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Commission chair blasts council

Original post made by morris Brown, Menlo Park: Park Forest, on May 5, 2009

The article

Commission chair blasts council

in the May 6th, Almanac,page 10, has the statement

"They (referring to Councilman Cohen and myself (morris brown), alleged that he (referring to Henry Riggs) and another commissioner with "design experience", Melody Pagee had hijacked the process .....

I want to make quite clear, I at no time ever included Melody Pagee of having been involved in any such manner. The statement is not correct.

I did and still do include former commissioner and chair Deziel, Mr. Riggs with support from John O'Malley of essentially trying to create policy, rather than following Council's directive on the policy they wished to be implemented. Yes, I would consider this an attempt to hijack the process.

Commissioner Riggs did not appear before Council to state his position when the vote was taken. Rather than go to council and present his position in public, he only after the fact "blasts the council".

The article goes on to say:

"Council members say they fully intend to uphold the will of the community through the planning process -- that's why they authorized the process in the first place."

Council is the governing body. They make policy, not the planning commission. The Visioning process, which will pass through the planning commission, is not the final authority either.

Certainly in this vein, Council can and should implement their will on the Downtown Visioning process in any final approvals. Yes, if Council decides that 2 story buildings are what are needed along El Camino, they have the power and should exercise it over any approvals. The are after all, the only elected body we have.

Mr. Riggs doesn't seem to accept that. Mayor Robinson has it right by saying Council is not a rubber stamp.

Comments (25)

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Posted by too bad
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 5, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I have to criticize the Almanac for running a story about Riggs that is so strongly biased toward his viewpoint. Didn't he get enough chance to vent in his opinion piece last week?

Riggs makes it sound as though the council overturned an inclusive public process. As noted above, what really happened in those planning commission meetings was that Riggs and Deziel strong-armed and shamed their fellow commissioners into going along with them. Those who dissented were silenced and told that they did not have adequate professional expertise to comment. The commissioners seemed to realize they were at an impasse and sent the matter along to the council, who were responsible for the final decision in any case.

So when Riggs says that council subverted the will of the people, that's hypocrisy. As anyone who observed the process could tell you, the "will of the people" was no more and no less than the Riggs-Deziel agenda. Of course Henry is miffed that he didn't get his way.

Almanac, you could do a more balanced job of reporting this incident? At least get the names right. Melody had no part in the ill-fated effort to hijack the process.

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Posted by Surprise!
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 5, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Surprise! Mr. "Bury The Derry Project 6 Feet Under" Morris is against something that supports the Planning Committee decisions! Morris, are you at the point yet where you would like all of these vacant lots and abandon buildings to become fields? How are you going to get that done? Last time I checked, it wasn't your property???

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline are only interested in having a planning commission that supports their far left agenda. The Almanac, in one of its rare momemnts of candor, told the story as it actually is.

Heyward and Richard need to go so that we can have a City Council that works for the residents and not for the Kitchen Cabinet and a few former mayors. Menlo Park should not be a petri dish for Counci Majority's socialist experiments. We need to arrest the urban blight soon and showing Heyward and Richard the door in Novembef 2010 is a start to ending this blight.

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Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 8, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Mr Brown posts, regarding our community Visioning effort: "Certainly .... Council can and should implement their will on the Downtown Visioning process in any final approvals. Yes, if Council decides that 2 story buildings are what are (the maximum) needed along El Camino, they have the power and should exercise it over any approvals. The are after all, the only elected body we have."

While I agree that Council must make the final decision, it is important that members of our Council say where they stand on this statement about overriding community will. This is the crux of the current conversation.

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Posted by what is the community will
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 9, 2009 at 10:04 am

The basic question is how do we know what is the "community will."

One of the keys to success of the El Camino and downtown planning process is to ensure that the voices of the community are obtained and heard. In this phase, there are only 3 community workshops, which followed some stakeholder meetings. All of the workshops are in the evening, limiting participation to those able to come. These are open to anyone whether or not a resident or business owner or not.

When legitimate but simplistic questions, open to a variety of interpretations, are asked and other questions are not asked at all, then there can be legitimate differences of opinion on the results.

Will it be the "community will" to extrapolate to the entire community from a sample (workshops) that was not at all random but rather self-selected? Isn't it possible, as some have suggested, that those whose sole interest is in significant development might be represented out of proportion with the rest of the community? It would be highly inappropriate to weight too heavily any seeming "majority". What seems most valid from the workshops are the many ideas and comments.

The Council, as elected representatives of the community, must actively seek as many voices as possible and encourage those to be represented during the process, not after the fact. It is our job as residents to hold them accountable for doing so. I really think they are trying.

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Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 9, 2009 at 12:03 pm

As a former Planning Commissioner, I certainly can appreciate some of the frustration expressed recently by current Commission Chair Riggs who bemoaned that the City Council did not adopt every recommendation made by the Commission regarding Zoning Ordinance modifications intended to clarify some definitions about how commercial square footage is measured. However, I disagree with his conclusion that the Council disregarded the Commission’s input as well as with his extrapolation to the current process of creating a plan for the El Camino Real/Downtown area, which is undergoing a very different public engagement effort than a Zoning Ordinance change does.

By reading Rigg’s complaint, one might assume that the Council ignored the recommendations of the Commission. This is far from the case. When the Council reviewed the new Zoning Ordinance, nearly all of the Planning Commission’s work was approved, including several new definitions not in the original draft ordinance crafted by staff as well as new procedures to allow for “grandfathering,” which reflected public comment from property owners. However, the Council restored one section’s wording to the original drafted by staff and the city attorney, making it consistent with 13 of 14 other peninsula cities. As Riggs knows, such consistency from city to city is highly valued by building professionals.

The only other change made by the Council was to one new section that was not in the original staff version but was recommended by Commissioners. Rather than eliminate this section, which is unique among the same 14 peninsula cities, the Council merely reduced a maximum percentage from 5% to 3% with the comment made by former Mayor Fergusson that it’s easier to increase a limit than to reduce it in the future.

Mayor Robinson got it right when he said “the buck stops here.” The City Council sets policy, and the various Commissions, as advisory bodies on issues such as this, are responsible for providing recommendations. The Council made its decision in light of information from the Commission’s many meetings, available to them in their packets and online. As we all know, complex decisions are based on a variety of factors, some of which must be weighed against each other. Sometimes individuals weigh these factors differently. For example, the Planning Commissioners’ recommendations appeared to favor design flexibility above other factors, including ease of administration. As was clear from my own public comments, I supported simplicity and consistency with other cities more highly than did the Commission or the Council. The latter approved two new and unique exclusions.

I am thankful the Council will review the new definitions in a year. Because there are some unusual new provisions, I believe there is a possibility that their implementation could result in elongated and more costly building permit approvals. Not only will detailed construction plans be required at an earlier stage than currently, but also simple building permit applications (such as for wiring, lighting, new skylights) will need to undergo additional scrutiny in order to assure the building still will comply with its zoning – both potentially making Menlo Park “less friendly” to projects. Such concerns did not appear to have been discussed at all by the Commission. Fortunately, the Council and staff will revisit all new ordinance provisions in a year, at which time they should be able to assess the impacts.

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Posted by the buck
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 9, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Well said, Patti.

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Posted by No Imrovements!
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 9, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Well said Patti, well said Morris. As long as the two of you, and the other "improvement Bashers" continue to think this way, and continue to make it difficult to improve Menlo Park, we will continue to have what we have on El Camino, the theater, Route 101 car dealership dead proposal, the Mattison no where project, the no where Derry Project........this list is really, really, really getting long. And so is the price for the Revisioning. If the council is going to shoot down every well thought out Planning Commission idea, then assert it's will over the revisioning process, why even try???! I won't be showing up at the next one.
Thanks for your continued lack of creativity, and continued support of your own agendas.

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Posted by Way to go, council
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 9, 2009 at 10:53 pm

El Camino, the car dealerships, the theater...the council that was voted out of office in 2006 left a trail of disasters in its wake. Good thing that we now have a council that truly supports the best interests of Menlo Park and will not allow itself to be sidetracked by greedy developers or renegade commissioners.

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 10, 2009 at 7:45 am

The only trail of disasters the previous council left in its wake are Heyward Robinson, Kelly Fergusson, Richard Cline, and Andy Cohen. Does anyone seriously believe that the Rosewood Resort would have been approved by the current Council. It would have been another 4 to 1 vote with John Boyle being the only council member to support it.

All this council does is use studies as a delay tactic to avoid much needed development. If Mickie Winkler and Lee Duboc had been re-elected El Camino Real development would have already been underway. Instead we have the urban blight as a direct result of the current council majority's inaction.

Kelly Fergusson gets total blame for the Park theater. In her quixotic dream to have another Arts theater, when the Stanford theater in close proximity is struggling, was sheer irresponsibility and naivete on her part.

When Fergusson, Cline, and Robinson voted to reduce the non-usable gross floor area from 5% to 3% it was a slap in the face to every potential developer who want s to build projects in Menlo Park.

The Council Majority's message to anyone who wants to develop in Menlo Park is clear: Get Out of Menlo Park We Don't Want You!

We have 4 rank amateurs on the Ciy Council. We can not afford to indulge their nonsensical vision of City Planning. When prescient people like Henry Riggs are ignored it is time for change. We desparately need to vote out Robinson and Cline in the next election.

There are two political factions in Menlo Park. The one currently in power is the No Growth, No Way, No How, No Matter What. The other political faction is the Slow but Smart Growth Faction. This was the one Nicholas Jellins, Lee Duboc and Mickie Winkler were members of. We need new candidates to run against Heyward and Richard who will if elected repudiate their reckless inaction.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Bla bla bla, socialist. Bla bla bla, politica. Bla bla bla, insults.

Thanks for playing, Hank.

Folks, you can agree or disagree with Hank's political view. Foaming at the mouth will influence very few, but you may agree.

The underlying message here is most interesting. Hanks wants more of the vicious bi-polar politics he reveled in under the slate of Duboc. He urges you to split this town once more so he can find a friend.

Proof? Look at his last dozen or more posts. He insults and dismisses anyone who disagrees with him. It is not about the issue it is about his people, his party and his opinion.

We ran him and his gang out by record numbers in 2006. If he continues with this negative blast approach, the gap will only widen.

Hank, we don't like the negative politics you are peddling. We are tired of it, embarrassed by the childish insults and we as a community want to move on.

If the candidates in 2010 deserve a look, we will give them a look. But not out of spite and negative nasty stuff like you sell.

Again, your tone and rhetoric is nasty and very off putting. I will bet that face to face, you don't have nearly the bones to take that tone. In fact, knowing you, I know you don't.

You may find this approach humorous and this it is amusing. I can't find the humor. There is no Andy Kaufman in your tool chest.

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Posted by Through the looking glass
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on May 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Truth has it all wrong. He attacks Mr. Lawrence because he does not like his message. Truth never sites facts as Mr. Lawrence almost always does. While Mr. Lawrence may often attack the side he disagrees with he provides a reason for doing so. Truth is nothing more than an attack dog for the council currently in power.

While Mr. Lawrence may have an unconventional style he almost always points out a weaknesses or inaction on the part of the current council.

Truth, on the other hand rarely provides reasons for his verbal assaults on other people. His postings are nothing more than rambling incoherent virulent rhetoric with virtually no message other than one must hate the people whom Truth hates.

Mr.Lawrence does not desire to split this town. The fact is that Menlo Park has been split for years prior to Mr. Lawrence's arrival on the political scene. Truth's arguments are specious and hypocritical. He stated in his last posting:

"I will bet that face to face, you don't have nearly the bones to take that tone. In fact, knowing you, I know you don't."

Yet Truth's cowardice revealed in his hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. While I believe that Mr. Lawrence's tone may be acerbic at times at least he has the courage to identify himself. Why doesn't Truth reveal who is is?

This town has two political sides. One should become familiar with each side's approach and make their own choice.

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Posted by Face facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 10, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Through the Looking Glass really has gone through, and his/her Wonderland musings are comical at best. Hank Lawrence cites facts? Here's a summary of Hank's "facts": Kool-aid drinking socialists/far-left-wingers/environmental extremists/slavish Slocum devotees blah blah blah blah blah hate capitalism hate Menlo Park ruining Menlo Park throw out the Kool-aid drinkers to fix Menlo Park blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Hank is entitled to his opinions. It's a shame that he has to destroy any credibility that he might otherwise have by his infantile black-and-white ravings.

And regarding the "cloak of anonymity": What makes you so sure that Hank -- and other posters on this forum -- don't use their real names sometimes and use a pseudonym at others? I've read a few too many posts with obviously made-up names that I'd be willing to bet lots of money were written by Hank. His "signature" goes beyond the name he chooses to sign on with.

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Posted by way to go
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 10, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Hank thoroughly enjoys divisive politics. That's pretty clear from all his ranting about leftists and the last paragraph of his most recent post. Let's all remember that our council is non-partisan, and most of us don't care whether our council members vote Democrat or Republican as long as they truly want to do what is best for our city and its residents.

Through/Hank has no arguments to buttress his denial of Truth's facts. Mickie and Lee were soundly defeated in 2006. Fact. Hank and friends (Frank, Henry, Mary, Lou) couldn't manage to talk anyone into running on "their side" in 2008. The lone dark horse candidate came in a distant third behind incumbents.

Car dealerships: most closed shop during the reign of Mickie, Nick, and Lee. They didn't do anything to try to keep them in our city or take any action to repair the holes left. Nor did they have anything to do with the Rosewood; they didn't even hear about it until the process was pretty far along.

I don't remember a time that I've heard fewer complaints about city politics. Even though things are far from perfect, most people seem to be aware of the El Camino visioning and other inclusive planning efforts. As wretched as our economy is, there is hope in our city and that is a great thing. But Hank/Through and friends will always find a reason to complain.

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Posted by Hank's Alternative Universe!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 10, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Personally, I like the one where Hank claims PG&E are a bunch of wacko environmentalists. That and his notion that city government should be a website (run by a private entity). Police, fire, etc. - all privitized. The Libertarian --- dream!

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 10, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I will give $100 to the first person who can find a posting by me that advocates that City Governmentr should be run by a website. Sheer fantasy on the part of the hysterical left. I have stated many times that sworn police officers should be City employees. Also I never claimed that PG&E are a bunch of wacko environmentalists only that PG&E had some employees who were environmental chauvanists.

You brave souls who refuse to use your real names really crack me up. Thanks for the entertainment. I really enjoy your irrational ravings.

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Posted by Correct!
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 10, 2009 at 9:40 pm

"Through The Looking Glass" is DEAD on! Excellent post! Finally, someone that articulated what [portion removed; see terms of use] "The Truth" is all about. I cannot believe he/she, The Truth, managed to add that whole "Duboc" thing in an email, AGAIN! It never ceases to amaze me. I wish The Truth would at least get out of the basement, put some clothes on, at least blog with some professionalism! Nice job "Through The Looking class", best post of the year!

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Posted by Big Daddy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 11, 2009 at 7:24 am

There has come to be a powerful and obnoxious odor of an echo chamber on this thread. Didn't 'through the looking glass' suggest that Hank doesn't use false names? Do I smell mendacity?

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Posted by way to go
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 11, 2009 at 8:01 am

Hank doesn't use false names. He uses Hank, which is his name. He uses Through the Looking Glass and Correct, which are nicknames. None of these is a false name.

In the mind of Hank, all is perfectly consistent because he is not a wacko socialist left winger.

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Posted by Hank lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 11, 2009 at 9:24 am

I smell desperation on the part of the far left. They are afraid that the tide is turning on them. The fact is that many people support what I post and write in to support my positions. So quit your bellyaching you lugubrious libs. If Heyward and Richard don't start doing something about the urban blight rather than studying it to death they will be voted out of office.

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Posted by Prediction
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 11, 2009 at 11:15 am

I DO support what Mr. Lawrence says, most times. Yes, he's a little off with his preaching about national issues, etc., but with Menlo Park, he seems most times, dead on.

My prediction: car dealerships will be like this for at least another 2 years, theater another 3-5 years, Derry Project dead, Revisioning - $1M expense, nothing happens, Robinson and Cline get elected again because many people are just apathetic, have given up and are just trying to keep themselves "above water" before our city council votes in more tax increases, or continues to make no decisions...........

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Posted by my observation
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm

[Portion removed; see terms of use] Where were the many people supporting you in November Hank?

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 12, 2009 at 9:43 am

Hank or Joe McCarthy...?

"You are seeing today an all out attempt
to marshal the forces of the opposition,
using not merely the communists, or their
fellow travelers-the deluded liberals, the
eggheads, and some of my good friends
in both the Democratic and Republican Parties
who can become heroes over night in the eyes
of the left-wing press if the
will just join with the jackal pack"

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Posted by Helpful Heloise
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 12, 2009 at 10:24 am


Sounds like a good word to add to your liberal-bashing vocabulary, Hank, as you seem to be running out of alternatives (although "lugubrious" was a good new one!) and you would NEVER want to be labeled as a "wacko environmentalist" (isn't that redundant?) because you recycled something, now would you?

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Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Folks, this was a thread about a zoning ordinance amendment and it has really gone far afield. I do want to point out something that seems to be a misunderstanding. The new definition does not limit unusable space to 3%; it merely does not count up to 3% of the unusable space. If a project owner needs more than that, then they certainly can build it. Most cities count all space taller than 6 feet, so by not counting up to 3%, Menlo Park actually has become more lenient.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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