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Creating A More Vibrant Menlo Park

By Dana Hendrickson

E-mail Dana Hendrickson

About this blog: My wife and I moved to central Menlo Park in 1985 where we have raised two sons. A retired high-tech executive, I now actively participate in local and national community service programs. I am the founder and director of Rebuil...  (More)

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Downtown Menlo Park Continues to Get Better. Enjoy It!

Uploaded: Oct 25, 2021
While the pandemic has been hard on our downtown there are already many signs it will emerge much stronger. This has not just happened. For example, our city council closed the eastbound lane of Santa Cruz between Curtis and Doyle for street dining, created a temporary community plaza in front of Walgreen's and Starbuck's and - along with the Chamber of Commerce - supports new events and activities there.

Together our city government, Chamber, individual business owners, and residents are steadily improving the experience of visiting downtown. I encourage everyone to enjoy it and find ways to make it even better.

• Nine new outside restaurant dining areas have become popular for lunch and dinner.

• A new restaurant will soon open at the former location of Una Mas. Rumor is it will offer Indian cuisine.

• Starting on October 27, a European-style market (Bon Marche) will be held Wednesday nights from 4 P.M. to 8 P.M. on the 400 block of Santa Cruz. It will feature vendors who sell a wide variety of specialty foods and fresh produce. This new mid-week market will complement the traditional Sunday Menlo Park Farmer’ Market. (Note: the date on the photo below is incorrect.) Vendors interested in participating in future Bon March markets can call Jerry Lami at (650) -290-3549

• The temporary community plaza in front of Walgreen’s has become a popular place for people to gather and relax. Hillview students visit the plaza regularly after school and on weekends. Passersby and Starbuck’s customers enjoy the outdoor seating. And every Sunday afternoon the Menlo-Atherton Jazz Band performs next to Bistro Vida. And Walgreen's reports that its sales are UP significantly!

• On Saturday, October 30 a Halloween Party with great dance music and refreshments will be held in the temporary community plaza. This is the first of hopefully more special events that will be staged at this central downtown location in the future.

• This month Elevate Art Menlo Park installed its first public art on Santa Cruz Avenue. The Menlo Church graciously provided this premier location for a large contemporary mural. Additional art displays are expected starting in January 2022. More great public art will enliven our downtown.

Under The Wide Sky We Gather 2021 Carrie Lederer
Menlo Church Student Center

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 +   3 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 25, 2021 at 5:25 pm

Dana Hendrickson is a registered user.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by PH, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Oct 26, 2021 at 11:30 am

PH is a registered user.

The "evidence" for excitement! cited here are either 1.) a restaurant or 2.) use of an existing community space. A reasonable theory for the restaurant support is lunch business for those who now or will work in Menlo Park and or an increase in use by many non-residents. Re-use of existing community spaces, seems uninteresting in the face of the detailed sections listing and describing "growth" as written in the Specific Plan. Downtown retail uses and retail spaces have been decreasing for a very long time, as they were at the time of adopting the plan. Local-serving retail establishments of all kinds have generally been crowded out for more than 25 years. This includes theaters, hardware stores, clothing stores, and other non-restaurant, non-bank retail uses. Prior to 25 years ago, non retail (small office) uses fully encroached on Oak Grove and Menlo. In looking at the general use designations for Specific Plan locations, (figure E1 ppE3-4) it would be interesting to see how faithfully they have been built out by area, including whether net retail (or even ground floor retail) was built in regions so earmarked and whether net housing was built out in regions so earmarked. It would be decisive to prove it through the hard zoning numbers but honest people can readily see that retail, housing, and public infrastructure build outs have fallen way, way short of what was imagined and called for in the plan. How much net new retail space was generated as a result of build-out associated with the plan, how much net housing was built out under the plan, and, of the infrastructure benefits listed in the SP, how much actually got built. Promenades, parks, landscaping, bike underpass, pedestrian crossing, etc. (Description in section D. Funding summaries in Table G2, pG19) In retrospect, clearly offices of all kinds, regional and local, have dominated build-out of a Specific plan that imagined housing and local serving retail. Count me among the non-excited.

 +   4 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Oct 26, 2021 at 6:05 pm

dana hendrickson is a registered user.

PH: Your comments are "spot on". For many reasons, no City Council has "owned" the Menlo Park Specific Plan since it was approved in 2013 - after EXTENSIVE resident input and feedback. As I have noted many times before, the Specific Plan did establish clear regulations for commercial development, especially on El Camino, but it has not led to notable progress on civic infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, that is how our city works. Its focus is EXCLUSIVELY on operations not on strategic investments. Our business community and residents are the ones who can make significant improvements to downtown Menlo Park, and I am impressed by what a few continue to do. FYI. The Specific Plan did propose public spaces downtown and the temporary community plaza is a good example. Granted, this was not a strategic city investment but triggered by the pandemic. Either way, it has become a valuable community asset. Now the city needs to make it a PERMANENT place for activities and events. Otherwise, our community will experience another significant setback.

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Rvengosh, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Oct 30, 2021 at 8:33 am

Rvengosh is a registered user.

The Santa Cruz avenue street closure needs to be made permanent and expanded to completely close the street to car traffic. The new street restaurant expansions are delightful. Imagine if the street was completely closed to traffic and European style cafes opened in the former median. Pedestrians would take over the street and we would have a truly lively community space.

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