference rooms), and some things the current council is certain to pass if the applicant ever comes forward with the final project (Derry). Last I checked, vacancies tend to occur when the economy isn't great (read the newspaper??).
The El Camino/Downtown planning process was designed by a council subcommittee of John Boyle and Rich Cline. What they've said in public is that the current process is the best way to do this. If you don't like it, talk with them.


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Posted by Agree with "Out With
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Oct 2, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Another coincedence? Encinal School, almost completed, Laurel School, almost completed, both located in Atherton? I think so.
Oak Knoll, zoning issues now have to be heard by the slow moving council, Hillview, already talk about delays. This council has been stuck for decades, not just the incumbents, we need real leaders that will step up to the plate and say, ENOUGH, GET IT DONE!!! I've never, in my ife heard so many excuses as to why a city's government does not work. That's right "Out With", embarrassing!


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Posted by Agree with "Out With
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Oct 2, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Another coincidence? Encinal School, almost completed, Laurel School, almost completed, both located in Atherton? I think so.
Oak Knoll, zoning issues now have to be heard by the slow moving council, Hillview, already talk about delays. This council has been stuck for decades, not just the incumbents, we need real leaders that will step up to the plate and say, ENOUGH, GET IT DONE!!! I've never, in my ife heard so many excuses as to why a city's government does not work. That's right "Out With", embarrassing!


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Posted by Best council in years
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2008 at 11:04 pm

The city has almost no control over the schools. The school district has had its own challenges dealing with school neighbors, and some of those tussles have caused delays, but the city has no authority to intervene.

Hard to blame the council for not doing something that they are not supposed to be doing. But then, it's not easy to find fault with the incumbents, because they are doing a pretty good job, especially considering that they are volunteers.