Welcome to Menlo Together

Photo courtesy of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce.

Menlo Together is a group of Menlo Park and Peninsula residents who envision a city that is integrated and diverse, multi-generational, and environmentally sustainable. We advocate for an accessible and inviting downtown Menlo Park with housing at all affordability levels, and with pedestrian and bike-friendly spaces, developed to be carbon free.

Tonight June 16 – Menlo Park Council Considers Black Lives Matter Resolution – Demand Action

On Tuesday, June 16, the Menlo Park City Council will be considering a resolution proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.” This is a welcome step, and an opportunity to go further to demand action.

Already, nearly 100 residents have signed a petition demanding that Menlo Park’s Police Open Data Portal track stops by neighborhood and race. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition. As promised, we are forwarding the names of petition signatures to City Council. If you have not yet signed, you can do so here.

In addition to the demand to track stops by race, Menlo Together’s letter is asking for several other steps to improve public safety – a Public Safety Commission with review and oversight capabilities, and to replace the upcoming “police strategic plan” with a “public safety strategic plan”  that would consider more broadly what types of investments will improve community safety, and explore for which activities other community resources may be a better, such as social workers with mental health and substance abuse expertise.

You can share your own thoughts with City Council tonight – the public meeting is likely to start around 5pm, after a closed session starting at 4pm. If you are sending written comment, please send it before 3pm (see instructions below)

The Black Lives Matter agenda item is on what is called the “consent calendar” – items that Council will vote on without discussion. But the City Council will hear comments on the item and may choose to discuss if there are comments.

How to participate in the meeting
• Submit a written comment online:
menlopark.org/publiccommentJune16*
• Record a comment or request a call-back when an agenda topic is under consideration:
Dial 650-474-5071*
• Access the special meeting real-time online at:
joinwebinar.com – Special Meeting ID 987-314-579
*Written and recorded public comments and call-back requests are accepted up to 1 hour before the meeting start time. Written and recorded messages are provided to the City Council at the appropriate time in their meeting. Recorded messages may be transcribed using a voice-to-text tool.

Tonight: Equity in Menlo Park Budget Decisions

Menlo Park City Council is working on recession budget cuts at tonight’s City Council meeting. There are some decisions in the hands of Menlo Park City Council that can advance or hamper racial and economic equity in the city.

  • The City is proposing to cut community services in Belle Haven for two years or more before a new community center is built.   Belle Haven is a neighborhood that was formerly “redlined” (segregated by financial policy) and has historically been provided with lower quality services than the whiter and wealthier areas of Menlo Park.  This budget decision would exacerbate those historical inequities.
  • Preserving childcare. The draft budget proposes to maintain childcare services. However, the proposed changes risk failure for the program – increasing fees above market rate, adding surcharges, and closing the program if it is undersubscribed with these uncompetitive rates.  Closure of the childcare services will harm the livelihood of families who depend on childcare to hold paying jobs and those who make up the child care workforce (largely women of color).

Instead of cutting Belle Haven services and putting childcare at risk, Menlo Together is urging City Council to deferring capital projects that can wait, and using reserve funds the City saved for emergencies such as this.

For more details on the budget decisions and Menlo Together’s recommendations, see this letter to City Council. And share your thoughts by sending a message to City Council before 4pm.

Or you can participate in tonight’s online meeting. The meeting starts at 5pm with a “close session.” – the public section of the meeting will likely start between 6 and 7.
• Record a comment or request a call-back when an agenda topic is under consideration:
Dial 650-474-5071*
• Access the special meeting real-time online at:
joinwebinar.com – Special Meeting ID 932-476-515


Petition: Demand Data about Menlo Park Police Stops by Race

On a June 3 teleconference with the Menlo Park Mayor Cecilia Taylor and Police Chief Dave Bertini, a woman called in and asked about how to explain to neighborhood teens about being stopped for no apparent reason by police. Studies show that youth who experience intrusive police stops are at risk of heightened emotional distress.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of racial disparities in police stops in Menlo Park but we don’t yet have the data to show it. There is no data by race for police stops that do not conclude in a citation or detention.

The City of Menlo Park has an Open Data Portal that provides information about local law enforcement activity. The portal provides statistics for citations, showing disparities by race. Of the citations between 2016 and 2018 that listed the individual’s race (all but 2%) 31% were given to white individuals while 69% were given to non-white individuals (40% for Black and Hispanic individuals alone). In contrast, the population of Menlo Park is exactly the opposite: 70% white and 30% non-white (according to the 2010 census).

If you want to see Menlo Park police track data about police stops by race and neighborhood, please sign this petition. If you sign this petition, Menlo Together will:

  • share your name with Menlo Park City Council
  • contact you with more opportunities to demand transparent data about police stops, and other opportunities for a more transparent and just city

Menlo Park Rally #JusticeForGeorge Floyd

On June 1, hundreds gathered at Burgess Park, at a rally in support of #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd and #BlackLivesMatter. Mayor Cecilia Taylor, the city’s first African-American Mayor, gave a moving talk where she shared with the crowd that she fears for her stepson and nephews’ lives. When she heard the news during a Council meeting she struggled with tears from the dais.

After the Mayor spoke, the group knelt for nine minutes, recalling how long the murderer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck.  Then the group marched, chanting and holding signs, up Alma Street and across the Caltrain tracks to the Palo Alto Avenue soccer fields. The rally, like so many across the United States, was organized by high school students who demand a more just and equitable future where #BlackLivesMatter, where Black people do not fear police violence, and where the outcome of people’s lives – health, education. prosperity – can’t be predicted by skin color.

At the close of her talk Mayor Taylor, “There are policies we can put in place” to bring about a more just and equitable city. For those who share this vision, click here to join us at Menlo Together, a group of Menlo Park and Peninsula residents who envision a city that is integrated and diverse, multi-generational, and environmentally sustainable. We’ll keep you posted on opportunities to learn and take action at bringing about a just and sustainable Menlo Park.

Ways you can help neighbors during the Covid-19 emergency

Vulnerable members of our community need help – here are several ways you can help neighbors in and near Menlo Park at this time of need. 

1. Serve as your neighborhood block captain. There is a volunteer effort underway to organize our neighborhoods, with support from the Menlo Park Fire District. Block captains help their neighbors, especially those living alone and those who are older and/or with medical conditions, to prepare for emergencies. For more information, please see the recruitment flyer. If interested, contact organizer Lynne Bramlett at lynne.e.bramlett@gmail.com 

2. Volunteer with Meals on Wheels. Demand for meals to be delivered to seniors is increasing. This is a critical service in our community during normal times, and it will be vital to keep it going during the weeks ahead. They usually require new volunteers to go to the DMV to get background checked, but they are modifying this requirement during this time. If you are able and interested in this important work, please fill out this form and say in the section on “Specific Jobs” at the end of the page that you’re interested in Covid-19 emergency volunteering.

3. Volunteer with Second Harvest. Second Harvest depends on an extensive network of volunteers to distribute groceries to those in need across Silicon Valley. Due to COVID-19 concerns and precautions, they are currently experiencing a volunteer shortage. If you are healthy and not immuno-compromised, please consider signing up for a shift or two here. Volunteers need to be 14 or older (minors must be supervised by a parent), healthy, and ideally able to lift 25 pounds.

4. Volunteer for Samaritan House provides essential services to low-income Menlo Park residents. Volunteer with food preparation and/or transport! Contact: volunteering@samaritanhousesanmateo.org. Please be patient with the time it takes to respond as volume is high and staffing is low. Due to the postponement of a fundraiser donations are especially needed. Go to www.samaritanhousesanmateo.org/donate on the Web to donate right now.

4. Baby Basics of the Peninsula is a 100% volunteer organization based in East Palo that distributes diapers to needy families. To find out more about volunteering  please call (650) 321-2193 or email baby.basics@yahoo.com You can also donate here.



Could Menlo Park benefit from escooters?

In 2020, the city of Palo Alto is looking to roll out an escooter pilot program, with Mountain View and Sunnyvale set to follow close behind.  

Studies show that escooters can help reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. A 2019 study by the City of Santa Monica, where Bird has a 750-scooter fleet,  found that 49% of scooter rides would have otherwise been made in a passenger vehicle, whether privately-owned or for hire. 

The Palo Alto and Mountain View programs include rules about where the devices can be parked, and require the operators to have a hotline to report problems.  

Over the next few years, the major new developments, including 1300 El Camino and the Stanford development on El Camino near Safeway will be opening up. Caltrain will start electrified service with more frequent trains.  Scooters could potentially provide a convenient way for people to get to nearby destinations that are a little far to walk. 

Menlo Park has an opportunity to watch the results closely in nearby cities, to assess if it would be helpful to follow in their footsteps. 

Complete Streets Commission votes for safer intersection

On Wednesday February 12, the Menlo Park Complete Streets Commission reviewed a proposed redesign of the Laurel/Ravenswood intersection. a project that was created as an “environmental mitigation” for the 1300 El Camino project.

The proposed project would change the lane configuration so there is a dedicated left turn lane from Laurel to Ravenswood.   The proposal also extended the bike lanes through what is currently a gap.  However, the proposal created greater conflicts between people bicycling and people driving,

This is a route that connects to schools, the Burgess pool, gym and civic complex and library with many children using these facilities.

The turn lane change was required under the now-obsolete “level of service” (LOS) EIR standards, drivers were expected to be delayed an additional 6 seconds.  (That’s not a typo, 6 seconds of car delay required the intersection to be changed to add a turn lane under the old rules.).

At the meeting, community members Ken Kershner and Jen Wolosin spoke against the harmful use of the obsolete LOS standard to speed cars and reduce pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

The “Active Transportation Subcommittee” of the Complete Streets Commission noticed an “Alternative 2” in the staff report (see below) that would reduce conflicts between cyclists and drivers.  In addition, the subcommittee proposed bulbouts to reduce pedestrian crossing distance and slow the speed of turning drivers for better visibility of pedestrians.  See the illustration that the “active transportation subcommittee” used to visualize the “alternative 2” which was not illustrated in the staff report.

The Complete Streets Commission voted to recommend Alternative 2 to City Council, which would retain the 6 seconds of driver delay, but reduce pedestrian crossing time by at least 6 seconds and reduce conflicts between cyclists and drivers.

As of July, the old “level of service” car delay standard will no longer be legally required under the California Environmental Quality Act, and the city may have a legal opening to reconsider how it wants to reduce the transportation impact of the 1300 El Camino building.

Staff noted at the meeting that the collision rate at the intersection was “relatively low” with “only” 12 collisions in a 3 year period. However, the city has a Vision Zero policy supporting a goal of zero fatalities and serious injuries. Recently, two Scandinavian cities announced that they had no pedestrian or cyclist deaths in the previous year. This was achieved through step-by-step reducing driving speed.

The Laurel/Ravenswood project will come to Council in the next few months. We’ll keep you posted on opportunities to share your thoughts about the relative importance of improving safety, or saving six seconds for drivers on neighborhood streets. 

Resources:

Here is the link to the staff report, with a short description of the alternatives presented to the commissioners.
https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/24252/SR—Laurel-Street-Final-Intersection-Layout

Current: The northbound Laurel Street approach currently consists of one exclusive left turn lane, one shared through/right turn, and no bike lane.

 Alternative I: One exclusive left turn lane, one shared through/right turn lane, bike lane on the right side of the shared through/right turn lane. (This is what is proposed in the final design intersection layout per Attachment B)  

Alternative II: One shared/through lane, bike lane (between lanes), one exclusive right turn lane

Thursday 1/30: Menlo Park City Council priorities

On Thursday, January 30 from 1-5 pm, the Menlo Park City Council will host its annual goal-setting meeting. This is your opportunity to tell the Council that you want more affordable housing, safer streets, climate action, and racial equity in Menlo Park!  Send your thoughts to city.council@menlopark.org or come in person if you can. 

Here are recommendations from Menlo Together:

1) More Housing Downtown, especially Affordable Housing

More housing downtown would support the Council’s existing goal to address the housing crisis, improve the jobs/housing balance, and reduce driving alone. In particular, we would like to see more density to enable more housing, dedication of publicly owned downtown sites to affordable housing, and zero displacement in new development.

2) Residents’ safety and mobility on Willow and in the Belle Haven/Bayside area

Menlo Park’s streets reveal the disparities in our city.  Belle Haven, with a history of redlining, has highways and major arterials cutting through that reduce air quality and create hazardous conditions for local residents, especially children.  

Menlo Together wants the City to invest in safer streets for children, seniors, and all, including on Willow Road in Belle Haven, and at the Gateway Family Apartments and the new Belle Haven Library and Community Center, and El Camino Real. 

3) Climate Action at the level of the Climate Emergency

Menlo Together urges the City Council to adopt a new reduction target of carbon neutral (zero emissions) by 2030. Since transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, we support the Environmental Quality and Complete Streets Commissions working together with City Staff to create more climate measures relating to mobility.  

4) City government focus on racial equity

Menlo Together is urging the City to join Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) to actively pursue racial equity within the scope of city government activities.  According to the GARE definition: “Achieving racial equity means outcomes cannot be predicted based on race and are improved for all people.” 

GARE is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Over the last two years, four Menlo Park city staff people have attended GARE conferences which provide local governments with training on how to improve racial equity. Other GARE members (cities, counties, etc) report that putting together inter-departmental teams to advance racial equity builds collaboration among staff and improves operations and outcomes overall.  

Thanks for staying informed, learning, and taking local action.

SamTrans board supports Dumbarton Rail connections to reduce congestion

On Wednesday, January 8th, the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) Board of Directors weighed the future of the Dumbarton Rail Corridor. The Dumbarton Rail Corridor is a critical east-west link between the southern portions of the San Francisco Peninsula and the East Bay, connecting a route from Redwood City through Menlo Park, Newark, and Union City).

Photos courtesy of Cross Bay Transit Partners

https://crossbaytransit.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/DRC-Corridor-Map-November-2019.pdf

The SamTrans Board expressed support for integrating the Dumbarton Corridor into the broader, Bay Area-wide transportation network. However, the Board has not yet confirmed whether they would prefer to adopt regional rail, light rail, or other mass transit technology. Adopting regional rail would enable faster trips and better connections with existing transit systems including BART, ACE to the Central Valley, and Capitol Corridor to Sacramento. 

The project is being conducted as a public-private partnership between SamTrans, Facebook, and the Plenary Group, a private transportation firm brought in by Facebook. Environmental review of the project is expected to begin in early 2020. They anticipate to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement in quarter 4 of 2021.

To read the SamTrans Board staff report, click here.

Council Sets Ambitious New Climate Goal

Photo Courtesy of the City of Menlo Park

On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, the Menlo Park City Council discussed options for updating the city’s climate plan, including the recommendations from the Environmental Quality Commission, supported by Menlo Together, to set a city-wide climate goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. The Council did not make a decision yet as this was a study session. 

The Council supported the Environmental Quality Commission’s recommendation to achieve the equivalent of a 90% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and to remove the remaining 10% of emissions from the atmosphere through carbon sinks, like trees. Several members of the public, and Complete Streets, Housing, and Planning Commissioners also spoke in support of the plan.  

The Council expressed the need to take swift action on climate change by reducing emissions. Mayor Pro Tem. Taylor suggested increasing the frequency of the city shuttle and increasing its number of stops to decrease vehicle trips. Councilmember Nash also supported reducing vehicle trips and suggested creating an educational program for property owners to learn how to electrify their buildings. Councilmember Carlton suggested increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations required to be installed by property owners to reduce residential emissions. 

To continue the conversation, the Council created a subcommittee including Mayor Mueller and Councilmember Nash to continue developing the work plan. The Council also reaffirmed its commitment to tackling climate change by adopting a climate emergency resolution. Read the resolution here.

For more information on this topic, read “Menlo Park council open to bold new climate goal: carbon neutrality by 2030” by Kate Bradshaw’s in the Almanac.

Photo courtesy of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District

In addition, on December 12, 2019 the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (Menlo Fire) showcased the Rosenbauer all-electric concept fire truck at Fire Station 6. 

According to Menlo Fire, most of the emergencies that the department responds to are close by and last 30 minutes or less. Thus, electric vehicles would meet department needs while saving energy and reducing emissions. Upon arrival at the scene, fire crews can shut off their engines to conserve energy. The all-electric engines would also eliminate carcinogenic diesel emissions. 

The fire truck on display is a prototype model, and isn’t yet available for purchase.  For more information about the benefits of all-electric fire engines, read “Menlo Park fire district to showcase all-electric engine at open house” by Rick Radin in the Almanac, and see the company’s website: https://www.rosenbaueramerica.com/concept-fire-truck

In addition, on December 12, 2019 the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (Menlo Fire) showcased the Rosenbauer all-electric concept fire truck at Fire Station 6. 

According to Menlo Fire, most of the emergencies that the department responds to are close by and last 30 minutes or less. Thus, electric vehicles would meet department needs while saving energy and reducing emissions. Upon arrival at the scene, fire crews can shut off their engines to conserve energy. The all-electric engines would also eliminate carcinogenic diesel emissions. 

The fire truck on display is a prototype model, and isn’t yet available for purchase.  For more information about the benefits of all-electric fire engines, read “Menlo Park fire district to showcase all-electric engine at open house” by Rick Radin in the Almanac, and see the company’s website: https://www.rosenbaueramerica.com/concept-fire-truck