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General Plan Update Process

From: domainremoved <Patti>
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2015 10:55:03 -0700

Dear Honorable Mayor and City Council Members,
For a community that prizes its schools, cares about availability of soccer
fields, and struggles to conserve water during a severe drought, and is
faced with significant change, it's time to have a community-wide
discussion about growth. A staggering amount of new growth is proposed
without sufficient information and without open citywide discussion.

The current General Plan Notice of Preparation (NOP) discloses a proposed
huge increase in development in one part of town (M-2 Area near Belle Haven
neighborhood) -- a whopping 44% increase of commercial development over
what currently exists there (8.75 million square feet, according to the
city’s Economic Development Plan). The proposed additional commercial
development of 3.85 million square feet alone deserves very careful
analysis. Other, larger communities have gone into uproar over projected
commercial growth in the 100's of thousands, rather than multiple millions,
of square feet. Palo Alto has been considering growth limits of 50 thousand
net new square feet of office/R&D per year. If adopted, it would take Palo
Alto 65 years to develop what much-smaller Menlo Park is contemplating in
just one part of our town over the next 20 years.

The General Plan (GP) process does not disclose what the current mix of
development is throughout Menlo Park. It does not disclose what growth
could occur city-wide, using current GP and zoning rules. It does not allow
our community to decide if that potential citywide growth would occur in
the right places or in the right mix. Instead, the update assumes that the
current rules are fine.


But those “old” GP rules would be applied to a community that is very
different than in 1994: Sand Hill Road is now connected to El Camino Real;
businesses pack employees more densely (more than double than in 1994); the
water supply is nearly tapped out, even in normal times; schools have been
rebuilt more than once but are near capacity; streets are clogged with
commuters; SUN Microsystems and Tyco are gone and Facebook is here; no auto
dealerships; no Roger Reynolds Nursery; soccer fields can barely keep up
with demand; housing is in such short supply that Menlo Park has been sued
for not keeping current in providing it.


The 1994 General Plan's projected 20-year growth was reached in the 1990's.
But growth still continued without a re-evaluation of the GP’s rules. The
impacts and benefits of growth since then have never been studied to allow
our community to decide whether that "course and speed" was still a
desirable approach. Although late, NOW is the time to examine potential
growth city-wide, and tweak (or overhaul) that Plan and its rules as
appropriate. The GP update process does not offer this opportunity.


We should not assume that Menlo Park is on the right path for the next 20
years. In Palo Alto, the developer appetite for office space has displaced
desired retail. Menlo Park has lost significant retail revenue. What are
the trends? What might happen with redevelopment of the Big 5 shopping
center and Sunset Magazine sites? Are the current General Plan’s provisions
adequate?

The Land Use and Circulation Elements are the heart of the General Plan and
its guidance for our community over the next 20 years. NOW, during the
first look at these Elements in 21 years, there is a chance to review the
appropriateness of the current GP's rules. Are they appropriate when we
look at today's greatly changed environment and when we project citywide
growth over the next 20 years? Is Menlo Park planning its own future or is
it OK with what ABAG says should happen?

If citywide growth is not studied now in comparison with current
conditions, there is NO opportunity to mitigate unwanted impacts; NO
opportunity to modify the GP rules that apply citywide; NO opportunity to
tie growth to the capacity of our school's classrooms, to the availability
of water, cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods. Nearly all discussion
about the General Plan update has occurred in Belle Haven, not in the rest
of Menlo Park. The process assumes that the current provisions are
acceptable to our entire community - without opportunity to examine that -
and without community-wide discussion.

You have a chance to show leadership and more transparency.

.
Patti Fry
Former Planning Commissioner
Received on Fri Jul 24 2015 - 10:52:54 PDT

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