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Don’t Divide Menlo Park's North Fair Oaks Neighborhood

Uploaded: Jun 11, 2014
There is nothing like the threat of dividing a neighborhood to really rally it together. That's just what the Sequoia Union High School District Board has done to Menlo Park's North Fair Oaks (NFO) neighborhood. And boy, has it galvanized the community.

The Sequoia Union High School District Board is realigning the high school boundaries in order to accommodate having all Ravenswood students attend one high school and in order to juggle the increased enrollment projections coming from Ravenswood, La Entrada and Hillview. As I wrote about back in October, the Board first considered redistricting Los Lomitas students away from Menlo-Atherton high school (MAHS) only to pull back from that after hearing "loud and clear" that those families wanted to retain MAHS as their school of choice. NFO has not been so lucky. The entire NFO neighborhood, which has been assigned to MAHS for a long time, was originally slated for realignment to Sequoia High School (HS). After some pushback, NFO was restored to MAHS, with the exception of 4 blocks -- the 400 and 500 blocks of 6th and 7th Avenues. Four blocks might not seem like a lot, but to community leaders from NFO, they are important neighbors and critical to the NFO community. Concerned neighborhood leaders have therefore been going door to door, talking to neighbors, gathering data and doing surveys, and attending meeting after meeting to make their case to the Board that they are a neighborhood united and would like the same consideration that Ravenswood and Los Lomitas have been given.

According to Hugo Vliegen and Stuart Sussman, two involved NFO residents, drawing a new "line" along 8th Avenue, which the Board proposes, seems "arbitrary, wrong and patently unfair" and would divide a community that overwhelmingly wants to stick together. They point to the outpouring of letters and people attending and speaking at Board meetings on this issue, as well as to the data they have gathered and presented to the Board.

In a letter to the Board, they make the following points:

Self Identification: Almost universally, residents of 6th and 7th Avenues identify ourselves as part of NFO (or "the Avenues") as well as residents of Menlo Park.

Residents of 6th and 7th Avenues do belong to the larger NFO community and are not statistically different from the higher numbered avenues. We organize to improve our community together, build parks and playgrounds together, educate our children together, work together, attend parties together, trick-or treat together, and share a Fire Station, to list a handful of commonalities.

The Board's "plan" claims to keep communities intact, but dividing our community along 8th Avenue is in absolute contradiction with this idea.

Transit to Sequoia HS. In contrast with Sequoia HS, transit to MAHS is easier and safer from the NFO neighborhood as there are two bike routes available, a regular bus route runs between the two points, many children walk to and from school, and there are ample carpool opportunities from our neighbors and friends living on the avenues. There is no need to cross El Camino, nor cross train tracks, or transit past major commercial centers and active business clusters. Drivers navigating to Sequoia HS face more congested roads and children are exposed to additional environmental hazards.

The plan claims to utilize natural dividing lines and follow main avenues. Anyone familiar with NFO knows that 5th Avenue is the natural boundary as made obvious by traffic patterns and the demarcation of zip codes and city names.

They propose that "the logical solution to all the problems that have been identified is simple: include the 400 and 500 blocks of 6th and 7th Avenues in the MAHS boundary and then make it easy for families to transfer to Sequoia if they choose to. This action solves all identified concerns including the latest priority of the Board: keeping cohorts of children together."

It is puzzling that the Board initiated this redistricting in order to solidify Ravenswood students as a community at their request. Yet in the process, the Board is proposing dividing a neighborhood on the basis that the Board has a better understanding of where boundaries really fall and who constitutes a member of the NFO neighborhood. When it comes to understanding who really belongs to a given community, I defer to the people who actually live there.

Postscript on June 29, 2014: The Board of Trustees unanimously passed the proposed SUHSD boundary changes recommended by Superintendent Lianides which included keeping the NFO Avenues within the MAHS boundary except for 6th and 7th Avenues. The changes include a 15 year "preference" or priority for 6th and 7th Avenue families to apply to attend MAHS.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by MenloResident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Why do non-residents continue to fight for "representation without taxation?" Not that schools districts necessarily align with city boundaries, but if you claim to be from Menlo Park...THEN MOVE TO MENLO PARK!!! (Or just stop whining).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by NFOResident, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm

@MenloResident: Yes, because "taxed" Menlo residents are so good at fighting each other for important things like which taxed Menlo resident can pave their driveway on Louise Street. Oh how I wish I could live in a community of the blind and entitled.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by huh?, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm

@Menloresident this issue has nothing to do with being in Menlo Park proper. We all pay taxes to the SUHSD. This a school district issue about drawing arbitrary lines and creating a divide not to mention safety issues for kids travelling across many busy streets to school. Other unincorporated Menlo areas attend the MPSD and contribute plenty of tax dollars without "City" affiliation. So if my address says Menlo Park, I'm not allowed to say I live in Menlo Park?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by NFOResident2, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 8:34 pm

@MenloResident.. I'd be happy to pay city taxes to Menlo Park, if it means that we get city services and counted as part of Menlo Park.. (last time I checked my address and zip code are Menlo Park, 94025 and I'd love to keep it that way...)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Linda on 7th Ave, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Thank you for this empathic article. The address for 6th 7th Ave. north of Middlefield is Menlo Park 94025. Residents that bought into this neighborhood are paying for private elem. schools now expect public MA High . these 4 blocks will not over populate MA. The superintendent might be thinking we have more Hispanic children in some house holds and they don't care but each are not the case. We invited the board to visit our 4 blocks and see and talk to us for themselves. We have a minimum of eight languages (bilingual house holds). Changing the boundary from 5th Ave to 8th is very devisive and very painful for many of us.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by NFOResident3, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:39 pm

@MenloResident "THEN MOVE TO MENLO PARK!!!" It is people like you and Jack Berghouse, who make Menlo Park such a pleasant place. Let me pack my stuff from my *MENLO PARK* home and move there!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by caregiver, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:42 pm

MenloResident, tell it to the high school district, which does tax us and is going to raise mine around $100 a year next year to pay for the new bond measure. And tell it to the people who make this comment board with the selector item "Menlo Park: Fair Oaks".

Oh, and Sequoia High School District trustees, about your confusion about what community 6th and 7th Avenues belongs to: Ask the census bureau. Ask the US Postal Service. Ask the MLS. Ask the Fair Oaks Council. Also there's this new thing, Google Maps, you'll be amazed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 12:08 am

Wow.

While preparing a response to this article (which contains points I agree with, and some that are wrong. I'll touch on that in a followup post), I have been blown away by the drastic lack of basic knowledge that some apparent NFO residents have about the neighborhood they live in.

People, the post office does not decide city and town boundaries. I assure you that the Menlo Park, San Mateo County and California know what you apparently do not: North Fair Oaks is in Unincorporated San Mateo County. That's a fact. Further, if you find ANY real estate agent that says NFO is in Menlo Park, they are ignorant and absolutely begging for a lawsuit.

I am sympathetic to unifying NFO students to 1 high school. But you are sabotaging your fight to unify your neighborhood by spewing this drastically incorrect information. It hurts your cause because it's incorrect information which affects your credibility. And it's not even relevant to the debate; regardless whether NFO is in MP, RWC or USMC the issue is the same: you want the NFO neighborhood unified to one high school. Arguing that you're in Menlo Park (which you're not) is beside the point.

Stop muddying the waters, you're just hurting your cause.

The author should change the title of this article to "Don't Divide The North Fair Oaks Neighborhood".


 +  Like this comment
Posted by not confused, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 12:57 am

What info is drastically being skewed? A neighborhood that used to be zoned for MA is now being cut off at the tip. That's all. The two streets won't overpopulate MA. NFO is unincorporated Menlo Park, just like Menlo Oaks, the neighborhood west of the Alameda, etc. or what about the Atherton portion of NFO or further north, Lloyden Park (slated for rwc schools, but labeled Atherton). NFO is not a "city" or "town" but a label for a neighborhood. If it weren't, than what I think "caregiver" and others are saying is that their mailing addresses say nothing other than Menlo Park. They are probably not confused as you say. It's time to get back to the topic, and not this blasting by folks in MP proper. I'm not sure Erin meant that an entire neighborhood is disillusioned that they don't live in County when she stated that they identify with Menlo Park. There is also a distinction between NFO and the unincorporated Fair Oaks neighborhood of Redwood City. Just as "peninsula resident" wants to clearly distinguish themself from NFO, NFO needs an identifying factor. They are on the Menlo side, and Fair Oaks is Redwood City, albeit unincorporated.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by NFOResident4, a resident of another community,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 1:33 am

Sorry, @not confused, you're confused on one point. Saying that NFO is unincorporated Menlo Park is a contradiction in terms. As already stated by one reader/commentator, NFO is in unincorporated San Mateo County. So are the unincorporated areas called West Menlo Park and Menlo Oaks, amongst others. Check out the map smcuninc.pdf for further clarification.

According to an entry in Wikipedia, "Fair Oaks was a residential area north of Menlo Park. In 1923, Menlo Park attempted to incorporate Fair Oaks first, but instead, Fair Oaks incorporated separately as the town of Atherton (see Atherton for details and history). This left North Fair Oaks unincorporated."

Finally, Almanac, please give North Fair Oaks its own listing in the "Select your neighborhood or school community" menu. It's not "Menlo Park: Fair Oaks". More confusion.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by caregiver, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 1:49 am

I didn't mean to hit a sore spot or insult anyone's civic pride. But "drastic lack of basic knowledge"? Let's tally it up. The city does not pay for the school, and admission is not exclusively for residents of the city + Atherton. I pay taxes to the same high school district as you, and students in our neighborhood go to MA High. I heard little or no objection when folks in East Palo Alto or from way across Alameda de las Pulgas raise their voice in favor of getting into MA High, and it looks like they won. Now we're raising our voices to not get pushed -out- of the MA High "catchment" area (I think that's the name the district uses). As for zip codes, census areas, fire districts, this too is basic knowledge.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by not confused, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 2:12 am

The point I was trying to make is classification. We are identified as such. I know the history. I'm just more or less making a point -apparently, not clearly- that we all have a "Menlo Park" address on paper, we know we are not part of MP Proper, we are a different community than the Redwood City "Fair Oaks" north of 5th, and that this is about district boundaries and what we originally bought into as homeowners.

How this thread became about entitlement or being "Menlo Park wannabes" is what is upsetting.


Thanks @Caregiver for circling back to the topic.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by OneBDay, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 4:49 am

Can't we all just get along? We should all want our future (our children) to have access to a good sound education, regardless of what one calls their neighborhood. The whole argument about Unincorporated and Incorporated Menlo Park takes away from the issue of having our children be able to attend the school in their neighborhood. No neighborhood or city should be fighting against children having access to a good sound education!

To throw a curve ball to all of you, why is it called North Fair Oaks? The neighborhood is east or west of Fair Oaks Ave, and south of RWC Fair Oaks neighborhood. In reality is should be called South Fair Oaks since it is south of RWC Fair Oaks. :)

Seriously, educate our future! Stop worrying about the name of the neighborhood!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by observer, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 9:44 am

it still defies explanation to me why the district doesn't just move ALL Las Lomitas kids to Woodside. Then neither WHS or M-A would be overcrowded.

The irony is that after all these Las Lomitas parents demanded the district keep their community intact, a record number of their 8th grade parents applied for private school this year and I believe a record number of 8th parents requested and were granted transfers to Woodside High School. So, really, it's not about "keeping communities together" for those parents, it's about getting the best education and opportunities for their children, which prior to the redistricting would have been M-A. But now that all of Ravenswood is going there, they fear that's going to change their school and they don't want to be part of the change.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by 7th Avenue, NFO resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Still not sure about the motivation to isolate 2 avenues from the rest of the NFO community. If the district is truly worried about overcrowding at M-A let's talk in numbers. 2 streets= 120 households, of which if one looks at the demographic, this should not even add 2 or 3 additional students to the high school (if at all) every year.

We all pay taxes to the county, we all voted for the new bond measure , and we are active & engaged members of this community. So, why are our children being denied the opportunity to attend M-A and cut out of the school district? What about those of us who bought properties here based on the school district?

Residents of the "proper" Menlo Park, please think in broader terms. If they can make room for so many kids from East PA & Las Lomitas in MA, can we not keep our minds open to a few more children having access to M-A?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Atherton, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Last I checked the school is called Menlo-ATHERTON, and these elitist comments coming from a few Menlo residents are unproductive and unwarranted. It is true the comment about some of these sue-happy residents who will pull the lawsuit trigger if they feel they are not getting to what they think they are entitled.

It is this sense of entitlement that concerns me ... not for the parents - because they think they know better than anyone - but for the young kids, who can still be taught the value of honesty and hard work.

This issue is about the future of the kids and what is best for them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I'll make additional comments on the NFO/Menlo Park topic, then address the more important issue of unifying NFO students to one high school:

not confused wrote:
> What info is drastically being skewed?

I never said the word "skewed", but the info that is drastically wrong is the assertion by some NFO residents that NFO is a part of the City of Menlo Park. My point is that by mistakenly asserting this, these residents are:

1) arguing about something that is irrelevant to their goal of unifying the neighborhood to one high school;
2) weakening their credibility on the more important issue of unifying the neighborhood to one high school.

NFOResident4 wrote:
> Sorry, @not confused, you're confused on one point.
> Saying that NFO is unincorporated Menlo Park is a
> contradiction in terms. As already stated by one
> reader/commentator, NFO is in unincorporated San
> Mateo County. So are the unincorporated areas
> called West Menlo Park and Menlo Oaks,

Exactly. Saying "unincorporated Menlo Park" is not much different than saying "unincorporated corporation."

As NFOResident4 points out, there are other unincorporated neighborhoods in the area. These other areas don't seem to have any issue with living in an unincorporated area. In fact, it seems like the Menlo Oaks folks rather enjoy it, if my impressions from this site are accurate. Only some NFO folks seem to be hung up on it, for reasons I don't understand.

I say again: the author should change the title of the article, as well as correct the parts that say/imply that NFO is part of the City of Menlo Park. The misinformation is counterproductive.

(side note: I used to live in that area of unincorporated San Mateo County, albeit almost 20 years ago. I remember a time when the mini-roundabouts didn't exist :) I always enjoyed biking through the area and always felt it was a safe place to travel through and live).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 5:42 pm


Now, onto the more-important dual issues of "unifying NFO to 1 high school", and "assigning NFO to M-A".

Unifying NFO to 1 high school
I agree that the school board was pretty dumb to split up NFO between 2 schools; they effectively traded splitting up EPA with splitting up NFO, under the gamble that while the splintering of EPA was going to lead to a lawsuit, splintering NFO likely won't. I hope the residents of NFO continue their campaign to unify the neighborhood under 1 assigned high school.

"assigning all of NFO to M-A"
I'm sympathetic, and I agree with another poster; the best (or at least, least-bad) solution would have been to assign all of Las Lomitas to Woodside HS, even though that would have meant a subset of LL students would attend a HS that's further away from their home than M-A. Something's gotta give somewhere. In the 3 neighborhoods/regions in question (EPA, NFO, Las Lomitas) one of the following HAS to happen:

a) All of the kids in one of the neighborhoods/region attends WHS or SHS, even though M-A is closer for some-or-all of students in that neighborhood; OR
b) One of the 3 neighborhoods is split between 2 high schools.

I think "a" was the better choice, particularly sending LL to WHS. Unfortunately the board chose "b" and chose to bless NFO with this distinction.

That said, unless NFO convinces the school board to send LL kids to WHS, I am not a supporter of sending NFO kids to M-A. The capacity of M-A is far, far less than infinity, and one of the 3 neighborhoods has to be assigned to a school that's not M-A.

I wish you the best of luck in your quest to send LL kids to WHS.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by NFOResident, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 6:27 pm

NFO is less than 2 miles from MA. The kids living in NFO should be going to MA. It doesn't make sense to force them to go to a school much further away.

We are not here to convince "the school board to send LL kids to WHS" - so keep you good luck wishes and waste-of-space comments like "capacity of M-A is far, far less than infinity" -- well duh! I hope you didn't have to go to high school to learn something like that ... so spare us the useless info.

The Atherton resident is right: there are some Menlo Park residents that are really high on themselves and think their useless opinions and advices mean something. If they're not fighting themselves, they're fighting other communities for something.

I agree that this is about kids and their future; not some over the hill resident that thinks living on a certain piece of dirt entitles them to something.




 +  Like this comment
Posted by observer, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Jun 13, 2014 at 10:07 pm

It should be pointed out here that the every single LL resident is no further from Woodside High School than M-A. The LL kids from the Ladera neighborhood of Portola Valley cross 280, Alameda de las Pulgas, El Camino and Middlefield to attend Menlo-Atherton. That's a 5.7 mile drive. To Woodside High School is 5.3. Those are the furthest residents.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Please find a new hobby, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jun 14, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Erin, the city of Menlo Park has three school districts. Las Lomitas serves Menlo Park residents of Sharon Heights and those near the Alameda. There are also county residents in Las Lomitas, that are not in the city, that live near the Alemeda. Menlo-Atherton serves most of Menlo Park and Atherton, as the name indicates. Then we have Belle Haven, on the other side of 101, that is within the city of Menlo Park, but is served by the Ravenswood City School District, along with East Palo Alto.

Erin, the Nort Fair Oaks community is not in the city of Menlo Park. They are served by the Redwood City School District. The Almanac doesn't even consider this community within ther distribution. If they were to apply for annexation, they would likely become part of Redwood City. if you want to rally this community, you should write a column in he Spectrum of the Daily Journal.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School,
on Jun 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Please find a new hobby wrote:
> the Nort Fair Oaks community is not in the city of Menlo Park.

Irrelevant. What IS relevant is that NFO is definitely in the Sequoia Union HS District. Assigning kids in the district to the closest school in the district WITH AVAILABLE CAPACITY is the right thing to do.

LL kids should be assigned to Woodside, because Las Lomitas' closest HS is Woodside.

NFO kids should be assigned to M-A, because NFO's closest HS is M-A.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Jun 15, 2014 at 6:20 pm

> It should be pointed out here that the every single LL resident is no further from Woodside High School than M-A.

It's more than that. Geographically speaking every single LL resident is closer to WHS than MA, and on average 1/4 of the distance to MA.

Don't believe me? Draw a straight line from WHS to MA. Then draw a line that bisects that line perpendicularly. All of LL residents will reside on the WHS side of the line. Since they are on average distributed evenly in the middle of the bisected territory, then the average is 1/4th of the distance to M-A.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by fwiw, a resident of Woodside: other,
on Jun 15, 2014 at 6:24 pm

A bit of a math correction. I should have said 1/3 the distance to WHS vs MA. (ie, 1/4 avg distance to WHS and 3/4 avg distance to MA which makes for a 1:3 ratio).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Stats, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:20 am

I'm sympathetic to the neighborhood split, but realistic enough to understand that any "political boundary" will split one or more natural constituencies. We saw it during CA redistricting, and again with school districts. There's no way to complete the slicing process, while maintaining numerical constraints, without something getting split. This seems far less crazy than the massive bussing split inflicted on EPA for many years.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by caregiver, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks,
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:42 am

Regardless of neighborhood names and different ideas about boundaries, the fact is the redistricting plan was decided based on keeping students together as they graduate from elementary/middle school to high school - that's the reason the district insists it uses, including for the Las Lomitas shift. And at the same time, yes, of course, redistricting is also for fixing the crazy situation of Ravenswood and East Palo Alto students being bussed to Belmont.

But the High School District chose to ignore those reasons for students living on two blocks along each of 6th and 7th Avenues, four blocks total. Sure looks like a double standard. If they are redistricted, these students won't attend MA High with their schoolmates who live on 8th Ave and up. And they also will now have to a longer and more complicated commute and various busy intersections.

On a redistricting map the district distributed, the 4 blocks are basically too small to see. I believe the students on those 4 blocks are well under 1% of the population of MA High - all of this is detached single-family housing. And well within the margin of error of anyone's forecast for enrollment, esp. considering unknowns about how many parents throughout the district will choose private schools. Nobody's crystal ball is that good.



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