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Guest opinion: Council needs to trust the process

Original post made on Apr 28, 2009

Menlo Park City Council members have repeatedly promised to respect the El Camino/Downtown Visioning community process, however it comes out. Or have they? There was a test case of commitment to public process recently, and it's worth a look.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm

I don't claim to know all the ins and outs of this council decision, but on the face of it, I find it ironic that Robinson and Cline find themselves in a situation where they are resisting a commission's unanimous recommendation by supporting significant changes to the recommendation.

When they were on the parks and rec commission, Rich and Heyward strongly criticized the WinklerDubocJellins council for ignoring commissions' input in making important decisions -- sometimes leaving commissions out of the process altogether. I sense there's more to this story, but I'd like to hear the mayor and, especially, Rich, who I think is particularly sensitive to this issue and is less a political animal (that's a compliment, by the way) than some of his colleagues, explain why they voted the way they did.

Posted by council observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 28, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Note that there is a huge difference between "respecting the process" and rubber-stamping it. The problem with the prior council was that they ignored input from just about everyone, including their own commissioners. This council listens to all input, and then decides after weighing all the different considerations. Which is exactly what we elected them to do, NOT to side with any special interest groups.

My observation of the Planning Commission process is that it was heavily skewed. I watched many of the meetings and I did not hear "emphatic commission unanimity" but rather acquiescence to demands from two commissioners, one of whom was Mr. Riggs.

Bottom line: the commission was charged with simplifying the FAR. Their recommendation was ridiculously complex. When the council saw that other cities had managed to achieve productive simplification, they decided to incorporate elements that had worked for other cities into our FAR. It's all about making the process easy to understand for everyone, applicants and city staff. If the problem is that "investors consider Menlo Park a crap shoot" then streamlining the definition will be a good thing for investors too! The rules are clear; no more random decisions.

I didn't see the council ducking. On the contrary, I saw them doing the right thing, even knowing that there was a high probability of being attacked. You had your turn, Henry. Stop whining, get with the program.

Posted by puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Because I generally support this council majority, I want to believe that they did the right thing. But somehow overriding a unanimous recommendation by a commission that has people like Vince Bressler on it doesn't seem quite right. That's why I'd like to hear people like Rich explain his decision. If two people were able to intimidate five colleagues into supporting something they were uncomfortable supporting, maybe the wrong people are on the commission.

Posted by Rich Cline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:14 am

I will try to explain my specific position as clearly as I can.

First, I respect Henry and the Planning Commission (PC) a great deal. I find the PC decisions always are based on a good balance of intellectual rigor and respectful debate. We don't always agree and we won't alway agree, but that is a part of the Menlo Mosaic that we all love.

Henry and I agree that we need as much cohesion between our legislative bodies as possible if we are going to see through the much larger and necessary planning for our downtown and our industrial sector.

Henry and I agree that it will take a strong political will to see through those final decisions that will set forth our city revitalization efforts.

Henry makes the assertion that this was a matter of a council swaying under the pressure of a small minority of people. Henry makes this point and even takes the step to allude to the very people who make up that minority.

Here is my response to this letter and my explanation for the record.

I interviewed folks in neighboring cities (the competition for projects) about the GFA/FAR policies to get a better idea as to what our community is doing in respect to our market. I found that no cities followed the PC formula of 5% and 1%. Exemptions just don't happen at a policy level (they may on the project level) and none of these cities exempted stair and elevators above the first floor.

Curious, I then culled through past documents to try and locate the foundation of the 5% and 1% exemption recommendation and to find record of the debate in the PC. These numbers were in the quick description, a best guess estimate. (an estimate made by some folks like Henry who are familiar with the industry so that does hold some value to me). But there was no empirical data I could find.

A lot of the neighboring cities do have more relaxed FAR/GFA policies (the two are interrelated no matter how you slice it...the buildable area on the lot and the floor area of the building itself). This might explain the lack of exemptions.

I then contacted Planning Commissioners ahead of the meeting to get one more crack at the topic after I had done my diligence. The information I gleaned from those discussions did not completely offset my findings, but it did provide me with context.

I am also under the belief that this topic GFA and FAR will be debated roundly again during our industrial sector planning and downtown Specific Plan work.

The final major factor was the number of potentially smaller projects that may be negatively impacted by the lack of exemptions (the smaller the lot, the building, the less options a developer has to make it pencil out). I found very few coming within the next year as we get to that Specific Plan.

So I walked in, listened and debated and we found a middle road vote. Imperfect, no doubt.

I am frustrated that we have to take subjects like FAR/GFA on outside of a larger planning discussion. In hindsight, this could have waited for the bigger planning projects and could have been a big part of that process.

But as you can see, I did not view this as a condemnation of the PC. I took that information, learned from it, talked to my colleagues at council and we rendered a decision.

As for bowing to political pressure or running from a difficult decision, Henry's note is nice enough but there are paragraphs that question the integrity of my council seat and my vote.

Henry, I am not an insider. I don't bow to pressure. I believe in data, research, planning and community representation. This decision, like many others (the freeway pedestrian crossing, high speed rail, police contracts during economic uncertainty, for example) all require a level of fortitude. But mostly they just require someone to listen, evaluate and act. I did that in this case and I did it with as much real data as I could. I have heard from all sides that this was not an adequate decision.

My advice to you Mr. Riggs, question decisions and votes, don't question integrity or fortitude behind those votes. That is a slippery slope and I have too much respect to do the same to you.

I think it is just too easy these days to use the "process" label or the "open government" label to justify an issue or a concern. You see, I don't see the process break down at all. I see a controversial topic debated in commission settings that went to a city council for a vote, and that vote altered the final outcome.

Publi process assumes that their is either an ethic or legal basis

Posted by Richard Cline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:19 am

That last sentence was to be stricken from the is late...sorry.

Posted by council observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:39 am

Thank you, Rich. Our city is lucky to have you on the council. I don't know how you do it, but I for one appreciate your balanced approach and diplomacy.

Puzzled, I didn't mean to imply that anyone was coerced by anyone else on the PC (though I realize it does read that way!) From what I could tell, there were commissioners with very different perspectives. The commissioners with professional expertise in some of the key areas were rather adamant about the value of their position and pressured the other commissioners. The result was a compromise.

The PC did a good job; the council took their recommendations and acted on them. This is an important topic and it's hardly surprising that the council members performed their own due diligence. The process worked the way it's supposed to. The people who have been complaining that the council never does anything except authorize additional studies can stop their complaints: establishing a new policy was a huge achievement for this council.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:13 am

Mr Cline,

Regardless of the motives behind your actions, it seems that what you say you did is exactly what Mr Riggs expressed concerns about.

Why should the general public or commissioners waste their time at public hearings or visioning sessions when the final recommendations are going to get rewritten based on a few phone calls and back channel communications by the city council members.

If you did not think that the planning commission took into account the competitive environments of neighboring towns, why not send them back to do a comparison of our code with neighboring towns. Isn't it probable that they would have been able to do a more complete job of the analysis and bring a more complete picture back to the council to be discussed and debated in public.

If you did not feel that you had to respond to the small group that raised concerns about the new code, then why did you feel compelled to find a middle ground?

What about the rest of the people who participated in the public hearings over the last 18 months but did not come to the council meeting because they were under the (apparently false) impression that once the planning commission voted unanimously on this highly technical code change, it would be approved by the council.

The message that you are sending is that people who want to influence the ECR process should not waste their time attending the public meetings, but instead speak privately to council members and then come voice their opinions directly to council when the final report is issued.

Posted by puzzled
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 8:13 am

I'm still puzzled about a few things, but I'm far more dazzled by Rich's response. Thanks, Rich. It's important for council members to do their homework on the issues they act on, and you certainly met that standard. Thanks for your willingness to explain.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:08 am

I guess the PC is valid as long as council members agree with it.

It is kind of like Henry Ford's quote, "You can have any color you want as long as it is black."

Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

As long as Richard Cline places the counsel of the SEIU and former far-left mayors above that of the Planning Commission we are going have political decisions that resonate with leftist ideology rather than what is best for the residents.

Henry Riggs, and before him Lou Deziel, and Lori Sinnott were the quintessential planning commissioners. They were completely oblivious to politics and just wanted to do what is best for the community.

But the current council majority won't make a move without first consulting with their far-left predecessors. And after such consultations the council majority aligns their policy decisions to their former leftist predecessors' preferences. This obedience is necessary for the council majority to have the far-left re-election machine controlled by their leftist predecessors behind them for their next City Council campaign.

Posted by Sorry Rich
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm

As whacky and crazy as Mr. Lawrence's postings can sometimes be, and this one is no exception, I am afraid he is right. I just don't believe Rich, or any other council member, did one tenth the effort of research on this issue. Rich made the decision because Heyward and Kelly told him to, or lobbied him to, or basically told him with the unions or the "no growth" kitchen cabinet told him to do. As sure as I am sitting here today, we will be dealing with a continued "no growth strategy" and no-decisions for years to come. I find it insulting that we have a revisioning process, after we had 2 or 3 others that went no where. I'd put my life savings on a bet that nothing will become of this process. Victory for The Residentialists!

Posted by council observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Sorry, Sorry, a decision WAS made. Progress! And all the rhetoric in the world can't undo that. I understand that it may be tough for you to accept reality, but don't defame Rich in the process. If you have ever met him or talked to him, you would know that he doesn't take orders from Heyward, Kelly, or any of the mysterious foursome whose names can only be whispered.

>>>Henry Riggs, and before him Lou Deziel, and Lori Sinnott were the quintessential planning commissioners. They were completely oblivious to politics and just wanted to do what is best for the community.<<<

Oh my. Thank you, Hank, for that bit of humor to brighten my day!

Posted by Surprise! Surprise!
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 29, 2009 at 3:01 pm

We knew that blog was coming "council observer", it's the same ol', same ol'. Every day I drive by the old Derry Project site, or the Mattison project site, or the car dealerships, or the theater.........I will continue to keep you in my thoughts. I knew California Ghost Towns were interesting and historic, I just never knew I'd be paying millions to live in one.

Posted by c o
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 29, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I have nothing to do with Derry or Matteson or the car dealerships...or swine flu, world peace, or the weather. In fact, I had no idea that anyone thought I was omnipotent except, maybe, for my dogs.

Sorry you don't like it here, Surprise. Don't let the screen door hit ya, as they say.

Posted by E. Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Dear "Council Observer".

Do you have a name? Are you afraid or ashamed to use it? Are you one of Mr. Cohen's friends that are referered to as the Kitchen Cabinet? Are you one of the folks that Mr. Riggs referred to as helping the current Council Majority over-turn or modify the work of the Planning Council? Do you hold the technical credentials concerning architecture and construction that Mr. Riggs holds and provides to the city free of charge?

The argument that the proposed "formula" was too complicated, compared to neighboring cities seems a bit convoluted. Architects. planners and builders are pretty good at math. I think the issue should have been whether the standard that was agreed to by the PC was clear to the users, not the Council. If the planners can be sure of the standard, and the standard has been set to the benefit of Menlo Park, then why was it necessary for the Council to intervene? Or was there influence from people who could not persuade the PC to shape the new standards to their liking, as others on this board have suggested?

It seems the Council was immune to the value of "respect" for fellow employees. Management skills training would show the Council that "respect" for the opinion and work of employees they manage is critical for effective leadership. I believe this was a key point Mr. Riggs was trying to make, beyond the mathmatic formulas. I worked in the amangement ranks of a company of 22,000 employees. We encouraged and worked hard at gaining employee input. It brought good ideas and we were able to use many of them. But most importantly it demonstrated management's true respect for employee efforts and created an esprit de corps and loyalty that was priceless. The same process was followed by the CEO in dealing with his VPs and Directors. That's what reenforced the policy down through the ranks. We did have one key advantage, the entire company was union-free.

Finally.... Mr. Cline.... Your extensive explanation (excuse) for overturning the PC decision / recommendation reminds me of the line from Shakespear..... "me thinks he doth protest too much". Translated.... it would seem some paranoia is showing.

Posted by confused
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 5:37 pm

I thought it was the Council's role to set policy and the Commissions' role to provide recommendations. Thus the Commission cannot make a "decision" in instances like this.
There is no evidence that commissioners or staff did the basic and important research that Rich Cline did regarding what other cities have in place. Why not wonder why they did not. I am glad Mr. Cline did.

Posted by long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 6:04 pm

This is just more evidence that the council majority does not and never has had any respect for 'process' even though they used the process argument to get elected. Their agenda is simple, strangle development to appeal to people who don't like change and stay in power.

In case you didn't notice, what the council directed the planning commission to do and the council took one step farther was to further limit floor area in the commercial zones. This is an anti- business action in the middle of a recession. They have also been meddling in the so called visioning process and the specific plan process - meeting with the consultants behind closed doors to change workshop outcomes and further limit the growth the public wants. What little improvement you see is a holdover from the progressive city council of Jellins, Duboc and Winkler.

Please throw out Kline and Robinson in the next election. They limit progress.

Posted by c o
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:16 pm

This council can't win! If they invite public input, they're accused of wasting time. If they make a decision, they're accused of caving to special interests. If they explain the thought that went into that decision, they're obviously trying to cover up a multitude of sins. Our city is doomed...unless we can bring in some new council members who won't even pretend to listen to the public because they know what's best for everyone. That's progressive thinking, and Mussolini was an awesome dictator too.

There is nothing anti-business about the new policy. If anything, it will help bring in business. The problem with convoluted rules isn't that the math is too hard but that there is way too much wiggle room. Clear rules expedite the process because they enable everyone to operate on the same page.

Did you watch the last PC meeting? Seems to me that a majority of the PC is pleased with the council's action. Only one commissioner continues to pout about not getting his way, privately and in print. But in a democracy, we don't get our way all the time, and I don't see Menlo Park as ripe for a totalitarian government.

Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:24 pm

This issue isn't totalitarianism; the issue is competency and allegiance to special interest groups. We have four City Council members who have sworn allegiance to a former mayor because she controls a very effective re-election machine. She uses that as a club over their heads. Either they cave in to her demands or there is no apparatus to help them get re-elected. The result is that we have a "No Growth" council who will use studies as a delay tactic in hope that the developers will just go away. And most have done so.

So instead of having slow responsible growth we have a council that is determined to thwart any growth at any cost- no matter how beneficial it is to the community. I thought the City Council was to work for the residents. Instead it thinks of ways to control our lives. We don't need that. Heyward and Richard must go. We have put up with the Politburo mentality long enough. We need candidates who understand that they work for us!

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm

This is getting ridiculous. The obvious campaigning from the slate just keeps repeating itself over and over.

I respect you, Rich, for taking time to be thorough and honest in your response. I relish the opportunity to see you debate someone like Henry or Hank during the next election.

I fail to see any upside to your response because this forum is full of political buzzards with nothing further to offer but ugly and petty commentary.

Posted by c o
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 30, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Henry and Hank don't run because they know they would be humiliated at the polls. Then they would blame their loss on a former mayor who owns the voters in Menlo Park because we voters are too dumb to think for ourselves so do whatever she tells us to do. Umm, yeah, all the Stanford-educated PhDs, lawyers, doctors, MBAs, engineers, all in thrall to one former mayor, sounds like the Menlo Park I know.

I hope that someone sends that post to the former mayor because I'm sure it will give her a good laugh. Made me smile too. Thanks, Hank. Do you do standup too?

Posted by The REAL DEAL
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Apr 30, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Mr. c o, your comments are very similar to the constant, "Duboc, Winkler, Jellins blame game" that your no-growth, no improvement, no commercial district type banter in which your crew has continually pontificated over the past 2+ years. And still we sit, with no Derry Project started, nothing done with the car dealerships, nothing done with parking, nothing done with the autocar project adjacent to 101, etc., etc. Bright people OFTEN make bad decisions, or worst yet, make no decisions...............seems like THAT is exactly what is going on the past 2+ years, and no doubt will continue.

Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Mr. Riggs would like to conceal his real agenda here by trumpeting, council did not support the PC, and is not seeking to confirm what is fair public process. Least we remind him, Council has final authority and most importantly Council sets policy, not the PC. This was clearly stated by Mayor Robinson in his comments before the vote on the new law.

The entire issue of putting into Code more concise and defined rules for measuring Gross Floor Area, was set in motion by Council’s policy decision directing Staff to start using traditional methods, more literal usage of rules governing gross floor area. Staff clearly understood what Council had mandated, and since that decision, Staff began immediately using more literal interpretation of these rules.

The first PC meeting had Staff’s proposed ordinance. That ordinance proposal was Attachment C in the staff report before council; that Staff report did not exclude stairwells and elevators on all floors above the first and it did not exclude 1% plus 5% for equipment rooms and “un-occupyable areas.

Well Mr Riggs, Mr. Deziel as chars of the PC, with support from John O’Malley objected to staff's ordinance and thus set into motion the following series of meetings, essentially aimed at changing Council’s policy.

Having personally attended almost all of those meetings and others, it was clear to see their objective. During the PC oversight of the renovation project at 1010 Doyle, Deziel actually suggested to the owner, he might be well advised to hold back the project for a few months, since staff was counting space for a new elevator on all floors and that when a new ordinance being drafted by the PC was passed by council, it would only count such space on the first floor. A major argument for only counting such space on the first floor was that would encourage the owners to put in elevators. Nonsense! In many cases, elevators may currently be demanded to meet ADA compliance, and certainly in newer building elevators are really demanded by tenants. In the case of 1010 Doyle, indeed the elevator was installed and it was counted on all floors.

The unanimous vote by the PC was hardly a vote by all PC members endorsing all of the items in their proposed ordinance. Rather it was a unanimous vote to get this off of the PC’s agenda and on to council for final action. One only need to have attended the meetings or viewed the videos to realize that point.

The PC did a lot of excellent work that was included in the ordinance, such as defining catwalks and mezzanines, bay windows etc, and much work on the grandfathering of already existing buildings. Council changed none of those provisions.

So the bottom line is, Mr. Riggs is un-happy he wasn’t allowed to dictate to Council a policy change. Policy is made at the Council level, not at the PC level. Of course a new council can change policy, such as some comments have suggested in this thread. However, viewing the results of last November’s election, it would appear Menlo Park voters are not interested in returning to a Council dominated by members who are only interested in promoting the interests of land owners and developers.

Posted by c o
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 30, 2009 at 6:40 pm

So all the bright people in Menlo Park are wrong and only REAL DEAL (Henry? Hank?) knows the truth. However, even REAL can be wrong sometimes: I'm not a "Mr."

Excellently stated as always, Morris, though no doubt your comments will be discounted, coming from one of the evil puppeteers who have brainwashed us all. The first line of the last paragraph encapsulates the genesis of this silly thread.

The FAR is done, for now. What's more frightening is that Henry seems to be trying to deep six the El Camino visioning project (ironic, don't you think?) On the other hand, his term is up in less than a year, and he's not making himself a lot of friends on this council.

Posted by Please Stop
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 30, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Please stop the hypocrisy Morris, your back room, kitchen cabinet deals are well documented and borderline illegal. Your singlehanded deep sixing of the Derry Project started this aggressive campaign of stop, delay, stop, delay, delay, delay, delay...........until you, and/or your cronies are gone, Menlo Park will continue to fall behind it's neighbors. The effects of your work is already dramatically displayed with our vacant lots, boarded up buildings and outdated commercial district. Compare that with our neighbors to the south and north, it's downright embarrassing. If only the people that contribute the most to this city by working, and generating tax dollars had enough time to sit at meetings with a one track agenda, such as yourself, we may have some actual decisions moving forward. However, not enough of us are retired yet, and have time to be "evil puppeteers". Menlo Park is in a sad state.

Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 1, 2009 at 6:45 pm


Thank you for your characteristic thoughtful posting. For once I agree with "truth": the buzzards get in the way (and I'm sorry to see Mr. Brown in that vein). Please don't take my comments personally - the issue of a 90 minute re-think of months of work need not be about ethics; it IS about recognizing and using the very process the council outlined and directs.

And about public faith: of the few who took time to speak to me as I canvassed for the downtown workshop two weeks ago, every one asked in essence "why go through this again, council will just do what they want?" This is unfair to those who are committed to the effort and, frankly, to our current council which has not failed the process - not yet - but it's a sentiment that's clearly out there. OF course planning commission looked at the neighbor towns GFA - not just two but a dozen; if you had been to half of our ten meetings or studied our many staff reports neither you nor "Confused" would claim at the last minute we lacked background on this stuff!

Instead of looking to Palo Alto - a poor source in my opinion - please talk with Planning in San Mateo, a town with the same bi weekly commission schedule but several times the applicants. Or talk with Half Moon Bay, a town that has in the past made our council meetings look tame (at least our gadflies don't torch projects they don't like). In both towns, I'm told, staff recommendations and commission work are rarely significantly modified - perhaps because they trust in their process.

As for defending "compromise": when a process includes all input, after ten meetings the compromising has been done; when one side gets a second round of "compromising" at the last moment, that defeats fair process; people see that.

Council in 90 minutes didn't grasp the community benefit based reasons for the exemptions - a brief report is in the Summary Andy requested and Kelly reviewed (soon forgotten) last year. As for "complication", the elevator and stair exemptions match the California Building Code definitions - not too far outside the box - our old code does not.

Again, council's vote is not the biggest issue; it's the pattern of "shooting from the hip" in proportion to staff and commission hours and depth of understanding. In example, I must question your Plan B expectation that GFA - basic code definitions - would be reviewed in the visioning process; and it's really not in the ballpark for a Planned Development for Bohannon's project either.

But this could go on and on until we duplicate all the commission debate; I am glad to meet with you on this - your intentions are much appreciated - and will call you off line.


Posted by c o
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 1, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Henry, if you felt so strongly about this issue, why didn't you present your FAR arguments to the council last month when the decision was made? Wouldn't it have shown more integrity to address the council directly rather than attack them afterward in the newspaper and online? You weren't even at the meeting when the vote was taken!

I have spoken to other planning commissioners who have a very different recollection of what happened during your FAR meetings. And as previously noted, the majority seem satisfied with the council's decision.

Talk about process, Henry? You're poisoning it.

Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 1, 2009 at 10:56 pm

C.O. is clueless. Henry Riggs has more experience with planning than the the entire council combined. The Menlo Park City Council is paralyzed with fear that it will upset the Kitchen Cabinet or some former mayors-especially the one with the re-election army at her disposal. Trying to reason with the majority council is like beating your head against the wall. John Boyle is the only council member with a soupçon of common sense.

Henry Riggs is a member of the American Institute of Architects and is a licensed architect in New York and California. He has nearly 30 years of professional experience working with some of the greatest architecture and construction talent in this country. He is renowned in his field and has the respect and admiration of his peers.

The majority Council is floundering. Henry Riggs is Golden and the majority council does not even realize what a great talent they have. So what do they do? Instead of following Henry Riggs sage counsel these clueless dilettantes rely upon the advice of their effete coterie of short-sighted and inexperienced amateurs.

Posted by out to lunch
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 2, 2009 at 11:41 am

Well, Hank Lawrence again shows he is "Out to Lunch". This guy, who followed around Jim Pollart like a puppy dog, during the Derry Referendum, just keeps writing nonsense. If the council was so floundering, why did Kelly Fergusson just get the largest vote count in the City and Judge Cohen got only about 1000 less then she did in the last election. Face reality Hank, the council is very popular, even though you don't seem to think so.

As Morris Brown pointed out, Riggs has own agenda and used his chairmanship on the PC to finally beat down the opposition. Its time for the real majority on the PC to stop just saying "we need to get along" and stick to their guns.

The PC will have a new chairman soon, and it sure would be nice to see someone other then O'Malley who is vice chair promoted. Bressler should really be the choice.

Everyone expected to see Riggs run for Council last fall, but he "saw the light" and realized his views were not supportable and bowed out.

Why should one waste their time, answering Lawrence, he has zero credibility.

And, BTW, in agreement with c.o. about expressing views, why weren't you at Council in public comment letting everyone know your position. Henry didn't show either.

Posted by what's FAR?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm

'c o': As Riggs noted up front, the Planning Commission spent 18 months on GFA, the definitions section of the code; FAR is the formula for building size and is contained in subsequent sections. This difference and a few dozen more key facts were pretty basic to contributing meaningfully to the GFA issue. Facts should be a prereq to loud and persistent blogging. But then its fun to hide and shoot from the bushes, huh? Me too.

Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 2, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Out to lunch must be drinking the electric Kool Aid. I met Jim Pollart once and handed out flyers at the Farmer's market for about 30 minutes. That is the total extent of my relationship with Jim Pollart. I have spent far more time talking with Gail Slocum than with Jim Pollart. Does that make me a Slocum disciple? The far left just makes things up. In other words they deliberately and consistently lie to justify their no growth at any cost message.

Henry Riggs never considered running for City Council so there was nothing to bow out from. Just another fabrication of the far left.

I would attend City Council Meetings if I thought I could reason with the majority 4. But unless you are going to present a far-left viewpoint that advocates no growth at all then its just a waste of your time. We need to vote out Robinson and Cline and get some balance on the City Council so we can arrest the urban decay in downtown Menlo Park and promote slow but smart Growth.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 3, 2009 at 12:00 am

Same stuff from Hank. Cruel and baseless political bashing.

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Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $300,000.