On Saturday, January 30, Menlo Park City Council had a Saturday work session focusing on goal setting for the coming year.
City Council was generally supportive of the priorities that Menlo Together had encouraged:
- A robust Housing Element process to address opportunities to improve affordability and racial equity
- A broader initiative to support people and businesses to endure and recover from the impacts of Covid
- Continued focus on the Climate Action Plan, potentially including opportunities to improve walking, bicycling, and other alternatives to driving.
There were also a variety of other ideas that emerged from community members and Council members. Council will need to make important decisions to winnow the list of ideas that the city will focus on.
On February 23rd, City Council will return to the goal setting process to make decisions – this will be an important moment to steer the city’s priorities in a year that will have big challenges and opportunities for housing, transportation, sustainability and racial justice.
We will keep you posted on actions you can take to further these goals.
Read on for more background on what happened at the meeting.
Housing Element. With regard to the Housing Element, which is a legal requirement to plan for housing for people of all income levels, council members including Wolosin and Nash supported the perspective of going beyond the minimal requirements to address needs for housing affordability and repairing the city’s legacy of segregation. Staff noted that the Housing Element this year has new requirements to affirmatively further fair housing will will create momentum for these goals.
Covid Recovery. With regard to considering restoring city services within a broader frame of supporting people and businesses with the impacts of Covid, Council Member Mueller was a strongest voice for a robust response; there was a lot of dialogue about how much and what functions the city might take on, such as participating in the county COVID recovery table and make sure our most vulnerable communities receive the resources they need, and requesting disaggregated data to illuminate the disparate impact of Covid in the Belle Haven neighborhood.
Climate Action Plan (CAP). With regard to concerns raised by Council and community members that the Climate Action Plan did not appear to be highlighted as a priority in the staff report, staff reframed their recommendation, considering the project to apply for a Safer Bay grant to protect the Ravenswood electrical substation as a major focus of climate action. Several council members supported making sure that CAP implementation remains a priority including opportunities to focus on improving residents’ quality of life and reducing car traffic by improving alternatives to driving. This priority would also dovetail with the city’s Vision Zero policy to greatly reduce injuries and fatalities from traffic crashes.
There were a variety of other items that drew public comment and council discussion.
- With regard to policing and public safety, there were multiple public comments in addition to Menlo Together and longtime community leader Pam Jones. Staff commented that the new police chief starting this Spring would focus on community outreach on the issues.
- With regard to redistricting, which will use new US Census data to define the city council districts in Menlo Park, staff recommended early action in hiring a demographer since they will be in high demand.
- A number of community members were interested in banning gas leafblowers, which cause annoyance and pollution. Council Member Mueller made a sensible recommendation to refer this item to the Environmental Quality Commission. While the EQC had declined to take the item up in 2019, battery technology has made rapid progress even in the last few years so the electric alternatives to gas leafblowers may be more ready for broad rollout.
- A number of community members were interested in “quiet zones” – a policy initiative that the city would need to lead, to have Caltrain reduce horn noise. This project would require the installation of four-quadrant gates, which prevent drivers from getting onto the tracks as the train approaches, at the intersections where the Caltrain tracks cross surface streets. Atherton has already installed quiet zones and a Council Member from Atherton reported in the goal-setting session’s public comment on what that town had done. Menlo Park Council and staff discussed how this item might be advanced with some more planning.
As date of the Feb 23 meeing approaches, a staff report will be published with more detail for the Council’s consideration of goal-setting decisions. We will keep you posted on helpful ways to support the goals of housing, sustainable transportation, environment and racial equity.