Guest opinion: Property owner sees faults in downtown plan
My family and I have been downtown property owners and residents of Menlo Park since the 1940s. There were cars in the 1940s, and there are even more cars now.
Everyone is proposing that cars will be eliminated from downtown, so parking spaces should go, too, because mass transit is the answer. Wrong!
Cars will be converted to clean-running fuel or battery power, but cars will never go away. As a matter of fact, the city should make room for more cars because cars and their ability to take us where we want to go are not going away.
I will give you an example: The city is planning a hotel in the parking lot behind Walgreens. I recently saw a couple in excess of 90-years-old pull up to within 10 yards of the rear entrance of Walgreens and conveniently get their much-needed prescriptions, shop, and easily go on their way. That will not happen if a hotel displaces the parking behind Walgreens.
The city is completely wrong in thinking that they have a right to take property from the commercial property owners (assessment district) and put the profits into the city coffers only to be wasted on further studies. My grandfather, along with other prominent concerned and passionate Menlo Park property owners, paid for the public parking lots, and even promoted parking garages back in the 1970s, but that never flew.
So what is the problem, parking or lack of money in the city coffers from poor planning? In my view, the fact that more than $1 million was spent on the overblown downtown study shows the lack of business skills within the City Council.
The council should quit thinking beyond tomorrow and address the issues at hand. The downtown needs more parking for current owners, employees, patrons, medical access, fire access, events and so on. The city should leave well enough alone and improve on what we have.
Yes, the El Camino corridor should be expanded to conform to the nearby mass transit route, but save the downtown. Just make it more patron- and work-friendly by giving the existing businesses a place where people can easily park, shop, pay their city sales tax, and move on.
Also, I am concerned that emergency services will be greatly hampered due to road closures, built-out parking lots and parks. And by the way, are the police, hospital, school services and other public services going to be expanded in order to deal with all the new structures?
I can't recall seeing any provision for that in the Precise Plan.
Robert Lico is president of Live Oak Properties and vice president of Giannotti Inc. He has lived and owned property in Menlo Park since the 1940s.