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Agenda Item G1 Public Hearing comments for the Nov 29, 2016 City Council meeting

From: domainremoved <HARRY>
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2016 18:04:06 -0800

Good evening Council,

Please find my comments for this evening’s public hearing listed below.

The two-year plus General Plan update process has left us with a proposed set of documents that are before you tonight. Many have expressed concern that these documents do not optimally answer many open questions nor do they solve many potential problems that have been identified.

All of these concerns should be considered as legitimate feedback to improve the outcomes for land use development, particularly in the district formerly known as M-2, and the surrounding Belle Haven neighborhood.

I recommend that you should not, however, further delay the approval of the documents you are considering. A General Plan is not a Specific Plan. As such, we should not subject the documents before you to a Specific Plan-type process that would stall our momentum. Such a process would only further stall approval of not only anticipated projects, but the implementation of Community Amenities that have been requested by residents.

For example, performing yet another traffic study will not tell us anything we don’t already know about the scale of our traffic problems, and the range of options available to us to mitigate them. Further delay will not tell us anything we don’t already know about the Belle Haven elementary school,

Further delay will not tell us anything we don’t already know about the state of our public infrastructure.

Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves and act.

Act to approve what is before you, and

act to draft a Master Plan document for the M-2 district and Belle Haven.

This Master Plan document should be a living document that is iteratively developed by stakeholders from business, government, and the residential community. One key section in the document should describe in detail a real plan for accomplishing the Community Amenities that residents have asked for, including elements describing:


a) the plan for meaningful reductions in traffic along Willow, Marsh Road, and Constitution Dr;

b) the plan for meaningful improvements in public education, including the possibility for a new school district; and

c) the plan for meaningful improvements in public infrastructure.

As you know, the Fiscal Impact Analysis Report has concluded that the Draft EIR could generate up to 14,000 new Menlo Park residents, up to $187.2 million in impact fees, and up to $20 million per year annually revenues above the current baseline. The issue is not the lack of money, nor is it the lack of will. Rather, it is the lack of action.

As I expressed a few months ago, a Master Plan document would provide details on desired synergies, phasing, location options, and a plan for how multiple development projects can collaborate to provide funding for an amenity. This is something not possible to accomplish in a General Plan document, or even a Zoning Ordinance.

In the documents before you, the Community Development Director recommends to the Planning Commission which amenities from the amenities list a particular developer should be obligated to provide. This gives the CDD carte blanche to pick whatever amenity they want from the list on an ad hoc basis, after closed door consultations with each applicant. This will likely lead to a cherry picking of the easiest, least expensive ideas for favored developers, and major projects would simply never get done.

Under the current proposal, each developer must commit to develop and/or manage a Community Amenity, even though the applicant may not be best suited or even able to provide the most needed amenity at the time they apply for a use permit.

Rather, we should establish a Community Amenities Fund (CAF) with contributions from each project as a percentage of the Fiscal Impact revenues.

 

Major Amenity Projects

a) One amenity project that would greatly benefit from these ideas was summarized by the consultant as “Improvements to the quality of student education and experience”. This is the consultant’s summary of the neighborhood’s desire to separate from the Ravenswood School district, and establish a new K-8 school district for not just our existing population, but the up to 14,000 new residents who will be moving into the neighborhood over the next 5-10 years. This is public education project is likely too big for any one developer, but as a priority, the initial development projects should dedicate a percentage of their CAF contribution to this social service improvement.

b) Another area of greatest need is Public Infrastructure Improvements. For this topic, several items on the amenities list could be combined into a single amenities project. For example, installing power lines underground would require digging up streets and sidewalks. This creates an opportunity to also install high-speed fiber, lighting and landscaping improvements, improved sidewalks, and traffic calming features,

c) Though not mentioned in the Community Amenities section, the neighborhood has been asking for solutions to the traffic congestion and cut-through traffic that occurs particularly during peak rush hour periods. In response, Councilmember Ohtaki mentioned the possibility of a Willow Road underpass under Highway 84, and additional measures to encourage pass-through traffic to use the Marsh Road / 101 interchange. Such efforts should be explored as a regional public/private partnership, guided by the Master Plan document, and funded in part by the CAF.

In addition, the CAF should fund a dedicated resource on city staff that will spearhead the lobbying effort required to raise sufficient capital to reactivate the Dumbarton Rail. At a projected price tag of several hundred million dollars, it would be at least 1/3 cheaper than Levi’s stadium, improve the quality of life for more people, and have positive benefits for the environment.

 

Harry Bims
Member, General Plan Advisory Committee
Former Menlo Park Planning Commissioner
Board Member, Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce
Belle Haven resident
Received on Tue Nov 29 2016 - 18:08:28 PST

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