News

Menlo Park: Council talks about how city can be more racially equitable

Santa Cruz Avenue to partially reopen for one-way traffic in effort to aid downtown retailers

Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini addresses the crowd of protesters at Burgess Park in Menlo Park on June 1. On June 18, he announced he planned to retire. Now the city must start a search for a new chief. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The Menlo Park City Council, in its second meeting of the week, pushed for a series of steps to tackle what some termed "institutional bias" and others called "racism" in city policies and practices, including within the police department.

Mayor Cecilia Taylor

The council on Thursday, July 16, agreed to take initial steps to develop a plan to recruit a new police chief who can help lead changes in the department, and to start a mandatory racial equity training program for all executive staff members, the City Council and the city attorney.

"I know some of the conversation is uncomfortable, but it's something we're going to move through together," said Mayor Cecilia Taylor.

Four council members or executives planned to attend a virtual conference called "Building Racial Equity" by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity on July 30 at a cost of $400 per person.

A more in-depth plan to assess how the city can better address racial inequities in the city is set to come back to the council at its Aug. 11 meeting.

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"There is a national debate going on right now, and I think it very much makes sense for Menlo Park to plug into that debate," said Vice Mayor Drew Combs.

Vice Mayor Drew Combs

When it comes to starting a search for a new police chief -- Chief Dave Bertini suddenly announced on June 18 that he planned to retire -- the council agreed to work with an outside consultant to aid in the recruitment process, and to include the community, especially at the beginning of the process.

An overly public recruitment process can limit the applicant pool because applicants may be worried that it will be be revealed that they're looking for a new job, which could have repercussions for their current role, according to City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson

The council also agreed to reconsider in the future how funds the city receives from Facebook for "public safety" should be spent.

The Facebook funds previously have been put toward creating a new police unit on Menlo Park's Bay side, covering its newly rezoned areas where housing, life science and office buildings are now permitted. Since many of the development proposals are still under review, the new police unit doubles the number of beats that patrol the city's existing Bay side neighborhoods, including Belle Haven, where a majority of residents are Latino or Black.

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Councilwoman Betsy Nash said she'd be interested in seeing more police data and analysis.

Councilman Ray Mueller said he was interested in talking more about why the Neighborhood Service Center has become more of an annex for police officers than a community serving center, and whether minorities feel uncomfortable around public safety officers. "We can be more. We're trying to figure out how to be stronger," he said.

Additional resources to help with the process are former East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis and NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, community members and NOBLE representatives said in public comments.

Traffic flow to expand on Santa Cruz Avenue

Less than a month after barriers were placed along Santa Cruz Avenue to block off the street to allow restaurants to expand outdoors, the council also voted Thursday to reopen some parts of the street, allowing traffic to run one way on Santa Cruz Avenue southbound from Doyle through Curtis Street and northbound from Crane Street to Chestnut Street.

The move was in response to a request to do so by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. That's because retail businesses on the street have come out against the street closure, saying it has adversely impacted their businesses even while the street closures were set up to help downtown restaurants enable safer outdoor dining during the pandemic.

Vasile Oros, owner of Ace Hardware in downtown Menlo Park said that the closure has coincided with a 30% loss of sales at the hardware store, that the city's downtown is a "ghost town" during the day, and that many customers have been confused and called to ask about where they can park.

"Just seeing this drop, I am thinking about other businesses ... if they suffer the same, it's not good," he said.

In addition, other uses than restaurants, such as personal services and fitness and recreation businesses, will also be able to apply for permits to operate outdoors.

The discussion came with an acknowledgment that the city may be headed for more restrictions, including the elimination of outdoor dining, in the near future if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in San Mateo County. In addition, as case counts begin to rise, more people are staying in and are more reticent to go out, Mueller said.

That downtown retailers are so uniformly opposed to the closure makes it a failure already, Combs said. "There's no way we can end this in its current state and say it's a success. … A key stakeholder has already said it is not working for them."

The county is expected to soon be placed on the state's "watch list" of counties that face greater restrictions as COVID-19 case counts rise.

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Menlo Park: Council talks about how city can be more racially equitable

Santa Cruz Avenue to partially reopen for one-way traffic in effort to aid downtown retailers

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Jul 20, 2020, 10:17 am

The Menlo Park City Council, in its second meeting of the week, pushed for a series of steps to tackle what some termed "institutional bias" and others called "racism" in city policies and practices, including within the police department.

The council on Thursday, July 16, agreed to take initial steps to develop a plan to recruit a new police chief who can help lead changes in the department, and to start a mandatory racial equity training program for all executive staff members, the City Council and the city attorney.

"I know some of the conversation is uncomfortable, but it's something we're going to move through together," said Mayor Cecilia Taylor.

Four council members or executives planned to attend a virtual conference called "Building Racial Equity" by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity on July 30 at a cost of $400 per person.

A more in-depth plan to assess how the city can better address racial inequities in the city is set to come back to the council at its Aug. 11 meeting.

"There is a national debate going on right now, and I think it very much makes sense for Menlo Park to plug into that debate," said Vice Mayor Drew Combs.

When it comes to starting a search for a new police chief -- Chief Dave Bertini suddenly announced on June 18 that he planned to retire -- the council agreed to work with an outside consultant to aid in the recruitment process, and to include the community, especially at the beginning of the process.

An overly public recruitment process can limit the applicant pool because applicants may be worried that it will be be revealed that they're looking for a new job, which could have repercussions for their current role, according to City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson

The council also agreed to reconsider in the future how funds the city receives from Facebook for "public safety" should be spent.

The Facebook funds previously have been put toward creating a new police unit on Menlo Park's Bay side, covering its newly rezoned areas where housing, life science and office buildings are now permitted. Since many of the development proposals are still under review, the new police unit doubles the number of beats that patrol the city's existing Bay side neighborhoods, including Belle Haven, where a majority of residents are Latino or Black.

Councilwoman Betsy Nash said she'd be interested in seeing more police data and analysis.

Councilman Ray Mueller said he was interested in talking more about why the Neighborhood Service Center has become more of an annex for police officers than a community serving center, and whether minorities feel uncomfortable around public safety officers. "We can be more. We're trying to figure out how to be stronger," he said.

Additional resources to help with the process are former East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis and NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, community members and NOBLE representatives said in public comments.

Less than a month after barriers were placed along Santa Cruz Avenue to block off the street to allow restaurants to expand outdoors, the council also voted Thursday to reopen some parts of the street, allowing traffic to run one way on Santa Cruz Avenue southbound from Doyle through Curtis Street and northbound from Crane Street to Chestnut Street.

The move was in response to a request to do so by the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. That's because retail businesses on the street have come out against the street closure, saying it has adversely impacted their businesses even while the street closures were set up to help downtown restaurants enable safer outdoor dining during the pandemic.

Vasile Oros, owner of Ace Hardware in downtown Menlo Park said that the closure has coincided with a 30% loss of sales at the hardware store, that the city's downtown is a "ghost town" during the day, and that many customers have been confused and called to ask about where they can park.

"Just seeing this drop, I am thinking about other businesses ... if they suffer the same, it's not good," he said.

In addition, other uses than restaurants, such as personal services and fitness and recreation businesses, will also be able to apply for permits to operate outdoors.

The discussion came with an acknowledgment that the city may be headed for more restrictions, including the elimination of outdoor dining, in the near future if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in San Mateo County. In addition, as case counts begin to rise, more people are staying in and are more reticent to go out, Mueller said.

That downtown retailers are so uniformly opposed to the closure makes it a failure already, Combs said. "There's no way we can end this in its current state and say it's a success. … A key stakeholder has already said it is not working for them."

The county is expected to soon be placed on the state's "watch list" of counties that face greater restrictions as COVID-19 case counts rise.

Comments

Joseph E. Davis
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 20, 2020 at 11:35 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 20, 2020 at 11:35 am
10 people like this

[Post removed due to trolling]


Help MP
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 20, 2020 at 1:09 pm
Help MP, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 20, 2020 at 1:09 pm
6 people like this

Thank you, Vice Mayor Combs. We want all local businesses to survive, not just restaurants. Blocking Santa Cruz 24/7 was a flawed plan favoring one type of business. Restaurants benefit from evening closures, whereas stores and services need street access during the day. I'm glad the City is learning and adjusting. Hopefully, it's not too late for some businesses.


Nikki Stitt Sokol
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:01 pm
Nikki Stitt Sokol, Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:01 pm
7 people like this

Disappointed to see the downtown plan rolled back so quickly. In my humble opinion, the whole downtown should have been blocked off and then it would have been less confusing and more inviting to pedestrians. This is another example of a compromise position making the overall plan untenable. I worry that a three-week half experiment during a pandemic ruins our chances at a permanent vibrant pedestrian Downtown permanently.


John Ullom
another community
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm
John Ullom, another community
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm
Like this comment

Here is an example of racism and chauvinism perpetuated against Virginia Chang Kiraly and Robert Jones: -- Web Link


Chuck Chuekavich
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:50 pm
Chuck Chuekavich, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:50 pm
14 people like this

What a waste of time and resources.
If the City wants to clean things up start with getting competent people on City Council. I've lived here 40+ years and have never been so embarrassed about the misspending and lack of accountability.


Steve Taffee
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 20, 2020 at 3:43 pm
Steve Taffee, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 20, 2020 at 3:43 pm
8 people like this

One step that the city should take is eliminate zoning for single family dwellings to encourage more diverse neighborhoods. Until neighborhoods become more diverse white privilege will continue to benefit from decades of government sanctioned red lining, exclusionary home loan programs, and other practices that led to segregated neighborhoods. Dismantling systems of racial and economic exclusion isn't easy given the long time it's been in place.


Hmmm
another community
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:03 pm
Hmmm, another community
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:03 pm
2 people like this

Too little too late.


Whatever
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:55 pm
Whatever, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:55 pm
6 people like this

Taffee
Never going to happen in any towns around here, well except for maybe Bezerkley.
In any case your asking for a SCOTUS case for something like that to happen, or a Communist takeover.


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