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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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End of Suburbia

Uploaded: Jan 13, 2015
A friend's wife is mad at me, he recently confided, over Proposition M. I smiled wanly. What can one say? What one thinks is another matter. Something is happening in and around Menlo Park, a sea change in regional development. And how we adjust to this shift, which reflects national, even global trends...will make all the difference.

Some call it the end of suburbia. Certainly, it represents the end of an era. Which means the start of something else. Whatever one's feelings about Menlo Park and its future, our fair city is part of a region and a larger economy. Silicon Valley salaries spur property values and support high-end retailers, for example. And on one level, what is Silicon Valley but a bunch of offices, homes for people who work in them and transportation to connect both? Menlo Park is challenged on all fronts – housing, workspace, transit.

So are other Peninsula communities. We are all in the same boat, and on the same highway. State Route 82, to be exact, a.k.a., El Camino Real. Which is why it's essential that we consider, at least reflect on, an overarching vision for the Peninsula's main drag. This sees El Camino as a Grand Boulevard, an attractive place in which people live, work, walk and bicycle. Yes, the densities are higher. So are the aspirations. There's really no avoiding it. When property values rise, eventually the buildings on them do too.

Don't take my word for it...attend the regional summit on transportation and healthy communities, sponsored by TransForm on 7 March. You'll get a highly intensive briefing on regional growth options.

Are we experiencing the end of suburbia? That is to say, a shift from car-centric towns and neighborhoods randomly spilling across hill and dale? Certainly, conventional suburbia is proving to be energy-inefficient, wasteful of land, poisonous of air. We have the affluence and education to adjust our growth before it kills us. Or, at least before it kills our economy.

In any case, suburbia is ending for me. My wife and I am moving to San Francisco soon. Menlo Park has been my home for a third of a century. More on this as the moving vans near.
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Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Jan 17, 2015 at 11:56 am

Suburbs will alway be around lets just get rid of the car centered suburb

Posted by M supporter, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Jan 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm

M was about the mix of development. It didn't change the total amount for the downtown area, but directly challenged the fact that the Specific Plan allows a lot more office development than the Plan's environmental and financial documents projected. The Council doesn't seem to care that so much new office brings rush hour traffic into the heart of town and worsens the jobs/housing imbalance.

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