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Guest opinion on Louise Street dispute: Don't destroy our neighborhood

Original post made on Jul 10, 2013

On July 16 the City Council will vote on an issue that raises fundamental questions about the nature of our community, and the broader rights of homeowners in any community. The matter involves the "vacation and abandonment of a portion of the Louise Street right of way." For Louise Street residents, what is at stake is the unique historical character of the cul-de-sac we call home — and our ability to protect this sanctuary from a determined and deep-pocketed developer who wants to change it forever.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (111)

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Posted by Long time resident of MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

If the Louise neighbors wanted to keep the street the same, they should have bought the lot when Mr. Sinnott did. Then they could do as they please. Schwarz has been using Sinnott's driveway as a personal parking lot for his 2 big Mercedes and now he wants the city to give him the property for a personal park. You have got to be kidding. The new house will move traffic off Santa Cruz and new property taxes will help the schools and help the neighbor's property values. There was a driveway here for years as the previous owner has testified to.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm

To Long time resident: Mr. Sinnott's property is not on Louise Street. I don't own any Mercedes. Nor do I live in lot adjacent to the green space. I am simply one of the long-time residents of Louise Street. No one wants a personal park; we are trying to protect the area in perpetuity, rather than allow a develop to build a private driveway to a house on another street. The new house will not move any traffic off Santa Cruz Avenue. The design still includes a driveway on Santa Cruz (for the secondary dwelling unit) and anyone who lives on Louise Street actually needs to drive down Santa Cruz to get downtown. If you lived on Louise Street you would know there was never a driveway where Mr. Sinnott claims; the previous owner never claimed a driveway either.. he simply said he occasionally used a rutted dirt track. The only problem with that story: no one else who lived on Louise Street ever saw this happen dating back to 1948.


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Posted by SP
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2013 at 8:44 am

Mr. Schwarz, Sinnot's property does not have a Louise Street address, but the lot opens up to both Santa Cruz and Louise. While I totally understand that the 10 houses on Louise don't want construction and would like to preserve their privacy, saying that this 3000 square foot space is " what we most cherish about our street" seems a little silly. If your goal is to preserve your privacy from Santa Cruz, working with Mr. Sinnot would seem to be more logical since I assume he can clear anything that is not a heritage tree off of his property, further reducing the privacy. I suspect there is nothing to prevent him from parking his construction vehicles on Louise an cutting thru the "sacred space" on foot.


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Posted by local observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Mr. Schwartz - All developers need to be sensitive to the impact of their projects on local neighborhoods but I fail to see how replacing some ill gotten parking with a driveway to a house impacts your neighborhood. Why is the area where those parking places existed for years called a sanctuary?

Sinnott is simply replacing a house using a driveway area that has existed for years but was blocked. It doesn't harm the neighborhood.


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Posted by another observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Sinnott bought a property on Santa Cruz and wants to change its address, or at least modify access to the property that currently is reached from Santa Cruz. Who gains from that? The people on Louise don't. They would now have a lot of construction traffic and congestion and new traffic from 2 residential units on Sinnott's lot.
Judgment about what harms a neighborhood should be made by the neighborhood. From afar, it appears not a single neighbor supports what he wants to do, and all oppose it. Sinnott has no reason to be reasonable or neighborly. He hasn't lived there and won't be living there.
The city should help manage construction traffic and problems.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I find it extraordinary that even though 60 people who live or have lived on Louise Street for the last 65 years swear there was never any driveway or rutted dirt path connecting 1825 Santa Cruz Avenue to Louise Street, people who've never lived here keep telling us there was--as though they somehow know or remember, even if we don't. Similarly, all 12 families on Louise Street are unanimously opposed to Mr. Sinnott's plan, as are the two families on either side of his property on Santa Cruz Avenue. Yet other people who don't live here keep telling us it won't harm the neighborhood, as though they know better than we do. And if someone finds it "silly" that we cherish the rural character of our street, then that person must simply have different values than we do. But thanks anyway for reading!


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm

If ANY owner of this property CURRENTLY has legal access for a driveway to Louis Avenue this should be continued regardless of how much neighbors dislike it. And the owner has the right to prune his property any way he/she wants as long as it does not violate any CURRENT code. Period! Any posturing about non-residents not appreciating the residents views is a "red herring". The central issue is property rights versus neighbor preferences. Period! I received an inflammatory flyer in my mailbox today so whoever left it invited non-Louis Ave residents to express their views WITH EQUAL WEIGHT. Period!


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Posted by a Louise Street property owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

To Dana Hendrickson: The owner of 1825 Santa Cruz Avenue does not have legal access rights to Louis Avenue. I don't have any idea where Louis Ave is and if it is even in Menlo Park. Yes, a property owner can prune anything he wants to prune on his property. But he can't prune heritage redwood trees on city property, which is what he did. That is a violation of city code. As homeowners on Louise Street, they have property rights too, which include protecting the historical character of the street on which they bought our properties. What's your address?


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2013 at 9:05 pm

ANONYMOUS Louis Street owner. Your stated ignorance of where Louis Ave is IS not relevant to the discussion at hand. (Use google maps if you are curious). Nor is MY address. Try to stick to the facts. What is your evidence that the property owner violated MP heritage tree codes? No violation has been reported by the city. Do you have evidence that the property owner's existing access to Louis Ave is NOT legal? Finally, no one has a automatic RIGHT to preserve the "historical character" of a neighborhood. Imagine what would happen if everyone could make such a claim! Chaos.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:59 am

Ah, "first world" problems. I suggest you take a breath.

It won't be the end of the world for Louise Street residents if Mr. Sinnott gets his driveway. Louise Street property values won't plummet and their neighborhood peace won't be lost forever.

And it won't be the end of the world for Mr. Sinnott if he doesn't get his driveway on Louise Street. He'll still construct his house and sell it for an obscenely (by most standards) handsome profit.


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Posted by Long time resident of MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

Dear POGO
You are correct that life will go on. The house will be built and one extra driveway on Louise may or may not be built. But it is amazing that 12 homes on Louise are willing to trample mr. Sinnott's legal rights, waste tons of Menlo park city council time and money, [portion removed; stick to the facts and don't accuse others of fraudulent actions without proof], all for their own selfish nimby project to save an old oleander bush. [Portion removed; stick to the facts.] When mr. Sinnott builds the driveway it will actually improve the street view and the Louise street neighbors can welcome a 13th family to their culdesac nirvana.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Can someone please post the FACTS regarding this 'right of way'. Does it appear on the official parcel maps as an exclusive easement or a non-exclusive easement?

People perceptions, recollections and preferences have no legal meaning - the law and the recorded status of this parcel are determinative.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From the maps That I can access on-line this parcel has a larger frontage on Louise St than do either 1020 or 1016 Louise - why should this parcel not have the same access to the street as do 1020 and 1016 Louise?


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Posted by Dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Go visit Louise St. This has got to be the most overblown neighborhood furor of the century. Adding one more driveway (legally) may be the smallest change the street sees in the decade as people remodel, add, cut down or replant trees. The real issue is personal - and should not involve all this city staff and energy. Ay caramba!


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Posted by Please clarify
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:28 pm

To further Peter Carpenter's question, who owns the 53x60 foot parcel quoted by Mr. Schwarz as "We call it the green space — a 53-by-60-foot area that is undeveloped public right of way."?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

According to the County Assessor's maps the 53x60 'parcel' is not a separate parcel but part of the Louise St PUBLIC right of way.

1020 Louise and 2016 Louise both have a 15 ft frontage on Louise and the disputed parcels has a 45 ft frontage on Louise.


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Posted by Lorie Sinnott
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The City of Menlo Park owns this area: After extensive research, 3 different expert sources have now concurred on this. All will be explained at the council meeting on Tuesday.


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Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm


Once upon a time, before real estate hype took over the world, a "cul-de-sac" was called a "dead-end street."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A cul-de-sac with 13 driveways is no different than a cul-de-sac with 12 driveways - it is still a cul-de-sac.

A cul-de-sac where all the abutting properties have access to a PUBLIC road is more equitable than a cul-de-sac where one of the abutting properties is denied that access.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

now children play nicely!!! A lot of bull over nothing. The people objecting should have bought the property when it was for sale!!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I just went to Louise St. to see the facts on the ground. Adding one more driveway to this street will have no significant impact and the parcel in question has a larger frontage on this street than do others that are already connected to it. The public street and right of way should be accessible to all of the abutting properties and that street and right of way are not owned by the residents but by the city.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Anyone wanting to be informed about this matter should come to the City Council hearing on Tuesday. Many of the comments contained in this thread are not well informed. For instance, the underlying fee simple to the land is owned by neighbors on Louise Street, not by the City.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" the underlying fee simple to the land is owned by neighbors on Louise Street, not by the City."

IF that were the case then Louise would be a private road BUT, lo and behold, it is maintained not by the neighbors but by, guess who, the city at taxpayers expense.


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Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm

As I've posted previously, if MP owns the land, the city should not be giving the property away for free to anyone. The city should make the most productive use out of it, such as leasing it out to generate revenue. The current options only benefit a few either via right of way for a driveway or free parking.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The irony is that if Sinnott loses this battle he will simply park all of his cars on Louise and use the pedestrian access which he will be required to be given by the 'winners'. And all of his construction workers will be able to park there as well.


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Posted by Sam Sinnott
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 13, 2013 at 2:55 pm

All - there are two core legal issues here. The most significant is abutters rights. All properties abutting a public right of way have the right to come and go from that right of way. My property at 1825 Santa Cruz has that right because Louise Street is a public right of way abutting my property. A long, documented history of access and vehicle usage(including the neighbors parking) in the street to and from my property exists.

The reason for the abandonment is to try and take this right away. The abandonment being considered is to gift the land back to neighbors in the original chain of title because the land is theoretically no longer needed by the city or anyone else. As ridiculous as this sounds it is up for consideration and final vote by the council. It hinges on the original Belle Acres subdivision being an easement type with property lines of the parcels extending to the middle of the street and the city having an easement over them. No maps or legal descriptions exist describing such a subdivision. There is some legal language stating that without such evidence and under certain circumstances it can be assumed. There is also conflicting language that would make Louise Street a fee simple street owned by the City. In that case the City could not give away the land.

The abandonment is therefore very murky and messy. The abutters rights are very clear. Even if the land is abandoned a driveway easement will have to be granted over the new private property to replace the existing driveway. This defeats the reason for the abandonment.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

interesting! Should be a good city council meeting.


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Posted by Longtime Louise Street Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Hey Peter, I'm guessing you are a buddy of Sam Sinnott and want to understandably want support him on this site. However, your notion of what "fee simple" means could use some improvement. The issues involved here are complex, and it is understandable that you might be confused. I recommend that you or anyone else interested in understanding the issues attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

The residents of Louise Street are all good people and we do not want to deprive anyone of their legitimate rights. We support pedestrian access for any abutting residents of Louise Street. The main issue here is about vehicular rights and frontage. No need to debate it here: come to the City Council meeting if you are interested.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I'm guessing you are a buddy of Sam Sinnott and want to understandably want support him on this site."


I don't know him and have never met him. My position on this is that every abutting property has the same right of access including the two flag lots that really don't abut but still already have access.

Having read the staff report I feel well informed on the facts. Having visited the site I think the neighbors are making a huge mistake that could well result in all of the vehicles from the two abutting properties who are granted pedestrian access will now be parked in front of your homes - not a smart outcome. Adding one more driveway to the 12 that already connect to Louise St. will hardly "destroy our neighborhood".


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Posted by Longtime Louise Street Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Hi Peter, sorry for insinuating that you might be a buddy of Sam's. I'm glad you read the staff report and have taken an interest in our neighborhood! I hope to see you at the City Council meeting.

The fact is that Sam has already reduced the value our neighborhood significantly. The end of the street looks much worse than it did a year ago, due to Sam's trimming of trees, some legal and some not. You wouldn't understand unless you actually lived on the street.

You need to understand that Sam's main motive is to maximize his profit. You can say that one new driveway won't destroy the neighborhood, but the fact is that everyone on the street knows where Sam is going with this, a full-frontage Louise Street address. He doesn't give one dim whit about the Louise Street neighborhood, and all his actions support my point. The issue is 12 against 1, and I have a hard time understanding why you support the 1 vs. the 12 in this case.

Again, the issues are complex, and I very much hope to see you at the City Council meeting on Tuesday. Please support our neighborhood, your's could be next!



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The issue is 12 against 1, and I have a hard time understanding why you support the 1 vs. the 12 in this case."

I just don't support the mob rule concept that the 12 have more legal rights than the 1. We have laws to ensure that everyone is treated the same. Would 11 of you have the right to eject the 12th from your little island? I don't think so.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The staff report proposes to give half of this parcel to Hubly and half to Comer. This is an inequitable and unwise gift of public property.

IF the city is going to abandon this 60' wide portion of the public right of way why should half go to Comer and half go to Hubly rather than 15' going to Comer, 15' to Pols/Schelberg, 15' to Sinnott and 15' to Hubly since all four of these properties abut the parcel in question?


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Posted by Long Longtime Menlo Park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm

If The Menlo Park city council is going to start giving away public land, I would like the opportunity to bid for it. Why should the city give land that we all own to 2 families for a song? The city council should get their noses out of this and pass it back to the Planning Commission where a decision can be made on the legal merits. I believe staff has already recommended in Mr. Sinnott's favor but the mob influenced the Council to undertake a foolish plan to giveaway public land.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 6:23 pm

We will show at the Council meeting why the Sinnotts do not have abutters' rights to Louise Street from their parcel on Santa Cruz Avenue. Despite Mr. Sinnott's repeated claims there is no "long, documented history of access and vehicle usage" from 1825 Santa Cruz Avenue to Louise Street, it is simply not true--as anyone who has ever actually lived on Louise Street can tell you. And there is certainly no existing driveway. Furthermore, the only people who stand to benefit financially from the disposition of the land in question are the Sinnotts, who want to build a private driveway that benefits only them so they can sell their spec house as a Louise Street property. The Louise Street neighbors will get no financial benefit from abandonment. The abandonment request is structured so that the neighbors are simply protecting the green space in perpetuity and will receive no financial gain. Let's at least be honest about who stands to profit here. It's certainly not anyone on Louise Street.


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Posted by Louise Street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 6:31 pm

To all of you abandonment is a giveaway of public land, it's not. The land in question is undeveloped public right of way. The underlying fee simple interest in that land is held by some of the longtime residents of Louise Street, which means they actually own it, not the city.


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Posted by Longtime Menlo Park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 13, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Mr. Schwarz
What is wrong with Mr. Sinnott wanting to profit from his work? Of course he wants to profit. I see nothing wrong with that. Are you and your neighbors motives somehow more pure? And does this somehow justify your crusade against Mr. Sinnott. If the neighbors own the street they can decide who to allow to connect. If the city owns the street, that is another story. Sounds like a simple legal issue. Hopefullyy Menlo Park's legal counsel will be on top of his game because lawsuits would cost the city a lot of money. Hard to believe a compromise cannot be worked out to allow 1 more driveway. See you all Tuesday night.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Many of us in this area have property which extends to the center line of the street but the needs of the community dictate that the street is quite properly controlled by the local government and not a gang of 12 who decide who can and cannot use the street.

It would be a horrible precedent if the city of Menlo Park starts giving control of such assets to individuals who have no public accountability and who have already demonstrated their willingness to ignore the rights of others.


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Posted by Louise DeDera
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I notice that the comments with no name attached have many inaccuracies. They are all "long-time residents of Menlo Park" or "another observer". I applaud Michael Schwarz for using his name and for patiently correcting the many inaccuracies. Also Peter Carpenter who has used his even though I'm not sure he understands all the issues. We have lived on Louise Street for 49 years and raised our family here. The children of the street and immediate neighborhood play among the bushes and trees in the 50'green space between the end of the street (where the bulb turn-around is) and the fences of properties on Santa Cruz Ave. Maj. Reese designed the street and green space when he developed our subdivision. He used to come and check on the trees. Just now the green space is less inviting because Mr. Sinnott had our plum tree and others cut down and has left the dead branches there. We hope to be able to restore it once this nightmare is over.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:49 am

It won't be the end of the world for Louise Street residents if Mr. Sinnott gets his driveway and it won't be the end of the world for Mr. Sinnott if he doesn't.

Either way, Louise Street residents will still enjoy outrageously inflated property values and Mr. Sinnott will turn a very handsome profit from his project.

Both sides should both count their blessings and perhaps devote more effort to more worthy causes.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:57 am

Could it be that Mr. Sinnot has met such opposition because of the arrogant way in which he has gone about things here? Or, is it simply NIMBYism in full bloom? I'm betting it lies somewhere in the middle.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 14, 2013 at 11:35 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Just exactly how can the city council justify this finding given the outstanding request for a driveway from an abutting property:

"WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Menlo Park adopts the finding that the portion of
Louise Street proposed for abandonment is not necessary for present or prospective public
street purposes;"

How can the city council reconcile the above with this statement form the 5 March 2013 staff report:
"On November 9, 2012, the Department of Public Works conditionally issued the permit
since it met the City's driveway standards and it has legal access to Louise Street."

The July 14, 1936 Belle Acres parcel map clearly shows that the street extends to and buts the Sinnott property and gives no indication that any adjacent parcels have fee simple ownership.
This is followed by a title insurer's letter that offers a contrary opinion from a non-lawyer and from a company that may well hold title insurance on one of the preferred properties.

Do the adjacent property owners understand that under the proposed restrictions that they would no longer be permitted to use any of the parcel for parking:
"The adjacent property owners of 1017 Louise Street and 1024 Louise Street shall
each record a Deed Restriction for Open Space against the abandoned portion of
Louise Street that reverts to their respective ownership, ensuring that the
abandoned area will continue to remain as dedicated open space for the
aesthetic benefit of the neighborhood." So they will now have to park on the street along with Sinnott's vehicles - not a very good outcome for the tranquility of the street.


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Posted by John M Brock
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm

The issue is that a developer and his investor - neither of whom are residents in either the Louise St or Santa Cruz Ave communities - want to move this property from one subdivision into a neighboring subdivision so that they can make more money. Their interest goes no further than that. The people of these communities have unanimously opposed the move because they feel it negatively effects both communities. And these people have the right and responsibility to make themselves heard. Fortunately the law is in their favor on this one.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Fortunately the law is in their favor on this one."

That is not clear. In the 14 July 1936 subdivision recording the map shows Louise St as continuing to and abutting the Pols/Schelberg and Sinnott parcels and the owners certified in on 18 July 1936 that those owners "hereby dedicate to PUBLIC USE Louise St. ..shown upon said map within said subdivision." That dedication was then accepted by the County of San Mateo on 20 July 1936.

This is not an issue of personalities or motives but an issue of law.


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Posted by Louise Street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Sam,

In asserting your "rights", you are unfortunately continuing to rewrite and distort the facts. You also give absolutely no weight to the rights of the neighborhood and the dozens of neighbors on Louise Street and throughout Menlo Park who believe your plans destabilize and fundamentally alter the character of our neighborhood.

Specifically:

1) There was no "old driveway" from Santa Cruz to Louise Street. Your property has used its driveway on Santa Cruz for the duration of its existence. As dozens of current and former residents of the Street have testified, the "driveway" on Louise Street never existed. In fact, your first letter to the owners of the adjacent property made very clear reference to your interest in constructing a "new access" to Louise Street. It was only after homeowners on the Street expressed concern about construction of this "new access" that your story changed, and you began referring to an "old driveway" that no one who currently lives or previously lived on Louise Street ever saw or used.

2) You have not, as you claim "recently been using the existing dirt driveway". You have cut down shrubs and trees in the City-owned green space and driven over mature ivy and shrubs to manufacture a driveway where none existed. In fact, on at least four occasions over the last year you have flouted the City's requests and explicit direction to refrain from performing work in the disputed area until the City made its final determination. The rear fence of your property and the area leading to that fence were completely obscured by ivy and mature trees and shrubs when you purchased the property. You and your crews have since removed substantial greenery from the area, including cutting down multiple trees and shrubs on the city-owned land and trampling the ivy so thoroughly that it bears no resemblance to its prior appearance. Dozens of neighbors who have lived on the street for decades - including four families who've lived in the homes directly adjacent to the green space - have testified that no vehicle ever used the rear gate to your property. It was used for pedestrian access only - access that your neighbors on Louise Street have offered to preserve and formalize - and it appears even for pedestrians, the gate was used most recently more than 20 years ago.

3) Your comment that the neighbors "vowed to organize the neighborhood against" you is also a fabrication. The neighborhood made very concerted efforts to work with you from the beginning. When you placed flags and markers in the green space, the neighbors began asking questions of each other and of the City. When the neighbors learned of your plans, several approached you and City Staff for explanations, and also met with you and City Staff several times to attempt to understand your plans and come to an agreement. The neighbors want your property to have the pedestrian access to Louise Street it has historically enjoyed, similar to the access enjoyed by your neighbors at 1833 Santa Cruz. We are simply working to protect a small open space that has been enjoyed for generations by hundreds of current and former residents from being paved over for the benefit of a single developer.

4) Your suggestion that the conditional encroachment permit issued to you by Public Works somehow constituted a show of support for your plans is also a distortion. Before issuing any permit, Public Works directed you to work with the neighborhood and ultimately issued you a "conditional" encroachment permit with the full understanding that the neighbors would appeal. You were not allowed by that permit to perform any work on the City-owned land until the neighborhood appeal was heard. As noted above, that didn't stop you from repeatedly performing substantial work on City-owned land without a permit.

5) Your article fails to note the multiple occasions that the City has ruled against your plans.

* The Planning Department has twice said "no" to your requests to flip your house and change its address from one on Santa Cruz to one on Louise Street. (That hasn't stopped you from repeatedly advertising the property for sale with a fictitious Louise Street address even after being asked by the City to stop.)

* The City Council voted in March to support the neighborhood appeal of your encroachment permit and also voted unanimously to pursue abandonment of the land to the neighbors.

* The Planning Commission has ruled that abandonment of the land to the neighbors is consistent with the Menlo Park General Plan, which seeks to preserve the existing character and stability of neighborhoods.

Sam, your actions have already significantly changed the character of our neighborhood. What used to be lush green space is now characterized by tree stumps, trampled ivy, and a dilapidated fence. When you drove bulldozers and a dump truck - unannounced - through the City-owned open space onto your property last month, it was hugely destabilizing to the neighborhood. You seem to have forgotten, but this is where your neighbors live.

You have claimed in the past to be a good neighbor. Neighbors listen to one another. They listen to the City. The Planning Department has twice said "no" to your request for an address change. The City Council has said "no" to your encroachment permit. The Planning Commission has said abandonment of the land to the neighbors is consistent with the Menlo Park General Plan. Hundreds of neighbors have expressed their opinion that your plans are not good for Louise Street, for the neighborhood, or for Santa Cruz Avenue. Multiple individual City representatives have said the same.

Please, for the good of the neighborhood, your neighbors, and your City, it's time for you to set aside your motive of further increasing your profits on the sale of your property, to listen to the neighbors and the City, and to show that you can, in fact, be a good neighbor.


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Posted by Baker Rice
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I lived on Lemon Street, around the corner from Louise Street, for 15 years and I now live in downtown Menlo Park. I'm 100% for the residents of Louise Street and don't want the developer to have access to the cul-de-sac. They are facing an attack by a willful developer who wants his way - apparently no one ever told him "no" during his childhood. He can exit onto Santa Cruz like everyone else who lives on Santa Cruz and not spoil a lovely area that has been intact for decades and wants to remain so.


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Posted by LongTime resident of Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Dear Baker Rice.
Your note of support, while interesting and possibly comforting to some, is unfortunately completely irrelevant to what is a legal issue related to 1825 Santa Cruz's right to connect to Louise Street. This is a question of what the property rights of 1825 Santa Cruz are not what the neighbors wish they were.


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Posted by Longtime Louise Street Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm

The city has a legal right to abandon an easement, and it has done so several times in its history. So, yes, this is a legal issue, but that particular fact has no bearing on how the city should decide the case. It is legal either way.


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Posted by ndnorth
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I must really be in California,( no it's not a dream) because:

people without a real problem invent one

they call "historical" anything that's only a few decades old

they accuse others of wanting to make money

stamp their little feet while saying "I want I want I want...."

and urge their city to give valuable property to them and only them

Having said all this I don't know the legal aspects of this minor (both in scope and stakes) squarmish but I hope the city goes by what the legal aspects dictate and not by the not so gentle screams of the
few neighborhood residents. If they are right by law they are still behaving like babies seing "destruction" (nothing less hm?) and catastrophy were there is none.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Just exactly how can the city council justify this finding given the outstanding request for a driveway from an abutting property:

"WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Menlo Park adopts the finding that the portion of

Louise Street proposed for abandonment is not necessary for present or prospective public

street purposes;"

How can the city council reconcile the above with this statement form the 5 March 2013 staff report:

"On November 9, 2012, the Department of Public Works conditionally issued the permit

since it met the City's driveway standards and it has legal access to Louise Street."

The July 14, 1936 Belle Acres parcel map clearly shows that the street extends to and buts the Sinnott property and gives no indication that any adjacent parcels have fee simple ownership.

In the 14 July 1936 subdivision recording the map shows Louise St as continuing to and abutting the Pols/Schelberg and Sinnott parcels and the owners certified in on 18 July 1936 that those owners "hereby dedicate to PUBLIC USE Louise St. ..shown upon said map within said subdivision." That dedication was then accepted by the County of San Mateo on 20 July 1936.

This is followed by a title insurer's letter that offers a contrary opinion from a non-lawyer and from a company that may well hold title insurance on one of the preferred properties.

Do the adjacent property owners understand that under the proposed restrictions that they would no longer be permitted to use any of the parcel for parking:

"The adjacent property owners of 1017 Louise Street and 1024 Louise Street shall
each record a Deed Restriction for Open Space against the abandoned portion of
Louise Street that reverts to their respective ownership, ensuring that the
abandoned area will continue to remain as dedicated open space for the
aesthetic benefit of the neighborhood." So then they will have to park on the street along with Sinnott's vehicles - not a very good outcome for the tranquility of the street.

IF the city is going to abandon this 60' wide portion of the public right of way why should half go to Comer and half go to Hubly rather than 15' going to Comer, 15' to Pols/Schelberg, 15' to Sinnott and 15' to Hubly since all four of these properties abut the parcel in question?

This is not an issue of personalities or motives but an issue of law.



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Posted by ndnorth
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2013 at 12:15 am

funny, but I just street viewed Louise st so that I can look a little from the perspective of the Louise Street owners. Off the driveway of 1024 (I think it's what the numbers are) I can clearly see a car (looks like a Mercedes) parked on a purposely made a gravel makeshift 2 car parking. Are this gravel parking spaces originally part of the greenery that the neighbors do not want to be gone or does this portion belong exclusively to 1024?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2013 at 6:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Are this gravel parking spaces originally part of the greenery that the neighbors do not want to be gone" Yes

" or does this portion belong exclusively to 1024?" it does not now but would under the proposed giveaway of the public right of way.


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Posted by ndnorth
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2013 at 7:49 am

And with the above information I can easily conclude that this issue is about greed, using public land for personal gain and need for personal fiefdoms-I don't see any of this coming from Sinnott

Isn't that nice that a picture is worth a thousand words?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 16, 2013 at 10:24 am

This is about people playing the "it's for the good of the community" card when they are really looking out for their own selfish interests.

That's true of BOTH sides.

I only hope that the legal documents and evidence are definitive and that the Menlo Park Council Members abide by them.

I can assure both sides that their worlds won't come to an end either way.


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Posted by Louise Street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 16, 2013 at 12:18 pm

ndnorth and Peter Carpenter -
The gravel parking spaces you see in old pictures of Louise Street were installed by former residents of Louise Street and were removed by current owners after the City Council voted to pursue abandonment.

With the City's permission, the parking spaces were replaced with ivy that has subsequently been trampled by Mr. Sinnott's construction traffic.


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Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Another, to me as just or more important, is the issue and legality of re-addressing a residence. Going from Lemon St. to a Louise St. address is what Mr. Sinnott wants and this carries implications for other neighborhoods!! Not just this one - think about this! Why should Mr. Sinnott be able to change the overall plan of existing longtime neighborhoods in Menlo Park? This could open up a huge can of legal headaches for our governing bodies, beyond Menlo Park perhaps. Is there a precedent for this? And for the fact that it would be done solely for financial gain? What happens to the addressing on Louise St. and Lemon St. and can anyone start doing this if they abut another street?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If a Menlo Park property abuts on two or more streets then the property owner may request a change of address by filing a request and paying a $50 fee. It is not clear who reviews and approves/disapproves such application.

The Sinott property abuts both Santa Cruz and Louise but does not abut Lemon.


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Posted by Reader
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm


@Pogo

Repeatedly, I see you pompously decree what won't be the “end of the world" to the residents of a particular neighborhood other than your own-- even though no one has said it would be the “end of their world." How easy it is for you to declare what should be important to these people, and what should effect them. You also presume that somehow property values are what matters most to the neighbors on Louise Street-- none of whom you appear to know in the slightest-- when their comments seem to indicate that it is their long standing (and perhaps “grandfathered in," if not outright legal) enjoyment of their “green space," and their neighborhood and property rights that seem to matter to them most. This is for them to decide; not you.

And it is quite condescending and arrogant for you to dictate that “Both sides should both count their blessings and perhaps devote more effort to more worthy causes," when you are clearly wasting your time here judging others in such a busybody and presumptuous fashion. Perhaps, you should be off somewhere counting your own blessings, and devote more of your imperious time to your perceived worthy causes. Set an example for us all...


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"even though no one has said it would be the “end of their world."

Please reread the title of the above Guest Opinion: "Don't destroy our neighborhood"

POGO is both correct in his comments and opinions and has as much right to state them as do you. I am also aware that his personal qualifications for having an informed opinion on this matter are both substantial and probably exceed those of most other posters.


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Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Thanks for the street correction, Peter. So it sounds like all those who live on the corners of 2 streets (such as Santa Cruz & Lemon) can change their address or must it be front to back of a residence? And is this by city, county, state? (Imagine all the maps involved!) Hard to accept it's as simple as you stated, and tend to think there are more considerations taken into account when a decision like this is made.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Beth - the address change process varies from city to city and each seems to have their own standards or lack thereof. And the address issue can be very important for emergency response so the property owner needs to think carefully when requesting such a change. A good example is NYC where properties which actually face a cross street but also have some frontage on 5th Ave all use 5th Ave addresses and that creates a real problem for the NY Fire Department.

There is no free lunch.

Another issue on parcels facing two or three streets is which is the front/side/rear yard and that is usually defined in the local zoning ordinance and can be different that the parcel address.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

For example, here is the City of Irvine's policy on addresses of corner lots:

"3. Corner Lots
Homes on corner lots and at T-intersections shall have
addresses that have a difference of at least 10 digits from
each other, while remaining within the addressing pattern
established for the tract. Addresses for corner lots shall be
determined by driveway and walkway placement, not
necessarily which direction the front door faces. The
addressing team may choose to vary from this 10 digit
requirement based upon topography or the establishment of
a clear delineation between corner homes where the
addressing will not be confused as to the addressed street. "


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

No, it won't be the end of the world, reader. The assertion is only that the addition of a driveway will only "destroy our neighborhood." No hyperbole there!

Regarding property values, it was Longtime Louise Street Resident who stated "the fact is that Sam has already reduced the value our neighborhood significantly..." I guess these residents are concerned about property values.

In my opinion, both sides have increased their respective rhetoric to the point of absurdity. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, reader.

But if you are going to call yourself "reader," perhaps you should be a bit more proficient before leveling such erroneous accusations.


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Posted by ndnorth
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

So, if I read correctly the residents of Louise St never objected to the 2 parking places stolen from terrain belonging to the greenery in question but as soon as Sinnott enters in the scene they do. I guess that what was good for the goose is not for the gander. The gravel parking spaces can't be that old because of when Google maps took the video.
From what I gather Sinnott makes a living as a developer and therefore
tries to maximize his profits exactly as do Louise St residents -nothing new here. Claims of destruction and catastrophy are such an infantile exageration, specially considering that a double gate was in the property leading to Louise St and nobody saw any destruction of "ambiance" throughtout the years. Let the city apply relevant law and may the chips fall where they may.


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Posted by Travel Expert
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 16, 2013 at 9:38 pm

[Post removed. Please discuss the topic instead of attacking other posters.]


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 16, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Travel Expert:

do you have anything of factual value to add to the discussion or do you just wish to attack Peter?


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Posted by Travel Expert
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm

[Post removed. Please focus on the topic.]


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Posted by LongTime Menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 17, 2013 at 7:34 am

Well, the meeting last night was generally a bust as it relates to Louise Street. The Louise Street cabal was there in force, but unfortunately we only heard from their lead off speaker, an older gentleman who shuffled up to the mike and who told the council they had a choice between standing up for open space (like the people who built Yellowstone, Central Park and Golden Gate park) or standing up for developers who are only out for the almighty dollar. Unbelievable but mildly amusing. Hopefully the August meeting will be more exciting with signs, slogans and singing. Maybe one of the neighbors will threaten to chain him or herself to the beloved oleander bush.


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Posted by Louise Street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

Why do you people refer to us as the Louise Street cabal? We are simply the people who have lived on this street for decades. Your patronizing, condescending, dismissive attitude is contemptuous. Peter Carpenter, you should worry about what's going on in Atherton and keep your nose out of our business. Your holier-than-thou attitude is really offensive. Pogo and ndnorth, you are obviously ignorant as well as unbelievably biased. The only person who stands to profit is Sinnott. Why you insist otherwise is a mystery. We are certainly glad none of you is a neighbor of ours and would appreciate if you would stop attacking us for standing up for what we strongly believe are our rights as long-standing taxpayers in this neighborhood.


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Posted by Louise Street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:31 am

To LongTime Menlo resident--Your snotty comments are neither intelligent nor constructive. If you disagree with us, that's fine. It's your right. But do you really need to mock us for defending our rights? By the way, the older gentleman you make fun of because he "shuffled up to the mike" is not known to people on Louise Street. Louise Street residents all agreed to defer our remarks until Aug 20. In fact I was not sure which side he supported when he began his remarks. So do you want to make fun of him because he's old? Because he has trouble walking? Or because his views differ from yours? In my opinion he was a class act. You are not. You simply degrade the discussion.


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Posted by Louise Street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:34 am

Beth--In their March meeting City Council strongly voiced their objection to the idea of Sinnott changing the orientation of his house and "turning its back" on Santa Cruz Avenue. There was extreme concern expressed by Council members about the precedent this would set for Menlo Park. Mr. Carpenter apparently did not attend that meeting.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:47 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Mr. Carpenter apparently did not attend that meeting."

No, I did not. In general I am concerned with facts and the law rather than opinions and second hand reports.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Louise Street resident - Thank you for your pointed comments. They are appreciated as well as necessary.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter Carpenter, you should worry about what's going on in Atherton and keep your nose out of our business. Your holier-than-thou attitude is really offensive. Pogo and ndnorth, you are obviously ignorant as well as unbelievably biased."


You would do well to deal with the issues that informed and experienced posters have raised rather than resorting to these personal attacks. There is both knowledge and wisdom beyond the boundaries of your little street.


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Posted by Louise street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm

To Peter Carpenter--you would do well to inform yourself of the facts, rather than simply spouting off completely uninformed opinions and attacking the Louise Street residents. There may well be knowledge and wisdom beyond what you call our "little street"--another none too subtle putdown--but you certainly are not offering any. Since you did not attend the meeting in which Council objected to the change in orientation of the Santa Cruz Avenue property, how do you have the nerve to suggest that you are "concerned with facts and the law rather than opinions and second hand reports"? The City of Irvine's policy is completely irrelevant to what Menlo Park City Council thinks is right for Menlo Park. But how fortunate we are that you bring it to everyone's attention.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"To Peter Carpenter--you would do well to inform yourself of the facts, rather than simply spouting off completely uninformed opinions and attacking the Louise Street residents."

1 - Have have never 'attacked' Louise St residents

2 - Having served as a Planning Commissioner for 4 1/2 years and serving elected official for 9 years I do have both knowledge about the laws involved and the essential elements of public policy making.

3 - I have read all of the staff reports on this matter and visited the site.

4 - I have made numerous suggestions as to how this matter might be resolved.

However, you have no interest in any of these facts. There is both knowledge and wisdom beyond the boundaries of your little street.


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Posted by Louise Street resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Larch Drive in Atherton is quite a little street too, in fact much smaller than our own, so I guess you know whereof you speak. You have repeatedly belittled the residents of Louise Street and made more uninformed comments than I could possibly count at this point. Suffice it to say that you are not nearly as well informed as you seem to think you are. I suppose by your definition calling us a "gang of 12" and referring to mob rule is not an attack? If you have read staff reports then you know that staff decided vacation and abandonment is consistent with the General Plan and the Menlo Park City Attorney has concluded that Sinnott's legal threats have no merit and that the property owners on Louise Street own the underlying fee simple rights to the land in question.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The issue is 12 against 1, and I have a hard time understanding why you support the 1 vs. the 12 in this case." = gang of 12 and mob rule.

I understand that Louse Street resident(s) are emotionally attached to this issue but this is a legal matter regarding the rights of ALL the citizens not something that should be decide by the emotional needs of a small number of citizens who want to claim a public right-of-way as their private property.


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Posted by Longtime Louise Street Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Peter, abandonment is a legal process, so it is pointless for you to keep saying "this is a legal matter."

It's fundamentally a political issue. You can call the Louise Street needs emotional, but what are the needs on the other side? Greed? Is that somehow more worthy?

It's the job of our elected official to figure out the right balance here.



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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:09 am

to Beth - The location of the front door is used to determine the street address of a house, so a corner house is identified by the street from which one approaches the main entrance. There have been a few instances where fencing, gating and landscaping have been used to create an angular path to the front door, allowing owners to change their street addresses. One issue with "turning" a corner house to change the name of its street is that building setbacks may then not conform to the existing regulations for the neighborhood. For example, if the owner wants to add a room, is it a side yard or a rear? Setbacks are different. Obviously there's a big advantage to settling this before starting construction.

One former MP council member managed to change his address so he could call himself a resident of MP even though his vintage house was on a corner & faced the side street, which was legally in EPA , not MP.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:13 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" this is a legal matter regarding the rights of ALL the citizens"

"abandonment is a legal process, "

We agree.

"It's the job of our elected official to figure out the right balance here."

Yes, and if they don't get it right then it will end up in the courts because it IS a legal issue.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:31 am

Louise Street Resident -

You said: "Pogo and ndnorth, you are obviously ignorant as well as unbelievably biased. The only person who stands to profit is Sinnott. Why you insist otherwise is a mystery."

I'm not sure how you construe my repeated comment that your neighborhood "won't be destroyed" with the addition of a 13th driveway and that Mr. Sinnott's profit won't vanish without it. It simply an observation that this entire matter is overblown.

Many of us have watch this dispute and marvel at incredible energy expended on what is so clearly a first world problem. Funny how no one seemed to mind when one of your fellow property owners installed two gravel parking spaces in almost the same place as the proposed driveway. But heaven forbid if a driveway replaced it. If that happened, I'm quite sure the entire sky would fall right down on Louise Street!

As far as this being a "political" matter instead of a "legal" one, in this instance, I couldn't disagree more. Unless there is some very compelling community interest, I certainly don't want to see a property owner's LEGAL rights impeded just because some neighbors don't like it. And that applies equally to YOUR legal rights.

I only hope the historical documentation surrounding this particular property is clear.


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Posted by Longtime Louise Street Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

POGO, please read the staff report on the issue.

"The City Attorney has reviewed all of these communications and the legal authorities cited by the attorneys and is of the opinion that there is no merit to the legal arguments contained in threat of litigation by Mr. Sinnott and that the City Council can proceed with
the abandonment or issuance of an encroachment permit"

reference: Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" is of the opinion that there is no merit to the legal arguments contained in threat of litigation by Mr. Sinnott and that the City Council can proceed with
the abandonment or issuance of an encroachment permit"


The operative words are "is of the opinion" - if "our elected official to DON'T figure out the right balance here." then this will go to court where a judge will make a ruling as to what the law is.

Lawyers have opinions, lots of them, but judges make rulings - big difference.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:21 am

Dear Mr. Carpenter,
I would suggest you read the legal arguments submitted July 9th to City Council, which explain in detail why Mr. Sinnott's interpretation of his "rights" is incorrect. The conclusion reached by these arguments--that Mr. Sinnott does not in fact have the rights he claims and that his grounds for legal action are without any merit--is supported by two city attorneys representing four other local cities and by the Menlo Park City Attorney. But of course, as you know, anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason, no matter how frivolous. They just need to be willing to pay a lawyer to represent them. Sinnott's repeated assertion of rights--which you seem to accept without question--does not mean he actually has them. We are confident that if this does go to court, a judge would rule in our favor.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I have the OPINION that the public owns the public right of ways and the the 1936 dedication of Louise St is consistent with that OPINION. On 18 July 1936 the original subdivision owners "hereby dedicate to PUBLIC USE Louise St. ..shown upon said map within said subdivision." That dedication was then accepted by the County of San Mateo on 20 July 1936.


As I said above Lawyers have opinions, lots of them, but judges make rulings - big difference.
Twenty legal opinions do not equal one judicial ruling.

I doubt that the residents of Louise St would be willing to pay the cost of taking this to court but I am not surprised that they want their fellow MP taxpayers to do so. What the Louise St residents want is to be given a public right of way for private use at no cost to them and if they get it then they want someone else to pay for any legal challenges.




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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:59 am

Actually, Mr. Sinnott is the only person who has ever talked about taking this to court and the only person threatening to sue the city. The residents of Louise Street have always said they are willing to live with the City Council's opinion. Mr. Sinnott said that too initially, until he decided he didn't like the City Council's ruling. You have not read the legal papers so I am afraid you simply don't understand the legal arguments here. The person seeking to gain personally from this is Mr. Sinnott, not us. Louise Street residents want to protect the green space in perpetuity. It would become private but under the legal terms of the abandonment anyone would be legally able to use and enjoy it. Mr. Sinnott would convert it into a private driveway that benefits only him, to the tune of anywhere from $500,000 to $1,000,000 over what he would make by selling the property with its historical Santa Cruz Avenue address. So we're the bad guys here?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"You have not read the legal papers so I am afraid you simply don't understand the legal arguments here."

Please feel free to enlighten me and other readers of the Forum with an unbiased posting of these legal documents.

" It would become private but under the legal terms of the abandonment anyone would be legally able to use and enjoy it." Including Mr. Sinnott who must be given pedestrian access to Louise St under the proposed gift of the public right of way and with such access could park his and others vehicles on Louise St - is that really want the Louise St residents want?


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm

The papers were submitted to the public city council web site (email log). I'm not sure what you mean by "an unbiased posting." They are what they are. An easement for pedestrian access is part of the abandonment proposal. The owners of 1833 Santa Cruz currently have such an easement and use it frequently to play with their children in the cul-de-sac.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I cannot find them in the email log - perhaps you can post the URL for each of these briefs so that we can all be better informed.


By "an unbiased posting." I mean a full and unredacted version of all of legal briefs and not one-sided excerpts or summaries.


Thanks in advance for your help.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I'll look into it. They were submitted on July 9th and 10th. I'm not sure why they are not appearing. Mr. Garrett also submitted legal arguments on Mr. Sinnott's behalf. I believe they were in the Planning Commission packet for the May meeting.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thanks to Sandy Brundage I now have seen and reviewed the legal briefs that were submitted.
As stated before these are OPINIONS of a number of lawyer and not judicial findings.

These documents also raise certain questions when they assert that 1825 Santa Cruz never used this right-of-way for street access purposes. That is what the lawyers call a rebuttable presumption and one that is called into question by the existence of driveway sized gates in the fence at the Louise St side of 1825 Santa Cruz. Why have driveway sized gates except for vehicular access?

As I said above Lawyers have opinions, lots of them, but judges make rulings - big difference.


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Posted by cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm

This will get resolved in due course. Louise is a great street and the people there seem quite nice -- we should all have neighbors who care this much.

That said, why should Mr. Sinnott NOT consider development options that enhance the value of his property -- wouldn't you?

Didn't the residents of Louise do so when they remodeled their own homes?

Also, Perhaps the street character will be enhanced by the addition of a new family, not degraded. Why does the presumption have to be that this addition is a negative?

Some will be happy and some not once is this resolved but lets separate the issues here and make sure that Louise, Mr. Sinnott, and the new homeowners are able to move forward in a positive manner once it is settled.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Perhaps the street character will be enhanced by the addition of a new family,"

Yes, it is worth noting that the creation of two flag lots, 1020 Louise and 2016 Louise both have a 15 ft frontage on Louise, added two homes and two driveways to Louise St. and did not 'destroy' the neighborhood.

In reviewing the legal briefs I note that the residents of Louise St. have agreed (in writing?) to indemnify the city against any lawsuits arising from the requested abandonment. That could turn out to be very expensive, even if they win.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I'm glad you were able to them. And yes, they are opinions by opposing lawyers. No one--not a single person--who lived on Louise Street going back to 1948 ever saw a car go through. I do not know why they were built that way. Gardeners apparently took wheelbarrows though occasionally. And people walked through them.

To cmon--We don't object to Mr. Sinnott enhancing the value of his property. We object to him trying to move his driveway to Louise Street and to flip the house from Santa Cruz to Louise... which is in a completely separate development that was never intended to serve the homes on Santa Cruz Avenue. They're part of the Martin Tract. We're in Belle Acres. Our point has always been that Mr. Sinnott can do extremely well financially by enhancing the value of his property at its historical address using its historical driveway. He bought it for $1.5 million. He can probably sell it for $4.5 million on Santa Cruz. I would think that would allow for ample profit. We have offered pedestrian access so that future owners can enjoy Louise Street, as the current owners of 1833 Santa Cruz Ave do. So we do not see a new family as a negative, just a new driveway and house whose frontage is actually on another street.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm

The flag lots were part of the original Belle Acres development. They were subdivided from the original Lot 1. They were not added to it. There is no comparison between those lots and Mr. Sinnott's, which is in a completely different development.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

So I am curious, Mr. Carpenter. If you allow yourself to imagine for a moment that we may in fact be right, and we are faced with a developer who is threatening to sue no matter what, and that we honestly believe this would seriously compromise the historical character of our street (which has already changed dramatically due to all the unauthorized clearing Mr. Sinnott has done in the public right of way), then what would you suggest?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Once again, my point is not that Mr. Sinnott is correct or that the Louise Street property owners are correct. If Mr. Sinnott cannot document his case, so be it.

My point is that this is a pretty small issue. It's difficult for me to believe that adding a thirteen driveway to this street, ironically replacing two gravel parking spaces that had been carved out earlier without much fuss, will "destroy the neighborhood." To characterize this as hyperbole would be an understatement.

I'm not sure how I could make myself any clearer.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" would seriously compromise the historical character of our street"

I have looked at the Google street views before the " unauthorized clearing" was done and when part of it was being used as a graveled parking area and I have looked at it last week.
I also note that the Sinnott property fence has a driveway sized gate. I am not prepared to accept the so called historical character of this right-of-way. It appears to have been used in different ways over time. I understand that the current Louise St. residents would like to remove this property from the right of way but I fail to see that there is historical justification for doing so.

That being said, if I were in your shoes Michael I would sit down an negotiate a settlement with Sinnott. The result maybe a driveway and some very nice landscaping or no driveway and a payment to Sinnott or something more clever. Either way this would be much less expensive than going to court where both side will also have to pay a lot of legal fees.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

When people involve lawyers, in the end, the only winners are the lawyers.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I have to say that I fail to see how a 10 or 12 foot wide driveway (the width required by the City) leading to a residence " would seriously compromise the historical character of our street".

I also fail to understand how a couple of additional cars driving in and out Louise would significantly impact the residents. He's not planning on building a high rise or multi-family dwelling, just a house.


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Posted by Long Time Menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 19, 2013 at 7:43 am

Mr. schwarz
16 hours ago you said "I think that would allow for ample profit"
What business of that is yours, what gives you the right to opine on whether Mr. Sinnott's profit is ample., and why is that relevant to what is a question of the property rights of 1825 Santa Cruz?
I also find it amazing that your group asserts that the prior owners of 1825 did not use the back gates as a driveway just because you did not witness it. There is a signed letter from the previous owner stating that he did. Are you saying that this person is a liar?


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 8:42 am

This situation is like something out of the Twilight Zone. Otherwise rational people acting totally irrational.

I agree with Carpenter: Sit down and work out a compromise now instead of starting thermo-nuclear war over such an issue. That's where you're going to end up anyway...with a negotiation.

LOUISE ST. NEIGHBORS: the driveway won't reduce the obscene market value of your overpriced homes.

MR. SINOTT: you have to live with these people.

EVERYONE: There are so many meaningful issues to get worked up about in today's world....get a grip.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 19, 2013 at 10:11 am

Dozens of people who have lived on the street since 1948 have never seen a single vehicle enter or leave the property through the rear gates. They were so densely covered with ivy that until very recently no one even knew they were there. So when you have 50 people with no financial incentive saying one thing, and a single person who has a financial incentive saying another, who do you think is telling the truth? Plus, under Mr. Sinnott's plan, his would be the ONLY house on Santa Cruz Avenue with its back towards the street. My point about profit is simply that there is no need to turn the house away from the street it's on in order to make a profit.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 19, 2013 at 10:44 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Dozens of people who have lived on the street since 1948 have never seen a single vehicle enter or leave the property through the rear gates."

This is contradicted by the 1984 encroachment permit issued by the city and the May 17, 2012 letter from the prior owner.

NEGOTIATE a resolution because the facts are not all in your favor.


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Posted by Michael Schwarz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 19, 2013 at 11:20 am

Peter,
I respect your desire to see a resolution but when you have 50 people giving sworn statements that say one thing, and one person saying another, do you really believe the 50 are lying? The encroachment permit does not contradict anything. The previous owners acknowledge that although they requested the permit they never build anything. So in fact it's proof of the opposite: there never was a driveway.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 19, 2013 at 11:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The previous owners acknowledge that although they requested the permit they never build anything."

Wrong - Mr. Tate's letter clearly states "we did not follow through with installing the asphalt driveway, though a dirt driveway was established..."

NEGOTIATE a resolution because the facts are not all in your favor.

And when you are in a hole, stop digging.


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Posted by n
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I concur with Peter Carpenter. I understand how difficult it is for an older person living at the same house and neighborhood for a long time to approve of any change. But to disapprove irrationally is not a good idea. The fact is that until recently the common greenery was hijacked by a neighbor and a patch of gravel the size of a driveway was built and nobody did anything about it. The back gate of the property in question is driveway size. There is a statement of the previous owner.
The Louise residents do not own the street and if they lived at the same address for a while their property taxes are not paying for an equitable share of the services they receive. Sinnott's house will pay
many times more what each of them is paying and that's not a small contribution for the common good.
There is a considerable lack of good will in this dispute and Louise street is not a condo closed to those who do not own.
I still cannot understand why oh why it would cause such a havoc in the neighborhood to have this driveway built. I would sue too if I had to (it's a business expense for Sinnott) but I would try very hard not
to. As Peter says the facts are not all on your side, in fact few are.



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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 8:02 pm

n:

I think your analysis is correct. I think the problem in this case is the manner in which Sam went about this. First he'll abide by the decision of the city council, then when it doesn't go his way he won't. In addition, given his past postings, it leads me to believe he went about this in a very arrogant and dismissive manner. All that does is tick people off. The Louise street residents are certainly ticked off. Having had interaction with Sam in the past, frankly I'm not surprised. Like many architects he seems to think the sun rises and sets on his opinions.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

n -- it seems that there is a lot of self-righteous and selfish behavior on both sides. I suggest that the interested parties agree to a compromise to be negotiated by an outside arbitator. This public airing makes both sides look very bad---but esp. the surrounding neighbors.


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Posted by Menlo Park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Let's face it: the bottom line here is the developer's greed. He's trying to squeeze an additional $500k to $1 million out of his spec investment by building a driveway that would allow him to claim a Louise Street address rather than the Santa Cruz Ave address the property has always had. And the Louise St residents are just trying to protect the historical character of their street, which is one of the prettiest in Menlo Park.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 27, 2013 at 12:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There are facts, law and equities on both sides - negotiate a settlement. Any political decision will be challenged in court by the losing side.


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