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Editorial: Betsy Nash for Menlo Park District 4

Betsy Nash. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

On the Nov. 8 ballot, only residents of Menlo Park's District 4, which includes downtown, Allied Arts and a southern segment of El Camino Real, will have the chance to vote for a representative on the City Council. First-term incumbent Betsy Nash is facing some familiar competition in Peter Ohtaki, the former two-term council member she unseated in 2018.

Ohtaki campaign signs have been a frequent sight in recent years -- he's run on the Republican ticket for the state Assembly in 2016 and 2020, and on the June primary ballot against U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo before shifting gears to run for Menlo Park City Council this fall.

We believe Nash, who has shown herself to be an energetic, forthright and engaged member of the City Council, is voters' best choice to represent the district in this election.

In Nash, residents will have a representative who is focused on Menlo Park as it recovers from pandemic closures and grapples with state mandates for housing growth. Her top issues are increasing opportunities for housing, which she says has become unattainable for many of the city's seniors, workers and young adults who grew up in Menlo Park; working for safer streets in the wake of increasing traffic as employees return to offices and new developments along El Camino Real are completed; and facing the impacts of climate change, from poor air quality in Belle Haven to sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions.

Nash is well aware that the jobs-housing imbalance driving the Bay Area's acute housing crisis and is eager to see that future developments, such as the USGS campus, add new housing to balance any new office space bringing more workers to the city.

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The biggest divide between the candidates is their stance on Menlo Park's Measure V. Nash opposes it, Ohtaki not only supports it, he signed the ballot argument in favor of it.

In our view, Measure V is a poorly designed initiative that seems destined for expensive legal challenges, an odd choice for a candidate running on his financial acumen.

It's hard for us to understand why anyone with experience serving on a council would be so willing to give away the City Council's zoning authority over single-family lots in perpetuity. Zoning, which provides a blueprint that guides where and what kind of development is appropriate, is crucial to a council's ability to guide the future growth of a community. The public process required to change a property's zoning, with hearings, public notices and public deliberations by elected representatives, can be lengthy but is designed to allow nuanced decisions for what's often a complex situation.

Measure V's experiment in direct democracy replaces that process with what we're seeing now -- a general election battle of sound bites and yard signs, scare tactics and slogans massaged by Sacramento consultants -- every single time a property owner of a single-family zoned lot wants to make a change.

Longtime residents of Menlo Park are understandably nervous about what the future holds. Under pressure from new state laws like the "duplex law" SB 9, state mandates to seriously plan for 3,830 new hosing units over eight years and the threat of stiff consequences for failing to do so, elected officials face a difficult balancing act. Menlo Park needs City Council members who can responsibly meet that challenge, protecting its family-friendly neighborhoods while doing its part to solve the housing crisis.

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The Almanac's editorial board recommends Betsy Nash for the Menlo Park City Council District 4.

Editorials represent the opinions of The Almanac's three-member editorial board.

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Editorial: Betsy Nash for Menlo Park District 4

by The Almanac Editorial Board /

Uploaded: Mon, Oct 10, 2022, 11:16 am

On the Nov. 8 ballot, only residents of Menlo Park's District 4, which includes downtown, Allied Arts and a southern segment of El Camino Real, will have the chance to vote for a representative on the City Council. First-term incumbent Betsy Nash is facing some familiar competition in Peter Ohtaki, the former two-term council member she unseated in 2018.

Ohtaki campaign signs have been a frequent sight in recent years -- he's run on the Republican ticket for the state Assembly in 2016 and 2020, and on the June primary ballot against U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo before shifting gears to run for Menlo Park City Council this fall.

We believe Nash, who has shown herself to be an energetic, forthright and engaged member of the City Council, is voters' best choice to represent the district in this election.

In Nash, residents will have a representative who is focused on Menlo Park as it recovers from pandemic closures and grapples with state mandates for housing growth. Her top issues are increasing opportunities for housing, which she says has become unattainable for many of the city's seniors, workers and young adults who grew up in Menlo Park; working for safer streets in the wake of increasing traffic as employees return to offices and new developments along El Camino Real are completed; and facing the impacts of climate change, from poor air quality in Belle Haven to sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions.

Nash is well aware that the jobs-housing imbalance driving the Bay Area's acute housing crisis and is eager to see that future developments, such as the USGS campus, add new housing to balance any new office space bringing more workers to the city.

The biggest divide between the candidates is their stance on Menlo Park's Measure V. Nash opposes it, Ohtaki not only supports it, he signed the ballot argument in favor of it.

In our view, Measure V is a poorly designed initiative that seems destined for expensive legal challenges, an odd choice for a candidate running on his financial acumen.

It's hard for us to understand why anyone with experience serving on a council would be so willing to give away the City Council's zoning authority over single-family lots in perpetuity. Zoning, which provides a blueprint that guides where and what kind of development is appropriate, is crucial to a council's ability to guide the future growth of a community. The public process required to change a property's zoning, with hearings, public notices and public deliberations by elected representatives, can be lengthy but is designed to allow nuanced decisions for what's often a complex situation.

Measure V's experiment in direct democracy replaces that process with what we're seeing now -- a general election battle of sound bites and yard signs, scare tactics and slogans massaged by Sacramento consultants -- every single time a property owner of a single-family zoned lot wants to make a change.

Longtime residents of Menlo Park are understandably nervous about what the future holds. Under pressure from new state laws like the "duplex law" SB 9, state mandates to seriously plan for 3,830 new hosing units over eight years and the threat of stiff consequences for failing to do so, elected officials face a difficult balancing act. Menlo Park needs City Council members who can responsibly meet that challenge, protecting its family-friendly neighborhoods while doing its part to solve the housing crisis.

The Almanac's editorial board recommends Betsy Nash for the Menlo Park City Council District 4.

Editorials represent the opinions of The Almanac's three-member editorial board.

Comments

Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 10, 2022 at 12:11 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Is it just my imagination or has the Almanac become less of a neutral news reporting organization and more activist since the change of ownership?


Observer
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 10, 2022 at 3:39 pm
Observer, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2022 at 3:39 pm

Brian, Embarcadero Media which owns and controls the Almanac is primarily a PR and advertising firm rather than a news company. Thus political recommendations in the Alanac and other "papers" they own are more geared to who can improve those advertising an PR revenues.


MP Father
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 10, 2022 at 8:05 pm
MP Father, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2022 at 8:05 pm

This editorial does come across as one-sided and bias. It sounds as if the Almanac's editorial staff is looking to not only support Nash's agenda but also to promote it.

I agree Measure V is flawed but I will still support it as Nash, Wolosin, and Taylor have demonstrated that they are more interested in driving their personal agendas than representing the interests of their constituents. If we let them break up and urbanize our neighborhoods, there is no going back. We will not be able to reverse the damage after the fact, and will be left with disjointed zoning and will lose the charm that initially attracted so many of to purchase in MP.


kbehroozi
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 13, 2022 at 4:38 pm
kbehroozi, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2022 at 4:38 pm

"If we let them break up and urbanize our neighborhoods, there is no going back." Huh? This simply isn't happening.

@MP Father, before you make assumptions about what various council members intend to do vis-a-vis zoning and R1 neighborhoods (which is what Measure V concerns), maybe go see what they actually decided to do in the draft housing element that staff sent to the state. Web Link

Once council votes to finalize it (which they'll need to do before February 2023), that's the plan for the next 8 years. By the time we need to update it again, we'll likely have an entirely different council.

Contrary to what some posters seem to believe, this council approached zoning changes collaboratively, and they seemed to collectively acknowledge the need to distribute housing evenly in places other than District 1. They listened to the public and focused on rezoning/upzoning commercial and mixed use and multi-family parcels.

In the end, of 69 sites in the draft housing element, only 3 are currently zoned R1: two church parking lots and one vacant lot of public land that used to be a school (and though staff recommended a higher density for that site, council settled at zoning it for 20 du/acre, which only enables high-density development there if it's 100% below-market-rate.)

This council's zoning changes are basically done, but Measure V doesn't have an end date. It's not going to prevent this council from doing anything other than upzoning Flood School for that teacher housing development. So if this council – these personalities – are your reason for voting yes, you might want to reconsider. There are smarter, more efficient ways to make yourself heard and influence the decision-making in Menlo Park (like showing up for meetings and advocating for what you want to see).


Stuart Soffer
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 17, 2022 at 2:55 pm
Stuart Soffer, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Oct 17, 2022 at 2:55 pm

District 4 is fortunate to have two capable candidates in Betsy Nash.


I mentioned that Peter Ohtaki's governmental finance experience, planning commission and finance committee experience is more value to the City of Menlo Park. I have served with him on city bodies.

Again, for me it's the finance experience that isn't available elsewhere.


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