Four members of the Menlo Park Transportation Commission tried their hand at foretelling the future on Aug. 18 during a special meeting called to discuss the proposed downtown/El Camino Real specific plan.
The commissioners asked: How will a child now in first grade need the city to look, 25 years from now? What features will make life in Menlo Park easier for tomorrow's senior citizen? Can one specific plan, designed to guide downtown and El Camino Real development for the next quarter of a century, meet everyone's needs?
In the end, the commissioners voted 3-1 to ask the City Council, which has the responsibility for determining the final shape of the plan, to move forward with the plan. But commissioners expressed concerns.
Commissioner Maurice Shiu said the plan fails to address the aging population, citing as an example that limited mobility can make it hard to check traffic around cars parked at street corners, but that removing those parking spaces could then create a need to add others elsewhere, which isn't considered in the specific plan.
Vice Chair Charlie Bourne, casting the lone dissenting vote, said the plan shouldn't go forward. He pointed to potential unanticipated impacts from other upcoming projects, such as the Bohannon Gateway development and high-speed rail. "All this activity is not considered seriously in this specific plan," he said.
Commissioners Penelope Huang and Ray Mueller recused themselves for conflicts of interest, while colleague Martin Engel was absent due to travel. However, along with a handful of other people, Mr. Mueller did appear at the podium to speak as a resident, saying among other points that adding housing along El Camino Real presented an opportunity to reduce commute traffic.
Mr. Mueller said after the meeting that he thought the commission took a good first step. "But the specific plan is going to require a vigilant commitment, for many years into the future, to public transit, bicycling and walking.
"There are risks associated with this plan," he commented in an email. For example, Menlo Park's commitment to public transit will be crucial, as will the need to make the added housing appealing to those using public transportation to commute. "In many ways the execution of the specific plan will be far more important than how it was developed."
In other specific plan news, the city released the project's fiscal impact analysis (FIA), just in time for the Planning Commission's final meeting on Monday, Aug. 22, to compose its recommendations to the council.
Go here to review the FIA and other documents associated with the specific plan.