On a more concrete level, several council members said this year they wanted to see bike and pedestrian improvements on Chilco Street, bus shelters built in Belle Haven, and outdoor street dining spaces opened on Santa Cruz Avenue.
Councilwoman Kirsten Keith said she wanted to see more emphasis on affordable housing and raised the question of a local minimum wage policy if action is not taken at the state level.
The project to install sidewalks on Santa Cruz Avenue — on the north side from Olive Street to Johnson Street and on the south side from Olive Street to Arbor Road — has been a safety feature many have sought for years, said a number of the people who showed up to the Feb. 9 meeting to voice their support for the project.
According to Justin Murphy, Menlo Park's public works director, the project would also widen existing sidewalks near St. Raymond's Catholic Church at 1100 Santa Cruz Ave., to change the sidewalk's "curb line."
Menlo Park resident Sally Cole said she moved to the street partly so her 11-year-old son could walk to Hillview Middle School. "We all know that Santa Cruz Avenue is the gateway to Menlo Park," she said.
Arnold Wilson said his neighbor has been walking on Santa Cruz Avenue since 1961, hoping for sidewalks that whole time. "My gosh, how long is this going to go on?" he asked.
The project was approved last March, but staff since learned that the project posed drainage issues.
In many cases, the height of the sidewalk would be taller than the level of the properties it would abut, creating a space for water to pool without a connection to the city's storm-drain system.
One proposed solution was to hack down the road's "crown" — the middle hump in the road — to reduce pooling, but that would have cost $10 million. Instead, the council encouraged the city to work with individual homeowners, particularly at the six locations they've identified where the height discrepancy between curb and existing property level is most severe, to figure out how to set up a drainage system. That project is expected to cost $3.5 million to $5 million, and could add ongoing maintenance costs.
At a General Plan Advisory Committee meeting on Jan. 28, many community members asked for additional meetings to focus on particular topics, such as green building, community amenities and design standards. City staff proposed two options: hold all the topical meetings consecutively on a Saturday and keep the project on track, or hold the meetings over a series of weeks, pushing back the expected date of completion for the project to Oct. 11 (from Aug. 30).
Though the staff and Fergus O'Shea of Facebook favored the former, the City Council voted to hold the additional meetings on separate days, but asked that the staff try to stick as close as it can to the original completion date.
The meetings, intended to gather community feedback, are scheduled as follows: green and sustainable building standards will be discussed Thursday, Feb. 25; zoning regulations and design standards will be discussed Thursday, March 3; and community amenities will be discussed Thursday, March 10. All meetings will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Menlo Park Senior Center at 110 Terminal Ave.
After receiving from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority 88 percent of the funds needed for the Willow Road/U.S. 101 improvement project, the council approved a letter, to be signed by the mayor, to ask the same agency for the rest of the funds.
The city had hoped to fill the funding gap — which has now jumped to $10.4 million from $8 million — using the state's transportation improvement funding, but those funds are "oversubscribed" and not available, staff said.
Waste rate study
The council voted 3-2, with dissent from council members Rich Cline and Ray Mueller, to spend no more than $175,000 on a study of solid waste collection rates.
Heather Abrams, the city's environmental programs manager, had requested a budget of $250,000 for the study.
While Councilwoman Keith said that is too high, City Manager Alex McIntyre pushed back mildly, saying that Ms. Abrams had experience with this kind of study and wasn't overestimating the cost. "Her understanding of the business is perhaps better than others," he said.
Councilwoman Keith said she wasn't ready for the police department to report annually — instead of quarterly — its statistics on the use of Tasers and automated license plate readers. She offered a motion to change the reporting period to every six months and the council adopted the motion unanimously.
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