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RE: ** Sidewalk to Nowhere...

From: Taylor, Charles W <CWTaylor_at_(domain_name_was_removed)>
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 2010 14:28:37 -0700

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gerow,

Thank you for your interest in maintaining the beautiful character of Menlo Park streets. We too are deeply committed to maintaining the quality of life in Menlo Park. At times we find there are competing interests and this appears to be one of those times. While we of course value attractively landscaped neighborhoods, having a safe place to walk is another important community value. We believe that both can coexist. Many Menlo Park streets that have sidewalks are attractively landscaped.

My prior e-mail focused on the City’s Sidewalk Master Plan. This is only one of the reasons we wish to retain sidewalks in Menlo Park. The following provides a broader context for our decision on your request to remove the existing sidewalk from the public right-of-way in front of your home.

One of the responsibilities that the Public Works Department is tasked with is to maintain the safety, access, and circulation of the City for all transportation users including vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. This responsibility is also included in the General Plan for the City, which includes several policies related to pedestrian improvements and safety. To summarize policies in Goal II-E of the General Plan, the policies state that the City shall require all new development to incorporate safe pedestrian facilities and shall endeavor to maintain safe sidewalks and walkways where existing within the public right-of-way. These policies are the overarching goals of the City to enhance and maintain a safe environment for pedestrians. A dedicated sidewalk for pedestrians is the means to provide for their safe movement without conflicting with vehicular movements. The sidewalk is viewed as part of the roadway and overall connectivity and circulation of the City’s travelers. Sidewalks are an important part of the City's infrastructure to promote walking and to provide a safe refuge for pedestrians to walk separate from vehicular travel.

Separate from City specific policies there are State and Federal guidelines and policies that support dedicated pedestrian facilities. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has adopted a directive to incorporate "Complete Streets" into their projects. Complete streets essentially means a roadway that is designed with all modes of travel in mind (vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian) and to provide for their safe and efficient movement. A complete street typically includes pedestrian amenities such as sidewalks. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 4,378 pedestrians were killed and 69,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes in the United Sates in 2008. 76% of the fatal crashes occurred at non-intersection locations. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, pedestrian crashes are more than twice as likely to occur in places without sidewalks.

In 2008, the State Legislature adopted Assembly Bill 1358 which requires cities that update the circulation element of their general plans to “plan for a balanced, multimodal transportation network that meets the needs of all users of streets.” Users of streets are defined in this new State law as “bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities, motorists, movers of commercial goods, pedestrians, users of public transportation, and seniors.”

I hope this provides you with more detail related to City policies regarding sidewalks within the City and the reason the City cannot support the removal of the existing sidewalk in the public right of way next to your property. I have also provided specific answers below to the questions you asked in your email.

You would also have the right to appeal the encroachment permit denial to the City Council. If you would like to appeal please contact Jennifer Ng at 650-330-6740 and she can provide you with the requirements and applicable fees.


Chip Taylor

Engineering Services Manger

City of Menlo Park – Public Works

  1. How did Princeton get ranked high in the sidewalk master plan?

The City’s Sidewalk Master Plan was utilized as a method to survey the City’s existing sidewalk system, identify gaps, and rank streets in the categories of “high, medium, and low” for needing sidewalk improvements to be constructed.

Six categories were considered for the scoring process. They are: Vehicle Volumes, Destinations, Priority Routes, Pedestrian Opportunity Areas, Ease of Implementation, and Cost Benefit Analysis. Princeton Road earned a total score of 108 points, ranking it in the “high” category. All streets with a score of 100 or more went into this category.

The specific point breakdown for Princeton Road is as follows with the total points possible in parenthesis:

· Vehicle Volumes: 4 (20)

· Destinations: 18 (20)

· Priority Routes: 2 (5)

· Pedestrian Opportunity Areas: 20 (20)

· Ease of Implementation: 5 (5)

· Cost Benefit Analysis: 5 (15)

You’ll notice that the points add up to 54, which is for one side of the street. Both sides of the street scored 54, bringing the combined total point score to 108.

2) How will the City enforce the plan equitably?

The Sidewalk Master Plan Project was accepted by the City Council in late 2008. The process outlined within the Master Plan states that as funding becomes available, City staff will perform outreach to property owners along selected segments to solicit their input. Because funding is limited, staff would first seek to construct sidewalk in those areas where adjacent property owners were amenable to the installation, with the intent to revisit sites with more difficult implementation difficulties at a later time.

3) How was the Master Plan communicated to the public?

Outreach for the Master Plan project was achieved through several means. A community meeting was held in December 2007. Advertisement of the community meeting was achieved through a notification in The Almanac newspaper, and via an announcement during a Council meeting. In addition, an online survey method was used to reach residents. The online survey was advertised through the same newspaper notification and the community meeting. The Master Plan was presented to both the Transportation Commission and City Council. Both Commission and Council meetings were noticed via agenda postings.

4) What is the setback in our block?

Princeton Road is a 60-foot wide right of way. Currently, the travel way (roadway between the curbs) is 34’ wide. Therefore, the property lines are set back approximately 13’ from the curb face, as this is public right of way. This is the area in which the sidewalk currently resides. The current configuration is that of a detached walk, that is, a sidewalk separated from the curb by a planting area. The curb face to edge of planting area is 6’, and the sidewalk dimension is 5’. The neighbors to the south of your property also have the same detached sidewalk configuration, the most recent being 100 Princeton Road, which the City required the new house to construct the sidewalk, in addition to curb and gutter.

5) Can the Sidewalk Master Plan be appealed?

The Sidewalk Master Plan was approved by the City Council in 2008; therefore, there is no appeal process for the Master Plan itself. The selection of specific streets to get new sidewalks under the Master Plan is a decision that will be made by future City Council’s as project funding becomes available and is allocated. Additional outreach will be done prior to selecting streets and a preference will be given to areas where a majority of property owners support new sidewalks.

6) Which streets (other than Woodland) on the high ranking list have undergone development in the last two years?

Santa Cruz Avenue between Hillview Middle School and downtown is the only other street that has been funded to receive new sidewalks. Preliminary design of this segment is underway. There are currently no plans to install sidewalks on Princeton. Citywide there are 82 street segments ranked as high priority in the Sidewalk Master Plan.

From: debbiegerow_at_comcast.net [mailto:debbiegerow_at_comcast.net] Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 2:36 PM To: Taylor, Charles W; _CCIN
Cc: Scribner, Nathan V; Ng, Jennifer C; MGerow_at_fenwick.com Subject: ** Sidewalk to Nowhere...
Importance: Low

This is the worst possible answer from Jennifer.

I have an eyesore of a sidewalk that deadends on either side of my property. Not only am I not allowed to take it out - it sounds like, inspite of the "High" ranking for installing sidewalks on my block of Princeton, the likelihood of that happening is lower than low. The city is forcing me to keep a SIDEWALK TO NOWHERE - which is an absurdity. It does not contribute to the safety or aesthetic of our otherwise bucolic neighborhood. I would be happy to have a sidewalk which attached to everyone else's sidewalk, or I'd be happy to match the other houses on the street and NOT have a sidewalk - but the way this plan is being implemented in front of my house is nothing short of ridiculous.

I would appreciate having answers to questions that Jennifer did not answer below or which she did not answer from my second email to her:

How was this Master Plan communicated to the public? (I am not the only neighbor who has recently landscaped at great cost and who is shocked to just now hear of this Sidewalk Master Plan.)

Which streets (other than Woodland) on the High ranking list have undergone sidewalk development in the last two years since the City adopted this plan in 2008?

How did Princeton get ranked as high - what is the breakdown? As mentionned below, we do not have any destination traffic on our street. Over 90% of the houses on Princeton and Yale do NOT have sidewalks. The cost to put in so many new sidewalks would be high, not to mention a huge inconvenience to people who have not had a sidewalk in front of their homes in over 20 years, perhaps never.

What is the setback for our block? 6 feet or 11 feet?

How will the city be enforcing this equitably? Last week's paper covered articles on how landscaping walls were not being enforced in some cases, but is in my case....

Finally, I'd like to ask what recourse I and my neighbors have in appealing the plan to have sidewalks installed on Princeton? We have a beautiful, close-knit neighborhood. We've celebrated block parties in the street for 15 years now, our kids carpool or bicycle caravan to school together, we block our street off for Halloween to ensure the safety of hundreds of trick or treaters that flock to our street. While I haven't spoken (yet) to each and every neighbor, I have spoken to many of my neighbors, and we all prefer to keep our neighborhood without a sidewalk. How do we best convey this to the city, and appeal sidewalks for our street?


Debbie and Mark Gerow

138 Princeton Rd.

In brief, the City hired a consultant to identify gaps within the City’s sidewalk infrastructure. The streets were ranked high, medium, and low, based upon weighted criteria, as explained within the report. Princeton Street is ranked as high, meaning that it is more likely than a medium ranking street to be considered for potential future City project funding, should such funding become available. Even within the high category, with the number of streets named and limited funding available, it is likely to be many years before sidewalks are constructed even just to fulfill this category.

In the meantime, development projects are asked to construct sidewalks where appropriate to the level of development taking place. Because we’ve identified a need for sidewalks along Princeton Avenue, we are not able to grant a permit to remove the sidewalk in front of your residence. Eventually, as significant development takes place on your block, those homeowners in turn will be asked to construct sidewalk along their project frontage.

Currently, as a result of the Citywide Sidewalk Master Plan Project report, a City project is in progress to construct sidewalk on Woodland Avenue between Menalto and Euclid Avenues.

Your recourse for appealing my decision, is to contact the Engineering Services Manager, Chip Taylor, at 650-330-6740.

Jennifer Ng
Senior Civil Engineer
Public Works Department

From: Debbie Gerow [mailto:debbiegerow_at_comcast.net] Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 3:13 PM
To: Ng, Jennifer C; Scribner, Nathan V
Cc: Mark Gerow
Subject: Sidwalk Master Plan

Dear Jennifer,

I met with Nathan Scribner this morning to ask for a permit to remove the broken sidewalk in front of my house at 138 Princeton Road. After conferring with you and denying my request, Nathan sent me a copy of the Menlo Park Sidewalk Master Plan.

What does this mean exactly? Will homes on the high ranking list have sidewalks installed sometime in the near future?

How has this been communicated to the public? In the process of asking to remove 1 of 3 sidewalks on the first block of Princeton, I was surprised to learn of it's existence as I don't recall reading of it in the Almanac (which I read regularly), nor do I recall receiving any notice by mail. Since only 15% of my block has sidewalks, and since our block of Princeton is ranked high (implying change sooner rather than later), I would have thought that notification of the community would have been more thorough as it certainly impacts landscaping and building plans and may have a high cost impact to homeowners (who have grown mature plants, installed irrigation, or built on this area of their lot).

Do you have a list of which of the high ranked streets are currently undergoing sidewalk development?

Is it possible to get a breakdown of the how the ranking of 108 was reached for Princeton (between Creek and Cambridge)?
- Since we're bordered by the Creek on one end and by College at the opposite end, we do not have high, through-traffic.

How is this enforced equitably? Recent reports in the paper have covered that you've allowed walls to be built on Cambridge in the city easement. Won't these be impacted by your Sidewalk Master Plan? Why is it okay for for one house to beg for forgiveness and not okay when one asks for permission. New development has gone up and sidewalks have not been installed.

We have resided in Menlo Park at this residence for over 18 years. For all of those 18 years, only three houses out of approx. 20 on our block have had a sidewalk. With such sparcity, we have a sidewalk to nowhere, and it's lifting in areas and cracked in others. It is an eyesore. We are currently landscaping our front yard at not an insigificant cost. When everything else is nicely done we'll still have this ridiculous-looking sidewalk that does not serve any purpose. IF the city was going to implement the master plan, and IF our sidewalk would be connected to other sidewalks within the next 5 years, we'd understand how we fit into the plan. But, if there is no funding, and no guarantee when and if this will be done, it seems unfair and unreasonable to require us to have this eyesore in our front yard.

Please let me know what options we have.

Debbie Gerow
138 Princeton Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025 Received on Tue Oct 26 2010 - 14:28:35 PDT

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