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General plan, zoning need attention too

Original post made by Renee Batti on Mar 20, 2007

The following guest opinion by Brielle Johnck was published in the Almanac's March 21 print edition:
By Brielle Johnck
I join the applause for the Menlo Park City Council's commitment to the Cool City Initiative.
I also want to remind the council that there are other city issues that need to be resolved: the General Plan is three years out of date and a practical residential zoning ordinance is badly needed.
If both these matters could be resolved within the coming 18 months, the city might operate more smoothly and be ready for a 2008 council election that is without the acrimony we experience every two years.
There are environmental aspects to both the general plan and the zoning ordinance that are real and could be guides to both homeowners and developers. Residential location and density issues remain unresolved. Zoning and permitting incentives should be given for solar energy designs. Bayfront Park should be given permanent protection as open space.
Menlo Park has found itself in a war that has been all too easily labeled by the local press as pro-growth and no-growth. With a reasonable but clear set of rules, the city could put to rest this poisonous controversy.
We have slogged our way through a residential zoning referendum, a referendum on Bayfront Park and a referendum on the Derry project. Battles such as these create council elections resulting in political swings. There follows an adjustment period and a learning curve to conquer. Our last council majority neglected to address either the general plan update or the need for an updated zoning ordinance and instead dealt with each development proposal in a vacuum. The mayor won her seat partly due to her success in forcing the council to rescind a faulty residential zoning ordinance. This issue is hers to fix.
It is time to sit down and do the messy work of asking ourselves how we want the city to look tomorrow and 25 years from now. Get it down on paper. The process of updating the general plan is an arduous task and we need to get started. The mayor and the mayor pro tem will be looking at a re-election campaign in 16 months. Green issues can be found in the mundane as well as in the hybrid Prius.

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