The familiar complaint that Menlo Park would rather study a problem than fix it has come whistling through the city again, with one member of the City Council joining in the chorus of frustrated voices.
The issue surfaced at the June 16 council meeting when longtime resident Cedy Fisher declared, "I am tired of studies," in response to the city's proposal to conduct a $90,000, consultant-led study of parking regulations in the downtown area. "I am really tired of studies," Ms. Fisher said. "This is not the time to have another."
Councilman Andy Cohen agreed, saying the parking study represents what he sees as a growing trend: the city's "failure ... to try solutions before we go out and hire consultants."
Residents and downtown merchants have derided plans for the parking study in e-mails to the City Council and on The Almanac's online forum, saying previous studies on the same issue were unproductive. Some said the city's money would be better spent on a parking structure. Others suggested Menlo Park should commission a study on why it conducts so many studies.
Public Works Director Kent Steffens defended the city's reliance on consultants, saying it doesn't have the manpower or the expertise to conduct a parking study. He argued that the parking situation is more complicated than many think, and noted that the consultant will also analyze whether the city should use parking meters in its plazas.
At the meeting, Councilman John Boyle said he's heard "strong pleas" from merchants to simply change the limit from two to three hours, as Ms. Fisher and Mr. Cohen suggested. But the city needs to analyze the issue, he argued, because it isn't certain that those merchants speak for the larger business community.
Mr. Cohen said the city has bandied about the switch from two to three hours, but never tried it. But Mark Flegel, president of Flegels Fine Furniture, said in an interview that the city did try a three-hour limit in the early 1990s -- and decided against making the switch permanent, largely because employees would bogart the spaces.
The council voted 4-1 to proceed with the study, with Mr. Cohen dissenting.