Tonight: Packed agenda for Menlo Park City Council

El Camino corridor, pesticide use, tree-removal plan and more on agenda

Menlo Park's City Council may have a long night ahead of it on Tuesday, Aug. 25, with an agenda that includes: a study session on the El Camino Corridor report, a discussion of changing the way the city uses pesticides, the city's response to a grand jury report on sea level rise, and a presentation by Pacific Gas & Electric of plans to remove as many as 800 trees that are in gas transmission line easements. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 701 Laurel St.

El Camino Corridor Report

The El Camino report looks at four alternatives for the 1.3-mile stretch of El Camino between Sand Hill Road and Encinal Avenue within the city of Menlo Park. They include: keeping current conditions; three continuous vehicle lanes in each direction; two lanes in each direction plus bike lanes buffered by painted lines; and two lanes in each direction with bike lanes protected by 3-foot-wide curbs or planters.

All but the current conditions plan would remove on-street parking from El Camino. The plan for three vehicle lanes in each direction would remove all the on-street parking north of Roble Avenue; the alternatives with new bike lanes would remove all on-street parking on El Camino in Menlo Park.

The study shows that the maximum number of cars parked on El Camino in Menlo Park at one time is 53.

The study looks at the effects each alternative would have on the amount of traffic and how much time it takes to get through Menlo Park, as well as the effects on delay times at nine El Camino intersections. It also considers how bicyclists, pedestrians, aesthetics, parking and trees fare in each alternative.

One of the more interesting results in the report shows that adding a third through-traffic lane to parts of El Camino that now have only two through-lanes would actually increase travel times.

Traffic studies showed the extra traffic lane adding as much as 64 percent more traffic during the morning peak commute time north of Ravenswood Avenue, where the lanes would be added. The additional vehicles would come "from other parallel routes such as Middlefield Road, Highway 101 and neighborhood streets," the report says. Even on the part south of Ravenswood that already has three lanes in each direction, traffic would increase by 16 percent with this option, the report says.

Some neighborhood streets would see reduced traffic under this scenario, including a 33 percent reduction on parts of University Drive and a 35 percent reduction on Roble Avenue, while traffic would increase by 5 percent on Valparaiso and Middle avenues and 20 percent on Middlefield Road north of Ravenswood Avenue.

Adding either type of bike lane would leave traffic at about the same levels as not making any changes, the report says.

The report also examines the fate of the 11 heritage trees and seven street trees on the south side of the El Camino-Ravenswood intersection.

Go to to see the full report.

Tree-removal plan

Representatives from PG&E are scheduled to tell the City Council about the utility's efforts to remove safety hazards from gas transmission pipeline easements.

In July, PG&E made a similar presentation to the Atherton council. PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith told the Almanac that the utility plans to send letters to 83 Menlo Park property owners with 800 trees in PG&E's easement. The company will evaluate each tree to see if it must be removed, he said. Similar programs in other communities have found that 30 to 40 percent of the trees that were examined needed to go, the Atherton council was told.

At, a map of PG&E's gas transmission lines shows Menlo Park gas lines along parts of Middlefield Road, Sand Hill Road, through the Sand Hill Circle area, Sevier Avenue, Chester Street, Grayson Court, Van Buren Road and Bay Road.

Pesticide policy

Menlo Park hasn't updated the guidelines it uses for dealing with pests, including unwanted plants, animals or insects, since 1998. Heather Abrams, Menlo Park's environmental programs manager, said the city has made some changes, however, including reducing the amount of pesticides (which also include herbicides used on plants) by 21 percent, while increasing the amount of landscaping maintained by the city by 11 acres.

The proposed policy "reflects our continued commitment to reduce pesticide use whenever possible," said Ms. Abrams. The council will review the proposal, and will also be asked to decide if it wants a pilot program to maintain some of the city's parks without using any herbicides.

Sea-level rise

The council will also review a report by the San Mateo County's civil grand jury warning that sea level rise could flood many parts of the county. In Menlo Park, the report says, the Facebook campus could be flooded.

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Like this comment
Posted by Nina
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 24, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I can't make the meeting, it will be interesting to see where MP is headed. Right now, ECR is too crowded due to narrowing to two lanes, it is taking too long to develop housing where the car dealerships were (and I mean affordable housing, hopefully tiered for all income levels) we shouldn't be using pesticides at all, in my opinion - I don't want my babies exposed - and what is the true story on sea level rise? Is it 30 feet this century?

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I would welcome opening ECR to 3 lanes each direction through MP w/o bike lanes. The consultants say more people will drive on ECR with 3 lanes because they will not be using neighborhood streets and Middlefield Rd. That sounds good to me. I live on a 'cut through' street and would welcome those motorist to use ECR instead. It seems sensible to funnel bikes over the present 3 bicycle bridges to Stanford and Palo Alto (one parallels ECR near Alma). There are no bike lanes on ECR in Atherton or Palo Alto. What does a biker on ECR do when they reach Atherton or Palo Alto?

4 people like this
Posted by no more car lanes
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 25, 2015 at 11:23 am

The best way to encourage drivers to get out of their cars is to make it safer to use some other form of getting around.
The experts say we'll get more traffic, not less, if there are more lanes.
We need a buffer between the heavy traffic and narrow sidewalks. The current parking provides that. Bike lanes would provide it, too.

Like this comment
Posted by Win
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 25, 2015 at 4:39 pm

If the consultants are right and another lane will add 50% to the traffic load on ECR, where is that traffic going to go IF WE DON'T ADD EXTRA CAPACITY ON ECR? If the answer is through the neighborhoods, I fear for the safety of kids going to and from school with all that extra traffic.
If the answer is that there will be no extra traffic anywhere -- which cannot be true -- why don't we remove one of the existing lanes (make ECR a one-lane road each way) and magically get rid of another 50%?
So, should we also leave the auto dealership area vacant so that we can avoid adding more traffic on ECR from any new construction? That could be the start of achieving the result Palo Alto got when they limited building and made San Mateo very happy as they receive new office space users.

2 people like this
Posted by Kayleen Seiter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 25, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Will the Council follow the carefully considered recommendations of the Planning, Transportation, and Bicycle Commissions to implement forward-thinking, environmental proposals for bicycle infrastructure on a key corridor, or will they overturn those volunteer citizen bodies and bend to shrill, negative voices of the past? Hopefully the former.

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

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