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Connect Menlo Study Session

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2019 17:33:33 -0700

Dear Council,

During your recent Goal Setting meetings, you heard from many members of
the BH Committee with concerns and actionable suggestions that pertain to
the Connect Menlo process. It’s clear that the effort has led to many
unintended (or perhaps known, but not fully realized) consequences. Belle
Haven residents have suggested the idea of a community-led Belle Haven
Neighborhood Master Plan. I hope that tonight’s study session will lead to
such an effort. Models online include the 2016 Westwood Neighborhood plan
<https://www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/646/documents/planning/Plans/Westwood_Neighborhood_Plan.pdf>
in Denver.

Evaluation of Connect Menlo Effort

The staff report refers to the Guiding Principles and asks how well the
Connect Menlo effort has achieved these. Based on reviewing results of an early
survey
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/5838/Survey_Combined_10_15_14?bidId=>
related to establishing these Guidelines, it appears that Staff supplied
the initial short list of possible Guiding Principles. Thus Staff set the
initial parameters instead of using a more open and resident-driven
process. Right there, that skewed the process towards what Staff thought
the Guiding Principles should be.

I think we also need an actual scorecard so that we can assess just how
well the Connect Menlo effort has achieved the Guiding Principles. I've
looked at the list in the General Plan
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/15013/Land-Use-and-Circulation-Element_adopted-112916_final_figures?bidId=>and
my score would be low for most.

Robust Community Outreach?

The staff report asserts that the Connect Menlo (CM) effort included a
“robust community outreach process” (Background section). An advisory
committee and many public meetings does not necessary translate into
inclusive or effective public engagement.

The CM Advisory Committee included David Bohannon as an “at large”
representative. One can find the minutes of these meetings by googling
Menlo Park General Plan and M-2 Zoning Update General Plan Advisor
Committee. I will link to the Meeting #1 Summary.
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/5746/1-GPAC1_Summary?bidId=> I
consider Bohonnon's presence to represent a major conflict of interest
because he stood to benefit materially from higher density zoning changes
in Belle Haven. His presence was equivalent to putting a fox on a committee
charged with improving the hen house. Bohonnon’s presence took up committee
space that more rightly belonged to a Belle Haven community leader or
stakeholder. Why give a developer prominence over BH community
stakeholders and residents? Instead, he could have joined the masses
limited to trying to influence the process via attending meetings and using
their 3 minutes of public comment at the microphone.

(It’s time to consider the outsized influence of private industry in MP and
to consider new staffing and other models that reduce this influence.
Bohonnon currently sits on the MP Chamber of Commerce’s Board of directors
<http://menloparkchamber.com/about/staff-board-members/> along with
Facebook's VP of Development, John Tenanes. In what other ways might
developers collectively be in positions where their influence is magnified
via the whole?)

How many actual BH residents did the CM Advisory Committee include? When
reviewing the names, I suspect few. One represented the gentrification
element in Belle Haven. Then, some Committee members missed multiple
meetings and who knows how well those present actually represented the
interests of the BH residents.

Another omission was the lack of representation from the Library
Commission. By then, staff should have known how important a new Branch
Library was to BH Residents. Although I was a relatively new Library
Commission at the time, I already knew about this priority. Despite this,
the CM Advisory Committee did not include a representative from the Library
Commission.

When I learned about the omission, I assumed this was a mistake. So I wrote
Ms. Chow to ask if the CM Committee could include someone from the LC. I
pointed out that the Bicycle Commission had two slots! Her response was
basically “No.” Library Management also appeared unconcerned and told me
that I could “attend meetings.” Well I attended what I could and many BH
Residents were visibly upset as they expressed their concerns over the
Connect Menlo process and the impact of displacement on their community. The
General Plan (Nov 29, 2016) document lists the Library Commission in its
Acknowledgements page. Given the LC’s non-role as part of the official
process, adding us is misleading.

I suspect that there were other questionable or problematic aspects to the
public outreach. For example, I’ve seen the “dot voting” method used to
prioritize feedback at other City meetings that were packed with vested
interests. If the Connect Menlo process used a dot voting method, the
presence of developers and their employees would skew the results.

It’s time for a new approach to planning in Menlo Park and to reconsider
Belle Haven’s role as the financial bread basket for Menlo Park. I’d like
to see a breakout of all districts in terms of the total sales and property
tax revenue that flows from them to the City’s coffers. I’d like to see the
development (and its negative consequences) more evenly distributed
throughout Menlo Park.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Tue Mar 26 2019 - 17:29:40 PDT

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