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Editorial: Money and politics in Menlo Park

 

The unseemly role of money in politics at the state and national levels has a local counterpart these days. Rather sizable amounts are being spent for and against Menlo Park's Measure M, which aims to reduce the scale of office complexes allowed on El Camino Real.

Greenheart Land Co., one of the developers proposing to build about 200,000 square feet of office on El Camino, has contributed $200,000 to a political committee it organized to defeat Measure M. Save Menlo, the grass-root proponent of Measure M, has reported spending $96,000 so far to convince voters to adopt the measure.

One would hope that voters will make their decision on the merits, or demerits, of the measure rather than on the number and size of advertisements, signs and fliers. But with busy lives and insufficient bandwidth to grasp highly complex land-use issues, voters may be influenced by more simple messages.

In addition to the magnitude of local political spending, the Greenheart committee contributed to the re-election campaigns of the three City Council incumbents, who, if elected, would be making critical decisions regarding the proposed Greenheart development.

Those contributions were not cash, but assistance in the form of producing and mailing slate cards to defeat Measure M and re-elect the incumbents, and hiring a paid canvasser that handed out the candidates' "campaign literature." These "nonmonetary" contributions had an estimated value of about $900 for each of the candidates, according to a campaign finance filing by Greenheart on Oct. 7.

Greenheart's political committee is independent and did not need the candidates' approval to hand out the fliers, but at least in the case of incumbents Rich Cline and Peter Ohtaki, received their consent.

"When the Committee learned that (Kirsten) Keith preferred not to have her flyers handed out by the Committee, they immediately stopped," Bob Burke, principal with Greenheart Land Co., said in an email.

Although she has accepted donations from other developers, we think Ms. Keith made the right decision here. It's just not a good idea for candidates who, if elected, will be making consequential decisions about the Greenheart complex to be receiving the developer's campaign assistance, however small, if they can stop it.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by It is so simple
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 30, 2014 at 7:56 am

It is all so simple.

Just follow the money. Who is supporting the No on Measure M campaign? It is the developers; the developers who want to control the development in Menlo Park, and don't give a damn about the quality of life for the Menlo Park residents.

Look at the funding of the 3 incumbents, Keith, Ohtaki and Cline. The developers are just pouring funds into their coffers. David Bohannon even sponsored Keith's "kick off" party. If re-elected we surely know how she will vote don't we?

It is so simple.

Vote Yes on Measure M... keep our quality of life in Menlo Park

Do not vote for any of the incumbents.. they are all influenced greatly by all the developer funding for their campaigns.

Keith, noted above may have refused to to have her flyers handed out by Greenehart, but he whole campaign is funded by developers. Bohannon sponsored her "kick-off" party. Talk about being influenced by development money --- she takes the cake.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 30, 2014 at 10:47 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Simple:

did you read the article? The value to the council members is $900 each. Do really think so little of your fellow citizens that they can be bought for $900? Really?

Land issues are not "simple" they're COMPLICATED. Measure M is a simple, misguided solution to a complex problem.

What's simple is that measure m is a HUGE MISTAKE.

Vote NO on M


1 person likes this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Keep repeating: "It is so simple, it is so simple, it is so simple," click your heels together three times and you may wake up from a dream somewhere in Kansas.

But Measure M will still be a nightmare for Menlo Park.


Like this comment
Posted by No, based on facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2014 at 5:02 am

Most of the money, particularly for supporters, is spent on noise intended to make an issue which is pretty straight forward, at its core, complex. Plus, the low cost use of the ballot process to try scare tactics was a way to get around the lack of support from the community. if you focus on the most basic feature and flaw of M, the requirement of a public vote to modify, in even the smallest way, all but one of their many proposed changes, you'd realize that it should not be acceptable to this town. If you have disliked this M vote politicking, imagine going through the exact same thing each and every year, as modifications toward a better solution are suggested by well meaning residents. M makes this a near certainty, in my view.


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Posted by fact checker
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 31, 2014 at 7:22 am

The editors missed the chance to point out that each of the incumbents has accepted from developers and real estate interests more than 50% of their campaign contributions. With both the downtown plan and the general plan under review in the coming year, when development rules may be modified, this is unseemly. The General Plan update is city-wide with an emphasis on the M-2 area east of 101; that is likely to modify development rules for properties there.

Regarding a vote to modify M"s limits: the limits in the Plan were supposed to support a 30-year buildout to support the community's vision that was crafted through numerous workshops. When it is time to revisit the limits, wouldn't another effort begin to determine with community engagement what the new vision should be and what new limits should be established? Measure M adds a step for formal community approval. Given all the uproar about whether it's ok or not to potentially exceed the limits of a 30-year plan within a few years, that seems a reasonable approach. There was considerable controversy about the Bohannon project, and it was taken to a vote. I did not agree with the results, but I accepted it as the voice of fellow residents at the time.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 31, 2014 at 8:07 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

as usual "fact" is short on them. Greenheart contributed $900 to the three candidates. Per this article: Web Link they've raised a heck of al to more than $1800. So it certainly isn't more than 50% is it?

Fraud: would you take thirty years to remodel your home?

Editor's note: The Greenheart committee reported nonmonetary contributions of about $900 to each of the three incumbents. Candidates received many other donations from developers and real estate interests: Web Link and Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2014 at 8:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the limits in the Plan were supposed to support a 30-year buildout "

The Specific Plan has a 30 year planning horizon but nowhere does it even suggest that the permitted development be staged in any way over the next 30 years.

Note that 1/3 of the Specific Plan's permitted hotel rooms have already been approved. Does that mean no more hotel room should be approved until 2024? Of course not.

And what is the value of keeping the vacant parcels vacant for another 8 years?


Like this comment
Posted by fact checker
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 31, 2014 at 8:45 am

This thread is about money and politics. Can we stick to that subject?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2014 at 8:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Factless posts -"the limits in the Plan were supposed to support a 30-year buildout to support the community's vision that was crafted through numerous workshops."

I reply with - "The Specific Plan has a 30 year planning horizon but nowhere does it even suggest that the permitted development be staged in any way over the next 30 years."

Factless replies "This thread is about money and politics. Can we stick to that subject?"

Ergo, factless does not want to pursue the issue that he raised because he knows he is wrong.


Like this comment
Posted by fact checker
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 31, 2014 at 9:31 am

I repeat the request to stick to the topic about money and politics

@Peter "The Specific Plan has a 30 year planning horizon but nowhere does it even suggest that the permitted development be staged in any way over the next 30 years."
Well it says several places and was discussed many times that development was to occur over 30 years. Neither I nor the Plan suggested staging but the financial impact analysis assumed the development would occur over time. Common sense tells us that the community thought so, too. Why else portray it as a 30 year plan?

Can we get back on topic?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 31, 2014 at 9:33 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

factless:

your post is the one that took us off topic. Why are you now complaining that we're off topic?


Like this comment
Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 31, 2014 at 6:00 pm

I copy the post from "It is so Simple", becuase it is indeed simple... just follow the money --- it tells who is benefiting and it certainly is not the Quality of life in Menlo Park.

------------

It is all so simple.

Just follow the money. Who is supporting the No on Measure M campaign? It is the developers; the developers who want to control the development in Menlo Park, and don't give a damn about the quality of life for the Menlo Park residents.

Look at the funding of the 3 incumbents, Keith, Ohtaki and Cline. The developers are just pouring funds into their coffers. David Bohannon even sponsored Keith's "kick off" party. If re-elected we surely know how she will vote don't we?

It is so simple.

Vote Yes on Measure M... keep our quality of life in Menlo Park

Do not vote for any of the incumbents.. they are all influenced greatly by all the developer funding for their campaigns.

Keith, noted above may have refused to to have her flyers handed out by Greenehart, but her whole campaign is funded by developers. Bohannon sponsored her "kick-off" party. Talk about being influenced by development money --- she takes the cake.

--------

Be Smart Menlo Park Voters

Vote Yes on Measure M

Don't vote for the Incumbents Cline (2 terms is more than enough from him), Keith (funded almost entirely by developers, including David Bohannon), and Ohtaki (big developer and outside the district funds into his campaign


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Oct 31, 2014 at 7:05 pm

It's not simple. Please do actually read and reflect on Measure M's deleterious consequences, intended or not.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 31, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

sorry old timer, it's not "simple" it's complicated. Measure M is a stupid, simplistic response to a complex issue.

Measure M is a Mistake

Vote NO on M


1 person likes this
Posted by Stupid is as stupid does
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 1, 2014 at 12:23 am

I will stick to the topic.
To do so.
I have handed out campaign material for No on M as well as Ohtaki, Keith and Cline for re-election. I am NOT a developer. I have not received a dime for my efforts. I have no financial interest in these developments. I am a 20 year resident that wants to see our city move forward.

I have used my own personal funds to place ads in this paper in support of the incumbents and In opposition to measure M. I am not a developer. I am not with Stanford or Greenheart. Stop painting all citizens opposed to the flawed Measure M as developers. It is a lie! Greenheart may have spent $200k to fight this, as is their right To do so. But the $250 to run my ads came out of my pocket. I am the one you oppose and I am Menlo Park. I represent the silent majority and we want to move forward. And we will be heard next Tuesday.


Like this comment
Posted by It is all so Simple
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 1, 2014 at 6:44 am

It is all so simple.

Just follow the money. Who is supporting the No on Measure M campaign? It is the developers; the developers who want to control the development in Menlo Park, and don't give a damn about the quality of life for the Menlo Park residents.

Look at the funding of the 3 incumbents, Keith, Ohtaki and Cline. The developers are just pouring funds into their coffers. David Bohannon even sponsored Keith's "kick off" party. If re-elected we surely know how she will vote don't we?

It is so simple.

Vote Yes on Measure M... keep our quality of life in Menlo Park

Do not vote for any of the incumbents.. they are all influenced greatly by all the developer funding for their campaigns.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2014 at 7:29 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@its all so simple

SaveMenlo has Outspent Menlo Park Deserves Better (No on M) 10:1. Yes on M has spent over $90,000 and the largest part of that money has come from out of towners. What is their angle? what are those Atherton and Los Altos residents trying to BUY?

Follow the money indeed and you will see it's the Yes on M people who have spent an obscene amount of out of town money. who is controlling them?

Vote NO on M
M is a Mistake

Roy Thiele-Sardin


1 person likes this
Posted by It is so Simple
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 1, 2014 at 8:09 am

@Thiele-Sardina

Nobody cares about the half dozen development advocates who are "Menlo Park deserves better". Typical representation of the group is Henry Riggs, about to be retired from the Planning commission after 8 years, and who has never voted against a major project in his whole tenure.

The concern is Greenheart, with its $200,000 of pure greedy funding, trying to protect its current ridiculous project on the Derry and old Cadillac sites.

That Greenheart project is about 3 times the density of projects that were previously approved for those sites, but were never built due to the recession.

To have Greenheart, with its obnoxious billboards say "No to More Traffic" is an insult to the voters of Menlo Park. The Greenheart project will generate so much MORE traffic that it is subject to a "traffic scoped" EIR.

A partial solution is Measure M.

It is so Simple

Vote Yes on Measure M.

Do not vote for the incumbents... they are responsible for the Specific Plan, which is such a disaster, that private Menlo Park citizen had to start the Measure M Initiative.

Again make it Simple

Vote Yes on Measure M.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2014 at 8:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Simple - You dismiss Henry Riggs' exemplary service out of hand.

Just exactly what is your public service experience and your city planning expertise?


Like this comment
Posted by formerly undecided on M
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 1, 2014 at 10:22 am

It's not so simple if you look at the details.

Of course any new development will be more dense than previous developments. Land values have skyrocketed in the Bay Area - especially prime ECR real estate. Greenheart has already invested about $50M just to purchase the land. They are incurring close to $1M/year in property taxes as a steady state burn rate. To do a buildout they will invest $60-70M. Total costs before they start getting revenue - probably about $120M. A developer can't make a reasonable return on investment with a small building and a park. (I've been a product designer/manager for close to four decades - I'm used to thinking in terms of ROI.)

Follow the money -and you'll see a large percentage has already been invested and is generating some amount of annual revenue for Menlo Park through property taxes. That's the real money trail. Development is risky -banking on future returns that are uncertain (think 2009-12) and development is complex - that's why the city of Menlo Park invested $1.8M in a planning process. To try to replace this process with a 12 page document - that locks decisions in place is crazy.

As H L Mencken said "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong". Vote no on M

Vote


2 people like this
Posted by Not so simple
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2014 at 10:28 am

@ it's all so simple

It is clear that you hope that MP citizens are simple-minded. Maybe like yourself?
If so then they would believe the sound bites, half-truths and outright misinformation put out by Save Menlo and Yes on M.
The article got it right:

"...with busy lives and insufficient bandwidth to grasp highly complex land-use issues, voters may be influenced by more simple messages."

Land use is a complex issue, and ballot box zoning is not the way to make changes to the Specific Plan.
We too are busy with jobs, families, and other activities to also have the time to become city planners and zoning experts so we can make an informed choice here.

Save Menlo has forced Measure M upon us - and thus created an environment where sound bites and half truths can work. But But I have faith that the residents of Menlo Park are not so simple minded. When asked, they will dig deeper to understand what is really going on here - that the No Growth coalition is at it again, trying to hold Menlo Park back, and they need to be put back in their place as the vocal minority that they are.

Vote No on Measure M.
M is a Mistake for Menlo Park


3 people like this
Posted by Not so simple
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2014 at 10:28 am

@ it's all so simple

It is clear that you hope that MP citizens are simple-minded. Maybe like yourself?
If so then they would believe the sound bites, half-truths and outright misinformation put out by Save Menlo and Yes on M.
The article got it right:

"...with busy lives and insufficient bandwidth to grasp highly complex land-use issues, voters may be influenced by more simple messages."

Land use is a complex issue, and ballot box zoning is not the way to make changes to the Specific Plan.
We too are busy with jobs, families, and other activities to also have the time to become city planners and zoning experts so we can make an informed choice here.

Save Menlo has forced Measure M upon us - and thus created an environment where sound bites and half truths can work. But But I have faith that the residents of Menlo Park are not so simple minded. When asked, they will dig deeper to understand what is really going on here - that the No Growth coalition is at it again, trying to hold Menlo Park back, and they need to be put back in their place as the vocal minority that they are.

Vote No on Measure M.
M is a Mistake for Menlo Park


1 person likes this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Nov 1, 2014 at 10:37 am

@ "It is so simple"

"Nobody cares about the half dozen development advocates who are "Menlo Park deserves better".

Your statement is offensive and incorrect. How is it that you presume to know so much? And speak for so many?

I am adamantly opposed to Measure M. I have no financial interest in the outcome whatsoever. We used to live in Menlo Park. I care because I want to see things move forward productively for the good of everyone in the larger community all of us share.


2 people like this
Posted by formerly undecided on M
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 1, 2014 at 10:48 am

"It's all so simple"

You dismiss Henry Riggs out of hand because you are unaware of any development he was "opposed to" (I don't know if Mr. Riggs was seeking to modify developments behind the scene - or what he has quietly opposed.)

I suspect you have never seen a development that you liked. Has there been any? If not - isn't it really quiet the same as what you accuse Mr. Riggs of?

That said, I agree with you - the No on M signs that said no more traffic struck me as being very disingenuous. Traffic has increased - without Measure M passing - without Greenheart - without Stanford's ECR buildout. It's due to the improving economy - and Palo Alto's development as far as I can see.

Measure M has also been disingenuous by saying development is simple and making believe that Menlo Park can demand Stanford develop another hotel (when Stanford already has two). What legal authority does the city have to demand a developer enter a specific type of business?

It's really not that simple.

Vote no on M.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2014 at 8:26 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Go Bears:

it's really a shame you think so poorly of our citizens and elected officials in Menlo Park. They've been "bought?" Do you have any evidence to support this outrageous accusation?


Like this comment
Posted by Rut Roh
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:33 am

Bought and paid for.

Follow the money.

where did they City officials get their measure M talking points?
How much did the City pay the consultant for these talking points?


Is it possible that the City manager and Cherise Brandell hired the consultant all on their own without the Mayors knowledge? Without council approval?








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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2014 at 9:37 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

says rut roh who has anointed herself judge and jury.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Nov 2, 2014 at 10:31 am

With elected and regular MP employees, there is a process in place to work through, investigate and find our what did (or did not) happen.

Where is Measure M's duly authorized spokesperson?

Where is their process?

Do they have meetings with agendas publicly posted in advance?

Held in a public place with everyone welcome to attend, including those who disagree?

How would someone who disagrees with their position voice valid concerns?

Have flagged an issue/error or two before the Measure is set in stone?

There are no public records/freedom of information tools available to probe them.

How will they be held accountable?


Like this comment
Posted by Rut Roh
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2014 at 10:42 am

Mr Robinson was able to view and share the City documents and emails related to measure M two months after his request. Is the Almanac still waiting for their requests ? Regaredless, thank you Mr. Robinson for uncovering and sharing the news.


Like this comment
Posted by formerly undecided on M
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Here is an article about Greenheart's Scott Hassan from September 2014 - IEEE Spectrum (Institue of Electrical and Electronic Engineers).

It explains Greenheart's philosophy Web Link

I


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