The hill for years has been host to Menlo Park's Skate Jam, where longboarders competed for, among other feats, "gnarliest spill."
Most recently, however, the hill has became the site of a community tragedy. Portola Valley teen Michael Enright was driving an SUV that apparently hit a light pole on the street and rolled over near the bottom of the hill at Valparaiso and Altschul avenues on Saturday, Jan. 16. He died of his injuries the following Monday, and two other teens in the car were also injured.
The hill has a history of traffic accidents. According to traffic data history obtained from the Menlo Park Police Department, there have been a total of six vehicle collisions on the hill since 1999, including the tragedy in January. In four of the other reported incidents, no injuries were reported, and in one, no details were provided.
In the aftermath of the accident, some people have urged the City Council to do something to make the street safer, and the Menlo Park City Council has begun to discuss what could be done to improve the street's safety.
At the council's Jan. 26 meeting, resident Sally Cole said she'd favor making the street one way up the hill to improve safety.
"For cars, it is a very tricky section of the road to navigate," she said. Plus, she noted, Altschul Avenue, as a one-way street through that part of West Menlo Park, is a popular route frequented often by walkers, runners and cyclists.
On Jan. 30, several council members expressed interest in doing something to improve safety on Valparaiso Hill.
Councilman Ray Mueller, who represents the district where the hill is located, said he wanted to see immediate attention paid to improving safety there. He said he frequently walks by the hill and often sees teens hanging out at the top.
"If there is an issue with teens coming down that hill, there's going to continue to be an issue with teens coming down that hill," he said.
Vice Mayor Betsy Nash said she agreed and asked how the city could go about making it a one-way street going uphill and favored enacting a simpler process for neighbors to coordinate having traffic calming measures installed on residential streets if they want them. "We're making people advocate for safer streets," she said. "That seems backward."
"My goal is to prevent tragedy before it happens and (make) engineering changes to make our wold safer so kids can get around and make some teenage mistakes without fatalities," Councilwoman Jen Wolosin said.
Mayor Drew Combs has also expressed interest in improving safety at Valparaiso Hill.
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