Menlo Park: Council to set 2018 priorities today


The projects the city will prioritize in 2018 will be hashed out this afternoon by the Menlo Park City Council at its annual goal-setting session, beginning at 1 p.m..

Based on what the council identifies as its top priorities, staff will develop the work plan – considered the definitive, albeit malleable, to-do list that determines what the City Council's priorities will be during the calendar year. That list determines what will be funded in the coming fiscal year's budget.

The council has a long list of items up for consideration to add to its already lengthy work plan: coordinating with other agencies to ease congestion along the Dumbarton Corridor; making improvements to the crosswalks at Middlefield Road and Linfield Drive; annexing a triangle of residential properties in West Menlo Park; drafting a charter for the city; making the city a "quiet zone" through which Caltrain won't blare its horns; promoting public art; working on a joint powers authority to support the Ravenswood City School District; developing ballot measures to raise revenue; installing sidewalks on Sharon Road; implementing a transparency policy for council member calendars; analyzing potential cut-through impacts of the large development under construction at 1300 El Camino Real; considering a minimum wage ordinance; and considering an employee head tax to generate revenue.

In addition, public response – mainly positive – to a proposal by a new nonprofit, the Peninsula Arts Guild to renovate the Guild Theatre on El Camino Real as a venue for concerts, comedy shows, movies, author events or other community-driven programs, has been inundating the City Council's inbox over the past weekend.

Comments vary as to whether the proposed venue should be mainly used to show films, or more focused on live music. And some commenters have expressed concern about parking at the facility, or have argued that the city already has an event venue in the Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center, at which the city can offer programs up to 55 days a year.

The council may also update some of its procedures, such as requiring the council to vote by 11:30 p.m. if it plans to extend a meeting past midnight.

Access the staff report here to see the full list of items on the city's current work plan.

The council's goal-setting meeting starts at 1 p.m. in the Oak Room of the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center in the Menlo Park Civic Center and is scheduled to run until 5 p.m.


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Like this comment
Posted by Judy Adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 30, 2018 at 10:44 am

Regarding yesterdays public comments on the Peninsula Arts Guild’s proposal to transform the Guild theater property, we need to correct the Almanac’s statement: “Comments vary as to whether the proposed venue should be mainly used to show films, or more focused on live music.” Remarks made by Winter Dellenbach (who was involved in the petition to try to save Menlo Park’s Park theater some years ago, and a successful petition for the Palo Alto Square) and myself did NOT propose that the venue should be mainly used to show films. Rather, we urged that the proposal for a “new Guild” include, along with the focus on live entertainment (a new direction for the location, and other programming) a priority for a regular schedule of the kinds of films that the Guild has provided for many years. We have more than 4000 signers on our petition to save the Guild and the rare opportunity to support film arts, as represented by the indie and foreign films currently shown at the Guild, that serve as an alternative to mainstream, big studio blockbusters.

Drew Dunlevie, the main spokesperson for the Peninsula Arts Guild, and President of the non-profit, who spoke for their Guild proposal yesterday, acknowledged in his comments in the Jan. 26 Almanac article that “Retaining the ability to show movies will be a priority at the venue..he said, but added that he wasn’t sure the theater would be able to continue to offer first-run movies.” At yesterday’s meeting I urged him to carry on the Guild’s traditional film offerings, using his movie “creds” to work with distributors of first-run or current releases of indie and foreign films and documentaries. The Guild somehow continued to offer these alternatives to mainstream movies. Certainly a well-funded “new Guild” can do the same, either with the same distributors (Landmark Theatres) or another provider. There may be the possibility of grants for its support of film arts, but in a “new Guild” a worthy re-entry into film arts options on the peninsula, and strong publicity to re-launch the Guild’s location as movie venue, as well as for live entertainment, we have a win-win for the community. we would expect attendance to increase. The full house last Saturday at the 7:00 showing of “Phantom Thread” and other films shown in the old theater, are a taste of what a brand new film arts venue with a regular schedule of films could attract – and earn its way. As I mentioned at yesterday’s meeting, people who come to the “new Guild” for the live entertainment will learn about the distinctive films being offered regularly, and moviegoers will be intrigued by the live entertainment.

I don’t deny that an “intimate” live-entertainment venue would meet a need to make a brighter night-life for the city and make Menlo Park a “destination.” Nor to I deny that we need a place for discussion of arts in the community to supplement Kepler’s series, and to support community arts projects, but we would making a mistake to discount the possibilities of the “new Guild” as also nexus for film arts, with regular offerings of films that break the standard Hollywood mould.

We have not suggested that the venue “should be MAINLY used to show films,” have strongly urged but that the film arts should also be a priority to balance the live entertainment, and support the “Arts” in the Peninsula Arts Guild. It is not enough to have an occasional film screenings, or a speakers series on film arts at the “new Guild”, but they would serve to boost attendance at the films.

The proposal suggests film festivals. I’ve also suggested a film festival featuring local filmmakers and film students (and why not also actors, like Palo Alto’s James Franco – his mother supported our petition and spoke fondly of her sons attending movies at the Guild when they were growing up.) I’ve suggested that the “new Guild”, as part of its film arts support, should become a venue for the popular and thought provoking annual UN Assoc. Film Festival. I also remember long lines attending the Jewish Film Festival a regular part of the Guild’s programs some years ago, when Palo Alto’s Izzy’s bagels distributed free bagels to those waiting in line. The Guild has also regularly hosted the Zonta Club one-day screenings of films on women’s and other issues, and don’t forget the Girl Scout’s “Oscar” celebrations with a red-carpet welcome to films made by the young women. There is alto the traditional first Saturdays of the month Rocky Horror Picture Show with live re-enactors that draws a young crowd, especially from Stanford, as well as baby boomers like me! What about other “cult” films? These are also good opportunities, and would bring community members to the regular film offerings.

The point is that the 4000 petition signers represent a significant chunk of community sentiment and support for preserving the rich film arts history of the Guild in the “new Guild” by including a regular schedule of film arts representing treasured, artistic alternatives to mainstream movies. It is a niche market that can be profitable with creative management, and a credit to Menlo Park for pairing it with a regular schedule of live-entertainment.

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