Instead, he's staying focused on manageable goals aimed at meeting residents' needs in the near term, he said.
Combs, who was elected in 2018, noted that he's been involved in serving the city for about eight years, starting as a bicycle commissioner before serving on the Planning Commission.
As a planning commissioner, he said, many of the Menlo Park households he interacted with were families who had bought small homes proposing projects that indicated "a desire to give back to the community and stay in the community," he said. Oftentimes, they thought they'd only live there for a year or so, but then they fell in love with the community, their street or their neighborhood, and decided they wanted to make Menlo Park their "forever home," he said.
As mayor, he said, he plans to remember those people — "a bunch of families invested in the community" — and help them "feel that they have a voice on the City Council."
Because of them, he's interested in taking on quality of life projects such as parks and transportation infrastructure.
One theme of Combs' priorities for 2021 is to focus on shorter-term, smaller projects.
"I appreciate that there are others (on the City Council) that gravitate to big-picture projects and ideas ... but my focus again is going to families I saw as a planning commissioner and what we can do to really help improve their quality of life in this community," he said.
Among the projects he is interested in pushing forward are smaller-scale transportation projects like bike lanes and traffic-calming measures. In addition, he said, he's interested in looking at how to improve safety on Valparaiso Avenue between Hallmark Circle and Altschul Avenue, where a teen driver recently died in a traffic accident.
As the City Council representative of District 2, he's also talked about how to make improvements to the district's only city park, Willow Oaks Park.
Other big initiatives for the city this year are finding both a permanent police chief and city attorney, and working on the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment to plan for upwards of 3,000 new housing units citywide, he said.
Once a new police chief is selected, the community and council can start talking about what kinds of reforms should be considered within the police department, Combs said.
And as the city moves toward the pandemic's end, Combs said, he's eager to help the city transition out of the pandemic and bring back city services "when it is safe and appropriate to do so."
Figuring out which programs to restore and how will involve many decisions — including some tougher ones, like whether to contract out some services.
He said he's interested in helping downtown businesses survive and discussing what the city can do to support them. He added that he's currently more interested in smaller projects, like making aesthetic improvements or adding landscaping, over more ambitious projects like building a parking garage.
When it comes to Menlo Park's relationship with its train tracks, he said, grade separations are often discussed as an an important long-term goal. "I don't think we should lose sight of it," he said.
At the same time, the idea of quiet zones, or creating some kind of change at specific rail crossings to reduce the noise impacts of Caltrain, is another idea that could be pursued in the shorter-term, though he said he wasn't necessarily endorsing the idea.
Another smaller-scale project is to figure out how to move forward with landscaping the area near the U.S. 101 off-ramp at Willow Road where Caltrans' broadened interchange removed a number of large trees. The city applied for a grant to do some ambitious landscaping there but was denied, Combs said. But refocusing on what the city can do with the funds it does have is a worthy project.
"It's not an ideal situation that there is no landscaping there for months, going on years, after the project was completed," he said.
He also noted that the future is always a little uncertain. After all, when he started on the Bicycle Commission (now part of the Complete Streets Commission), he couldn't have imagined he'd become mayor eight years later, let alone that it would be during a pandemic.
"It's not something I could have imagined," he said. "I consider it to be an honor, in a small way, to serve the city during this time."
This story contains 774 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.