News

Court throws out city's letter to rail authority

In a ruling that Menlo Park Councilman Rich Cline called "kind of a stomach punch," a California Superior Court judge has denied a motion to include a comment letter from the city as part of the administrative record in a lawsuit against the agency overseeing the high-speed rail project.

In the letter, which Menlo Park officials maintain they sent via mail and fax in September 2007, the city asks the High-Speed Rail Authority to thoroughly consider alternatives to running trains up the Caltrain corridor. It also asks the agency to consider the potential impacts of constructing the rail system on the Peninsula.

When the rail authority decided in May 2008 to run the trains along the Caltrain corridor, it had not responded to Menlo Park's letter.

In August 2008, Menlo Park and Atherton joined a lawsuit against the rail authority. One of Menlo Park's arguments in joining the suit was that rail officials had not responded to their letter. Under law, the agency is required to respond to every letter it receives.

But in the March 27 ruling, Judge Michael Kenny said the city did not adequately prove that it had in fact sent the letter, and that it didn't do enough to make sure it had been received. Furthermore, after the release of the final environmental document but before it was certified, there was a 40-day window in which Menlo Park could have resent its letter, the judge said. The city apparently did not do so.

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During the City Council's March 31 meeting, City Manager Glen Rojas said the plaintiffs' attorney did not think the exclusion of the city's letter would have much effect on the case, because similar arguments had been made by others, including the town of Atherton.

Asked whether the city should rethink its process in submitting comment letters, Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson said: "Given our experience, I'm sure we would call and make sure they got the letter in the future."

Ms. Jerome-Robinson did not work for the city at the time it sent the letter, and could not comment on the specific process. Mr. Rojas is on vacation; calls to Public Works Director Kent Steffens were not immediately returned.

The period for Peninsula cities and residents to comment on the possible impacts of high-speed rail closes April 6. Comments can be submitted via e-mail to [email protected], with the subject line "San Francisco to San Jose HST." They can also be mailed to: Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director, ATTN: San Francisco to San Jose HST Project, EIR/EIS, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 925 L St., Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814

Reconsider the lawsuit?

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On Feb. 19, the rail authority responded to Menlo Park's letter, having requested and received a copy of it from the city's attorneys. At each of the City Council's last three meetings, Councilman John Boyle has asked whether the city should consider dropping the lawsuit, in light of the rail authority's response.

Councilman Rich Cline and Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson, who make up a council subcommittee tasked with dealing with high-speed rail issues, have not yet recommended that the council reconsider its decision to sue. Both said they were open to having the discussion, though Mr. Cline said it would take some convincing to get him to change his mind.

"I'm not even close to talking about getting out of this lawsuit," he said.

Mayor Heyward Robinson said he did not want to reconsider the issue.

Back in August, Mr. Cline and Ms. Fergusson voted in closed session to join the lawsuit, with Mr. Boyle opposed. Mr. Robinson was absent, and Councilman Andy Cohen is recused from high-speed rail issues.

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Court throws out city's letter to rail authority

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 2, 2009, 5:41 pm

In a ruling that Menlo Park Councilman Rich Cline called "kind of a stomach punch," a California Superior Court judge has denied a motion to include a comment letter from the city as part of the administrative record in a lawsuit against the agency overseeing the high-speed rail project.

In the letter, which Menlo Park officials maintain they sent via mail and fax in September 2007, the city asks the High-Speed Rail Authority to thoroughly consider alternatives to running trains up the Caltrain corridor. It also asks the agency to consider the potential impacts of constructing the rail system on the Peninsula.

When the rail authority decided in May 2008 to run the trains along the Caltrain corridor, it had not responded to Menlo Park's letter.

In August 2008, Menlo Park and Atherton joined a lawsuit against the rail authority. One of Menlo Park's arguments in joining the suit was that rail officials had not responded to their letter. Under law, the agency is required to respond to every letter it receives.

But in the March 27 ruling, Judge Michael Kenny said the city did not adequately prove that it had in fact sent the letter, and that it didn't do enough to make sure it had been received. Furthermore, after the release of the final environmental document but before it was certified, there was a 40-day window in which Menlo Park could have resent its letter, the judge said. The city apparently did not do so.

During the City Council's March 31 meeting, City Manager Glen Rojas said the plaintiffs' attorney did not think the exclusion of the city's letter would have much effect on the case, because similar arguments had been made by others, including the town of Atherton.

Asked whether the city should rethink its process in submitting comment letters, Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson said: "Given our experience, I'm sure we would call and make sure they got the letter in the future."

Ms. Jerome-Robinson did not work for the city at the time it sent the letter, and could not comment on the specific process. Mr. Rojas is on vacation; calls to Public Works Director Kent Steffens were not immediately returned.

The period for Peninsula cities and residents to comment on the possible impacts of high-speed rail closes April 6. Comments can be submitted via e-mail to [email protected], with the subject line "San Francisco to San Jose HST." They can also be mailed to: Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director, ATTN: San Francisco to San Jose HST Project, EIR/EIS, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 925 L St., Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814

Reconsider the lawsuit?

On Feb. 19, the rail authority responded to Menlo Park's letter, having requested and received a copy of it from the city's attorneys. At each of the City Council's last three meetings, Councilman John Boyle has asked whether the city should consider dropping the lawsuit, in light of the rail authority's response.

Councilman Rich Cline and Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson, who make up a council subcommittee tasked with dealing with high-speed rail issues, have not yet recommended that the council reconsider its decision to sue. Both said they were open to having the discussion, though Mr. Cline said it would take some convincing to get him to change his mind.

"I'm not even close to talking about getting out of this lawsuit," he said.

Mayor Heyward Robinson said he did not want to reconsider the issue.

Back in August, Mr. Cline and Ms. Fergusson voted in closed session to join the lawsuit, with Mr. Boyle opposed. Mr. Robinson was absent, and Councilman Andy Cohen is recused from high-speed rail issues.

Caltrain, rail agency accede to Palo Alto protest

Comments

Patrick
another community
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:23 pm
Patrick, another community
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:23 pm

woo hoo!!! score 1 for rational thought!


truth
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm
truth, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Let's all thank Patrick for his value add this evening.


Don
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:43 pm
Don, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Patrick is, after all, a "resident of another community" on an HSR thread. (i.e., sock puppet)


an observer
Menlo Park: other
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:27 pm
an observer, Menlo Park: other
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:27 pm

In private practice, managers would well be fired on the spot for a screw up like this. There is simply no excuse for not properly certifying mail and getting fax receipts when dealing with legal matters. There are some in the City, who think some staff members are actually out to sabotage the City Council's decision on High Speed Rail. I don't yet hold to that conviction, but this sure is a very very strange event.

Comment letters to the scoping of the Project level EIR are due April 6th. The City had better make sure they have learned how to send out documents, and be able to prove they were sent.


please certify
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 8:53 am
please certify, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 8:53 am

Both the city management and city attorney should be held responsible for ensuring critical transmittals like the comments are handled appropriately. This is a ridiculous error that could have been avoided with due care.
Unlike some others, I do not think it warrants dropping out of the effort to protect Menlo Park's interests. But please, City, be more careful and certify important correspondence. And, please, Council, do not approve bonuses for those who didn't do their full job.


An Observer
another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:43 am
An Observer, another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:43 am

Is menlo park sending out scoping comments this time? I thought that because there were suing, they were opting out of the process? Not that it matters, all the issues will be covered by Palo Alto and every other city.


Something smells
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 3, 2009 at 12:19 pm
Something smells, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 3, 2009 at 12:19 pm

A Fax, once sent from an office, has a confirmation stamp with a date, fax number of recipient and number of pages. Is is possible that both the US MAil and the Fax machine failed? In a law firm, such a screw up would be considered a serious error.

Is it time for our City Manager to shake things up? All this bowing to Staff has become silly.


Sean Howell
Registered user
Almanac staff writer
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:11 pm
Sean Howell, Almanac staff writer
Registered user
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Observer: Menlo Park is sending a comment letter. See article below, about the letters sent by MP and Atherton:

Web Link

And here's a link to a draft of Menlo Park's letter:

Web Link


By the rail.
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm
By the rail., Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm

City staff screwed up. Big.

They really dropped the ball.


Wake up
Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm
Wake up, Portola Valley: Ladera
on Apr 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Don,

You need to grow up. Disagreeing with you and the stand of a few on the peninsula, does not make them "sock puppets". You need to realize people actally like and voted for the HSR project that are everyday citizens.


Don
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 6:42 am
Don, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 6:42 am

Wake up, Perhaps my comment was a little childish (although "woo hoo!!!" beats me by a mile), and maybe Patrick really is a local HSR supporter. If so, I apologize. But if he's a sock puppet, I say, Please, go away, and leave this discussion to those of us concerned with how the details of this project will impact our cities. If you've followed these threads in the past, you'd be tired, too, of the posts by sock puppets from elsewhere whose comments reveal they know nothing of our communities.

That said, whether you think HSR is a good idea or bad one, I think we all agree that this (probably) inevitable project should be done with as little impact as possible to our residential communities and the cohesiveness of our towns. Bureaucracies often ignore those little details, and locals need to participate in the process. Serious discussion is needed, and interference from sock puppets trying to manipulate the discussion is not welcome.


Menlo Park Neighbor
Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2009 at 9:10 pm
Menlo Park Neighbor, Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2009 at 9:10 pm

While the lack of diligence by our city management is certainly disconcerting, the "missing letter" is just the "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to this group's incompetence. Just drive along El Camino and take a look at how our city has been dealing with maintaining the desirability of Menlo Park. It looks like the poster child for urban blight with all the abandoned car dealerships, and of course, there's the boarded up theater (how many years has it been now?). And now there are more vacant store fronts and restaurants along Santa Cruz Avenue. What, exactly are these people doing for Menlo Park any way? Sooner or later residents are going to start questioning why they're paying a minimum of $1 million to buy a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a little yard in a place that is becoming run down. Too bad the HSR won't be stopping in Menlo Park. If it was, the city council could get on it and not come back. But wait, they probably wouldn't be able to find their train ticket, though they would claim to have bought it.


what people?
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2009 at 12:46 pm
what people?, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Menlo Park Neighbor,
Are you talking about the staff or the Council?
Staff definitely should take some lumps and IMO some punishment.
However, El Camino and downtown started to deteriorate before the current council, including closed car dealerships and defaced theater. Recent economic conditions have made things worse. At least this Council has had the strength to fund a vision and implementation plan that is now underway. Staff recommended starting these in the past, and prior councils (plural) did not support doing so.


Roxie
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:57 am
Roxie, Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:57 am

I think people are being a littel hard on city staff. If the council had approved the letter on Sept 18, 2007 as staff had requested they would have had time to send it properly. Instead, according to the minutes of the 9/18/2007 City Council Meeting, the council (except for Councilman Boyle, who thought the letter was sufficient) insisted on last minute changes and would not approve the letter until the Sept 25th meeting. Since the letter was due by Sept 28, and the Council meetings do not end until after 10pm, the staff was put on a pretty tight deadline. Maybe the Council should have considered this on 9/18.


truth
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 6, 2009 at 12:17 pm
truth, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 6, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Roxie...always Boyle's greatest PR person.


Henry
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm
Henry, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm

This is just embarrassing. HSR is too important an issue for the town staff to just drop the ball like this. Who's minding the store?


WhoRUpeople
another community
on Apr 7, 2009 at 9:53 am
WhoRUpeople, another community
on Apr 7, 2009 at 9:53 am

A couple of comments/observations. First, since the article quotes Mr. Rojas as saying that exclusion of the letter wasn't expected to negatively affect the City's position in the suit because other similar comments were made by the other parties, including Atherton, that tells us, I think, that Atherton sent a similar letter and did so properly. Kudos to their staff/legal counsel. Second, personally I am concerned that when a judge rules to disqualify evidence in a pending case, it often is an indicator as to where the judges head is at on the merits of the case.


Morris Brown
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 7, 2009 at 2:18 pm
Morris Brown, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 7, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Let me try to shed more light on this issue.

The City claimed that the letter had been faxed and also hard copies had been sent to the Authority. The City was unable to produce paper evidence (such as a FAX receipt, phone record of the fax, certified mail receipt) that the letter had actually been sent.

The City only had the signed statement by a City staff member, who stated she remembered sending the FAX; that ordinarily she would get a FAX receipt and she thought that had been the case. However, the City was unable to produce any receipt. The City last week was searching the phone records, but was as I understand it, unable to find a phone record for the FAX.

The Authority produced signed statements from all of its board members, and its entire Staff, 6 people) all of which stated they had never seen the letter.

It would appear therefore, that most likely the letter never did get sent.

While it is true, that most of the arguments made by Menlo Park were covered in the Atherton letter, which was received and noted, there is quite possibly another issue here.

In a CEQA case, only documents or statements that are made before the cut off date on the EIR are to be considered. Menlo Park now has been ruled by the court to have not made any statements or sent in any documents.

In order to be a plaintiff in a CEQA suit, you must have standing with the court; that is you must have made statements in public comment or sent in comments. Menlo Park, apparently did neither, at least apparently can’t prove it did. So there exists the possibility that Menlo Park could be removed from the lawsuit, since it does not have standing with the court.

So the will of the majority of our City Council, that the City join in this lawsuit, could well be denied. In my estimation there should be a full blown investigation of how this happened, and our City Council should take action to get this started at the earliest possible moment.

4/07/09



In the real majority
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm
In the real majority, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

The "will of the majority of our City Council" in this situation is the will of Council members Fergusson and Cline. Had Council Member Robinson been present, we might assume he also would have voted with Cline and Ferguson. However, it is sad that a decision of this importance can be made by only 2 council members and at the 11th hour.

Yes, the City Manager needs to conduct a thorough investigation as to how this fax and this letter were never sent. 2 separate errors with no explanation equals incompetency.

If the crux of the pending law suit addresses the two routes, it would be interesting to learn what Fergusson and Cline know and think about the differences of these routes. Does anyone think that one route will bypass Menlo Park and Atherton and the other route will not. I understand it's more complicated than that.

Let's not forget that a true majority of MP voters voted for HSR.



truth
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm
truth, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Are we seriously having this discussion again? The same debate over and over and over?

Heyward has publicly supported the lawsuit so the real majority of council has supported the position.

And if you care to delve into the details and stop listening to the PR machine of HSR and Bigelow and Boyle, there is a lot of effort going on by our council and others cities to work it out.

For anyone to try say that they know how to bring about HSR on the Peninsula, is just crazy. Everyone has an opinion, informed or not, about how to make this successful.

Why can't we support council once in a while on these issues and stop the cheap assaults every time there is disagreement?

If thic council did nothing, as Boyle suggested, but talk about how great the rail is, we would not be talking in such detail about impacts at this time.

How is that a bad thing?


the real shame
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:00 am
the real shame, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:00 am

The real shame is that to this day the HSR authority has not provided detailed information about their plans. They cannot possibly conduct a credible (to mere citizens) evaluation of impacts without those details. As residents - yes, voters - learn more about what may happen, it is quite possible that the vote may not have been the same at all. The devil IS in the details.


Karl
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:21 am
Karl, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:21 am

[portion excluded.]
In other news, I congratulate the court for their decision.


Just a number
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 13, 2009 at 3:45 am
Just a number, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 13, 2009 at 3:45 am

Menlo Park has done it again racism and classism in the same breath. Some NIMBY residents have shown their true color for the whole state and the nation to see but, it does not surprise residents in Belle Haven, we have known this forever.

From the CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL BLOG

SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2009
AN INTERESTING STORY FROM MENLO PARK

For nearly a year now Menlo Park residents have told us that an above-grade structure along the Caltrain ROW is somehow going to destroy their tightly-knit community, unless the CHSRA gives them the tunnel they demand, they'll just have to oppose the whole project in order to ensure their community's very survival.

Those claims have always been overwrought and questionable. And now those claims may be shown to be hypocritical, as a group of Menlo Park residents demand a planned pedestrian bridge be canceled because of concerns it will draw the wrong kind of people - i.e. the poor - to their community:

Why does none of this surprise me? Belle Haven is a part of the city of Menlo Park - but apparently it doesn't quite count as much as the wealthier parts do. In one breath Menlo Park residents say they don't want transportation infrastructure to divide their city. In the next breath they say that's exactly what they want - gotta keep the poor, presumed by some Menlo Park residents to be carriers of crime, out!

I find it difficult to take Menlo Park's concerns about HSR seriously when so many of their residents are actively trying to keep other members of their out of their neighborhoods.

Complete blog.
Web Link






truth
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 13, 2009 at 9:31 am
truth, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 13, 2009 at 9:31 am

I live in Belle Haven buddy. I have been posting here for years. The two items are in no way connected unless you are yet another greedy HSR flack. And you claiming to a rep of my community is laughable.

Council approved the litigation against your precious rail and council has not approved taking down the ped bridge.

You and your buddies at HSR can try to scheme and lie your way through this, as you have above tried to insinuate that Menlo Park is behind this move.

We will deal with our ped bridge. Mind your own business.


Menlo Home Owner
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm
Menlo Home Owner, Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

What are we waiting for (or have been waiting for before the Recession) to fix the theatre? It can add culture to our community, while not being such an eye sore.

I am for the rail system. Underground should be the way to go.

However, feel something is suspicious about the letter/fax never arriving.

As far as the business places in Menlo, too bad we have to have car dealerships here.

Business leave, perhaps, due to the high rents on Santa Cruz Ave. These rents were rising before the Recession (Ace Hardware).


cynic
Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 13, 2009 at 4:24 pm
cynic, Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 13, 2009 at 4:24 pm

CHSRA must have the same mail carrier as Lee Duboc.

I'm not sure what spending $5 million on a bridge has to do with HSR, except that both represent ridiculously large sums of money and make me wonder if our public servants are paying any attention to the value received per dollar spent.


Karl
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm
Karl, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 13, 2009 at 5:37 pm

A portion of my comment was removed by the Almanac.
I simply stated the obvious statement that ¨truth¨ rarely adds value to any discussion. All she does is rip others down with her far out ideas.

Yet the almanac decided to leave alone her comment below:
Posted by truth, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Let's all thank Patrick for his value add this evening.

This is an example of a zero value added comment.

So my statement has to be censored yet hers is allowed to stay.

Thanks Almanac.


truth
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm
truth, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Thanks, Karl, for your value add.


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