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Tuesday in Menlo Park: Rail crossings, Downtown plan, voting boundaries

The Menlo Park City Council's got a packed agenda Tuesday. Below are three of the topics to be discussed, but there's still more. Access the full agenda here.

Rail crossings

Starting at 5 p.m., a subcommittee of the City Council is scheduled to discuss what other alternatives for separating the rails from the roads should be studied as part of the city's ongoing research on the topic, according to the meeting agenda.

Most recently, the council reached a stalemate, lacking a clear majority as to whether the city should separate one or three roads from the Caltrain rails in Menlo Park following a months-long study. In addition to the two following main options studied, some have requested that the city research other alternatives, such as building an elevated viaduct for the rail line to separating all four crossings, including Encinal Avenue, in addition to Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Glenwood avenues, and requiring the cooperation of Atherton. Others have recommended the study extend to look at lowering the Caltrain line into a trench or tunnel. Neighboring Palo Alto has since completed a study highlighting just how expensive lowering the rails would be. There, it was estimated that it would cost between $2.4 billion and $4 billion, depending on the design, to put the rail system underground across the whole city.

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● October 2017: Menlo Park: Council splinters on grade separations

Voting boundaries

During its regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., the council is expected to hold another public hearing and first reading of an ordinance to establish the boundaries for the five districts that will be implemented in the upcoming November City Council election, according to a staff report.

Most recently, the council accepted the recommendations of the Districting Advisory Committee tasked with drawing fair boundaries to split the city according to voting rights law.

Last August, the city was threatened with a lawsuit if it did not change its voting system. The lawsuit threat alleged that the city's at-large voting system makes it harder for Latino and African American residents to vote in their preferred candidates.

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Read more:

● March 2018: Menlo Park: Council agrees to committee's district boundaries

Downtown Plan

The council is also scheduled to hold a biennial review of the city's El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan, approved in 2012.

Patti Fry, a former planning commissioner, wrote the council expressing surprise that the matter wasn't going to the Planning Commission first. "Since the Commissioners have been involved with numerous project proposals under the Plan and have experience dealing with many of the issues in the staff report, their observations about issues, options, and recommendations could be beneficial," she wrote.

According to a staff report, staff are recommending the council prioritize "short-term" changes to the plan, and discuss which "long-term" changes should be considered. One of those longer-term topics will be whether to allow more development downtown. As of December, since the plan was approved, 92 percent of the maximum allowed amount of nonresidential development and 72 percent of the maximum allowed residential growth have been approved or proposed.

Read more:

● December 2017: Menlo Park: City already reaching downtown development limits

Meeting details

The rail subcommittee meeting starts at 5 p.m. in the City Council chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center. The council's regular meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, following a 6:30 p.m. closed session. Watch the meeting here.

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Tuesday in Menlo Park: Rail crossings, Downtown plan, voting boundaries

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Apr 17, 2018, 12:05 pm

The Menlo Park City Council's got a packed agenda Tuesday. Below are three of the topics to be discussed, but there's still more. Access the full agenda here.

Rail crossings

Starting at 5 p.m., a subcommittee of the City Council is scheduled to discuss what other alternatives for separating the rails from the roads should be studied as part of the city's ongoing research on the topic, according to the meeting agenda.

Most recently, the council reached a stalemate, lacking a clear majority as to whether the city should separate one or three roads from the Caltrain rails in Menlo Park following a months-long study. In addition to the two following main options studied, some have requested that the city research other alternatives, such as building an elevated viaduct for the rail line to separating all four crossings, including Encinal Avenue, in addition to Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Glenwood avenues, and requiring the cooperation of Atherton. Others have recommended the study extend to look at lowering the Caltrain line into a trench or tunnel. Neighboring Palo Alto has since completed a study highlighting just how expensive lowering the rails would be. There, it was estimated that it would cost between $2.4 billion and $4 billion, depending on the design, to put the rail system underground across the whole city.

Read more:

● October 2017: Menlo Park: Council splinters on grade separations

Voting boundaries

During its regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., the council is expected to hold another public hearing and first reading of an ordinance to establish the boundaries for the five districts that will be implemented in the upcoming November City Council election, according to a staff report.

Most recently, the council accepted the recommendations of the Districting Advisory Committee tasked with drawing fair boundaries to split the city according to voting rights law.

Last August, the city was threatened with a lawsuit if it did not change its voting system. The lawsuit threat alleged that the city's at-large voting system makes it harder for Latino and African American residents to vote in their preferred candidates.

Read more:

● March 2018: Menlo Park: Council agrees to committee's district boundaries

Downtown Plan

The council is also scheduled to hold a biennial review of the city's El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan, approved in 2012.

Patti Fry, a former planning commissioner, wrote the council expressing surprise that the matter wasn't going to the Planning Commission first. "Since the Commissioners have been involved with numerous project proposals under the Plan and have experience dealing with many of the issues in the staff report, their observations about issues, options, and recommendations could be beneficial," she wrote.

According to a staff report, staff are recommending the council prioritize "short-term" changes to the plan, and discuss which "long-term" changes should be considered. One of those longer-term topics will be whether to allow more development downtown. As of December, since the plan was approved, 92 percent of the maximum allowed amount of nonresidential development and 72 percent of the maximum allowed residential growth have been approved or proposed.

Read more:

● December 2017: Menlo Park: City already reaching downtown development limits

Meeting details

The rail subcommittee meeting starts at 5 p.m. in the City Council chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center. The council's regular meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, following a 6:30 p.m. closed session. Watch the meeting here.

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