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    The taller buildings step back on the upper stories, so it doesn’t block out the sun.



    At least it’s not like New Jersey traffic circles where drivers stop while in the circle, not entering.



    “The city of Menlo Park is free to change the map of the plan area if it wants, to rezone parcels into and out of the area, and its free to allow or disallow whatever uses it wants in whatever zones it wants, but if cannot change which parcels are counted toward the Initiative cap and it cannot change which uses are counted toward the Initiative cap.”

    NOT TRUE. Sec 3.1 defines the Specific Plan area:

    3.1. ECR SPECIFIC PLAN AREA DEFINED. When referring to the “ECR Specific Plan Area,” this initiative measure is referring to the bounded area within the Vision Plan Area Map located at Page 2, Figure I, of the El Camino Real/Downtown Vision Plan, accepted by the Menlo Park city Council on July 15, 2008, which is attached as Exhibit 1 to this measure and hereby adopted by the voters as an integral part of this
    initiative measure.”

    And Section section 4.1 it states:

    “4.1. Except for as provided at Section 3.4.4 above regarding the City’s ability to approve without voter ratification an amendment to the Specific Plan to
    accommodate development proposals that would call for an increase in the allowable number of residential units under the Specific Plan, the voter adopted
    development standards AND DEFINITIONS set forth in Section 3, above, may be repealed or amended only by a majority vote of the electorate of the City of Menlo Park voting “YES” on a ballot measure proposing such repeal or amendment at a regular or special election.”

    What is not clear about that?



    “Let me also address the mistaken notion that all of these rules and definitions would need a vote of the people to change” since many versions of this claim have surfaced and none have been shown to be true.”

    But it is TRUE. In section 3 of the initiative there are 12 separate definitions and in section 4.1 it staes:

    “4.1. Except for as provided at Section 3.4.4 above regarding the City’s ability to approve without voter ratification an amendment to the Specific Plan to
    accommodate development proposals that would call for an increase in the allowable number of residential units under the Specific Plan, the voter adopted
    development standards AND DEFINITIONS set forth in Section 3, above, may be repealed or amended only by a majority vote of the electorate of the City of Menlo Park voting “YES” on a ballot measure proposing such repeal or amendment at a regular or special election.”

    What is not clear about that???



    I meant to say you should never “EXPECT” not assume, that your town will stay the same in the long term



    As do hotels. A resident of Menlo Park is far more likely to find non car base routines for work/shopping than a tourist



    San Jose is not substantially more dense than Menlo Park. I read your statement as “San Jose has brown people – I don’t want that”.

    Menlo has that reputation – the one part of Menlo with lower income residents – north of 101, the rest of Menlo tried to eliminate the bike/ped bridge between the two areas.



    I’m still upset they took protected bike lanes through the Broadway Tunnel and down to the Embarcadero off the table so early in the planning process. Broadway should be so much more than just another traffic sewer.



    I’m still upset they took protected bike lanes through the tunnel and down to the Embarcadero off the table early in the planning process for this. Broadway should be so much more than just another traffic sewer.


    Fay Nissenbaum

    I’m re-reading this blog and there’s a fundamental flaw in the word “public” in Aaron’s argument: “Today, there is no more widespread private use of public space than free car storage.” The public parking on a street is not “private”. A space designated for a commercial entity is a private or business use. So me parking my motorcycle on the street can never be a private use – knock off the bullshit double-speak, respectfully, sir.



    No the purpose of that comment that the Santa Clara Valley going from all orchards to the most tech savvy region, was just to let you know that times change sometimes, towns or places go through changes and that can be inevitable sometimes, i never meant to say that to justify denser development. My point is that you can never assume that your town will stay the same the way it is without changes in the long term that’s all, that’s where my example is going at. There were probably some people who wish the Santa Clara Valley didn’t go through these changes in land use and prefer that area remained undeveloped but of course it was developed anyways


    Andy Chow

    The issue is whether it is worth the cost and hassles to solve the problem. Essentially, you need dedicated buses with bridge plates to make it ADA compliant. You won’t be able to run other buses and they will have to stay on the main roadway and use curb stops, denying them with the benefit of exclusive busway.

    Dedicated vehicles mean additional maintenance cost and removing operational flexibility.

    The benefit of level boarding is marginal compared to the current boarding situation with only 1 step. The time saving is very little for most abled bodied folks, as well as for people with strollers and luggage. For the disabled folks, level boarding means changing doors when they board or exit at a BRT stop and a non-BRT stop, and that they still need to have a ramp deployed (whether it is a standard bus ramp or a bridge plate) to board or exit.



    After a second glance I replied to inaccuracies in Nate’s post. Note that at no point was he writing about you specifically; he was speaking about what he terms “NIMBYS” in general.

    I never insulted your intelligence at any point. I ask you to refrain from putting words in my mouth.

    Yes, in addition to governmental bureaucracy structured against development, zoning is often jobs-killing government regulation. Keep in mind that Steve Jobs using his garage not for the purposes of storing a vehicle but for starting a very successful business like Apple was a violation of zoning code. Zoning imposes high transaction costs on hard working Americans wanting to start their own business, from a person wanting to repurpose their garage into a small hair salon to entrepreneurs wanting to start the next multinational corporation.

    As petty actions taken in one place have a copycat effect nationwide, zoning issues of one city are of national economic concern. Plenty of Americans would want a job rebuilding our cities; it is past time to remove governmental barriers preventing economic activity for the betterment of this country.



    Locked at dusk? Uh, people don’t stop walking and biking at night any more than people stop driving. As Adina says, they can design it to be less of an attraction for misuse.



    Yeah! It’s definitely not a hill for quick and easy commuting. The detour over to the route by Highway 101 is doable but it’s also not exactly flat, runs along a highway, and adds quite a bit of distance.

    As for the cycletracks-on-arterials thing, broad question but does anyone know of any progress on that front? It seems I’m not the only one to notice this:



    Nate, not all Republicans or conservatives oppose development projects, and not all that oppose development projects are Republican or lean conservative. Associating developers with greed (in essence, profit motive) is an argument often made by liberals or Democrats in opposition, not conservatives or Republicans.


    Nicasio Nakamine

    100% this. I hope the evaluations show that the tunnel is in decent shape because this could mean so much for commuting. I love going over Camino Alto or Horse Hill on rides for pleasure, but they seriously slow down down travel when trying to get anywhere. I can only imagine a rider less strong than I would just not even bother.



    Crying ADA seems like a poor excuse for a problem that many many cities have solved. You can maybe have station platforms with multiple boarding areas for different level buses. You can maybe get new wheels that don’t have lugnuts that stick out 6 inches or new lugnuts. You can SOLVE the problem instead of making excuses.

    By building sub-standard BRT, you’re not only doing a disservice to customers, you’re giving BRT itself a bad name in the area. When people experience significantly slower boarding times, they’re not going to think, “yes it’s slow, but the lugnuts and ADA meant that this was best they could do”. No, they’ll think, “this sucks, i wish they’d built light rail”, a much more expensive solution that takes longer to build and has less service possibilities.



    Wow Zmapoer, I didn’t see you come to my defense above when Nate called me a NIMBY Republican in drag for daring suggest the residents of Menlo Park have a right to see the zoning laws respected.

    If you don’t want your intelligence a subject here, don’t insult my intelligence by trying to equate developer exploitation of Menlo Park with some kind of patriotic nationbuilding.

    You think zoning is “jobs-killing government regulation”?

    Why fight an expensive battle here, then, where residents do not want their town turned into San Jose? Why not take the development to all those suffering places that could really use the job creation? We really do not have the need or the capacity to pack every one of 300 million people in this nation here, and in fact it’s not



    Re: Marin bike commuting, the Alto Tunnel will be a very important link in the Marin bikeway system:

    Currently to go between Corte Madera and Mill Valley you have to either bike over that big hill or take a major detour east to bike alongside 101.

    Another big-scale project that will really help will be getting a bikeway on the San Rafael/Richmond bridge.

    Besides big-scale projects Marin could also really benefit from a network of high-quality protected cycletracks along arterials. Right now Marin does fairly well with the whole intercity biking thing but very much has a “last-mile” problem with safe bikeable routes. For example 4th St in San Rafael, Sir Francis Drake in San Anselmo, Blithedale or Miller in Mill Valley, etc.

    I’d be willing to bet that 90% or more of Marin County residents live within a mile or two of the North-South Bikeway so even getting protected cycletracks on just a handful of adjoining arterials would make a huge difference in terms of utilitarian, accessible bikeability throughout the county.



    Attacking the intelligence of anyone, as well as asserting that anyone in this discussion has ties to developers is an ad hominem attack that does little to further discussion. Please refrain from ad hominem attacks.

    Additionally, by attacking developers you are attacking the jobs of the men and women who have built this great nation. While your region has been relatively sheltered from the recent recession, many parts of this nation have yet to recover from high unemployment. Removing jobs-killing governmental regulations such as zoning not directly linked to clear expressions of police powers allows for greater economic mobility. Developers build a stronger America, both by creating short-term construction jobs as well as providing the housing necessary for residents of this nation to relocate to where jobs meet their skill set, such as the Silicon Valley.

    In short, while the jobs and economic mobility advantages a single project offers are negligible, it is a microcosm of how jobs-killing regulations nationwide that inhibit developers from rebuilding in our cities harm the economic future of America.


    Andy Chow

    Remember all those countries don’t have ADA so they can have something that can be considered level boarding according to laypersons even though they are not ADA compliant (ADA has very specific technical requirements).

    Most of the standard buses in developing countries have high steps, poor emission standards, and lack of air conditioning. A lot of them don’t operate as a transit system but a bunch of small companies competing for business. The BRT lines may often have the largest and best buses in that city.

    In Muni’s case, the busway is meant to speed up existing routes that crisscross the city, and that they will use the current fleet (purchase off-the-shelf “buy America” compliant) rather than obtaining a special fleet for that route.


    Fay Nissenbaum

    You neglect to mention the pattern in City policies – making day-to-day living in San Francisco more expensive. Fee follows fee with the justification that people must be herded, pushed, prodded to “green-ness”. If you’re one of the monied elites, it will just cost a few more shekels to get around what vexes the little people. In this jobless shit economic recovery, so many locals are struggling to pay the bills and as for savings – what’s that? So, why in hell is MUNI raising the cost to ride a bus when that’s the little people’s only alternative? Green is for people who already have plenty of green it would seem…



    If you follow any of these discussions, you’ll learn that the promise or desire that nothing should ever change applies *only* to the built environment. I’ve never heard any complaints about the resulting “change” in home values of 10x to 50x the purchase price (until of course, it comes to paying taxes on these gains, or the demographic changes associated with creating an area only affordable to the super wealthy).



    Most (or at least many) of those “mature trees” are Eucalyptus. Ripping them out goes in the list of positives, not negatives.



    Lugnuts are what’s stopping Muni from building platform-level stations? Are you kidding me??

    Seriously, if cities in India, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, China, Ecuador, Peru, and Guatemala can all figure out how to build BRT systems with platform level boarding, surely San Francisco can figure it out as well. And I’m pretty sure they use lugnuts on their buses as well.



    Also the path leading from the transit center toward ECR/Stanford is unlit, and it serves as a homeless residence and latrine at night.



    Looks like Conencticut has not problem with level boarding



    Wait, you’re saying that Menlo Park has become *less tech savvy* in the last 5 years because developers have *proposed* to build 4 and 5 story buildings? How does that make any sense whatsoever?

    Here’s an alternative theory. The reason your infrastructure is being “strained” (I take that to mean traffic congestion) is because of the growth in tech jobs located in auto oriented offices along 101 during the last 5 years, such as the new Facebook campus. If Menlo Park and the other peninsula cities encouraged employers to locate closer to transit, a much larger share of work trips would be taken on transit, and your roads wouldn’t be so congested.


    SanFrancisco Professor

    Good to hear. I suppose it also could be locked at dusk, to prevent camping, if that became a problem. There’s quite a problem just in the Palo Alto parking garages at present, as I’m sure you’re aware.



    Our orchard past is irrelevant to current land use regulations and General Plan. Five years ago, before this recent push by developers for high-density development that has strained our infrastructure, this was a tech savvy area, too. If you allow overdevelopment for the short-term benefit of a few developers, eventually the tech types will find somewhere nicer again, and we will be left holding the high-density bag. We do not benefit from it, and land use regulations are on the side of residents who don’t want their town exploited that way.

    And yes, for a town that is mostly single-story, a 4 and 5 story high density building is a high-density high-rise.



    Progressives don’t believe in socializing everything, the right word for that point of view is socialism.

    Progressives believe that government should do the things that governments do best and that free enterprise should do the things that it does best. Some things definitely need to be priced by market mechanisms for Progressives.

    You might feel otherwise and that is fine, but just call yourself a Socialist then.



    The “Homer Tunnel” in Palo Alto, about a mile up the road, works just fine. It is short, well-lit, clean and well-maintained.



    Oh, just build MUNI rail. This route needs rail anyway.



    Oh and speaking of you don’t have the right to change Menlo Park into San Jose suit to “my taste” you got to remember that half a century ago or somewhat Silicon Valley use to be in area with orchards, in other words there use to be farms out there and now it has grown and changed into the most tech savvy area in the world. I understand there are somethings you don’t want to change, but sometimes, times change and anything could happen, sometimes change is inevitable whether you or I likes it or not, and of course in most parts I’m not advocating that or suggesting that I want to see a small town like Menlo Park become another San Jose, it doesn’t have to be either or and sometimes it doesn’t have to be a all or nothing approach.



    I wouldn’t classify that development like the photo above showing the proposed building as a “high rise,” it’s more of a low to mid-rise somewhat of a development. I can understand and do agree that yes like any other developments it will have an impact on the existing infrastructure no doubt about that. Though it might slightly change the character maybe of the El Camino Real Corridor, I still just don’t see how the character of the entire town of Menlo Park changing in a big way. I would assume that most of Menlo Park would remain the way it is with the town still consisting of Single Family housing.



    But it wasn’t a big deal.



    I have answered you. If you don’t know how to define the word “character” look in a dictionary. If you want to understand how it applies to land use, read your City’s general plan.

    Maybe it will help you to read about land use law?
    Citizens guide to planning and land use law from the state of California.

    The residents of this town do have a right to keep their town from being turned into San Jose.

    “The local general plan can be described as the city’s or county’s “blueprint” for future development. It represents the community’s view of its future; a constitution made up of the goals and policies upon which the city council, board of supervisors, and planning commission will base their land use decisions. To illustrate its importance, all subdivisions, public works projects, and zoning decisions (except in charter cities other than Los Angeles) must be consistent with the general plan. If inconsistent, they must not be approved.” (Residents can also go to court to have inconsistent land uses stopped.)


    “Development must not only meet the specific requirements of the zoning ordinance, but also the broader policies set forth in the local general plan.”

    So apparently in Menlo Park, which is not a charter city like Palo Alto, the way around having to obey land use law is to make specific plans like this one. Well, luckily, there are some democratic ways residents can fight for their rights.



    Citizens guide to planning and land use law. Luckily the people who put forward this initiative and the residents of this town are more intelligent than the trolls hired by the developer.



    the so-called high-rises include buildings with 2, 3, 4, and 5 stories. Even a 5 story building is not a high-rise. Buildings in San Jose can go up to 27 stories. There is a difference between 5 and 27.



    “changes the character of the place”
    Again, you have still failed to define this terms in concrete terms. What does “character” as it applies to a city mean to you?

    Additionally, you have provided no basis as to why a hypothetical actor “[doesn't] have the right to change Menlo into San Jose.”



    You are aware that zoning is based off of police powers, not contract law? Gub’mint owes you no promises about the future.


    SanFrancisco Professor

    “Ped-bike tunnel” beneath the tracks? Wouldn’t a tunnel quickly become a latrine for the constant camps of transients next to the tracks, that no-body else would venture through? Then a nightly winter camp out of the rain? How can so important a social issue for Menlo and Palo Alto be ignored? On the other hand, a pedestrian bridge like many in RWC would avoid all that.



    The whole “center of the road” BRT concept is flawed and a massive waste of public money. Not to mention all the mature trees to ripped up on Van Ness.

    A more cost-effective solution would be to make the current route a “red route” ie, no parking within the red together with limited parking bays. This is what they do in London and it works pretty well.

    So a few cans of red paint versus years of digging up the road…



    The city hasn’t taken a position against Caltrain electrification. Sure hope it doesn’t, that would be dumb and self-destructive.



    There is no direct connection between the use mix on El Camino and going from 4 lanes to 6 (which is a terrible idea). There is a good argument to make that if there are offices, the people working there will want to easily cross the street to go to the supermarket, stores and downtown – having a street that is harder to cross makes the place less appealing to office workers also.

    The Specific Plan does take steps to reduce vehicle use, although not as aggressive as it could. The Plan requires developments to have TDM plans to reduce vehicle trips, and the council gave direction to accelerate the creation of a Transportation Management Association for the city to pool resources for trip reduction programs. It would have been better if they had set a trip goal for downtown/El Camino already. The Plan also enables shared parking and unbundled parking.

    The single biggest factor in the use of transit is having a job close to transit. So limiting office near the train station, and increasing retail, when fewer people get to shopping by transit, is a step in the opposite direction. The city pushing office development out to the freeway instead of in the transit corridor makes it harder to reduce trips.

    As for the undercrossing, Stanford is doing less than it should – it was good to see Mayor Mueller pushing them to specify their contribution to a feature that would greatly increase the value and quality of their development. But cutting down the development would seem to make getting contribution to the undercrossing harder, not easier.



    In case you hadn’t noticed, more high-density new housing commands really high rents, which push up average rents and put pressure on existing housing, forcing out, not helping existing low-income residents. Look at the mobile home park in Palo Alto, those 400 low-income residents are being evicted for an allegedly transit oriented high density development on El Camino, that will use high -density bonuses to create a lot of luxury rentals and a handful of BMR units no one who lived there before could afford.

    Anyone who doesn’t roll over for developers and allow Menlo to be turned into a high-density nightmare is a NIMBY Republican what name are you developer shills calling now? I got news for you, 300 million people in the US can’t all pack into Menlo Park. At some point, there is a limit. Where is that limit? Packing in more people in a desirable place only makes it high density, it doesn’t make it cost less. If you don’t believe me, try Manhattan. When people buy a home, the zoning is a legal promise of what will be there in the future. It’s not okay for the City to give that away to enrich a developer. Your calling names won’t change that, nor will it make me into whatever name you have to call me.


    Steve Schmidt

    It’s difficult to believe this article was written by a cyclist. It’s full of misleading & biased “information.” It ignores that Menlo Park’s Specific Plan is opening the door to adding a third lane to El Camino Real (ECR) and a new exclusive right hand turn lane at a heavily used connector street. There will be few accommodations for cyclists who chose ECR as the town’s most direct north/south route.

    The Specific Plan allows for 680 new housing units and the initiative does not touch that goal. The office construction allowed on 2 developments on ECR, thanks to the Specific Plan will reach 400,000 sf and the Initiative supporters believe that should be reduced to 200,000 sf for these 2 developments.

    There is nothing in the Specific Plan being modified by the Initiative that will boost transit ridership. The City is actually promoting policies and projects that will impede access to the Caltrain Station, make it more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists on and around El Camino and prevent modernization of Caltrain.

    The highly touted Plaza in one of the two big developments (Stanford University) is actually a series of automobile driveways leading to surface and underground parking with little space left for usable public access, pedestrians or bicyclists heading for a possible undercrossing of Caltrain, which would have to be about ten feet below grade. Consequently the cost will be in the neighborhood of $10M and Stanford University should be paying all the costs but the Council never required it.

    The undercrossing design, described by City staff 5 years ago as “a pedestrian undercrossing that will accommodate bicyclists at walking speed”, was rejected by both MP’s Bicycle and Transportation Commissions at that time. This location will be of benefit primarily to the occupants of the Stanford housing units and to City employees on their lunch hours; it is of little help to cyclists due to its distance from bike routes and its proximity to a busy & large intersection, heavy traffic on El Camino and unprotected ingress and egress from Alma street.

    A more convenient and much less expensive location near Cambridge and El Camino was rejected 12 years ago.

    Needless to say, I am surprised and disappointed in Mr. Boone’s apparent alliance with individuals who routinely dismiss transportation and smart-growth alternatives and a City Council with its collective head in the sand. The current council majority joined a law suit against California’s High Speed Rail and has opposed an elevated track that would provide safe vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian circulation. Worst though is the City’s lack of support for Caltrain electrification.



    True, some of the prominent supporters of this ballot measure have in the past strongly supported environmental initiatives. I can’t see how this measure is helpful to the environment, though.


    Andy Chow

    What the Menlo Council should do is to put a competing a measure with more moderate language and use it to fight this one.