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.



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.

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


The Color of Law, Menlo Park Edition: The local history of housing segregation

On November 17, 2019, over 100 people crowded into the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center for the Color of Law: Menlo Park Edition. Co-sponsors for the event included Community Equity Collaborative, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Housing Leadership Council, League of Women Voters of South San Mateo, Menlo Park Historical Association, Menlo Spark, NAACP San Mateo County, Nuestra Casa, Palo Alto Forward, Palo Alto Housing, Peninsula for Everyone, and Tech Equity Collaborative.

Photo courtesy of Chris Sturken: from left to right San Carlos resident David Pollack, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation Nicole Taylor, Belle Haven resident Pam Jones, Redwood City Planning Commissioner Michael Smith, and author of the Road to Resegregation Alex Shafran (not pictured)

A small team of commuity members transformed the Arrillaga Recreation Center into a gallery which documented the history of racial segregation in Menlo Park. They created a timeline using city documents, court documents, news clippings, photos, and maps and posted it around the room. Attendees discussed the timeline in small groups, sharing a mix of shock and sadness at the policies and practices which divided Menlo Park.  Learning about this history instilled a sense of responsibility and determination to demand more housing in our neighborhoods for a more inclusive and equitable community.

Photo courtesy of Robb Most

Kenia Najar, Program Director at Youth United for Community Action, made the point that  history is being repeated in Belle Haven today. She explained that the block-busting to make the community a segregated Black neighborhood that took place in the 1960s is replaced today by rapid gentrification and displacement of long term Black and Latino residents to far off communities from where they often commute back here to work.

In the mid 20th century Black families were barred from buying homes in Menlo Park and other white suburbs through racial covenants that restricted the purchase of homes by people of color. Redlining also restricted who could secure home loans. Later, real estate agents used discriminatory real estate tactics like “block-busting” to scare white residents into selling their homes at a discount. Meanwhile, Black people in San Francisco and Oakland were encouraged to move in so that real estate agents could make a profit from buying at panic sales prices from white families and selling at inflated prices to Black families. With the economic boom since 2009, many Belle Haven families have been displaced by newcomers more equipped to pay rising market prices and rents.  

Jen Wolosin of Menlo Together said that “We can no longer pretend that [we don’t know] what happened and how our community is shaped is the way it is and that we…have the responsibility now to go forward to do something about it. In the past the housing element put all the affordable housing in the Belle Haven area. This conversation has laid a foundation for all of us  to start thinking about letting more people into our neighborhoods.”

Karen Grove, in closing the event, told attendees “If we as a community accept our responsibility to compensate for the isolating patterns that shaped us, our neighborhoods and our city will become stronger! Time and again in our history, we’ve seen that when we act to improve racial equity, all people’s lives are improved.” 

Photo courtesy of Robb Most: from left to right Menlo Park Mayor Pro Tempore Cecilia Taylor, former MPCSD Board President Caroline Lucas, & current MPCSD Board President David Ackerman

View the gallery walk and sign the “More Homes Downtown” petition to support more affordable homes in Downtown Menlo Park. For more resources and next steps, visit our resources page.

We would like to recognize our elected and appointed officials who attended this important event, including Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller, Menlo Park Mayor Pro Tempore Cecilia Taylor, Menlo Park Council Member Betsy Nash, Menlo Park Council Member Drew Combs, and Menlo Park Planning Commissioner Michele Tate.

Menlo Park City Council to Consider Emergency Tenant Protection Ordinance

This Tuesday, November 12 at 5:30 pm, the Menlo Park City Council will vote on an Urgency Ordinance to implement protections that mirror Assembly Bill 1482. The Council needs to know that renters need protection from extreme rent increases and unjust evictions happening right now. 

The recently passed Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482) will protect renters from excessive rent gouging and no-fault evictions, but not until January 1st. Here’s what you can do right now: 

  • Send a brief email to City Council with your opinion or a personal story about why you care by end of day Monday, November 11th, if possible.
  • Come to the council meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 pm at Menlo Park City Hall and make public comment. For more meeting details, click here.

Learn more about AB 1482 by reading this report from the City Attorney’s office. 

For an eye-opening event on the history of our housing challenges, join us next Sunday.

The Color of Law, Menlo Park Edition: The Hidden History Shaping Our Menlo Park Neighborhoods Today    

Sunday, November 17 from 5:00-6:30 pm – Arrillaga Family Recreation Center: Sequoia Room, 700 Alma St. Menlo Park, CA 94025

We’ll take a look at how public policies that segregated America have affected Menlo Park. We will learn, reflect, and discuss how to move toward a more equitable future. 

Click here to sign up for this free event.

Acclaimed Author Unveils the History of Government-Sanctioned Housing Discrimination

On Thursday, October 4, Richard Rothstein, the famed author of The Color of Law, spoke to a crowd of nearly 300 people. There were audible gasps when he described some of the government policies that mandated residential segregation well into the 20th century and the legacy of exclusionary zoning that continues to shape our communities today.  

Belle Haven resident Pam Jones and Stockton native Brandon Wofford-Asuncion provided compelling testimonials of how segregation and redlining has affected their families. 

Rothstein made the case that  residential segregation could be the biggest social issue facing our nation today and called for a new civil rights movement to make change.  He challenged the audience, asking the question, “what are you going to do?” 

Reverend Doctor Penny Nixon closed the event with her own commitment to lead from her position as clergy, because “once we learn our history we cannot un-know it.” And that compels us to act.

Please join Menlo Together and our partner community groups on Nov. 17 from 5-6:30 pm at the Arrillaga Recreation Center in Menlo Park to learn and reflect on the Menlo Park history of residential segregation and discuss how we can move towards a more equitable future.

We appreciate our elected and appointed leaders who attended this important event: Menlo Park Mayor Pro Tempore Cecilia Taylor, Menlo Park Council Member Betsy Nash, and Menlo Park Planning Commissioner Michele Tate. 

Menlo Park City Council Takes Climate Action

Image caption: City of Menlo Park staff, Menlo Spark and allies, 9/24/19

The Menlo Park City Council unanimously adopted an all-electric reach code! On Tuesday, September 24, Menlo Spark, a coalition member of Menlo Together, advocated for an all-electric reach code. Menlo Spark was joined by Stanford professor and clean energy expert Mark Jacobson and a number of current & former Environmental Quality Commissioners. The all-electric green building “Reach Code” will phase out natural gas use in new homes and buildings beginning in January 2020. The reach code will help Menlo Park continue to lead on climate by phasing out fossil fuels from buildings, the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, behind transportation.

That same evening, the Council also addressed worsening air quality/environmental justice in Belle Haven. The Council authorized San Mateo County Labs, a division of the County of San Mateo, to collect air quality data from neighborhoods in Menlo Park, potentially including Belle Haven. Prior to the launch of the air quality and environmental monitoring pilot project, the only official air quality monitor in all of San Mateo County was managed by BAAQMD in in Redwood City. SMC labs has installed 10 sensors throughout the County since February 2019. to deliver direct, publically available data that will capture the impact of increased development and traffic. Sensors are slated to be installed in Belle Haven by the end of the year. Existing sensor data would be available later this month.