Guest opinion: Chamber firmly behind Specific Plan | November 20, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - November 20, 2013

Guest opinion: Chamber firmly behind Specific Plan

by Gino Casparini

The economy is still the most important issue facing our region. A strong and growing economy generates new tax revenue for local governments and our schools. This revenue provides for better public safety, paved streets, well-maintained parks, and funds for local schools.

Here in Menlo Park, we made a concerted effort to help jump-start this kind of economic stimulus by developing the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan. The additional goal of the plan was to locate new housing near the Menlo Park train station to encourage "transit-oriented" housing that allows people to rely less on automobiles.

Menlo Park spent over five years gathering community input during 90 workshops, speaker series and public meetings, including 28 City Council hearings and 18 Planning Commission hearings. Dozens of concerned citizens of various political views participated. The city also spent over $1.7 million in taxpayer money to develop the Specific Plan. The process that created the plan was thoughtful, exhaustive and transparent.

Now, two projects have come forward as a result of this effort — one offered by Stanford University on the southern end of El Camino Real and one by Greenheart Land Company at the north end of El Camino at Oak Grove Avenue. Each will create new and vibrant, mixed-use projects of housing, office, and retail adjacent to the train tracks that will revitalize the empty eye-sores of vacant parcels along El Camino.

As prescribed, the Specific Plan is now under review by City Council and Planning Commission one year after adoption. Several planning commission hearings have already taken place. The council will be reviewing it soon.

The Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce strongly believes that altering or modifying the Specific Plan would be a monumental mistake. It would send the wrong message to the community, which spent years creating it — and to those willing to revitalize and invest in our city. We ask that the City Council leave the plan alone.

As with many land-use issues in our town, a small but vocal minority, many of whom did not participate in the development of the Specific Plan, is trying to drag this comprehensive, fair planning effort back to the drawing board.

As a community, we came together and made a collective decision to adopt and implement the Specific Plan. It's now time to see that vision realized. The Chamber, therefore, urges the City Council to resist the urge to make modifications to the Specific Plan so it can be given a chance

to work.

It is time to move on and go forward.

Gino Gasparini is chairman of the board of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce

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