Known for his jeremiads opposing "Manhattanizing" Menlo Park and turning it into a "concrete canyon," Mr. Brawner was for several decades a vocal and reliable opponent of development in Menlo Park in the City Council Chambers. He also served on the city's transportation and housing commissions.
"His strength was sabotaging any project," said Brielle Johnck, a proponent of the 2014 slow-growth voter initiative Measure M that Mr. Brawner also favored. "There was nothing he supported."
Patti Fry, also a slow-growth advocate in Menlo Park, recalls him as "quite an institution."
"I saw him mostly oriented toward caring about the quality of life," she said. "He loved Menlo Park and loved our community and he was just very passionate about what he thought was best for it and us."
Anyone who knew Don, said his wife Julianne Brawner, would say, "Yes, he was quite the character."
"He was a very smart man, and it was hard to get to know him," Ms. Brawner said. "The guy didn't want people to know how sweet and vulnerable he could be. That's my guess."
Don Juan Brawner was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1933 and moved to San Francisco when he was 10. He graduated from Lincoln High School and San Francisco State University, where he was president of the Sigma Pi Sigma fraternity for a term.
Following college, he served in the Army and Air Force Reserve and attended graduate school for business. He worked in the real estate and insurance industries.
He and Ms. Brawner met in San Francisco in February 1967. By May, they had plans to marry. "We met and married very quickly in the Summer of Love," Ms. Brawner said. "It was one of those very whirlwind romances."
Even in his older years, Ms. Fry said, it was evident that Mr. Brawner loved his wife. "He'd just sparkle when they were together," she said.
The couple moved to Menlo Park in 1973, and their son DJay was born in 1981. They purchased a 10-unit apartment building at the corner of Willow Road and Waverley Street in Menlo Park's Linfield Oaks neighborhood, and Mr. Brawner managed it throughout his career.
In 1987, Mr. Brawner took on the role of slow-growth crusader when a development near St. Patrick's Seminary was proposed that would have included housing, a skilled nursing facility and a convenience store.
"Back in the day, it was just a scruffy band of residents, and not even that big a band of residents. We got out there and papered the neighborhoods," Ms. Brawner said.
Ultimately, the so-called residentialists won through a voter referendum, and the development was defeated, she said.
In the years following, Mr. Brawner grew more involved in City Council campaigns, and spoke often against developments, particularly of below-market-rate housing.
According to former mayor Steve Schmidt, Mr. Brawner was a "steadfast protector of his vision for a static suburban environment," and his voice of opposition extended to a number of public proposals at the Civic Center, including a new children's center, an undercrossing of the Caltrain tracks, a skate park and bigger playing fields.
"He never let his guard down," Mr. Schmidt said.
"If you were a developer, you didn't like Don Brawner," Ms. Brawner said.
When he wasn't railing against development at City Council meetings, Ms. Brawner said, Don Brawner kept up his health with a routine of daily exercise at the Y, followed by a milkshake at either McDonald's or Jack in the Box. He also enjoyed playing and coaching soccer, dancing and golf.
Mr. Brawner is survived by his wife, Julianne, son DJay (Alexis), granddaughter Brixton, brother-in-law Don (Joyce) Schwegel, and nieces and nephews.
A private burial at Golden Gate National Ceremony was held. The Jan. 27 memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers (701 Laurel St.), followed by a reception at the Arrillaga Recreation Center.
Donations may be made to the Salvation Army, Peninsula Humane Society or Alzheimer's research.
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