Original post made
on Jul 14, 2013
In asserting your "rights", you are unfortunately continuing to rewrite and distort the facts. You also give absolutely no weight to the rights of the neighborhood and the dozens of neighbors on Louise Street and throughout Menlo Park who believe your plans destabilize and fundamentally alter the character of our neighborhood.
1) There was no "old driveway" from Santa Cruz to Louise Street. Your property has used its driveway on Santa Cruz for the duration of its existence. As dozens of current and former residents of the Street have testified, the "driveway" on Louise Street never existed. In fact, your first letter to the owners of the adjacent property made very clear reference to your interest in constructing a "new access" to Louise Street. It was only after homeowners on the Street expressed concern about construction of this "new access" that your story changed, and you began referring to an "old driveway" that no one who currently lives or previously lived on Louise Street ever saw or used.
2) You have not, as you claim "recently been using the existing dirt driveway". You have cut down shrubs and trees in the City-owned green space and driven over mature ivy and shrubs to manufacture a driveway where none existed. In fact, on at least four occasions over the last year you have flouted the City's requests and explicit direction to refrain from performing work in the disputed area until the City made its final determination. The rear fence of your property and the area leading to that fence were completely obscured by ivy and mature trees and shrubs when you purchased the property. You and your crews have since removed substantial greenery from the area, including cutting down multiple trees and shrubs on the city-owned land and trampling the ivy so thoroughly that it bears no resemblance to its prior appearance. Dozens of neighbors who have lived on the street for decades - including four families who've lived in the homes directly adjacent to the green space - have testified that no vehicle ever used the rear gate to your property. It was used for pedestrian access only - access that your neighbors on Louise Street have offered to preserve and formalize - and it appears even for pedestrians, the gate was used most recently more than 20 years ago.
3) Your comment that the neighbors "vowed to organize the neighborhood against" you is also a fabrication. The neighborhood made very concerted efforts to work with you from the beginning. When you placed flags and markers in the green space, the neighbors began asking questions of each other and of the City. When the neighbors learned of your plans, several approached you and City Staff for explanations, and also met with you and City Staff several times to attempt to understand your plans and come to an agreement. The neighbors want your property to have the pedestrian access to Louise Street it has historically enjoyed, similar to the access enjoyed by your neighbors at 1833 Santa Cruz. We are simply working to protect a small open space that has been enjoyed for generations by hundreds of current and former residents from being paved over for the benefit of a single developer.
4) Your suggestion that the conditional encroachment permit issued to you by Public Works somehow constituted a show of support for your plans is also a distortion. Before issuing any permit, Public Works directed you to work with the neighborhood and ultimately issued you a "conditional" encroachment permit with the full understanding that the neighbors would appeal. You were not allowed by that permit to perform any work on the City-owned land until the neighborhood appeal was heard. As noted above, that didn't stop you from repeatedly performing substantial work on City-owned land without a permit.
5) Your article fails to note the multiple occasions that the City has ruled against your plans.
* The Planning Department has twice said "no" to your requests to flip your house and change its address from one on Santa Cruz to one on Louise Street. (That hasn't stopped you from repeatedly advertising the property for sale with a fictitious Louise Street address even after being asked by the City to stop.)
* The City Council voted in March to support the neighborhood appeal of your encroachment permit and also voted unanimously to pursue abandonment of the land to the neighbors.
* The Planning Commission has ruled that abandonment of the land to the neighbors is consistent with the Menlo Park General Plan, which seeks to preserve the existing character and stability of neighborhoods.
Sam, your actions have already significantly changed the character of our neighborhood. What used to be lush green space is now characterized by tree stumps, trampled ivy, and a dilapidated fence. When you drove bulldozers and a dump truck - unannounced - through the City-owned open space onto your property last month, it was hugely destabilizing to the neighborhood. You seem to have forgotten, but this is where your neighbors live.
You have claimed in the past to be a good neighbor. Neighbors listen to one another. They listen to the City. The Planning Department has twice said "no" to your request for an address change. The City Council has said "no" to your encroachment permit. The Planning Commission has said abandonment of the land to the neighbors is consistent with the Menlo Park General Plan. Hundreds of neighbors have expressed their opinion that your plans are not good for Louise Street, for the neighborhood, or for Santa Cruz Avenue. Multiple individual City representatives have said the same.
Please, for the good of the neighborhood, your neighbors, and your City, it's time for you to set aside your motive of further increasing your profits on the sale of your property, to listen to the neighbors and the City, and to show that you can, in fact, be a good neighbor.
Amen to the Louise Street resident above...