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Guest Op from ex-mayor Paul Collacchi -- smart growth

Original post made by old timer, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park, on Jul 8, 2009

Today's Almanac

Web Link

page 23 -- (everyone should read this posting.

has a guest opinion from Paul Collacchi, who was mayor when the Smart Growth process was on-going and he discloses why the process failed.

Not mentioned by name are Jan Dolan, who was City Manager at the time, and who resigned (??) shortly there after to take over the City Manager's position in Scottsdale AZ., a much larger city with a huge appetite for growth; she had 4 ass't managers under her in that job, until she was fired a year or so ago.

Don de la Pena, was the planning director who signed off on the change orders, while not informing council or the public.

A pure example of staff work at it worst.

Comments (15)

Posted by Inquiring Mind
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 8, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Wow, she evidently was something else:
Web Link

Best quote in article: "I have rarely encountered anybody who has the remarkable ability to smile at your face and stab you in the back at the exact same time"

Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:56 am

I'd like to hear Jan Dolan's take on Collacchi's implication that she thwarted the process. Dolan was a strong manager, but she never struck me as someone who worked behind the scenes to impose her will and override the public and the council. I've gotten that sense much more from the two city managers who have followed her.

Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Paul Collacchi was an extraordinarily bright City Council Member and mayor. We have another City Council member who is Paul's equal and his name is John Boyle. It is unfortunate that the other 4 council members fall considerably below the level of talent of Paul Collacchi and John Boyle.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for the value add, Hank. Talk about below the level...

Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 9, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Oh my. I had a fairly high estimation of Collacchi when he was on the council. But now that Hank has given him his seal of approval (i.e. Kiss Of Death), maybe I better rethink my opinion.

Posted by Cruella
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Jan Dolan was slimy and a pol to the max. I don't think anyone in town was sad to see her go. The most evil endeavors of Boesch and Rojas can't top Jan's exploits.

Paul is a smart guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city, the players, and the political history. He also supported the child care Taj Mahal, which was a flawed and expensive concept. John Boyle is also a bright guy with a more checkered record on council. He's an articulate (or verbose) representative of a minority faction; let's hope that minority never manages to get a majority on council again.

Hank is always flamboyant, occasionally insightful, and sometimes right. Sort of like the monkeys banging randomly at the keyboard and producing Shakespeare, but without a tail.

Posted by Observed for Years
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Paul Collachi is a bright guy with an agenda. That is to curb growth. The Smart Growth (Center City)process was every bit as good and open as what we are going through now. Complete with neighborhood meetings, workshops, planning commission updates and periodic council review. It represented the opinion of the people, but did not represent Paul's opinion. He discovered this late in the process and started doing whatever he could to discredit the study and get it shelved. This latest attack on Jan Dolan fits the pattern.

For those new to the process, our current council majority has communicated behind the scenes with both our visioning and specific plan consultants. Paul undoubtedly had a hand in this, because the council majority are his people. Their goal is to avoid a plan that recommends growth and change and not make the Collachi mistake of reacting too late.

For example: Maintaining a Village Character has been inserted as the number one design consideration coming out of the visioning proces. It was not a concept introduced by a member of the public, it was introduced by the consultant at the urging of certain councilmembers. This act followed a workshop and several committee meetings where participants were supporting concepts like "higher density development to pay for civic amenities" which ran counter to the council majorities vision. The higher density concept was eliminated.

Paul Collachi is part of the council that rewrote the general plan and the zoning ordinace to prevent the construction of another Cafe Borrone/Keplers' building after it was approved by a progressive council. Ever wonder why we don't have any more of those beautiful developments?

His people are the majority now and they recently reduced the amount of floor area that can be built on commercial sites on El Camino. That is their agenda and is at odds with most citizens.

Paul Collachi also has a long distinguished history of last minute hit pieces on council candidates he opposes, complete with misinformation. He has even done this since moving out of Town over 5 years ago. Jan Dolan is his latest target suggesting that outsiders are the only ones in favor of growth and are intereffering with the will of the people.

Our El Camino looks depressed largely due to his influence.

Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 9, 2009 at 6:28 pm

A comment like that just posted by Observed for Years indicates he (she) hasn't read the disclosure by Collacchi, or that he (she)doesn't believe what Collacchi has written. However, you can't dispute hard copy evidence, and I therefore conclude his posting is only to try and further the agenda of those who want to push Menlo Park the way of Redwood City and other pro-development communities.

This is a clear cut example of a City Manager not taking directions from a duly elected City council, and proceeding in a dictatorial fashion to try and implement her vision on the City, rather than taking orders from the Council and executing their will.

I see no evidence of any relationship to what happened with the Smart Growth fiasco and the current Visioning Process.

Furthermore, the General Plan was not re-written when Collacchi was on council.

Posted by Cruella
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 9, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Observed, did you go to any of the public visioning sessions? I've been to most of them. The consultant may have originated the "village character" term, but I thought it was a good encapsulation of the sentiments I was hearing, and it resonated strongly with those who attended. There was no dispute: everyone agreed that was what we wanted.

I am sure there are some among us, maybe you, who would like to see a mini-Manhattan. But if that's what you want, why not move to the real thing? Menlo Park is never going to be a big city, though at worst it could become a very densely populated and unpleasant small skinny town with too many people.

Sounds as though the local conspiracy theorists have decided that Paul, not Gail, is the puppeteer who controls the council from behind the scenes. Those of us who truly have been observing the council can only laugh at the folly of these accusations.

Posted by And Here We Sit.....
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

And here we sit.....4, 5, 6, 7.......years later, with nothing done to fix our blight. Vacant car lots, abandon dry cleaner, trash strewn car wash lot, grafetti walled theater, more vacant unleased stores.......this is our legacy, this is what this whole "no growth for any reason, no growth of any sort, no growth period" is all about. Are we proud yet?

Please someone stop the madness, there HAS to be a way to compromise, and make some darn progress. Saying "no" to everything, and not allowing new creative ideas, creates stagnation, and then eventually death. This has obviously started to happen, we have to start making decisions, and getting to work. Delaying decisions because it stops growth is not a good strategy for any company, let alone a government. Please council stop the madness and get to work, make some decisions, regardless if the special interests disagree, you were put there to make decisions, some of them tough!

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm

I agree that Paul was an impressive council member and seemed thoughtful in his deliberations, but I feel most of the council members of recent memory were all quite advanced in their preparation and their subject matter. Menlo Park has a pretty high bar folks.

I disagree with all of them some of the time, but this is where Hank and I disagree the most. I think we owe them respect for putting in the effort and time. I will voice my objections or support but I will not question their character or intelligence.

I would love to see Hank or Lee and some of the other really hardline critics take on current council members in a public debate.

Posted by also a participant
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 10, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I participated in Smart Growth and the current visioning process. Unlike "Observed", I was quite surprised at what the Smart Growth consultants presented towards the end because it was unlike anything I heard come from the community during that process. It was my first involvement in Menlo Park issues and I was pleased that the Council rejected the consultant's version.
I believe that we will not see visible change on El Camino any time soon during the current economic environment. It is not the fault of the current council or anyone's position on growth (or not). This is the best time to make plans so that when credit improves our city can begin to see renewal, which I think everyone wants.

Posted by 15
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Jan Dolan was a City Manager who said hi to you and asked how you and your family was doing. I couldn't get a Hi or a smile from Paul if I walked by him downtown.

Posted by Hates misinformation
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Our General Plan was last updated years ago when Gail Slocum was on the council. It is outdated. The Jellins,Duboc,Winkler council should have started the process. The Fergusson,Robinson,Cline council ignores this responsibility. Instead we spend thousands and thousands of dollars on studies, consultants and workshops. It's all a delay tactic so that absolutely nothing will change in the city. It's 1950 and the NIMBYs in power want everyone to have a quarter of an acre and a yard bigger than the hanky size yards of the new developments.

The General Plan update failure has been passed down from Jellins to Fergusson.

Posted by also a participant
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 10, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Yes, the General Plan needs updated. Staff keeps resisting this and makes it sound as if it needs to take more than 5 years to do. I actually think the current Council IS taking seriously the need to begin to tackle planning. The visioning process for El Camino and Downtown is an example. I disagree that they are ignoring this responsibility.

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