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Public Comment from Kristin Duriseti at Council Meeting 10.29.14

From: domainremoved <Kristin>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2014 19:18:40 -0700

Dear Menlo Park Council Members,

Thank for you taking my public comment this evening. Please find copied
below my remarks.

Sincerely,
Kristin Duriseti
1890 Oak Knoll Lane
Environmental Quality Commissioner
City Council Candidate

***************************************************
PUBLIC COMMENT BY KRISTIN DURISETI

Good evening, Mayor Mueller and Council Members.


Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening.


As you know, I am a candidate for city council, and I am an Environmental
Quality Commissioner for the City of Menlo Park.


Tonight, I am speaking to you as a resident, although I am drawing on my
experiences as a candidate and commissioner to inform my comments.

Specifically, I want to share with you what I have heard on the campaign
trail about what residents would like from the two development projects by
Stanford and Greenheart.


I realize that the structure of the public comment prevents you from
responding to me directly, but I hope to use this forum to begin a
constructive dialogue that will continue after the election next week and
set us on path toward reconciliation and positive progress. It saddens me
that the current divisiveness in our community has prevented a more open
exchange of ideas, but perhaps that’s the nature of campaigning.



I will structure my comments according to three principles: 1) public open
space, 2) traffic concerns, and 3) mixed-use development.


Regarding the issue of open space, I do think that the vision for the
Specific Plan deliberately meant to provide for more *public* open
space. Private
open space is a valuable feature, and developers would be wise to provide
sufficient private open space to make the properties attractive to their
customers, and I whole heartedly support that. But it’s *not* the same
thing as public open space, which should be an addition to private open
space and not a substitute. It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone
participating in the visioning process could not understanding that
distinction. I understand how the consultant might have misinterpreted
that intention, because they did not participate in the visioning process,
and reasonably inserted a definition typical for the area in the Specific
Plan document. If we miss the opportunity to insert some real, public open
space into the development projects, we will *never* get another chance to
do so, and we simply cannot afford to miss this moment in time.


For the Greenheart property, I hear that residents want the plaza space to
be more accessible to the public, similar to what is provided near Café
Borrone, both on the corner adjacent to the train station and the front
along El Camino Real. It’s hard to tell exactly how much public open space
is provided from the conceptual drawings. At the very least, some
rearrangement, relocation, and partial consolidation would improve the
project and make it an attractive, enticing destination for residents,
office workers, and train riders.


For the Stanford property, the effect could be quite dramatic and
substantially increase the value of the development to the community. A
small park on the site, similar to Fremont Park, would be a wonderful
addition that would serve not only current residents, but also the hundreds
of new residents at that location. The two parks could be complementary
bookends to each other. I could imagine parents sitting on benches with
their toddlers climbing on a pre-school play structure, office workers
playing hacky sack on a break, outdoor yoga classes or a TRX exercise
station, summer music or movie offerings, etc.. It could be a vibrant
community gathering space.


Traffic is the primary concern for residents, and an aggressive traffic
demand management plan should be a condition of both development proposals.
There is absolutely no configuration of uses for 800,000 square feet of
development that is not going to generate a significant traffic burden
without explicit measures to reduce that traffic impact. Fortunately,
there are a number of proven strategies to reduce the traffic burden that
are being implemented up and down the Peninsula. We can utilize Stanford’s
tremendous experience and success in reducing its traffic and hold them
accountable for their traffic impacts, just like Palo Alto and Santa Clara
County. Furthermore, Stanford employment generates a huge local demand for
housing. This is a an opportunity for Stanford to address their own
jobs-housing imbalance by increasing the housing portion of the project,
which would not only mitigate the traffic burden for Menlo Park, but also
help Stanford meet its own traffic reduction targets. This strategy also
is compatible with the vision from Greenheart to create a “live-work”
innovation community by creating incentives for employees to live on-site,
which is a desirable and visibly successful feature at the Facebook campus.
Local examples like SRI with 40% Caltrain ridership prove that it’s doable,
but we can’t cross our fingers and hope it will happen magically. Given
the demonstrated feasibility of existing traffic mitigation policies, we
should be working closely with developers to ensure that the traffic impact
of their projects are minimized, just as was negotiated with the Menlo
Gateway project (which, by the way, is *the* reason that I supported that
project).


The last point is the issue of mixed-uses. Clearly, each site will contain
a mix of housing, office, and retail, and the question is how much of each.
This is the most contentious part of Measure M. For starters, Greenheart
should commit to guaranteeing all of the proposed retail space (29,000 sf)
and not be allowed to pass it off as “flex space.” Residents love the idea
of having a restaurant and “market alley” as pictured in the conceptual
drawings; they would be extremely disappointed not to see this become a
reality, especially with its close proximity to the train station where
riders could easily grab breakfast or lunch on their way into work. The
Stanford site has the potential to be transformative for Menlo Park.
Unfortunately,
in my conversations with Stanford representatives, I don’t get the
impression that they understand the catalytic potential of the property,
and it’s up to us to inform that vision because they simply don’t have the
imagination to do so on their own. I can imagine an entrance similar to
the one at Palo Alto Medical Foundation where traffic dips underground
immediately to create a large plaza at street level that could be lined by
local-serving retail and restaurants, multiple times what Stanford is
proposing. Stanford thinks that there wouldn’t be enough demand to support
this center. I can. I can imagine how it could be a charming neighborhood
destination that would serve residents in both Linfield Oaks and Allied
Arts, not to mention residents from the surrounding neighborhoods who could
traverse from west of El Camino to Burgess Park and from east of El Camino
to Safeway and downtown.


Of course, this vision depends critically on the provision of the
long-desired bike/pedestrian tunnel, which was to have been the crown jewel
of the Specific Plan and its critical function to provide east-west
connectivity to Menlo Park. I understand that Stanford wants Menlo Park to
have some skin in the game, but with the *extra* development rights that
were given to Stanford while they had a seat at the negotiating table,
Stanford should have been held accountable to providing the tunnel. At
this point, I would suggest that Stanford pay for Menlo Park staff time to
find sources of grant funding and commit to pay the rest of the bill.


Like Measure M, I can’t resolve all the outstanding issues that need to be
addressed, but I do hope that my brief recap will inform your future
decisions.


Thank you for your time and attention, and go Giants!


Received on Wed Oct 29 2014 - 19:13:44 PDT

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