It seemed like a good idea at the time, but not any more: The Menlo Park City Council voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to axe a plan to plant 1,000 native trees and shrubs in Bedwell Bayfront Park despite winning a $350,000 state grant for the project. City staff will attempt to renegotiate with the state to allow the money to go toward planting trees in Belle Haven instead.
The Bedwell Bayfront Park plan was approved by a 3-2 vote in 2011, with Andy Cohen and Kirsten Keith dissenting. But in light of recent studies suggesting the former landfill's soil isn't deep enough to support the landscaping, and dissent from the nonprofit Friends of Bedwell Bayfront Park, the council asked to reconsider.
No one spoke in favor of the park plan during public comment. The Belle Haven option, however, garnered a show of support.
"For many years one of the things we've had on our list of civic improvements has been to line the Chilco corridor with trees," said Matt Henry. The benefits of landscaping along Chilco Street as well as near the railroad tracks would cut noise, dust and liven up the scenery, according to the Belle Haven Neighborhood Association president.
Although he initially voted for the project and declared himself skeptical about the possible success of renegotiating the grant, Councilman Rich Cline reversed his support, noting that he thought he didn't have a single letter from the community in favor of the planting.
Colleague Kelly Fergusson said she had seen the proposal as "a magnificent opportunity to bring natives" to the park, and urged the Friends to come up with a new vision for landscaping. She cautioned that renegotiating "carries no guarantee of success."
Public Works Director Chip Taylor agreed. He pointed out that planting trees in Belle Haven has its own downsides -- namely, increasing maintenance costs for the city and the potential for conflict with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which does not want planting done around water pipelines running through the area.
Menlo Park will need to pay back $1,300 in reimbursements received from the state, and forfeit recovering approximately $5,000 to $7,000 for staff time already spent on the park proposal, according to Environmental Program Manager Rebecca Fotu.