http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2013/05/15/residents-dont-dump-housing-in-belle-haven


Almanac

News - May 15, 2013

Residents: Don't 'dump' housing in Belle Haven

by Barbara Wood

The Menlo Park City Council met in Belle Haven on May 7 so council members could receive an update on their quest to figure out how to improve the neighborhood. They, instead, received an earful from local residents on something that wasn't even on the agenda: putting more low-income housing in the area.

The city is working on a revision of its state-required plan for providing more housing in town, and recently identified five properties as sites for additional high-density housing, all of which were either in the Belle Haven neighborhood or right outside it. More potential high-density housing sites are expected to be identified in the future.

Nina Wouk, who said she has lived in Belle Haven since 1986, was one of 11 people who spoke against putting more housing in Belle Haven. "No high-density housing," she said. "Dumping it on Belle Haven is really not a moral option. We do not want to be stacked like cordwood."

Speakers talked about existing traffic problems and lack of basic services, such as banking and good schools, that would be made worse by adding more housing.

Vicky Robledo told the council that putting more housing in Belle Haven could be the issue to finally pull the community together. "We want to be one community, but we haven't been," said Vicky Robledo. "Do you want 217 new homes on your street? I don't think so."

The council will discuss the housing plan at its May 21 meeting.

The topic that was on the agenda was a report on what the city is calling a "Neighborhood Vision" project for Belle Haven. In September a divided council approved spending $90,000 on the project.

Derek Schweigart, Menlo Park's assistant director of community services, told the council that since last fall, city staff and the consulting firm MIG have reached out to Belle Haven through events, a website and a newsletter, and with a crew of four Belle Haven residents hired as an outreach team.

Preliminary results of the conversations in the neighborhood, including from 86 people who filled out a city survey, show that the top concerns in the area include improving schools, safety and security, more programs for youth and families, job training, community beautification, and ways to allow the community to work together.

A final report on the project is expected to be released in July, according to the city.

Council members emphasized that they need to give the community more than just a report telling them what their neighborhood needs and wants.

"There's nothing in this report I didn't already know," said council member Ray Mueller. "We have leaders in Belle Haven. ... What we need to do is give them resources," he said.

"All the data's great," he said. "We have the data now — it's confirmed what we know. How do we give them tools to do what they need to do?"

Council member Rich Cline also warned the residents that money to pay for improvements is the real problem. "I want to tell the community when you really need to listen is not at this meeting. It's when the budget comes out," he said. "It's going to take money for police stations, money for police officers, money for the library, money to staff it."

One of the priorities for Belle Haven residents has been a new police substation for the neighborhood. Menlo Park police chief Robert Jonsen, who started his job in February, promised that he is working hard on the issue as well as making other improvements to improve safety in the area.

"We're very excited about the possibility of the new substation," Chief Jonsen said. The new station will be discussed at a May 16 community meeting planned as part of the Belle Haven Neighborhood Vision project, he said.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Senior Center, 110 Terminal Ave. in Menlo Park.

There will be more bike patrols in the area and two additional motor officers, Chief Jonsen said. "I really want to build our neighborhood watch programs," he said. He also promised to crack down on any gang activity in the area. "If any gang member comes into this community and inflicts violence on anyone in this community, we will find them."

Online forum

Go to tinyurl.com/MP-vision to participate in an online forum, set up by the city of Menlo Park to get people's views on the future of Belle Haven. You don't need to live in the Belle Haven neighborhood to participate. Users will be required to enter their names and addresses, but may post anonymously. Email dsschweigart@menlopark.org or call 330-2267 to contact Assistant Community Services Director Derek Schweigart for more information.

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