The Menlo Park City Council will have its hands full tonight considering whether it should adopt a "sanctuary city" ordinance, move forward with bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue and more.
The council is scheduled to consider three options to clarify and codify its stance toward the policing of undocumented residents or people who have immigrated to the U.S. illegally.
According to a staff report, the first option would be to adopt an ordinance that would identify Menlo Park as a "sanctuary city," a "city of refuge" or a "safe city" by prohibiting the use of city resources to enforce federal immigration laws or collect sensitive information.
A second option is to adopt a resolution to join the "Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative." The staff report describes this action as a "starting point," and would follow the lead of other cities in reducing linguistic and cultural barriers to people being included in city services, and to expand the availability of tools to improve civic engagement and access to knowledge about naturalization, voter registration, public safety and health.
The third option would authorize Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith to sign a letter of support for the California Values Act (SB 54), which would make California a "sanctuary state." The town of Portola Valley recently sent such a letter of support for the bill.
At the core of the debate is the question of how far the city should go to codify its positions on immigration and sensitive information, given what the potential stakes are. In an executive order, President Trump stated plans to withhold federal funds from jurisdictions that don't cooperate with federal immigration officials.
In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Menlo Park received $1.18 million in federal funds. About $413,000 went to community services, $700,000 to public works, and $70,000 to the police department. On average, the city gets about $665,000 in federal funds each year, a staff report said.
Menlo Park relies heavily on grants for ongoing capital improvement and infrastructure projects. If federal funding were to be withheld, many projects could be jeopardized, including separating Ravenswood Avenue from the Caltrain tracks, improving the Dumbarton Corridor, building a bicycle/pedestrian crossing at Middle Avenue, "managing" lanes on U.S. 101, modernizing and electrifying Caltrain, resurfacing Santa Cruz and Middle avenues, and making changes to San Francisquito Creek, the staff report said.
Pending lawsuits have challenged the constitutionality of President Trump's executive order on immigration enforcement. The counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara have filed lawsuits alleging that the order violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution because states (and by extension, cities) can't be forced into helping the federal government administer federal programs. So-called "sanctuary city" policies don't prohibit communication between local and federal agencies, they say.
Menlo Park has signed an amicus brief in support of the Santa Clara County lawsuit. Thirty-three other jurisdictions around the U.S. have asked that the executive order be halted.
Among jurisdictions that have adopted "sanctuary city" ordinances are San Francisco and Santa Ana. Other jurisdictions – such as San Mateo County, the town of Portola Valley and the city of Palo Alto – have adopted resolutions affirming a commitment to a supportive and inclusive community.
Menlo Park is already part of the latter cohort, having passed a resolution but not an ordinance on the topic on Jan. 24. (Resolutions are not enforceable, but ordinances are.) The resolution, approved unanimously by the City Council, states the city is committed to a "diverse, supportive, inclusive and protective community."
The idea behind both ordinances and resolutions is to assure residents that the their law enforcement agencies will not use city or county resources to administer federal immigration law.
That said, such jurisdictions do comply with federal criminal warrants, just not "civil detainer requests." Civil detainer requests are issued by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and do not come from a judge based on a finding of "probable cause," according to the staff report. Federal immigration officials make these requests to local law enforcement agencies, asking them to hold undocumented people after their release date to give them extra time to decide whether to take those people into federal custody and/or deport them. Local law enforcement agencies are not required to comply with such requests.
According to the staff report, "At the core, these lawsuits stand for the principle that complying with civil detainer requests undermines community trust of law enforcement, instills fear in immigrant communities (which undermines the goal of local government to provide public services) and uses limited local resources."
Oak Grove bike lanes
The City Council also has on its agenda a decision on what appeared to be a done deal: a pilot program to install bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue as part of a "safe routes to school" program. The program is facing opposition.
When they last discussed the matter, council members gave feedback to city staff that would extend the timeline for the project.
The staff is presenting the council with options that could have the bike lane installation completed by August or October. A third option would install the bike lanes west of El Camino Real during the summer, while doing more outreach, and then install the bike lanes east of El Camino Real in the fall.
Delaying the process to do more community outreach and possibly redesigning the project would cost an additional $15,000 to $40,000, according to the staff report.
A number of people have expressed concerns about the plan because it calls for the temporary removal of street parking, with the most complaints coming from the proposed elimination of 94 spots on Oak Grove Avenue east of El Camino Real.
The proposed bike lane pilot program was approved in December 2016 and would start at Menlo-Atherton High School, run along Oak Grove Avenue past El Camino Real to Crane Street, and then continue left with a mild jog across Santa Cruz Avenue, go right up Live Oak Avenue, and continue left again on University Drive to Middle Avenue. The Crane Street bike lane would extend in the other direction to connect with Valparaiso Avenue. The one-year pilot is expected to cost $236,000.
Bike lanes would be indicated with a minimum 18-inch buffer from the road, and on some stretches, "sharrows" (painted markings on the roads that remind drivers to share the road with cyclists) would be installed.
On other matters, the council could:
● Make appointments to fill vacancies on city commissions.
● Get an update from the police department about its proposal to create a fourth police unit in city's M-2 area. The unit would be made up of five officers and one sergeant, according to a staff report. Facebook has agreed to pay the estimated $11.2 million costs of the unit (previously it was $9.1 million) over five years, and could offer a two-year extension if the city isn't generating its expected revenues in that area by 2022, according to the report by Police Commander William Dixon.