Town Square: More fallout from downtown plan | May 16, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - May 16, 2012

Town Square: More fallout from downtown plan

Visit to join the conversation on Town Square, the Almanac's online forum.

Here are some recent posts on Town Square.

Posted by Morris Brown, a resident of Menlo Park.

A recent Wall Street Journal article explains exactly what is happening in Menlo Park. Our City Council, rather than pursuing goals such as maintaining our quality of life, is marching in lockstep to the demands of ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments. In the article, Mayor Kirsten Keith is quoted as saying "people are tired of vacant lots on El Camino." Ignoring the obvious, that with the exception of 1300 El Camino, Stanford is in control of those vacant lots and hasn't cared to develop them. 1300 El Camino has been an approved project for sometime, but the developer apparently has financial problems and has not chosen to go ahead. Then we have a finished project at 1906 El Camino, but the building has been empty for some years now. 1706 El Camino, promoted by the same developer, went bust and was just purchased from the bank by another developer. In my view, the Downtown/ El Camino Real specific plan is a disaster. The real stakeholders, the downtown merchants and property owners to a large extent don't want it. Yet the city has spent about five years and $1.5 million pushing ahead with the plan, which is now completely staff driven. We hear statements from council members saying the public is just getting in the way; lets just push it all through regardless. We should push back strongly against ABAG and their outrageous demands and timetable.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton.

In the past ABAG has done many useful things but the low hanging fruit of regional cooperation has been picked and what is left will not be easily or cheaply reached. Therefore, I believe that ABAG has become an expensive and ineffective bureaucracy that can no longer justify its existence. Atherton was the last community to join ABAG and perhaps will be the first to leave.

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park.

All ABAG will do is create the Manhattanization of Menlo Park. With higher housing densities you get: increased traffic pollution, increased noise pollution, increased air pollution, higher carbon footprint, infrastructure strains (fire dept., water, electricity, schools), higher crime, loss in home value and overall deterioration in the quality of life. Anyone who cares about the quality of life in Menlo Park should reject the politburo thinking of ABAG and have the spine to push back. ABAG is destroying our community.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park.

Menlo Park needs to get out of ABAG. We have enough problems from excess density in a city that was not designed for it. Increased density, which is what ABAG wants, will only destroy what is left of the quality of life Menlo Park has to offer.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park.

Just how many more people are we supposed to add to Menlo Park? People already complain about lack of parking downtown, overcrowded schools, traffic congestion, and so on. Our tax burden is already too high; all levels of government want to increase them again; adding more people would only exacerbate the situation. Enough is enough.


Posted by You gotta be kidding, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 15, 2012 at 11:10 am

1906 and 1706 El Camino Real projects could have been successful projects today had Morris Brown, Council Member Kelly Fergusson and Former Council Member Heyward Robinson given the developer half a chance. These three and their whiney supporters pulled every delay trick out of the bag of Nothing, Nowhere, No Time Land Use Practices. These projects had nothing to do with any demands from ABAG and everything to do with how the Menlo Park Council treats developers and residents with plans to update their properties. Mr. Brown has no standing to speak to why these properties have failed unless he wants to be honest about his participation in their demise. There's a new wind blowing and Menlo Park is going to change so get out of the way and make room for a new vision

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

You gotta be kidding:

YOU gotta be kidding. El Camino and Watkins slid through basically unscathed. Reduced parking requirements, ugly building, etc. That building got done in by an under-capitilized developer and the economy. The fact the developer couldn't complete the project in a timely fashiion due to a lack of capital, just pushed the final completion even further into the recession.

The property at Buckthorn and El Camino wasn't delayed by anything other than the developer demanding to get by with reduced parking requirements and the demand by neighbors to not have to look at an ugly [portion deleted] building. By the time the developer figured out they weren't going to be able to railroad that project through like they did Watkins it was too late for them. The economy collapsed and they couldn't get it built.

Neither of these projects may have been economically viable in the first place. The truly telling factor is that the Watkins property now belongs to a company that specializes in distressed properties and they aren't even trying to lease it or sell it. The other telling thing is that the old Gaylords property is advertised as coming in September, yet they haven't even broken ground. I build for a living, have for twenty years, and I can say with confidence that if they don't break ground tomorrow there is ZERO chance they will have a building ready for lease or sale in September.

So, "you gotta be kidding" go peddle your nonsense somewhere else. That dog won't hunt.

Posted by greenie, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 16, 2012 at 5:20 pm

It's astonishing to me that alleged environmental groups are promoting rampant growth rather than focusing on sustainable growth for our planet. ABAG is notorious for projecting growth that doesn't occur, and it's not because of housing policies. It's because the growth projections were based on faulty assumptions about what is sustainable. The conversation ought to be about what makes sense for livability and the overall environment. That conversation might even get into taboo topics like water supply and population planning!

There are no brakes on development in the central valley, so it's a really lame argument that growth here will avoid growth there. A lot of people don't want to live in urban areas and don't want to raise families in urban areas. So why make non-urban areas into urban ones?

There is no attempt to balance housing and jobs, either. There is a big push, like Menlo Park's DT/ECR plan, to add jobs and housing but there are far more new jobs that would result than added housing, further adding to the number of commuters. Sorry, they're not all going to take "transit" as it really isn't a system that works. That, in turn puts more pressure on building more houses, overloading schools, streets, etc. There is no assurance more housing will occur because the plan allows big profitable office buildings that developers love to build.
This is a good conversation for a community to have. It might be too late for Menlo Park