The Menlo Park Environmental Quality Commission during its meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 28, discussed several topics near and dear to Menlo Park's "green" interests: new bike lanes, renewable energy, and the city's trees.
Jonathan Weiner and Bill Kirsch of the Bicycle Commission presented a plan to create bike routes from Menlo-Atherton High School and through downtown Menlo Park. They said they will urge the Menlo Park City Council to conduct a one-year pilot study of the bike route.
The proposed route would create bike lanes on both sides of several streets, narrowing driving lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet in some areas to create space.
Heading from east to west, a bike route would start at Menlo-Atherton High School, with 7-foot buffered lanes, and continue along Oak Grove Avenue, past El Camino Real to Crane Street, where the lane would narrow to 5 feet.
Riders would take Crane Street to Santa Cruz Avenue, where they would have to deal with a 530-foot stretch where the bike lane would disappear in favor of "sharrows," lanes marked by white bicycle signs painted on the road that tell drivers that they are sharing the road with bicyclists.
From there, bicyclists would have access to the existing bike lanes to continue down Santa Cruz Avenue.
Heading from south to north, another bike route is proposed to stretch from Middle Avenue to Valparaiso Avenue, beginning on University Drive, then jogging east along Live Oak Avenue to Crane Street.
By creating these perpendicular routes, bikers would have a safe way to get through downtown Menlo Park, said Mr. Weiner.
According to Mr. Kirsch, the pilot would be fairly low-cost, as it would require some street painting and "wayfinding" signals to be placed along those streets, plus a stop sign at Crane Street and Menlo Avenue.
The commissioners said the aspect of the proposal they expect to be the hardest sell to residents and businesses is the street parking that would have to be removed to create those bike lanes.
In total, the proposal would require an estimated 112 parking spots to go: 55 unrestricted spaces, 40 soon-to-be three-hour parking spots, and 17 soon-to-be 90-minute parking spots. (The City Council recently decided to run a trial, starting in January, to extend free parking in two-hour parking plaza spots to three hours, and to extend one-hour street parking limits to 90 minutes.)
Mr. Weiner said that although 112 spots may sound like a lot of parking to eliminate, there are actually nearly 1,600 parking spots available throughout downtown Menlo Park. Environmental Quality Commissioner Andrew Barnes added that if an above-ground parking structure were to be built, it would further consolidate downtown parking and clear the street for bike lanes to be developed.
One metric for the program's success could be to see how full a new bike parking area planned at Menlo-Atherton High School would become by the end of the proposed one-year trial. To respond to the high school's increased enrollment, between 130 and 160 new permanent bike parking spots will be created to replace temporary parking facilities, using funding from school resources and parent donations, said Mr. Weiner.
The commission voted on two motions: to draft a letter of support for the Bicycle Commission's plan, which was approved by all members except Andrew Barnes; and to state support for the plan, which was unanimously approved.
Peninsula Clean Energy
The Environmental Quality Commission voted to recommend that Menlo Park participate in the formation of San Mateo County's proposed Peninsula Clean Energy program, which would combine the forces of the county and participating cities to buy renewable energy at competitive prices?
The proposed joint powers authority would purchase renewable energy on behalf of participating cities and unincorporated areas in the county and deliver it to households through the existing Pacific Gas & Electric power grid.
Households would be automatically enrolled in the program, which would distribute a baseline percentage of energy from renewable sources. However, people will be able to opt out and keep their existing PG&E electricity service. The program has been well-received in Marin and Sonoma counties.
Arborist's annual update
The Environmental Quality Commission received an update from Menlo Park arborist Christian Bonner. Between October 2014 and October 2015, Mr. Bonner reported, 156 trees were planted and 130 trees were removed on city-owned land, leaving the total number of public trees in Menlo Park at 20,086.
Also, 518 heritage trees were approved for removal, up nearly 70 percent from the previous year's 305 trees. Forty-two heritage trees were denied removal requests, compared with eight the previous year.
He said that between drought stress and an increase in proposals to remove trees for development purposes, more trees were removed this past year than city officials would have liked.
"We're still planting more trees than we're removing," Mr. Bonner said, but "we're barely keeping up."