Menlo council tweaks specific plan for downtown

Parking, merchant access key points

The Menlo Park City Council continued its evaluation of the draft downtown/El Camino Real specific plan on Sept. 13, starting on Tuesday night and carrying on until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

After public comment, the council methodically tweaked recommendations made by the Planning Commission for the downtown area.

Speakers included local merchants Richard Draeger of Draeger's Supermarkets and furniture merchant Mark Flegel, who opposed some aspects of the plan, such as the option to fill in parking plazas with mixed-use development, forcing customers to park farther away from stores.

Some highlights:

• Implement a trial installation of a Chestnut Street paseo for at least a full week and up to several months.

• Ensure that Menlo Park merchants have access to the paseo and that it won't compete with the Farmers' Market.

• Install wider sidewalks in phases, and only where there's a logical reason to have a wider sidewalk for an adjacent business.

• Keep parking garages at the same height and scale as buildings next door, and encourage employees to park in the garages via permits to save surface parking for customers. Provide opportunities for merchants to voluntarily help fund the garages, and also discourage any mixed-use development either on top of the garages or as parking plaza infill.

That leaves the El Camino Real portion of the specific plan and the fiscal impact analysis, as well as a discussion of public benefit associated with development within the plan's zone, for the next council meeting on Sept. 20.

Click here to review all documents associated with the specific plan, including recommendations.

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Like this comment
Posted by Tired of the same ol
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Please get'r done...before the needs change.. before people give up and go elsewhere to shop and eat.

Like this comment
Posted by watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Here they go. Bowing to the complainers who didn't like the results of the public outreach.

The council ought to support the will of the people and leave the plan alone. Especially the housing.

Housing downtown helps the local businesses.

Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Council - Please don't let the vocal minority shout out the overwhelming majority. The plan is good. Do it.

Like this comment
Posted by council watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 16, 2011 at 12:22 am

The council seems to be making sensible changes to a plan that was just a vision until recently. The consultant created details that were never visible or discussed in public until now.
I hope the council keeps listening and makes sensible tweaks or bolder changes, as warranted.
From what I watched, the people wanting to hurry it along are architects, realtors and developers. The overwhelming majority of people speaking up are residents and the business owners who support our families and think the plan could be improved. Thank goodness the council agrees.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 16, 2011 at 8:26 am

One simple administrative change I would suggest is to move Parking Enforcement from the Police Department to Business Development and rename it Parking Assistance. The mission you give employees can dramatically change both their behavior and the public's response.

Like this comment
Posted by council watcher is right
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

This is a rare opportunity to get the job done right, and I appreciate the care and deliberation that the council (and planning commission before them) is investing in the process.

There's a rumor that some of the bigger MP developers met with the consultants to lobby for a developer-friendly plan. Some of the posts I've read on Town Square make me believe that the rumor has a basis in reality.

Like this comment
Posted by frequent downtown MP shopper
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the council meeting but I hope somoone communicated the information Palo Alto recently reported about their parking garage use.

Apparently Palo Alto's parking garages are on average 60% under-utilized while not surprisingly the street spots are in high demand.

One of the articles said something about improving signage to make people aware of the garages. They're deluding themselves if they think this is going to make much of a difference. The reality is: THE MAJORITY OF SHOPPERS DON'T LIKE PARKING GARAGES

Building 1 parking garage for employees seems reasonable. However, I sure hope they're not planning on builing more than one.

Like this comment
Posted by E. Litella
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm

The city staff and council have been seduced by developers and like extraterrestrials. I saw the rumors about secret meetings with Mark Flegel and they must be true. No other way to explain why the conclusion of four years of public meetings including four workshops with over a hundred residents has resulted in a plan that my friends and I don't like. We say there is nothing wrong with 1957 buildings and if there's not enough shoppers and diners to populate the town who cares? I already have my house, I pay low taxes, Ilve been here since 1975 and don't see any need for change. We should nationalize all the vacant lots and make parks. We should throw this whole plan thing out and re-do it until the results match what the we real people want. Or get a federal grant. I don't want the city building office buildings on private land, I can't afford it.

Like this comment
Posted by council watcher is right
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm

You got it exactly, Litella. That's what everyone who wants to modify the plan is thinking. No changes. Throw out baby and bath water.

Guess my comment about meetings hit a little too close to home?

Like this comment
Posted by E. Litella
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 17, 2011 at 11:45 am

Also, what is all this fuss I hear about the Supreme Court decision on a "deaf" penalty? It's terrible! Deaf people have enough problems as it is! Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 18, 2011 at 8:14 am

Fortunately council is NOT listening to the whiners and complainers. Several hundred Menlo Park citizens participated in the open meetings and all details were worked out because of those meetings. I can't speak to the details of this "secret" meeting someone referred to but I hope it's not true. I'm going to assume it's not true and not repeat a rumor until someone who was at this "secret" meeting can provide details. I suspect there never was a secret meeting.

Like this comment
Posted by council watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

All the details of the plan were worked out privately by the consultant, city staff, and who knows who else.
The vision was set in public where residents and a lot of developers participated. Now some revisions are being made in public to the details in the consultant plan that were created in private. It would be interesting to know how many non-public "secret" meetings occurred with developers. Maybe they still are happening.
I'm not concerned about meetings with Mark Flegel but I do worry about undue influence by those most likely to profit at our community's expense. Does our town have disclosure rules so the public would know what meetings have occurred and who was in them?

Like this comment
Posted by council watcher is right
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I know for a fact that there are MP developers who are trying to undermine the current council review process. Even though the new plan will increase their wealth by allowing them to build projects with much greater density than is currently allowed, they are balking at any effort that requires them to consider public benefit.

From my perspective as an observer, I see some volunteers -- who stand not to profit at all -- who are trying to do what is right for the city, and then I see others who will profit and who are trying to rig the system to their own benefit as much as possible. They seem to think that if they are nasty enough, the volunteers will back down. It's pretty sickening.

Like this comment
Posted by perspective
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I was going to get cranky about the "council watcher" and "council watcher is right" allegations, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it's actually cause for optimism. We're on the cusp of the Council actually moving this thing along, and the best they can do is tired claims about secret meetings and evil developers? That's actually more pathetic than objectionable.
The Council should stay positive and strong- you've got the mandate. All 3 of the 2010 winners were clear that they were overall in favor of this plan, and the voters agreed. Recycled arguments from the "No on T" crowd shouldn't carry the day, what with that passing 64%.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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