"Who would want to live anywhere else?" asked Menlo Park Mayor Catherine Carlton during the mayor's annual "State of the City" talk Oct. 29.
The rhetorical question fell on the ears of those gathered in a full ballroom at the Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel in Menlo Park, where guests ate complimentary hors' d'oeuvres (flatbread topped with ricotta cheese and apple, fried bites of macaroni and cheese, etc.) and bellied-up to an open bar offering wine and beer.
The event, which was open to the public, cost the city at least $4,500, though the final bill has not been received, according to Clay Curtin, the city's interim finance director.
Mayor Carlton's talk, titled "Investing in Menlo Park," mentioned a wide range of initiatives and updates from the past year.
Two new developments in Menlo Park's downtown area promise sustainability, she said. A mixed-use project at 1295 El Camino Real will be LEED Silver certified and a development across the street, at 1300 El Camino Real, proposed by Greenheart Land Co., is planned to be LEED Platinum certified.
New hotels will give a boost to city revenue, she said. The planned Menlo Gateway hotel will generate about $3 million a year in hotel tax revenue, developer David Bohannon estimates.
Movie nights hosted in September on the city's pop-up "paseo" or mini park on Chestnut Street attracted people downtown, many of whom made purchases from merchants there, Ms. Carlton said.
Menlo Park is expanding its reach globally, she noted. The city has approved cultural exchanges with Xinbei, China, Kochi, India and Bizen, Japan. Mayor Carlton traveled to China over the summer as part of a cultural exchange program for mayors.
Representatives from Bizen, Japan, including that city's mayor, traveled to Menlo Park to visit and tour City Hall. Next year, Bizen will host 10 kids from Menlo Park, and the exchange is expected to continue on a biennial basis, Ms. Carlton said.
In 2014, the number of crimes committed in Belle Haven dropped 42 percent from 2013, and 12 percent city-wide, according to a city report.
Four city parks are undergoing a pesticide-free pilot study, and a class of pesticide called neonicotinoids plus some rat traps were banned across all parks.
A total of $6 million is budgeted this year for infrastructure and streetscape improvements, including plans to create safe bike and pedestrian routes to the schools.
As part of local efforts to combat bullying, the city will screen the documentary, "Bully," on Dec. 2 at Hillview Middle School. The director, Lee Hirsch, will participate in a discussion and question-and-answer session.
Mayor Carlton said she will lead a campaign to get Menlo Park kindergarteners from the Ravenswood Elementary School District enrolled in college savings accounts. According to research, she said, kids who have a college savings in kindergarten are seven times more likely to graduate from high school, and the amount of money in the fund had little effect on that outcome. Leveraging funds from Facebook and developers within the city, the first $50 invested in these accounts would be matched.
After spending the past year focused on water conservation, the city is now urging people to prepare for heavy rainfall in the coming months. The city will have free sandbags available for residents and is readying an emergency response team with representatives from community organizations, businesses, churches and nonprofits.