Making Menlo Park 'healthiest possible place to raise a child'


For five years a group of Hillview Middle School parents and staff have been working to emphasize across the campus a set of common themes and characteristics they believe can help make the school the best possible place for students to learn and grow.

Now, building on that work, Menlo Park Councilman Ray Mueller is urging local businesses, civic and youth organizations and other schools to join the effort to make Menlo Park what he calls "the healthiest possible place to raise a child."

With a grant from Pacific Gas & Electric, Mr. Mueller has started a Menlo Park Loves Kids campaign, building on Hillview's work. He's asking business owners and organizations to sign on to support local youth, and then display the distinctive Menlo Park Loves Kids logos so students know they are supported.

The project was inspired by the Search Institute's work in developing a list of "developmental assets," which its website calls "research-based, positive qualities that influence young people's development, helping them become caring, responsible, and productive adults." The assets are either characteristics and activities youth should strive for, or characteristics and activities the members of a youth's community and family should strive for.

See for more information and a full list of the assets.

At Hillview Middle School, an Asset Development Team has picked five of the assets to emphasize throughout the school, said Danielle O'Brien, assistant principal at Hillview. They are: character, student recognition, fun, service and support.

"Our idea was that we wanted to make sure that we were creating an environment where all kids felt safe, and all kids felt welcome," said Ms. O'Brien. They want to extend that to other parts of Menlo Park where students spend time, such as the downtown business district, where she said 300 to 400 kids head each day after school.

"That's why the partnership with downtown is so important," Ms. O'Brien said.

The businesses or organizations taking part are asked to sign a contract promising to work at five of 11 steps listed on the contract.

Among the choices:

● Learn the names of youths who frequent the business and greet them by name.

● Offer internships or mentoring for youth.

● Offer flexible scheduling for employees so they can volunteer or spend time with families.

● Take time to talk with young people who live nearby or are co-workers.

Mr. Mueller says Menlo Park Loves Kids needs more volunteers to help get the word out about the program to more businesses, to organizations whose members interact with children, and to other local school districts.

Businesses that have signed on to the project include: Left Bank, Cheeky Monkey, Cafe Zoe, Keplers Books, The Pet Place, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Studio Cake, Habibi's Salon, Lutticken's, Avanti Pizza, Country Club Cleaners, Village Stationers, Plantation Cafe, West Bay Cleaners, Twigs and Petals Florist, and Mardini's Deli.

For more information, contact Ray Mueller at or Danielle O'Brien at

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16 people like this
Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 9, 2015 at 12:37 pm

So let me get this straight. Menlo Park best supports youth by encouraging kids (ie their parents) to buy more stuff. Not by trying to add recreational activities and especially not by increasing the amount of green space as that might cut into the development of new office buildings.

21 people like this
Posted by Read the article
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm

I don't see anywhere in the article where anyone is being encouraged to buy anything. This looks like a community climate project that focuses on the interactions between adults and children that are already occurring.

20 people like this
Posted by Great stuff
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2015 at 4:34 pm

@soccermom why so negative? I agree with @readthearticle.

This looks like a great project.

12 people like this
Posted by let them play
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 9, 2015 at 5:28 pm

One of the most important things we can do to help children be healthy, both physically and emotionally, is to encourage them to play. The play should be both structured and unstructured.
As Menlo Park grows, we all need to ensure that there are places for them to do that. Playing fields and park spaces are near capacity now. Creating new spaces will be important. With the downtown plan review and general plan update underway, there are opportunities that will require tough decisions and tough negotiations by city leaders. Are they up to the task? Hope so, for the sake of our kids and our town's future.

6 people like this
Posted by Agree with let them play
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2015 at 6:37 am

Being a kid today means too much homework, less time for play and friends. While this initiative is commendable, I agree with the general hope for kids to head to parks and outdoor spaces after school instead of stores and snack shops.

Too much homework for outdoor time? Speak with your kid's teachers.
Lighten the scheduled activities and make sure there is some time daily for each of the PDFOs: Playtime, downtime, family time, outdoor time.

16 people like this
Posted by Read the Article
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 10, 2015 at 7:18 am

According the the article youth organizations and civic organizations are being encouraged to join the intiative. Wouldn't that include youth sports, play, and scouting organizations?

The article also says businesses who sign up are committing to giving their employees time off to volunteer in youth activities.

Reading the article, it looks like outdoor play is being supported by the initiative.

7 people like this
Posted by menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Really? What our kids need most is more interaction with the downtown businesses? Our local leaders and commissions commit to the strangest things. Of the many things residents request, this is not one I've ever encountered. This is just odd.

Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:22 pm

@ let them play. MP already has many many parks and playgrounds for children. Some of the most per capita in the nation. Having places to play is hardly the issue.

There is nothing about this initiative that has anything to do with kids 'health'. They business already cater to these kids, why does Ray Mueller this that this is needed? how does learning the names of their customers contribute to kids health? it does not.

Once again this seems like a complete waste of time.

11 people like this
Posted by sidewalks
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:24 pm

How can Menlo Park be the "healthiest" place for kids when we don't have safe sidewalk or bikeways for them???? What happened to the SC sidewalk? what a joke.

3 people like this
Posted by silly
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:30 pm

is there any evidence that local business aren't already nice to the kids that patronize their stores? Probably not.
How does giving flex time to employees have anything to do with kids patronizing a store? Does the flex time provision only apply to employees that have kids and line in Menlo Park?

29 people like this
Posted by BAH HUMBUG!
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2015 at 2:48 pm

It was the night before Christmas, and the trolls were on the Almanac Website.

"This is just ridiculous!

How dare Councilman Ray Mueller and the Hillview Middle School Counselor Ms. O'Brien work with businesses and organizations on being mindful regarding how they treat kids? How dare those businesses commit to creating a welcoming environment for youth. It's insane! Look at the logo. Who drew that?

I don't care that sidewalks on Santa Cruz Ave were approved last year and that City Council funded the installation of the sidewalks last year. I want to complain about that instead.

And I just think it's ridiculous people are doing something to support youth backed by scientific research and programs that have been implemented in our school districts over the last three years. How dare they?!

And I think this program is terrible because the City Council opposed Measure M and wants to fill the vacant lots on El Camino with actual buildings.

This is all crazy!!! BAH HUMBUG"

Fa la la la la

Same old trolls.

8 people like this
Posted by Sidewalks
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 10, 2015 at 3:58 pm

@Bah Humbug

Actually the sidewalks were approved in 2008 and still have yet to be installed. Many streets have no sidewalks at all and kids are left to walk in traffic.

Please tell me how Menlo Park can be the "healthiest" place to rase a kid while kids here don't even have safe places to walk or ride a bike?

Finally, what evidence is there that local business are not already mindful of the kids that patronize them? While I think supporting kids is great, this seems like a waste of time for for the city council with all of the other issues facing the city.

27 people like this
Posted by Fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm

BAH HUMBUG, your satirical points are so perfect, I'm at a loss for words! Who in their right minds would question or criticize this effort? I mean, I can understand a "bah humbug" attitude from someone who may not have kids, but even then, it's unacceptable. I mean, I don't have kids--not yet at least--but I consider myself wise enough to see the logical benefits of these implementations in any community. It's hard for me to criticize an effort to support youth and their mental health at a time when kids are throwing themselves in front of trains right here in neighboring communities. Thank you Councilman Mueller and Counselor O'Brien

5 people like this
Posted by Soccer mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 10, 2015 at 11:08 pm

As a Hillview parent, I have no issues with the Developmental Assets program, which comprises common sense parenting and teaching tools that have been packaged so that they can be sold. But I don't see "learning how to shop" anywhere on the list of 40 assets! Seems that Mueller is co-opting this program to serve his own agenda.

Anyone who thinks our kids have enough place to play should call the city's Community Services department. City staff will inform you how many different kids' sports leagues, athletic programs, and classes are competing for scraps of space.

Based on the comments I read here, looks as though the develop-at-any-cost crowd has hijacked townsquare. Meanwhile, our kids are still walking in the street, and our city doesn't care: supporting our children's wellbeing isn't glamorous, doesn't pay for our councilmembers' junkets, and won't add any money to city revenues. Whereas enticing those kids to become shoppers will add to sales tax income!

20 people like this
Posted by Pops
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 11, 2015 at 11:13 am

development isn't mentioned in this article at all. neither is asking kids to buy anything.

i've heard of crazy conspiracy theories, but to say mueller is working with the school counselor, hillview middle school, local businesses and Menlo Park Pres. on this project in order to generate sales tax revenue to support development? that's batty.

the fact the soccer mom and others keep bringing up development and are using the "development at any cost crowd" moniker, is indicative the criticism is coming from the same old Save Menlo crowd. not sure how it helps their cause to criticize a youth project like this but the shotgun negative approach is identifiable. mueller is a good guy and it's pathetic they are targeting him now.

the "sidewalk" and "other more important project" arguments are just drive by attacks as well. i fully expect our councilmembers can work on multiple projects with multiple stakeholders.

Soccer mom - take a deep breath and back away from the computer.

5 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 11, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

The sidewalks are in progress. They need to be designed and engineered with some care to make sure that the water flows where it is supposed to when it rains, it's not just a matter of ordering a couple of cement trucks and pouring sidewalks. Take a deep breath and have a little patience.

I hope that Ray Mueller is equally committed to making our streets safer for kids on bicycles, since so many Hillview kids ride their bikes to school. Currently getting across downtown on a bike is a thorny proposition, so making that safer will certainly redound to the health and safety of kids in Menlo Park as well as everyone who comes downtown, regardless of how they get there.

5 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm

really? is a registered user.

For healthy kids: Make Menlo Park a 'Soda Free City.' Make it near-impossible for dropping-off at Hillview so all kids have to walk or bike. Dedicate one month a year to the school calendar where all kids do service work in the community. Get a proper supermarket with real food into Belle Haven. Get Comcast to put a patch on the internet service in Menlo Park so it's impossible to stream video games........

7 people like this
Posted by let them play
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2015 at 3:10 pm

My comments were focused on what I thought a councilmember could uniquely help accomplish - more playing fields and park areas. As a parent, I am glad others pointed out things that also help us raise healthy kids: safe paths to bike and safe places to walk. Kids and families in own my neighborhood would directly benefit from Santa Cruz sidewalks and we have zero information on the status of the project design or when it might be constructed and available.
Those of us who bring up these ideas are not disparaging the efforts quoted in the article, but think more should be done.
@Bah Humbug Some of your comments were "grinchy", not at all satirical, to those of us who want El Camino's vacant lots filled with family-oriented stores and restaurants and places to live for mid-peninsula employees who already come here...not filled by offices that bring new commuters and congestion that further endanger our families' ability to walk and bike in our own town.

3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 11, 2015 at 4:26 pm

really? is a registered user.

'And I don't want to see you kids back here until dinner time!'

1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 11, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

'And I don't want to see you kids back here until dinner time!'

Does anyone tell their kids to "go out and play" anymore?

5 people like this
Posted by menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 15, 2015 at 12:15 pm

"It's hard for me to criticize an effort to support youth and their mental health at a time when kids are throwing themselves in front of trains right here in neighboring communities."

Because we all know that pushing our kids downtown to shop will help address the very serious issues faced by Palo Alto parents, and really anyone who has can you even use this heartbreaking issue to justify more MP foolishness??

The 1/4 of 1% speak, the rest of us must listen.

PS: I will never let my kid bike around Hillview or across El Camino. It's too dangerous. I see kids endangering themselves daily there. Want to ensure our kids are healthy and safe? Carefully thought out, cross-city bike paths would help. Sidewalks would help. Oversight by police and school staff when school lets out and hundreds of kids semi-randomly swarm onto Santa Cruz - that would help. More shopping downtown? Many kids, including mine, are downtown after school daily, and as far as I can see, they have a wonderful rapport with the relevant businesses (Starbucks, Miyo, Bagel Street,Walgreens, etc.). And that is the part of this 'plan' that is most prominent - not the sentence where "other" organizations will be invited to join is mentioned.

So what is this really for, Mr. Mueller?

19 people like this
Posted by Hillview Dad
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 16, 2015 at 12:11 am

Sidewalks on Santa Cruz are an important issue, but blaming Mueller for the fact that they are not built yet is massively unfair. If you haven't noticed, everything about the sidewalks is controversial. To do the project right, Santa Cruz should be torn out, regarded, recrowned and rebuilt from scratch. No one wants the disruption or the expense of that. Mueller brokered the compromise that passed city council 4-1. With some luck, kids will be walking on the new sidewalks by the time school starts in the fall.

17 people like this
Posted by Santa Cruz Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 16, 2015 at 6:55 am

Hillview Dad is 100% correct. Unfortunately the word is just reaching those of us who live on Santa Cruz about what people are saying on this Town Forum.

Anyone who thinks Ray Mueller doesn't care about kids walking and biking to Hillview doesn't know what they are talking about!

Ray has been working with our neighborhood pushing for sidewalks and bike lanes for years. I personally attended a meeting at one of the houses on Santa Cruz Avenue where Ray met with a large group of homeowners and where Ray convinced people to work with the City to finally get this done. He focused his comments on making the street safe for kids. I know that there were other meetings up and down the street too where he did the same thing. He helped convince people to give up their street parking to put the sidewalks and bike lanes in. Ray lives on Santa Cruz and has little ones himself! He is our neighbor and we trust him. He listens to us.

I am not surprised Ray is involved in another project to help kids.
Thank you Ray. Shame on you people who are attacking him.

3 people like this
Posted by menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 17, 2015 at 9:20 am

Dear Santa Cruz Neighbor,

Folks living on Santa Cruz decided to okay removing Santa Cruz parking and install bike lanes? Folks on Santa Cruz don't need Santa Cruz Parking - they can walk or bike very easily - so the decision makes perfect sense - for you.
I don't recall anyone asking residents on the other side of the track, who actually need parking, get ticketed regularly and are less able to bike downtown how they feel about the decision to remove parking and add bike lanes.

Ray listens to you...he doesn't listen to all residents...or the plans would be less myopic.

Please don't try to shame those who have a different perspective and a different experience of these "interesting" plans for downtown. You do realize you share downtown with more than Santa Cruz Ave residents, right?

15 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 17, 2015 at 10:27 am

Menlo Resident,

The plan to remove street parking on Santa Cruz Avenue is limited to the residential portion of the street. This plan was implemented last year when buffered bike lanes were installed on Santa Cruz Ave after the Council voted to install sidewalks.

Street parking is not being removed in "Downtown Menlo Park" as part of this plan. In fact Mueller actually recently voted to lengthen the time limits for street parking downtown.

Per the Mercury News: Councilman Ray Mueller said that it's imperative for parking to be "as easy as possible for our families and our seniors to patronize our local businesses and our restaurants downtown."

Web Link

Stop trying to speak for all residents. Try learning about what you are talking about before making accusations.

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

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