Viewpoint - September 7, 2011

Letter: Downtown plan ill-advised

Like many residents, I am opposed to the proposed downtown renovation plan. As a downtown resident of long standing, I regard the plan as extremely ill-advised for a number of reasons.

First, in our current unforgiving economy, to do anything that would take business away from our mainstays — Draeger's, Trader Joe's, and our beloved farmers' market — would be shooting ourselves not only in the foot, but also in the solar plexus. We'd risk destroying our biggest draws, plus our city cannot sustain a year-round open air market like those in Boston or Seattle. We are not a large metropolis, nor do we residents want to be one. Small is beautiful.

Furthermore, in view of current economic realities, this should be a time for hunkering down, not a time for funding luxury projects with large budgets and limited appeal. If we do have money to spend, let's attend to the fundamentals we've been neglecting, such as the largely cracked and buckling sidewalks throughout our neighborhoods, which are both an eyesore and a hazard.

And let's consider our emergency preparedness. What would we do in the event of an earthquake, tsunami, or major extended power outage? Does the city have independent generators in place? Do we have an emergency police phone system in place like Palo Alto does, to automatically call all residents to let everyone know of hazardous conditions and what to do? I've had such calls from Palo Alto several times, but never from my own city of Menlo Park.

Let's take care of necessities before we even consider luxuries and superfluous projects — those are for the boom times. In addition, if the dollar continues to depreciate and prices rise, as many are predicting, now is not the time to undertake this expensive, poorly conceived downtown project. No doubt the costs will dramatically rise halfway through, so we could easily be left with a torn-apart downtown and not enough money left to cover the out-of-control price increases.

In short, the downtown project is a disaster waiting to happen.

Cherie Zaslawsky, Downtown Menlo Park


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