News - March 2, 2011

Community gets ready for 'charrette' session

• City reaches out to Spanish-language residents to attend all-day community design forum on Facebook campus.

by Sandy Brundage

Anyone living within a half mile of Menlo Park probably knows the city will host a design "charrette" on Saturday, March 5, to create a fresh vision for the areas surrounding the new Facebook campus, and the city is taking steps to make sure everyone, including Spanish-only speakers, gets the invite.

Business development manager Dave Johnson shared fliers inviting residents to the charrette in Spanish, and said he's also trying to get United Nations style translator headsets for the actual event, depending on cost.

The event, a time-constrained community planning process co-sponsored by the city and Facebook with the theme "creating a sense of place," will be staffed by volunteer design professionals drawn together by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Four teams of design professionals, led by licensed architects, will focus on specific areas of Belle Haven and the nearby business area, according to Noemi Avram, an architect representing the San Mateo County chapter of the AIA.

Explaining that charrettes are the AIA's way to serve the community, Ms. Avram also offered her services as a Spanish translator for the charrette. The planning begins when shuttles carry the teams on a tour of the four areas. After they return to the Facebook campus at 8:30 a.m., the community can join in. "Stakeholders will offer ideas during the morning, mostly, as during the afternoon the design work is being done," Ms. Avram explained. "They're welcome to walk around and give their ideas and comments to each team. The architects will be doing the drawing, but all ideas are welcome."

However, the designers won't tackle the Facebook campus. "That's off limits," Ms. Avram said, laughing. But they will examine the wetlands at the perimeter of the campus and frontage along the Bayfront Expressway, with an eye toward creating a linked series of trails for pedestrians and bicyclists.

After rendering their plans on 8-by-4-foot posters, the teams will start presenting the designs at 6:30 p.m.

Given Menlo Park's history of requesting studies and then repeating those studies years later, residents have wondered whether ideas emerging from the charrette will ever become reality.

According to Ms. Avram, who also participated in a charrette held in 2005 for downtown Menlo Park, ideas from that event influenced the proposed downtown specific plan. Highlighting other Peninsula projects that have benefited from charrettes, such as San Mateo's main library, which took shape 10 years after the community planning, Ms. Avram said, "My point is that we're not just dreamers; we are dreamers, that's what architects do, but there's a reality to it."

"This is about connection," she added. "This is not about Facebook building some central courtyard on campus. This is about how to better integrate all the surrounding properties in such a way that there is better use."


"Creating a Sense of Place," the design charrette for the Belle Haven neighborhood and nearby business area, runs from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, at the former Sun Microsystems campus (10 Network Circle) in Menlo Park. The entrance is located at the intersection of Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway. For more information, contact Dave Johnson, the city of Menlo Park's business development manager, at or 330-6600 for more information.


Posted by Source Force, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 2, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Sandy, who are these mysterious "residents" who "have wondered whether ideas emerging from the charrette will ever become reality"? If there are good reasons for keeping them anonymous (i.e., whistleblower reprisal concerns or something like that), please state that. Otherwise, either name them or leave this vagueness out- not good journalism.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields