Measure M, the resident-sponsored initiative to change the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, has been the center of a maelstrom in Menlo Park. But 62 percent of the voters said no.
With all precincts reporting, the tally was 4,144 votes against Measure M and 2,513 for it.
Former councilman John Boyle, who supported the "No on M" coalition, said he was very excited by the outcome.
"It was a very challenging campaign for a number of reasons. The issue itself was complicated, and it wasn't made any easier by some of the campaign rhetoric that would have people believe that it was as simple as 'residents vs developers' or that 'you can't trust city hall,'" Mr. Boyle said. "Neither of those statements, of course, is true. The reality is that land use policy is complicated."
What land use policy comes down to is building consensus and balancing competing factors such as traffic and vibrancy, according to Mr. Boyle. The right balance changes over time, but with the defeat of Measure M, the council will be able to continue revising the specific plan, hopefully with support from both sides of the debate, he said.
Mayor Ray Mueller joined in the call for collaboration going forward. "I take no pleasure or satisfaction in Measure M's defeat. Rather tonight my thoughts are focused on rebuilding our city's sense of community that was so badly damaged during this election cycle," he said late Tuesday night.
Referring to the council race, which saw six candidates split into two camps by Measure M, he added, "I offer my congratulations to council members Keith, Ohtaki, Cline, and extend my hand in an offer of collaboration to Ms. Duriseti, Mr. Combs, and Ms. Fergusson."
Former planning commissioner Henry Riggs, who also urged voters to say no to M, commented that he hoped the city would be spared torch-and-pitchfork politics, petitions and lawsuits for a while. While not everyone is happy with the specific plan, everyone has to compromise and move on, he said.
He noted that fewer people appear to have voted in favor of Measure M than signed the petition that qualified it for the ballot. "Save Menlo's aggressive style may have worked against them -- an emotional pitch works in politics, but voters also had access to facts that just didn't support M," he said.
Although their ballot measure didn't seem to have a chance of approval once the first votes were posted, a crowd of Measure M supporters who gathered at a Menlo Park home on election night was remarkably upbeat.
They vowed to keep pushing the city to take their issues into consideration.
"What happens next?" said measure co-sponsor Patti Fry. More work, she concluded. "I think that depends on what we all collectively decide to do. I think there are things we can come together and push."
Planning Commissioner Vince Bressler said that the campaign had changed people's ability to speak out about issues that are important to them.
"Something has changed in this town," he said. "A lot of this is about giving people permission to stand up and say, this isn't what I want."
Perla Ni, who helped create the grassroots coalition behind Measure M, said those who worked on the issue are not going to disappear. "We've been woken up and we're not sheep anymore," she said.
While at least one person at the gathering said she was considering leaving Menlo Park, Ms. Ni said she loves her city. "I couldn't be luckier to have found this place to live. We're talking about things that really matter to us."
Former councilman Heyward Robinson said precinct walking and talking to neighbors has been an energizing experience. While Measure M lost, he said, the backers still can have input on projects.
"There is the possibility of a referendum," he said. "We certainly need to put pressure on this City Council."
He said he also feels the campaign has been good for getting more information to the public. "We're getting a little transparency in government."
Almanac reporter Barbara Wood contributed to this report.