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Comments on the General Plan Update for Menlo Park

From: domainremoved <Skip>
Date: Mon, 24 Aug 2015 08:07:22 -0700

As a 22 year resident of Menlo Park - including 18 years as a homeowner in
the Suburban Park neighborhood - I have followed the General Plan Update
process closely, and participated in many of the community input sessions
hosted by the ConnectMenlo project. I have also encouraged my neighbors and
friends across the whole city to participate in this process. After
reviewing the Notice of Preparation for draft EIR (June 18, 2015) I am
happy to see that the project has included much of the feedback of the
community. I commend the GPAC on the process and progress thus far.

I am also aware of the growing resistance by some residents to the rezoning
and circulation plans for the M-2 that are proposed as part of the General
Plan Update. The resistance seems to come from the same group of
residents that have opposed any type of growth or progress in our City. Many
of these people were behind the ill-fated Measure M proposition in the fall
of 2014. I am sure they prefer to have vacant car lots behind chain link
fencing on El Camino Real for as long as possible, since it means there
will be no people living, working or shopping downtown, and therefore less
traffic. But it also means our downtown will never become the vibrant
city center we hope for, because we lack the foot traffic that creates
economic opportunity for merchants. What the no-growthers lack is a
vision of rational and progressive development that will actually *reduce*
traffic by leveraging public transportation while *increasing* the vibrancy
and amenities for our residents. I think we are now seeing that vision
for the M-2 with the ConnectMenlo project.

It is clear that while the General Plan serves all of Menlo park, the focus
in the Update is the M-2 district northeast of Hwy 101. Interestingly,
most of the people that oppose these plans do not live in or near the
project area. In fact the residents that live near or in the project area
are generally in favor of increased development in the M-2 as long as it:
(1) provides amenities not currently available to local residents; (2)
creates a vibrant “second downtown” area with mixed-use retail,
residential, office; (3) provides additional open spaces; and (4) offers
increased public transportation options that will reduce car traffic. In
my opinion the ConnectMenlo project achieves all of these objectives, and
GPAC has my full support to move forward with the EIR.

As with any plan, there is always room for improvement. I would like to
propose a few additional ideas that relate specifically to the Circulation
options in and around the Dumbarton Rail corridor.

1. Please consider only allowing electric trains (light rail) on the
Dumbarton Rail corridor. Many homeowners and businesses near the
Dumbarton Rail line are very concerned about noisy, polluting
diesel-electric locomotives running by their property multiple times a day.
I am sure that Union-Pacific would like to run freight along this corridor
if reopened – but that will kill a lot of support for M-2 improvements from
these neighbors if comes with reopening the line.

2. Light rail will allow for more stations between Willow Road and Woodside
Road that can serve many neighborhoods along the route. In particular,
additional stations on the southwest side of 101 that can serve the
Bohannon Drive office workers, as well additional stations at 5th Avenue
that could serve both Redwood City and North Fair Oaks. Of course, this
will require coordination and cooperation with both Caltrain and Redwood
City officials.

3. Consider zoning for more retail and open space near the Dumbarton Rail
transit centers. For some reason the proposed station locations do not
include zoning for retail, which could be very successful as it serves
commuters and residents alike.

4. Plan for multiple uses of the Dumbarton Rail corridor in addition to
light rail. The proposed greenway / bicycle and running path running
parallel to the tracks is a great idea. When combined with safe rail
crossings and protected bicycle routes to office retail and residents, this
can become an active commuter route as well as popular recreation route for
workers and residents.

5. Ensure that Facebook, the new Life Sciences office park tenants, and the
Hotel operators all offer free or heavily discounted transit passes for
their workers that are wiling to get out of their cars (or even forgo the
Facebook buses) to take the new, eco-friendly public transit.

Thank you for your continued efforts, and I look forward to watching
ConnectMenlo and the M-2 improvements as they move forward. I will support
the City and local agencies to make this new downtown a reality, and
quickly. We need to move up the pace of change and progress in Menlo Park.


Skip Hilton
Resident of the Suburban Park neighborhood

Skip Hilton
Received on Mon Aug 24 2015 - 08:05:33 PDT

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