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Downtown Specific Plan Review

From: domainremoved <Glen>
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2013 21:32:49 -0700

Mayor and City Council
As the former City Manager that was in office during the entire planning process for the currently approved Downtown Specific Plan I felt it necessary to weigh in on the discussion of this very important subject. The article in the Daily Post entitled "Downtown-El Camino Plan didn't work out as planned" that ran on Monday November 18 prompted me to respond. The article pointed out that some residents indicated that they were "left scratching their heads wondering how they got duped by the downtown planning process". I have to say that in my 35 plus years of local government work I have never seen or participated in a process that had so many public meetings, downtown walking tours, Community Outreach Committee meetings, online email communications and other means to keep the community updated on the progress.
The article states that some residents "blame eager city planners trying to get on the good side of wealthy developers", while others feel the city was a puppet during the entire process with Stanford pulling the strings. It is so important that I point out that the city planners went out of their way to make sure the process was fair and did not favor any one group. They showed true professionalism from beginning to end. Never did I encounter a situation that made me think that the city planners were doing anything more than honoring a process that was ethical and took into account that this was truly a community effort. I never felt nor did I see any strings attached to staff during the process. I can't imagine what they base that statement on other than their own narrow point of view.
To claim that there were back room deals is an insult to the process, the City Council, Planning Commission and Outreach Committee (community stake holders) that went out of their way to make sure that total transparency was honored. I can tell you from direct experience that every effort was made to include the community and not allow any one group, including Stanford dictate the outcome. In fact I have the utmost respect for the Stanford staff that participated in the process because of their commitment to the process. They participated with the Outreach Committee (appointed by Council) providing their input as an equal partner in the process but never pushing their own agenda.
I worked very closely with the Council Committee during this entire process and have nothing but positive things to say about Council Member Cline, then Council Member Boyle and Council Member Keith (taking Council Member Boyle's slot) for their commitment to the process and keeping it completely open. For anyone to state they were duped, tricked or otherwise lied to is delusional.
When I was hired as the City Manager in 2007 the top priority of the Council was to complete the Downtown Specific Plan so that the blight along El Camino Real caused by the exodus of the auto dealers was corrected. The community made it clear that redeveloping the El Camino Real corridor was a priority and they wanted quality development to take it's place. The Downtown Specific Plan did just that but only after a very comprehensive public community process where 100's of community members attended numerous community meetings providing input, ideas and direction. There were no back door deals so please do not let those that object to the plan make you think otherwise.
The key component of a Specific Plan is to provide the City Council, Planning Commission, planning staff, community and development community with a consistent set of policies and standards that can be followed with confidence and encourage investment in our future. The Downtown Specific Plan that exists today is truly a community product that should not be changed to any large degree due to a few feeling they don't like certain parts of the plan. Don't lose sight of all the community members and stakeholders that attended the numerous meetings taking time out of their busy day to provide the City with their input trusting that they would be taken seriously.

Glen Rojas
Menlo Park Resident
Retired Menlo Park City Manager

Sent from my iPad
Received on Mon Nov 18 2013 - 21:25:38 PST

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