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Former Menlo Park Mayors Op-ed

From: domainremoved <Steve>
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2014 21:04:35 -0700

Nine Former Menlo Park Mayors Support SaveMenlo Initiative

We the undersigned are former Menlo Park Mayors who have served Menlo Park
for a total of 64 years. We come together to answer the question posed by
the Almanac on March 25 whether to sign or not to sign the SaveMenlo
initiative petition. Our response is an unreserved and wholehearted, “Yes,

Never before in Menlo Park has there been a more grave question. As former
mayors we weathered many controversial issues, some that were decided by a
referendum, an initiative or an election that had political ramifications.
None were easy.

Facing our council today is an initiative that was launched by a
neighborhood grass roots organization that feels its council has let it
down. It was a bold step, as their only recourse was to take their case to
the real stakeholders, their fellow residents, the voters. We believe their
case is strong.

The Specific Plan (SP) began with good intentions that we supported. The
Plan’s 12 goals described in clear and reassuring terms what the residents
expressed both at public meetings and through mail surveys: to maintain the
town’s village character while providing greater east/west connectivity,
revitalizing underutilized parcels, expanding shopping, dining and
neighborhood services to ensure vibrancy, providing new residential
opportunities and including accessible public open space. A promise that
resonated was that the Plan would “ensure that El Camino Real development
would be sensitive to and compatible with adjacent neighborhoods.”

Unfortunately, the reality of the two large proposals before the City
contradicts the vision promised during the SP process. Large office
complexes were not sought by the residents. Residents heard descriptions
and saw renderings of moderate developments that featured a balance of
retail, restaurants, a hotel, office, plaza and undercrossings of the train
tracks. We believed that the Plan would make revitalization more
predictable for developers, and the rules would support the community’s

When, in the first 2 years of a 30-year plan the first two development
proposals on El Camino Real exceed by 50% the projected office growth and
are 88% of the non-residential growth projected, there needs to be a
serious re-evaluation. The proposals from Stanford and Greenheart have
revealed the flaws in the SP that will rob from other property owners in
the Plan Area the opportunity to easily redevelop their properties. This is
in stark contradiction of the SP’s purpose.

The City needs a long range plan that provides certainty for property
owners and residents alike. The initiative corrects three flaws in the Plan
and offers a more moderate approach by capping office uses on the three
largest parcels on El Camino Real to 100,000 SF, so as to preserve space
for retail, hotel, housing, and local serving businesses.

When the SP’s growth limits have been reached for office and
non-residential development, any amendment to the SP that would increase
the square footage limits that were approved July 12, 2012 can only be
approved by Menlo Park voters.

The initiative also modifies the definition of open space so private
balconies above the first floor are not counted as project open space. A
private balcony should be private.

The $150,000 the Council recently allocated to study the initiative should
be used to determine if the SP can actually work for the next 28 years
considering that the limit for office development has almost been reached
in the first 2 years. When the build out limits are reached, will the City
amend the Plan to allow more development and return to a piecemeal
approach? Impacts to traffic, the city’s budget, the balance of
jobs/housing, and school classroom size seem to have been severely

The Greenheart and Stanford proposals have opened our eyes to the flaws in
the SP. As currently written, it will not assure a reasonable projection of
balanced growth for the next 28 years. We strongly encourage Menlo Park
residents to sign SaveMenlo’s petition, which we see as a conservative
compromise that will confirm the Specific Plan’s goals.

Jack Morris 1982-1994 * Gail Slocum 1990-1994 * Steve Schmidt 1994-2002

Mary Jo Borak 1998-2002 * Paul Collacchi 1996-2004 * Chuck Kinney 1996-2004

Heyward Robinson 2006-2010 * Kelly Fergusson 2004-2012 * Andy Cohen
Received on Wed Apr 23 2014 - 21:03:14 PDT

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