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By Paul Bendix

Save Menlo ? Let's Get Real

Uploaded: Jun 16, 2014

A few years ago, I stumbled out of bed and made my jetlagged way to Menlo Park's Sunday farmer's market. Someone handed me a leaflet. Save Our Farmers Market. Alarmed, I asked the leafleter who would shut this cherished institution.

Actually, no one. There was talk of a parking structure, and the farmer's market might move. Atop the structure? On one of the covered levels? The leafleter didn't know.

This experience slightly confused me. Days before, in Le Vésinet, a posh Paris suburb, my wife and I had toured the farmers the town's parking structure. My cousin introduced us to his favorite merchants, including "the Corsican spice thief," a shadowy purveyor of rare seasonings. Why was all this in a parking structure? I don't know. There's more rain in France. Property in Le Vésinet is limited and it is in Menlo Park. So the French build up, not out.

As for that planned parking structure...and the "threatened" farmers market...the whole experience was quintessential Menlo Park. The supposed problem was inflated and distorted. While issues such as dealing with cars, supporting downtown merchants and absorbing Silicon Valley growth, got lost in the tumult.

Before our current boom turns into another cyclical bust, can't we have a real discussion about how to "Save Menlo?" The Spanish-style complex of apartments, offices and retail space proposed by Greenheart is the logical place to start. Aside from Menlo Park's internal requirements for "public benefit," how does the project measure up in terms of smart growth? (See Steve Levy's blog "Invest Or Die" )

One good standard: the GreenTRIP certification program. Managed by TransForm, with funds from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, GreenTRIP takes an objective look at developments and their traffic impact. How does the Greenheart project stack up?

Let's find out for real.