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By Paul Bendix

About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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The Real Work of 'Saving Menlo'

Uploaded: May 21, 2014
Precisely who wants to 'Save Menlo' – and from what?

Some middle-aged property owners asked me to sign the recent petition. No downtown merchants seem to be pushing it. And no one who is young and/or rents appears to know much about it.

The promotional image – a dark specter of traffic congestion – could have broad appeal. But a quick look through the Save Menlo website reveals no interest in regional transportation planning. In fact, there's not much evidence of regional anything.

Save Menlo doesn't seem to be working with the Bay Area's smart growth organizations. Examples include SPUR, with offices in San Francisco and San Jose, which has helped guide regional growth for over 100 years. And TransForm, in Oakland and San Jose, a dynamic group with a particular focus on Bay Area neighborhoods.

Why not work with these organizations? Fund a study? Attend regional conferences and load up on acronyms like TOD and BRT?

Personally, I welcome the consultant's report on the current initiative and its impact on Menlo Park's growth plan. Actually, I'd like to see more perspectives. Have any developers looked at the proposed new regulations and said "I can live with that?" If so, let's hear from them – for example, in an opinion piece in the Almanac.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Concerned, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables,
on May 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Whatever happened to having a consultant review the Plan? When did reviewing the plan turn into reviewing the initiative - for over $100k? Are residents being punished for wanting a say in what happens in their city?

Why has this discussion gone dark on Almanac Express for the last two days?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 23, 2014 at 5:24 pm


there was never going to be a report on the plan. The review has always been on the initiative. The initiative needs to be reviewed so voters can have an objective view of the initiative. Of course, anyone associated with Savemenlo will think this is an "attack" on their initiative. That's because it is a one sided initiative written to serve narrow interests and it is poorly written with many unanticipated consequences.

What's wrong with an impartial analysis of this initiative? If it comes back saying the initiative is a good thing, what's the problem? Could it be that you and Savemenlo know this analysis will point out the huge problems with it?

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 25, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Menlo Voter,

You may be surprised to know that there are people who are against the current Stanford development plan and are in favor of an analysis of the initiative (me, and I'm not the only one).

If the analysis goes in favor SaveMenlo, it'll be an uphill battle for
those who are against the initiative.

Posted by Think again, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on May 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Why didn't the city pay for a consultant to analyze the Specific Plan in November 2013 when the one-year Plan review was conducted by the council. The council needed help then but instead they muddled through and ignored the comments of residents, some of whom are long time, experienced land-use analysts. Also, the Sierra Club analyzed the Specific Plan in light of the first El Camino Real development proposals and advised the council to allow no more than 20% office construction as a way to correct the housing imbalance caused by so many employees coming into MP. The Council never even acknowledged or discussed the Sierra Club's advice despite the fact that Council Member's Kirsten Keith and Rich Cline were endorsed by the Sierra Club. It was so disrespectful. These council members sought the endorsement of the Sierra Club but could not even recognize a thoughtful analysis based on smart growth policies they climbed to cherish.

The council needed help in November 2013 but never sought it. The initiative is clear, simple and consists of 4 elements. The City is paying for a consultant to confirm the council's approval of the Plan. There cannot be an independent analysis when it's the city that is picking up the tab. The dice are loaded, once again and the taxpayers keep picking up the bill.

Don't blame save menlo for not reaching out to SPUR, BRT or Transform. That was the city's job. savemenlo is a group of families who relied on the city to create a plan that included the most current transit, pedestrian and bicycle amenities. Instead we have Council Member Peter Ohtaki pushing for adding traffic lanes and double turn lanes, an out dated concept that is in direct contradiction with the goals of the Specific Plan.

Ohtaki and Keith need to step down and make room for council members who will think about residents, families, children pedestrians, cyclists and people using wheel chairs as their mode of getting around the city.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 26, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


I have no problem if the analysis goes Savemenlo's way. At least it will have been independent and not driven by narrow self interests. I will be surprised if it does go Savemenlo's way however.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 26, 2014 at 3:07 pm

When I read around the ?Save Menlo? material, I am saddened by the degree of fear mongering that is going on. It reminds me of the embittered fight that seemed to go on for so long about linking Sand Hill Road to El Camino. Did the sky fall down? No: we all survived. And a major road from 280 no longer ended ignominiously in a parking lot.

Are we, who are being bombarded by this campaign, okay with this type of manipulation? As a thirty year resident of Menlo Park and Palo Alto, I?m certainly not.

What I see around me is a city increasingly blighted by boarded up stores, closed dealerships, empty weedy lots, and peeling paintwork. We lost the opportunity for an attractive development at the Derry Lane site. For how many years will we have to live with the desolation on El Camino?

No is an overused word. Yes is so much more constructive. Yes to a livable, accessible (by foot, bike, wheelchair, stroller, bus, train and car), vibrant and bustling city of Menlo Park.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

think again:

just because you keep repeating the same lie over and over doesn't make it true. I've asked before and I'll ask again, do you have one iota of EVIDENCE (you know those pesky facts that are accepted in court)that staff were "following Stanford's instruction?" Of course you don't. No one does. Because it didn't happen. Please provide evidence to the contrary as I've asked before. I'm still waiting. I won't hold my breath.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 27, 2014 at 12:19 am


I agree that we want Menlo Park to continue to be a livable, vibrant community. Unfortunately, I believe that the Stanford development as currently proposed, does nothing for that vision.

I'm willing to put up with the weed-choked lots (which are in walking distance of where I live) until an appropriate development is proposed. What's the hurry? Once something is built, it's going to be there for 30 years, or more. Why not demand that what is built is high quality and appropriate for Menlo Park?

I love our Safeway shopping center and the beautiful new townhouses at
College Ave. and El Camino. Both of those developments had strong support from the adjacent neighborhoods. The same can't be said of the Stanford proposal.

Posted by Sam Tyler, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 27, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Unless I have missed something, Stanford doesn't have a plan on the table. The City Council asked Stanford to hold off on revising their project while the City Council Subcommittee did their work last year, which led to recommendations, and then the City Council conducted it's one year review of the plan. Then the initiative folks brought forth their signatures to amend the Specific Plan.

While Mr. Keenly references a development "as currently proposed", that proposal is now almost two years old. To the best of my knowledge, Stanford has NOT pushed any kind of proposal forward. (Please correct me if I am wrong.) To refer to the Stanford's two year old proposal as "current" is just another example of the fear mongering that Jane is referencing. Maybe Mr. Keenly is referring to the four Home Depots (or was it four Wal-Marts) that Save Menlo kept pushing on their web site. It is clear that Save Menlo clearly are engaging in fear mongering.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 27, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Kind of like Savemenlo's claims about "increased traffic." That was until the traffic study THEY DEMANDED showed they were WRONG. Traffic would NOT be increased with the Stanford plan, in fact it would decrease. Those pesky facts. Savemenlo doesn't pay any attention to those things.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on May 28, 2014 at 8:52 am

I'm all for constructive conversation about development in our city. I don't believe in demonizing Stanford. Let's allow the conversation to be more nuanced and productive.

I think it's worthwhile considering what these new medical buildings - that are neither 'immense' or 'massive' (SaveMenlo hyperbole) - could bring to Menlo.

We might think about how convenient their offices might be to many living here. We might consider how we could welcome all those who come for appointments: they could easily be attracted to shop or dine with us. How about developing our Shuttle bus service linking the new buildings with Caltrain, the Safeway center, and our Santa Cruz 'village' area? Isn't it just possible we might gain so much more than we seem so frightened we would lose?

Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm

There are lot of false claims surrounding the Specific Plan, the Stanford project and the SM Initative.

What facts?

Go to

Posted by Jane, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on May 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Thank you, Dana, for all your work with the site, and in particular for your thoughtful and informed analysis of SaveMenlo's claims.

And thank you, Paul, for initiating this conversation. Keep rolling!

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