The best-laid plans ... | June 17, 2009 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Cover Story - June 17, 2009

The best-laid plans ...

Menlo Park has been trying to lay out a plan for its downtown for 40 years, with little more than a pile of expensive reports to show for it. Will the current downtown "vision" make it out of the filing cabinet?

by Sean Howell

Indulge your inner city planner for a moment, and take a walk through a re-imagined downtown Menlo Park.

This story contains 2353 words.

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Posted by On the fence
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2009 at 6:25 am

Fantastic article, thanks! It just proves how ineffectual town gov't really is and that consensus is NEVER the path to real progress. This is not a nit on Menlo Park, but our brand of democracy in general. A 4 year planning process? Are you kidding me? That's 4 years of blight and no revenue from El Camino. Or, on the contrary, how many years have the town residents been begging for a real dedicated dog park and more soccer fields? Can the council please just make a decision and make it happen? Why are the owners of those empty lots OK with no revenue for 5-10 years? If El Camino were a business, it would have gone bust ages ago and either left to rot or been acquired and put to something useful.

Posted by they get rent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2009 at 8:40 am

Just because a building is empty or looks abandoned, don't assume the owner isn't getting rent.
The city doesn't get revenue when buildings are empty, but I'm sure the property owners would cry hardship if there were some fee on long-term vacancies. They should at least be required to keep them clean and neat.

Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2009 at 8:57 am

The abandoned dealerships, with the exception of 1300 El Camino (old Cadillac spot) are owned by Stanford, and even though empty, Stanford was paid up front on long term leases for rent through 2011-2012. The City still awaits word from Stanford on what they want to do with those lots. Wouldn't soccer fields be nice?

1300 El Camino already has a development plan in the pipeline. I agree the City has been derelict in not making the owners keep their properties looking decent even though empty. Of course, the biggest offender by far in this regard is the Park Theater owner, who should have been fined severely by now for what his property looks like.

Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 17, 2009 at 11:06 am

Sean Howell's 3 full page article is outstanding. The Almanac deserves a lot of credit for devoting this much space to the process. There is also an editorial and a viewpoint piece from Mayor Robinson on the same subject.

I urge everyone to attend tomorrow night's workshop ---7:00 PM Thursday 6/18/09 --- the room in back of ACE hardware (Santa Cruz).

Posted by Following it closely for years
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Good article - the Almanac may be coming around. In the past Tom Gibboney, the editor, has generally been anti business. The problem created by our ridiculously restrictive zoning ordinances becomes more glaring every day.

Morris Brown (comment above) and his no growth friend Patty Fry are personally responsible for killing the Derry Project. A mixed use project next to the railroad tracks that went through public hearings for three years.

He plans on fighting the conclusions of the consultants if they don't align with his views - keep the density and height limits low. This perspective is the problem.

If you want new buildings you must attend the meetings, fight these nimbys and remove their representatives from the council.

Posted by Distrustful
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 17, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Like the ancient Pharaohs, like the French monarchs, like the Roman caesars, small-town city counsel members fill their heads with visions of tall monuments built during their reign. Pffft.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Sad sacks all over this town. Can't trust, no believe, know better, should of, could of and would of...

Ugh. At least Hank has passion. You guys just want to undermine your own because you have time.

Posted by MPworkingMom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 18, 2009 at 11:28 am

Once bitten, twice shy. Twice bitten, thrice apathetic.

Posted by asdassda
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 19, 2009 at 10:09 am

the 1970 plan will be a traffic nightmare.

Posted by My Experience
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 19, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed last night's city planning meeting. I went into the meeting thinking that everyone was going to be fighting and screaming. It was a nice experience. We had a table of forward thinking people that compromised, thought "out of the box" etc. I DO think there will have to be some trade off. In some areas, if a plan calls for a 5 story building, great, just make sure it has plenty of green around it, or is set back, or looks great and/or helps with parking or traffic. We all have to stop this "no more than 2 stories tall" garbage, or the "let's build as much as we can" garbage. The Almanac had it right in their article, and last night really fueled my fire that perhaps this planning session might work!

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