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By Paul Bendix

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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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A Tale of Two Suburbs

Uploaded: Sep 11, 2014
If a deteriorating downtown, tacky buildings and suburban blight only 15 minutes from San Francisco sounds like something of a feat – look at San Bruno. Many wonder how this prime suburb nestled between hills and Bay can do anything but prosper.

It's simple. Vote in restrictive regulations designed to keep things "villagey," then wait. According to a cautionary tale in the Daily Journal San Bruno's troubles date from a 1977 voter initiative. According to the Journal, the ballot measure "was intended to preserve the existing character of San Bruno by requiring voter approval for high-rise developments, increased density in existing neighborhoods and projects encroaching upon scenic corridors and open spaces."

Sound familiar? Locals who wanted to preserve quality-of-life enacted restrictions that did the opposite. Measure M on Menlo Park's November ballot bears many of the same hallmarks. Time will tell, of course. But San Bruno does provide a nearby case study. Four decades ago, voters there believed they were keeping development under control. They kept the town underwater, instead.
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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Sep 12, 2014 at 10:47 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Paul,

That quaint village character pitch wears thin. There is nothing QUAINT about Menlo Park, there is nothing "Village like" about the city.

It's a city of 30,000+ people who work and shop elsewhere because this is NOT a vibrant town, and Measure M will keep the blight on El Camino for years as they re-do their plans. Those delays will cost our City, Schools and Fire District millions of dollars in lost tax revenue that can NEVER be recouped.

Measure M is bad for Menlo Park for many reasons, mostly because as you noted Ballot Box Zoning is a disaster, and hurts the small land owners long term. They are the ones that can't afford to run a campaign to get there changes approved by the voters (ballot box). Unfortunately for us, that means all the small stores east along El Camino will be frozen because of the un-intended consequences of Measure M.

M is a Mistake
Vote NO on M

Roy Thiele-Sardiña


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 13, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you Paul for your historical perspective.

What is particularly worrying about Measure M is that it was poorly drafted and totally unvetted. The result is that it is filled with known and unknown unintended consequences. An example of such an unintended(?) consequence is that the definition of the Specific Plan boundaries in Section 3.1 requires that any change in those boundaries to be made, according to Section 4, by a city wide vote. This means the planned replacement of Fire Station 6 at the corner of OakGrove and Hoover would not be allowed to proceed without a city wide vote to include the now separate Hoover Street parcel into the Specific Plan area (in which the existing Station 6 parcel already sits). The authors of Measure M have clearly stated that this was not their intention - but it is exactly what Measure M would require.

Who knows what other unintended consequences are in this poorly worded initiative that did not have the benefit of any public comment, no EIR, no public hearing, no traffic impact study?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I believe measure M was written and pushed through by a person or group that are using it as a red herring to appease the slow growth people. As written it will not pass and that was what was intended It's too restrictive as written. Politics are dirty. Take for example the huge no on measure m sign on the old cadillac dealership on El Camino. They claim measure m will increase traffic. That site is slated for 395,000 sq. ft. of new development. The whole site is only 395,000 sq. ft. How does that reduce traffic? That will create an onslaught of new traffic.
But they believe if the sign is big enough it must be true. Please people do your homework. That building is too big and traffic is already too heavy on El Camino. Lets get a reasonable compromise.

Pay heed, residents, If you live on any side street near El Camino be prepared for huge traffic jams and get used to driving around for a while looking for a parking space near your house. I suggest going to downtown Palo Alto as an example. They have so many parking restrictions with different colors, at different hours it will make you dizzy.

I agree with developing the El Camino corridor but not under threat from any particular developer of leaving it empty and continued blight.
I don't care for bullies and that is a threat.

Measure M as written should be pulled, the approval for new development as proposed should be tabled until a compromise is met. Call your councilmen and ladies, planning commissioners and staff, Time is short


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 15, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Measure M as written should be pulled,"

Sadly this poorly written and unvetted proposal cannot be pulled. It was qualified for the ballot by using paid signature gatherers and making a string of lies.

The only solution is to vote NO.

Measure M is a Mistake.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lies, lies, and more lies, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I lived in San Bruno then as a poor student. It was a dump! And it hasn't changed. You cannot compare the San Bruno of 1977 to the Menlo Park of 2014, but if you want Menlo Park to look like San Bruno in 15 years, go ahead and vote against Measure M.

Alas, Peter Carpenter can't vote for or against Measure M. He can just let us all know how pathetic we are if we support this effort to limit massive development that doesn't serve the residents. Because Atherton allows developers to come in and build anything they want, right?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Wake up, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 4:54 pm

In the Menlo Park pipeline is 2 million square feet of office development.
850,000 SF Bohannon Approved by MP voters
260,000 SF Sobrato Approved by current council 2 weeks ago.
400 000 SF Stanford & Greenheart on ECR proposed and current council wants to approve them
027 000 SF Hunter/Beltramo on ECR Approved and built.
430 000 SF Facebook Approved and under construction
1,967,000 SF TOTAL
60 acres just purchased by Facebook for how many SF of office? We do not know.

State and Regional Housing mandates (ABAG) will force us to find 5,000 housing sites in Menlo Park or we lose all transportation money for our roads, shuttle busses, possible undercrossing at Middle Ave.

We do not need all this office. We need retail. Stanford only has to provide 10,000 SF of retail in its 400,000 SF development, thanks to the three incumbents running for another term. Greenheart talks of 23,000 retail but has told the City, it may not work so they will have bank or real estate offices on the group floor of their development. The General Plan calls for retail on ECR.

Peter Carpenter has no dog in this fight. He lives in a gated community in Atherton, a town that allows no offices or retail. Ignore him.

We do not want Menlo Park to turn into an Office Park, like Sunnyvale. VOTE YES ON MEASURE M


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 16, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Wake up - Feel free to attack me (as the Editors have determined that I am the only poster on this Forum who is not protected from such attacks by their Terms Of Use) but such attacks do nothing to further the dialogue on Measure M.

I encourage to explain how Menlo Park can support more retail when it cannot support the retail that it already has.

And as for having a dog in the fight I have something more important than a dog in the fight - I actually support our current retailers as they are my downtown.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Gern, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Gern is a registered user.

The implication appears to be that the 50-foot height restriction on new downtown construction in San Bruno caused stagnation and blight, but if the town is a ?prime suburb? then, all else being equal, how do you explain the relative success of Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Los Altos? All of those towns are and have been flourishing without 90-foot office buildings in their midst.

More to the point, I lived in San Bruno for two years in the late 1990s and there were a number of factors which made the downtown El Camino corridor uninteresting, not least of which was the fact that it hadn't been designed as a retail/social destination, far as I could tell. Whether this should be attributed to the 1977 ordinance is pure speculation, of course, but I find it odd that there's no mention of this in the blog post. Have you visited San Bruno sometime during the past two decades, Paul? "Prime suburb" certainly isn't the first description which might have crossed my mind as a resident.

I'm voting Yes on Measure M because I would like to see Menlo Park's downtown remain more like that of Los Gatos or Los Altos, and not become the next Mountain View or Redwood City. I've read the complete text of Measure M a dozen times now and I believe it gives us a much better chance of keeping the glass canyons at bay than does the commendable but flawed Downtown Specific Plan. There are a few very insistent voices in this forum who disagree with that assessment, of course.

Gern


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Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" All of those towns are and have been flourishing without 90-foot office buildings in their midst."

This is so typical of the Measure M proponents - 90 ft!! These people simply lie, lie, lie and hope that someone will believe them


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Gern, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Sep 19, 2014 at 7:55 am

Gern is a registered user.

"This is so typical of the Measure M proponents - 90 ft!! These people simply lie, lie, lie and hope that someone will believe them"

Peter's childish outburst stems from the mistaken assumption that I was referring to 90-foot buildings in Menlo Park. Had he been a little less lazy -- had he "done his homework" -- and read the article linked in Paul's blog post he might have scanned the very first sentence therein:

"The area immediately north of San Bruno's downtown could get boost from a new November ballot measure to modify an ordinance that limits building heights, potentially raising them from the current maximum of 50 feet to 90 feet."

Peter, you might also consider taking a step back and pondering why it is you so readily label anyone opposed to your position a liar, behavior which discredits you and lends nothing to the "thoughtful gathering place" you seek in this forum.

Gern


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Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Gern states - "All of those towns are and have been flourishing without 90-foot office buildings in their midst."

He then states that he really did not say that.

His words and instant reversals speak loudly.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Gern, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:24 am

Gern is a registered user.

Peter, is there any point to your last comment? San Bruno is considering an ordinance to raise building height limits from 50 to 90 feet in the hope that doing so will trigger more downtown investment (office, likely), and I merely opined that Los Gatos, Saratoga and Los Altos have all prospered without building to 90 feet in their respective downtowns (Los Altos has built up the perimeter of its downtown but only recently). The position taken in my comments has not changed one iota -- actually reading the article linked in Paul's blog post may alleviate any confusion you're having here.

Gern


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

No confusion on my part. I enjoy watching the Pinocchio nose of the Measure M supporters grow as they attempt to shift the discussion from the Specific Plan's 50 ft height limit to 90 ft. height limit.

" All of those towns are and have been flourishing without 90-foot office buildings in their midst."


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Gern, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Sep 21, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Gern is a registered user.

"No confusion on my part. I enjoy watching the Pinocchio nose of the Measure M supporters grow as they attempt to shift the discussion from the Specific Plan's 50 ft height limit to 90 ft. height limit."

If confusion isn't responsible for your non-sequiturs in this thread, Peter, I can think of no kinder explanation. Nowhere in my comments is the DSP's 50-foot height limit specifically mentioned; nor do I allude to it. I was merely observing that San Bruno's interest in raising building height limits sits in contrast to other Bay Area cities whose downtowns appear to be flourishing without tall buildings. Your knee-jerk response to my relatively benign comments is, as ever, to label all Measure M supporters liars via a clumsy Pinocchio reference. I don't know how this forum will ever be the "thoughtful gathering place" you seek, Peter, when everyone opposed to your position is necessarily a liar.

Gern


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Paul Bendix, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Sep 22, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Family connections brought me to San Bruno often in the 1980s and 1990s. What is 'prime' about San Bruno is its proximity to San Francisco, its combination of hills and flatland ? and its multiple commuter rail connections.

I quite agree that Los Altos, Saratoga, and so on are cutesy and affluent. They also have neither commuter rail nor the El Camino corridor. Menlo Park is not similarly tucked out of the way. It is a logical place to build accommodation and offices up and close to transit.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Sep 23, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Gern - the facts always prove you wrong.

You stated "all else being equal, how do you explain the relative success of Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Los Altos? All of those towns are and have been flourishing without 90-foot office buildings in their midst."

And then in the same posting you stated "I'm voting Yes on Measure M because I would like to see Menlo Park's downtown remain more like that of Los Gatos or Los Altos, and not become the next Mountain View or Redwood City. "

And now you claim - "Nowhere in my comments is the DSP's 50-foot height limit specifically mentioned; NOR DO I ALLUDE TO IT"

That is what is called "playing with the truth".


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