Menlo Park scrambles to cover planning staff departures

City looks for contractors and interns

Two planners from the city of Menlo Park will be leaving within the next two months, just as the city finds itself facing a development boom.

Associate Planner Rachel Grossman will leave Nov. 1 to work for Google, according to staff. In her two years with Menlo Park, she managed several major projects, including Facebook and the SRI renovation.

The second planner, Momoko Ishijima, will leave after this week to work for the city of Sunnyvale. Ms. Ishijima's one-and-a-half years with Menlo Park saw her assist with the housing plan update, residential and small commercial projects and plan reviews.

Community Development Director Arlinda Heineck said the two planners represent a third of the department's capacity. To cope, the city is hiring contract planners through the Metropolitan Planning Group as well as recruiting interns, according to a memo written on Sept. 16.

Earlier this year the City Council opted to use a mix of contractors, provisional employees and potentially two new full-time planners instead of hiring nine full-time staff that would have been spread among planning, building and public works departments.

City Manager Alex McIntyre, with other senior managers, had advocated for hiring full-time staff that would be better acquainted with the nuances of local regulations than contractors.

Some of the projects approaching the planning pipeline: Facebook's new "west" campus as well as its Marsh Road housing development in partnership with St. Anton; the Stanford-Arrilllaga complex on El Camino Real; school expansions; the second round of housing plan updates; and the Greenheart Land Company's mixed-use development at 1300 El Camino Real.

Other departures

The past three years has brought quite a lot of changeover to Menlo Park City Hall.

Earlier this year, City Clerk Margaret Roberts and Finance Director Carol Augustine accepted positions with other cities, while Police Cmdr. Lacey Burt retired.

Chief of Police Bryan Roberts and Engineering Services Manager Matt Oscamou left in 2012; Public Works Director Kent Steffens in 2011 and Business Development Manager Dave Johnson, City Manager Glen Rojas and Personnel Director Glen Kramer, all retired in 2010 or 2011.


Like this comment
Posted by So what
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Let's not forget some of the circumstances that some of these folks left. Remember Kramer - he kept coming back until CALPERS determined that his contract with the City was illegal. Some deserve to go; others not. Some still there, should go. You know who you are.

Like this comment
Posted by Unpaid Lawyer
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Yes, I agree with So what. Many of these were 4 hour commuters that add to the traffic congestion, when we could hire more qualified happy people who live in Menlo Park that need jobs, and have a true vested interest in the well-being of the community.

Like this comment
Posted by The back story
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 3, 2013 at 1:26 pm

There is one senior planner who does have a lengthy commute (so much for that theory) but is driving out the newer and more competent planners. Too bad he's not leaving, but he won't go until/unless he's fired!

Like this comment
Posted by Sack them All
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

They should all go - starting with Arlenda and Thomas.

Like this comment
Posted by menloian
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

Why don't they get rid of the Stanford Cronies and bring our town back to the Residents

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:35 am

Perhaps if we could actually grade the quality rather than the quantity these folks ram down the throats of residents to only the benefit of developers, we'd have a more efficent way of promoting growth in this community.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Planners deserve hazard pay in Menlo Park and Palo Alto....there seem to be a lot of vicious residents.

Like this comment
Posted by predictable
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 6, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Turnover of city staff, especially younger ones, is nothing new. The story highlights two people who went to jobs with larger organizations, probably for more opportunity or more pay. Nothing new.

Some turnover is good. Just wish more happened at the top of the planning department.

to "neighbor" - our city's staff disrespects residents quite often, favoring developers over the people who live here, so no surprise there is little love lost. Several staff are wonderful, others forget what it means to be a "public servant". Most are quite civil to each other.

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

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