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Willows Area Wide Traffic study comments

From: Penelope Huang <thprop_at_(domain_name_was_removed)>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2010 21:57:52 -0800

Dear City Council members, Staff and Willows neighbors  

For the record, I feel compelled to respond to Vickie Brewster’s email (below). The email I wrote on September 23rd including the one sentence Vickie quotes, which when properly placed in context, specifically relates to a discussion of crime and traffic. It was written right after the meeting held in the Willows at café Zoe with the new police chief and Councilwoman Ferguson. Off the record I received many responses of support for this email and I make no apologies for the way I feel. Quality of life is important to me. The essence of the email was to encourage my neighbors not to leave items on the street with a “free” sign, but rather use the yahoo message boards to efficiently recycle used clothes, toys, furniture etc and I am very heartened to see this now happening, to the benefit of all of us. This level of community cooperation was the essence of what my email was about. I truly believe if we all work together for the good of the whole we will see a positive change that will translate in a reduction in crime, general safety for our children, more biking and walking, and quieter more “neighborhood-like” streets which I personally do not believe is unreasonable to expect in a residential suburb.  

As far as the process is concerned with the current traffic study, a huge change was made by the Menlo Park City Council in response to residents, such as the Brewsters, who live on Donohoe Street, to include the residential households of East Palo Alto in the Study. The residents of East Palo Alto have been invited to fully participate and been actively included in tabling the results. With reference to the “No concern/Do nothing” column at the second meeting, it should be noted that there was also not an equally extreme column on the other side to choose “close streets” as there was in the 1992 plan. The City’s recent goal has been to build consensus with this plan: neither a “do nothing” nor “close streets” solution works towards consensus. The City has done an excellent job at outreach, the meetings have been better attended than any other citywide community meetings held on different topics. The 2007 meetings were attended by literally hundreds of residents, both in the fireside room at Burgess and outside at the German-American school in response to crime and traffic issues, which sparked a renewed effort with Neighborhood Watch and this current traffic study.  

I hosted a meeting-in-a-box at my house and attended a meeting hosted by Julie Forbes. Both Julie and I were in agreement that my comments would not be a part of the record for her meeting and my understanding was this is how Julie reported the results of her meeting to the City. Vickie Brewster did not attend either of the meeting-in-a-box meetings I attended, so her observation of how my presence is “a compelling reason to not speak up” is unfounded.  

I am the 2010 Chair of the Transportation Commission but have always made it very clear that I am participating solely as a resident on this issue. The Transportation Commission reviews transportation issues for the whole City and I take this responsibility very seriously. It is a voluntary, appointed position with only the authority to make recommendations to the Council, it is not a decision making body. I am one of seven commissioners and three of us live in the Willows.  

I hope this offers a fair rebuttal to the email posted this morning.

Thank you for the opportunity.  

Penelope Huang

Arnold Way, Menlo Park      

From: willows_neighborhood_at_yahoogroups.com [mailto:willows_neighborhood_at_yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of vlbnkids_at_yahoo.com
Sent: Monday, November 22, 2010 7:56 AM
To: willows_neighborhood_at_yahoogroups.com Subject: [willows_neighborhood] Willows Area Wide Traffic study comments     

Here is a copy of the email I just sent to the Menlo Park City Council. Please feel free to forward.


Dear City Council members,

I have attended all three community meetings related to the Willows Area Wide Traffic study. I did not attend a Meeting in a Box. This letter concerns the process used to generate the proposed plan, not the plan itself.

In the years since 1992 there have been repeated attempts by a few residents to isolate the neighborhood from the surrounding community. Many residents did not engage in 2007 when this most recent study was initiated as it had been a few short years since the last one/previous traffic study. There were just a handful of residents at the December 9, 2008 presentation of the Request For Proposal to the City Council. During this meeting Council member Hayward Robinson asserted that community engagement was essential and that it would be leaned on heavily. There was also the announcement of the involvement of a community outreach coordinator, Cherise Brandell.

Community engagement was undermined in many ways. Despite having signed in to the meeting and providing Cherise with my business card, I never heard from her. From the comments at the third community meeting, many business owners and East Palo Alto residents neither heard from her nor did they hear from the city or the traffic consultants in other ways. This was a clear failure of crucial community involvement.

Community engagement via the Meeting in a Box was undermined when Penelope Huang, Chairperson of the Transportation Commission, attended more than one meeting. Even if she may have indicated that she was not acting in her official capacity, it remains a compelling reason not to speak up when the Commissioner states "If the up coming Willows Traffic Study does not affect some change to traffic flow patterns, I think the battle and the war is lost and the neighborhood might as well resign itself to the fact that there will not be a viable solution and there will be no increased quality of life, that other neighborhoods in Menlo Park, with less traffic, experience." (email dated September 23, 2010, posted to several Willows mailing lists.) When the Chairperson of the Transportation Commission evinces such sentiments what hope is there that you will actually be heard.

Community engagement was further undermined by the failure to include the "Do Nothing" option For example, here was no "Do Nothing" option in the possible courses of action on the Ranking Activity Board of the second community meeting. Many people had placed their dots BEFORE a resident, not a city representative, made that option available by writing it on the board and placing their dot under that option. Getting accurate feedback is essential but by leaving out significant options the results are doomed to be skewed.

Council member Robinson's desired goal to have the community engaged is admirable. In order to ensure that goal is met there must be 1) follow-through by those tasked with involving the community, 2) no undue influence exerted by public officials and 3) full disclosure of the available options. This study fell short on each of these and has resulted in a deeply flawed process that needs to be addressed in the few years before the next study is initiated by the few bellicose residents driving this issue.

Vickie Brewster

“Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim." --Mary Parker Follett,
American social worker and political activist


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__,_._,___ Received on Mon Nov 22 2010 - 21:59:21 PST

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