News

Commission OKs moving food truck event to Menlo Park Library parking lot

 

Soon, visitors to the Menlo Park Library and Civic Center sports fields may not have to leave the Civic Center to get food on Wednesday nights.

Off the Grid, Menlo Park's weekly food truck gathering, plans to move its Wednesday event from the Caltrain station parking lot to the city's parking lot between the library and the Arrillaga Family Gymnasium in the Civic Center.

The event will run Wednesday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m., with setup beginning at 3 p.m. and cleanup ending at 10:30 p.m.

The move was approved Sept. 12 on a 4-2 vote by the Menlo Park Planning Commission, with commissioners Katherine Strehl and Drew Combs opposed and John Onken absent.

The only step remaining is the completion of a lease agreement, slated to come to the City Council on Oct. 11, according to Jim Cogan, economic development and housing manager.

Caltrain is terminating its lease with Off the Grid after two years, according to Thomas Rogers, the city's senior planner. Caltrain was recently reminded that, according to a covenant Caltrain agreed to, activities and gatherings around the site's historic train station building should be limited.

Other sites were evaluated, but not found feasible, said Ben Himlan, Off the Grid's director of business development.

During the Planning Commission meeting, commissioners and speakers from the floor expressed worries that there might not be sufficient parking during sporting events at the Civic Center, and that Off the Grid visitors might "deluge" the restrooms at the gym and library, in the words of frequent Menlo Park Library visitor Aldora Lee.

She also raised concerns about the noise the event could create. "I can't imagine the roar and hum of this kind of commercial project in the middle of the parking lot where people are coming to appreciate the library," she said.

Commissioner Combs, who opposed the motion, objected largely on the fact that it would take up city parking spaces. "I can't support this," he said. "Those parking spots by the gym and the library are benefits the public has already paid for, and are paying for on an ongoing basis."

Mr. Rogers, the senior planner, said that the Civic Center has a number of parking lots, and that limited parking on occasion could simply be "something people living in a city of this size should expect to deal with."

Mr. Cogan said that some people use the library parking lot as free all-day parking instead of paying for parking at the Caltrain lot. If the city were to more thoroughly enforce parking restrictions at the library, parking availability would likely increase, he said.

Commissioners Henry Riggs and Andrew Barnes insisted that there be signage and dedicated staff to direct visitors to available parking when the move takes place, and for up to two months following.

Mr. Himlan of Off the Grid noted that two and a half years ago, he stood before the commission asking for approval of the weekly food truck event, and the hearing had gone until midnight due to public opposition. Six months later, the opposition had virtually dissolved, he said.

Now, as then, he said, "perhaps these concerns may not even be issues. … I'm not trying to dismiss your 'what ifs.' What we'd like to do is give it a try."

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Hmmmm...
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2016 at 10:41 am

Sounds like the real story is why someone "reminded" Caltrain that they can't have fun events in their parking lot, and ruined it for the rest of us.


2 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 10:58 am

strange how no other downtown location were considered, we have acres of surface lots downtown that could have been used or Fremont park. well it is still better than the caltrain lot.


8 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 12:18 pm

Anything we do to move this weekly event further away from MP downtown is not a good thing. I'll be interested to see how long it survives at its new, less-than-ideal location.


10 people like this
Posted by Nikki Stitt Sokol
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 15, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Regarding Commissioner Combs' objection, I think weekly food trucks are in fact a public benefit and I'm delighted to see public property used for this purpose.


22 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 15, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Thank you, Drew Combs, for speaking up for the many people who use the library and Civic Center on Wednesday afternoons and evenings, even if your common sense objections to moving Off the Grid to this already-crowded location were ignored. Yes; there are other parking lots at the civic center, but they're always FULL on sports days! Has no one on the City Council or Planning Commission ever had to drop off kids and/or park for a sporting event at Arrillaga or one of the Burgess fields on a Wednesday? It's freakin' crowded, as those of us who have circled, circled, circled for parking time and again can attest. I am so sick and tired of our City government approving ill-conceived, half-baked plans just for the sake of expediency, rather than making thoughtful, carefully considered decisions based on the actual experiences and quality of life of Menlo Park residents. This is going to be a nightmare when the basketball/baseball/soccer overlap hits, and I'm really angry about yet another inconvenience over which we have absolutely no control being forced upon us. I've loved raising my family and putting down roots in Menlo Park, but with every decision like this I'm getting closer and closer to the end of my rope with this city.


9 people like this
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm

I would like to gently offer that more people consider biking to the Burgess Park area, both for food trucks and for swim/gym/classes/etc. It's not possible for everyone, obviously, and some folks are coming straight from work, or places far away. But our kids are already biking to school and the city is working on improving our bike infrastructure to make this safer. Since recreation is part of the point of going over to Burgess to begin with, biking feels logical. I bet we could reduce demand for those parking spots by at least 10% if everyone who owned a bike and was capable of riding it to Burgess would consistently do so.

There are no perfect solutions here but this one seems better than many alternatives.


16 people like this
Posted by puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 15, 2016 at 7:55 pm

As a regular user of the library and with a family who uses the basketball gym and the rec. center I don't understand how anyone would think this is a good idea. This parking lot is regularly full during the fall/winter/spring months with all the activity from 3 facilities. During the basketball league for school kids the lot is overflowing with cars. There are 3 facilities that belong to the community that will now have to struggle to park. Off the Grid is not a Menlo Park company. Why should they displace our youth basketball kids, our library users and the rec. center users? Makes zero sense.


9 people like this
Posted by Taking Action
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 15, 2016 at 8:01 pm

This lot is full with residents who go to classes, play sports and use the library. I am very much opposed to this idea. It appears that the city council will vote on this on October 11th. I urge everyone to email the city council to let them know your opinions on this issue. This is how you email the City Council -city.council@menlopark.org


4 people like this
Posted by Elder
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 11:35 pm

Has anyone thought about the children?

What will they learn from this event...that it is okay to SELL food out of a truck in the face of the poor people who could use that space to sleep and camp? What about those in the community that can't afford food. Why isn't the city requiring these food truck people to give out free food to the Menlo Park homeless population. We should pass an ordinance that requires any restaurant or food provider to give free food to any person that is poor.


7 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 9:56 am

Elder, you must be joking.

1) You live in Atherton, not Menlo Park. So you don't get a vote.
2) How awful for the children to have a fun community event with food and music.
3) If you are concerned about the homeless, maybe they can camp on your property in Atherton. You could make them meal as well.



6 people like this
Posted by Reconsider
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:35 am

Choose a different lot. Library/Gym lot already is in high demand- for city services that deserve access. We love the food trucks, but this is NOT a reasonable location- for library users, families with kids in sports, or food truck fans. Thoughtless decision that doesn't serve anyone well!


4 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:46 am

Any bets on whether Caltrain was 'reminded' of this historical status by a sour-grapes downtown restauranteur?

The best bet here really would be to work with Caltrain to see if we can get a variance (Historic commuter train station? What's next, a historic bus shelter? Historic Menlo Park empty lot?)

The food trucks bring some welcome variety, and do sometimes serve as an alternative to going out - to restaurants in Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos, Mountain View, etc.


4 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 11:36 am

Yes there are other place that might be better. I suggested Fremont Park.

However, what a great deal of moaning about having a community event at the civic center. That is what a civic center is for, of civic events.

What the civic center is NOT for is the for the exclusive use of entitled citizens who don't want have to look for a parking spot, or heavens to betsy, walk to the Library or sports faculties. Nope, gotta drive.

Did anyone consider that those using sporting fields/library on Wednesdays evenings, might actually welcome welcome the food trucks. They can get dinner after practice, a book or whatever.

And let be honest, no one needs to go library at that time. If you do, maybe plan accordingly (walk, bike, go another), if another community event bothers you.

The civic center is for all of us, not just folks using the Library and Sports facilities. Stop being so selfish.


18 people like this
Posted by Reality 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Some of you have apparently not had any experience raising children in Menlo Park. The reality is that many of us are taking our 8-year-olds to basketball games...with a 2-year-old and 5-year-old in tow. Kids often have activities that overlap. It's a fantasy to imagine that families are going to be traveling everywhere by bicycle on our unfriendly-to-bicycle streets.Nor are we going to be hanging out at the food trucks after our game or practice when kids need to get home and finish homework and get to bed.

Off the Grid is a good addition to Menlo Park, but it is not a "community event." It is a for-profit business that competes with other for-profit businesses. The library, the gyms, the fields, those are community-serving facilities and they should not be crowded out by food trucks.

I happened to drive through downtown Menlo Park at 8 pm last night. The place is dead, the parking lots almost empty, barely anyone around (what a contrast to Palo Alto!) You'd think that a city that's always talking about "vibrancy" would get a clue. Instead of putting the trucks in a location that's already dangerously overcrowded, move them downtown.


2 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm

@realitycheck I respect you opinion. I too am raising a child here in menlo park and think that having food trucks is good for this community.

I've already stated that their are better places to have this. However, having some different dining experiences in a step on the right direction for this community. Sorry it is 'for profit', last I checked the community center is not only for non-profits. In fact, for profit companies run soccer and bootcamps on those very fields. Is that OK?? yes. Does they benefit the community, yes. Just as the food trucks do.

Sorry that the world does not revolve around your and your kids basketball schedule.


10 people like this
Posted by Bad decision
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Was the city's library and gym parking lot put out to competitive bidding? Why not?

It is extremely inappropriate to use a public facility to support a private business that competes with other local businesses. This gives a competitive advantage to 1 business at the expense of taxpayers who need that same public space to use public facilities.

This parking lot is often full with library patrons and users of the gym. We pay taxes for that accessibility. Not to support a for profit business.
This is just wrong.

How about suggesting that company talk with safeway for use of their lot?


18 people like this
Posted by Reality 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 3:42 pm

The city has exactly one basketball/volleyball gym this side of 101. One gymnastics gym. One library. One set of fields big enough for adults and kids older than 10 to play soccer. One rec center. All those are located at Burgess.

Food trucks have wheels. They can park anywhere. And most people who dine at OTG are indifferent to exact location but would prefer to have ample parking vs jockeying for every available space.

If OTG has to rely on bikers/walkers for business, they will soon leave town!


Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:13 pm

I suggest you all sue the city then. otherwise, OTG will be in the Library parking lot. We also should ask out city council why no other site was even considered before a vote was taken. I still think Fremont Park would be perfect or the lot next to Dreagers.

Of course, you do all realize that other for profit companies utilize Burgess Park. So the argument that OTG is for profit is kinda moot.

I am dismayed at the number of folks here that feel that the civic center is for their private use and no changes should ever been made. OTG events are fun, the city looks for fun things that build community. Like it or not, it has become a popular community event.

Did the city blow it by not looking at a more practical site, yes.
Is the civic center for all types of community events, yes.
Would I like to see OTG trucks charge more reasonable prices, yes.





6 people like this
Posted by El Camino site
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 16, 2016 at 4:16 pm

There have been several alternative sites mentioned here: downtown MP, Fremont Park, Safeway parking lot. These sites might be too close to competing food establishments. Let me suggest another site. What about the empty lots on El Camino where Tesla used to be, where Pace Gallery and Team Lab are now? There's plenty of parking.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 16, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"What about the empty lots on El Camino where Tesla used to be, where Pace Gallery and Team Lab are now? There's plenty of parking."

Ask Stanford. They own the property.


6 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 16, 2016 at 10:09 pm

I don't like the proximity of the trucks to the duck pond. The trucks run on generators that spew out gas fumes. Many of the ducks at the pond do not fly - - I'm not sure what breed they are, perhaps a mix of Indian Runner and something else. Since they can't fly they're always in/around the pond and sometimes in the parking lot looking for food. In addition to the generator fumes threatening their health they'll be disturbed by patrons of the trucks who will wander near the pond and feed food scraps to the ducks, increasing their dependance on humans. Bad idea to have the trucks at the Community center. I think one of the downtown parking lots is best.


4 people like this
Posted by Taking action
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 17, 2016 at 5:55 pm

After finding out some more information this is not a done deal. The council will vote on this project on 10/11. I have no issue with off the grid but a private business does not belong in parking lots that were meant for the community to use its facilities.

Email the whole council at city.council@menlopark.org to ask them to vote no and find a alternate location.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 17, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"private business does not belong in parking lots that were meant for the community to use its facilities. " You mean like CAltrain parking lots? Or the parking plazas downtown?


14 people like this
Posted by Tim D.Goode
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 17, 2016 at 9:58 pm

The library has already suffered and has had its parking significantly cut back with the location of the gym. On weekdays during the basketball and volleyball seasons after school, there are few or no parking places. four teams with parents and friends. 40 players and coaches and referees are competing for parking places and that is doubled with the next four teams. This situation alone makes the library parking lot between games. Very simply this proposal ignores the library community. Again it is a proposal to hurt the most loyal library community. Find another place to recognize the importance of libraries. And don't forget that city vehicles are also using this parking lot. Don't hurt a faithful community with food trucks and the crowds that will come. Whata disaster of planning.

Tim D. Goode


8 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 18, 2016 at 9:54 am

It wasn't broke, but now we've decided to fix it.

It would seem to me that the best solution is to work with CalTrain to figure out a way to keep it at its current location. Everything else appears to be just wasted energy.


Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2016 at 9:53 am

Perhaps it would help if we raise the issue with Caltrain. They do take public comments at their board meetings. (No doubt otherwise remarkably boring - but at least they're accessible by train!)


Like this comment
Posted by bad decision
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 11:44 am

@MPer "other for profit companies utilize Burgess Park."

Which ones, besides Sheeper? Wouldn't for-profit companies have to go through a competitive bidding process? Favoring one company is a really bad precedence for the City to make. It also is a really bad precedent to make this decision without thorough noticing of library, gym, and rec center patrons and without discussions and input from city commissions such as the EQC.


Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2016 at 12:38 pm

The pool and swim school are run by a for-profit company. Virtually all rec center programs are run by for-profit companies. That aspect is nothing new.

What is new is the poorly thought out relocation of a bunch of food trucks to an already space / parking constrained location, due to Caltrain suddenly deciding their parking lot is a special historic snowflake. (probably didn't care until they were pushed by a local sour-grapes restauranteur - likely can be found out since most of what they do should be public record)


Like this comment
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm

@bad decision

Sheeper makes at least 3 other for profit cos. The other is kids love soccer and their is a boot camp company doing classes.

I have know idea how the competitive bid process works nor do I know what scrutiny any of these companies were put through.

As I have said prior, there are better places to have OTG. I am however, dismayed at all the folks here that feel the civic center is for their private use. Sad and entitled, but welcome to Menlo Park.


2 people like this
Posted by recognize_sarcasm
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 1:06 pm

@MPer,

I think you missed the purpose of @Elder's post ...

Everyone needs to take a deep breath.

@CCB has the right idea.


2 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 2:30 pm

@recognize_sarcsm

1) I did get the "joke" from Elder. But I imagine it isn't a joke or sarcastic.
2) I also agree, many of those complaining could bike or walk to the Library just as easily as drive.
3) I got a grip. This whole argument is ridiculous.


3 people like this
Posted by MenloRes
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2016 at 4:35 pm

The City Council hasn't voted on this yet. But it will be voting on the issue at a future meeting.


7 people like this
Posted by bad decision
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm

The pool was put out to competitive bid. Twice I think. The contract allowed Sheeper to bring in programs.
The use of the city's parking lot without competitive bidding is unheard of. Try another example, such as letting one of the downtown restaurants to use the lot instead. Or a bike shop to take over the parking lot. I could argue that these would provide public benefit, too. The popularity of OTG should not overshadow the precedent this would set.

In addition to being a bad precedent, this lt is a really bad location, too, because the lot is used by patrons of city facilities (library, gym, etc.) and there is little parking room now.


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

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