Guest opinion: The fiction and fact of ballot Measure M | October 15, 2014 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - October 15, 2014

Guest opinion: The fiction and fact of ballot Measure M

by Dan Dippery

By this time you're already swamped with handouts, mailers, doorknob hangers, yard signs and newspaper ads, all telling you how to vote on Measure M. And unless you're firmly decided, with all that information comes equal parts confusion. So what follows is clarification: simply telling the truth and telling the truth simply.

First off, Measure M is about letting voters choose what kind of Menlo Park they want in the future: 1) the small, village character that brought us all here in the first place, or 2) a mega-storied office park, with the mega-traffic daily gridlock. That's the simple truth. Now the Fiction and Fact:

FICTION: "Measure M was drafted in private by a small group of individuals who want to bypass the six years of hard work by city planners, paid planning professionals, the City Council and volunteers."

FACT: Measure M started with a group of families called SaveMenlo, distressed about the increased traffic — through their neighborhoods — that will come from massive office buildings proposed for the Stanford property on El Camino. But it took nearly 3,000 Menlo Park signatures to turn their efforts into a ballot issue. And the team who developed the initiative includes attorneys, former city planning commissioners, mayors and a growing army of volunteers — many of whom helped develop the original specific plan vision.

FICTION: "Measure M violates the specific plan and would stifle development in Menlo Park."

FACT: Measure M simply asks that all development meet the original vision of the specific plan — created as a 30-year development guide. Because within months of the plan's certification, the City Council welcomed proposals for 400,000-plus square feet of offices, rather than the balanced mix of retail, housing and office agreed upon in the specific plan. And these came from just two developers — Stanford/Arrillaga and Greenheart — in just two years, and all on El Camino Real.

Worse yet, a gaping loophole in the plan lets developers count private balconies and rooftops as open space against their requirement to provide publicly accessible open space; in the Stanford project that adds up to 22,000 square feet — enough to be a park or plaza. Measure M requires that "Open Space" be truly open to the public — all of the public.

FICTION: "Measure M locks the city into 30 years of zoning rules that can only be changed at the ballot box."

FACT: Measure M simply reduces office development to 100,000 square feet — per development — in the plan area. That and closing the open space loophole are the only changes M makes to the current specific plan.

FICTION: "Measure M will increase traffic in Menlo Park."

FACT: It's amazing the NO folks even mention the traffic issue. Particularly since a recent traffic analysis — by Stanford (tinyurl.com/MP500ECR) — shows that just with its project alone, neighborhood streets, Middle Avenue, Cambridge, University and Yale, would all be "clogged with traffic." That's because roughly 92 percent of our traffic comes from out of town. So more offices will just bring more out-of-town traffic and gridlock.

BOTTOM LINE: The issue is simply: What do you want Menlo Park to be and look like in years to come? Will it retain its small-town character — as in the specific plan's original vision — with a balanced growth of offices, shops, housing, offices and services? Or will it become a massive office park, dark at night, but filling our streets with gridlock by day

The choice is yours. But I hope you vote yes on M — for all of us.

Dan Dippery is a longtime Menlo Park resident.

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