Yet, like many residents, I have not invested the time necessary to fully understand what is happening with planned commercial development in Menlo Park. However, recent events have motivated me to become better informed and more actively involved in the civic processes shaping the future of our city.
As a first step, I have created an online community forum (mpcdforum.com) with two objectives in mind. First, I aim to become well informed about the Menlo Park specific plan, which governs the commercial development permitted downtown and in the El Camino Real corridor; the multi-use project Stanford has proposed for the 500 block of El Camino; and an initiative proposed by a group of residents who oppose Stanford's current plan.
SaveMenlo is currently circulating a petition that would put their proposed changes to the specific plan on the November 2014 ballot and, if approved, mandate that further changes could not be made without voter approval.
I also want to share what I learn with other residents. Ultimately, residents can disagree simply because they have different values, wants and expectations. However, all residents should feel responsible for not only making well-reasoned and well-founded decisions but also discussing important issues in a civil, honest and constructive manner.
Balancing conflicting interests in a city is always difficult, and the Stanford project has become the poster child for such a conflict in Menlo Park. While all residents want our city to make great decisions, they differ widely in terms of what they feel Menlo Park can and should be, their knowledge of important facts, assumptions about expected benefits and costs, and trust in our local government, Stanford, the business community and other residents.
At this time I neither strongly support nor oppose the specific plan, the Stanford project or the SaveMenlo initiative. However, if I had to decide today, I would support both the specific plan and Stanford project as both were subjected to extensive, rigorous and transparent public review and what I believe are trustworthy city planning processes.
Therefore, I would oppose the initiative because it implies the opposite. That said, I remain open to learning more about all three before taking any firm positions and believe there is sufficient time to do so.
I do intend to form strong opinions about each of these subjects and will share my progress and personal assessments in my personal blog. Public comments are welcomed. There is also a public forum that enables registered users to submit posts, comments and replies. Hopefully, we will learn a lot from each other and Menlo Park will benefit from our discussions.