The City Council first directed the staff to look into removing parking from both sides and adopted a resolution that would install a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Middle Avenue and San Mateo Drive, and temporarily close Blake Street to vehicle traffic at Middle Avenue at a Sept. 13 meeting, and revisited the idea at the meeting on Oct. 19.
Residents of Middle Avenue spoke out early on in the process, saying that they had not been adequately informed about the program, and that outreach had been insufficient. Since then, the city has put up signs on Middle Avenue and held citizen informational sessions.
Thirteen young children showed up with their parents to speak to the City Council, all of them asking for the parking to be removed from Middle Avenue. Lucy, 9, a student of Oak Knoll School who bikes with her 8-year-old brother and 6-year old sister said that she often gets nervous when a car blocks the bike lane.
"I have to swerve into traffic and go around a parked car and I get worried I'm gonna get squeezed by the car passing by, it is very scary," Lucy said. "I know that I have responsibility to be a safe biker."
In total, 37 residents came out to comment on the issue, with 28 speaking in favor of the option that would remove parking from both sides of Middle Avenue.
Resident Matthew Rascoff spoke about data out of University of California at Berkeley about bicycle crashes. According to Rascoff, the data showed that in the last 10 years, 333 bicycle crashes had occurred in Menlo Park that resulted in a serious injury or death, a third of which involved minors. Just on Middle Avenue, there had been eight crashes that resulted in a serious injury or death, four of which involved children, he said.
Resident Brian McCarthy spoke about the city not having done a study to analyze the hourly usage of Middle Avenue by bicycles, and asked that the city pursue a study before moving forward with the removal of parking.
"How can the City Council make aggressive changes which would be in place 24/7 without first obtaining factual data?" McCarthy said. "The city has not done all the proper due diligence."
In statistics shown by Assistant Public Works Director Hugh Louch, half or more of residents polled were in favor of removing parking on both sides of Middle Avenue, except for the residents who live on Middle Avenue and a group labeled "other."
The council was split on the decision, with Combs and Taylor against the removal of parking from both sides of the street. Combs said that he did not feel there were sufficient solutions for vulnerable populations that require cars for mobility. An apartment complex on Middle Avenue is the focus of much of the controversy surrounding the removal of parking, particularly one resident who is in a wheelchair.
Each apartment in the complex comes with one parking spot, but additional residents, guests and caretakers often park on the street. Additionally, seniors who use Little House in Nealon Park and those who attend the New Community Church often need cars for travel and require parking.
"We have to understand and make sure that we're fully accounting for those situations in which there are negative impacts," Combs said. "Let's not minimize what those impacts are. But because it's a small segment of our population, we feel that we can get away with them."
Mayor Jen Wolosin and Council members Betsy Nash and Maria Doerr were all in favor of the removal of parking on both sides of the street as a pilot program.
"I've had sleepless nights about this and thinking about the impacts," Wolosin said. "I personally don't want to wait for a fatality or tragedy to happen to take the safest action."
Additionally, the City Council gave direction for a crosswalk to be built at Yale Street and at the tennis courts at Nealon Park. Staff was also directed to re-stripe the parking lot at Nealon Park, add loading zones or timed parking in front of Nealon, add bike parking and create a parking permit program for Middle Avenue residents.
The parking will be removed in a six-to-12 month pilot program, beginning in summer of 2023. The City Council will collect information on the impacts during the pilot program.
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