Almanac

Viewpoint - April 9, 2014

Guest opinion: Initiative critics harken back to Derry project

by Andy Cohen

Remember the Derry project opposition (led by Menlo Park residents) who obtained enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2007, and then produced a compromise project nearly as large as the original, but less dense and not as massive?

I certainly do; I also recall the criticism residents suffered at the hands of pro-growth residents who accused the referendum supporters of killing the project after a compromise was reached. It was the 2008 recession and it's aftermath that really killed the project. After enduring the kind of rewriting of history that was widely propagated, I feel a necessity to identify the greed that motivated that character assassination of decent people only concerned about quality of life in our fair city.

Menlo Park is unique among its sister municipalities in the area. It combines a mixture of neighborhoods (both in terms of economics and culture), yet offers all it's residents the full-service and range of amenities of its wealthiest neighbors without the "ghetto-ization" that has occurred in larger cities all along the peninsula corridor.

Now, once again, the established authorities have driven the visioning process into an extreme misrepresentation of standards that encourages distortion of residents' reasonable desires merely for the benefit of the wealthiest individuals. Economists, planners, and philosophers can be cited who understand this manipulation far better than I, but basically it comes down to "follow the money."

Pro-development advocates played a bait and switch game between the two phases of the downtown plan, replacing one set of consultants with another half way through the process, ultimately permitting the total elimination of "public benefit," and leaving the criteria sufficiently ambiguous to allow monopolization of the space and uses by only the largest entities in the game.

In the careful language of the experts a regulatory structure was created that permitted Stanford and a few big players to dictate the future character of our city for the benefit of corporate entities and primarily the wealthiest, at the expense of the vast majority of residents.

Take back the process, take back the city, take back control.

Sign the initiative and limit the amount of office space and traffic we will allow in Menlo Park. Preserve diversity; reject higher density, and take back the process. We know only too well how the Derry project was a harbinger of these new high rise projects, and it is not too late to halt the manipulation by outsiders and further degradation of our quality of life.

Andy Cohen is a former Menlo Park mayor and council member.

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