Most people make their resolutions around Jan. 1. For cities, the process is a bit more involved, and Menlo Park is no exception. The City Council is expected to decide sometime this spring what capital improvement projects and goals to prioritize for the next five years, months before the new fiscal year starts in July.
The Planning Commission signed off on its suggested capital improvement priorities on Jan. 12, and one recommendation is to move a study of the feasibility of building a parking garage downtown from the "unfunded" to the "funded" column.
According to the draft capital improvement plan, a study of the cost, site, circulation, feasibility and construction of building one or more parking garages on parking plazas 1, 2, or 3 would cost approximately $200,000.
Such a structure has resurfaced as a priority for the city many times: "Four-level parking garage downtown?" (Almanac headline from 2005); "Parking garages near top of city priority list" (2004); "Menlo Park takes new look at parking garages" (2003); and innumerable discussions during the five-year specific plan process.
One sticking point has always been who would pay for it, with the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church stating its willingness over the years to chip in.
But the Planning Commission's recommendation finally moves the concept one step closer to reality, should the council agree that now is the time to fund the study.
During the Jan. 12 meeting, commissioners worried that without visible, audible advocacy, the council may not understand the reasons for prioritizing the study.
"Why do we think that's so pressing, to get on top of that now?" Commissioner John Kadvany said. In a nutshell: With mixed-use complexes of housing, office space and retail on the way from Stanford as well as Greenheart Land Co., it's better to have the study done and payment structure in place before more downtown parking is needed.
At least one council member is ready to move ahead. Mayor Cat Carlton told the Almanac recently that she's excited to start talking about possibly building an underground garage topped by a park at surface level, an idea that some residents, such as those participating in grassroots groups "Re-Imagine Menlo Park" and "Imagine Menlo Park," are also eager to explore.
As for other priorities, the Planning Commission recommended moving the compilation of single-family residential design guidelines into the "funded" column as well, and expediting implementation of the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, with an emphasis on making it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to get from one side of the street to the other, and from one part of the city to another.
The commission stressed that its take on the design guidelines is advisory rather than dictatorial. "People outside of this dais have this idea it's going to be this very rigid imposition," Mr. Kadvany said, when instead it's meant to be "very soft advice" to help developers and homeowners avoid getting blindsided during the approval process.
The council will hold its annual goal-setting meeting on Monday, Jan. 26, and is expected to consider the capital improvement project priorities by March.