Roughly 15 residents — both sidewalk advocates and opponents — spoke about the issue during a public comment period on the council's 2019 work plan. Council members did not respond to comments, but they are expected to discuss the work plan at their March 5 meeting.
Marcy Coggins said she felt "blindsided" by the proposal and said she had not been notified. Kids have grown up and navigated the lack of sidewalks without incident, she argued, and questioned what data source found safety to be a problem there, and whether sidewalks would help with safety.
Karen Reis, a middle school teacher, said she opposed the sidewalks because she was not aware of any accidents due to their absence. She noted that adding sidewalks would impact parking on the street and make the road less bike-friendly. Also, she added, other schools in residential areas don't have sidewalks.
In a memo emailed to the council, Richard Wilkolaski said he opposes building sidewalks until it is made more clear what steps the city has taken to determine that sidewalks are the best and most cost-effective way to improve safety on the street. "I don't understand how the city can spend almost $1,000,000 for a project without consulting/advising individuals living on the impacted block," he said.
He added that the city should first consider other alternatives, such as redirecting traffic to local streets that do have sidewalks; making traffic one-way during school hours; creating turn restrictions at the Alameda and Sharon Road intersection during school commute times; having residents clear the paved roadway where there are encroachments; or installing traffic-flow signs during school commute times.
"We are entirely for safe streets for students, all walkers/bikers and vehicles," he wrote. "But, let's be sure you don't spend a lot of money and then find out the problem is still there or maybe other problems are created."
Pamela Davis, a homeowner in the area, urged the council by email to try to find a way to add sidewalks and retain street parking.
Other comments, mainly from a number of parents of La Entrada students, as well as students themselves, expressed support for the sidewalk plan.
Linda Barman, who wore a La Entrada T-shirt to the meeting, said she and her daughter walk to the school daily and must navigate puddles, blind spots that require stepping into the street, and vehicles driven by parents less comfortable walking their children to school.
La Entrada seventh-grader Nina Barman told the council she is "glad to see Menlo Park is a city looking toward the future (and) looking to care for its children."
Ethan Edwards, a La Entrada student, told the council that while Sharon Road isn't the busiest street he's seen, the volume of parked cars on the road can keep drivers from seeing students walking to school. "I think a sidewalk would make things a lot safer," he said.
In June 2018, the council agreed to put $935,000 in surplus funding toward plans to install the sidewalks. Mayor Ray Mueller at the time said he had helped canvass residents to see if there was support for the project. "The community's ready for it," he said then.
Councilwoman Catherine Carlton has also expressed support for the sidewalk plan, and has encouraged staff to pair sidewalk construction with a robust Safe Routes to School program.
Sidewalk design work is expected to begin in the second half of the year, Mueller said. The process will involve public outreach to residents, he added.