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.



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.

Two upcoming educational events on the history of housing shaping our communities today


The Road to Resegregation
September 10, 2019 at 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Menlo Park Library, 800 Alma St, Menlo Park, CA 94025
RSVP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-road-to-resegregation-tickets-68869066231

Meet author Alex Schafran and discuss his book, “The Road to Resegregation: Northern California and the Failure of Politics.”

From the publisher’s description:
How could Northern California, the wealthiest and most politically progressive region in the United States, become one of the earliest epicenters of the foreclosure crisis? How could this region continuously reproduce racial poverty and reinvent segregation in old farm towns one hundred miles from the urban core?

This is the story of the suburbanization of poverty, the failures of regional planning, urban sprawl, NIMBYism, and political fragmentation between middle class white environmentalists and communities of color. As Alex Schafran shows, the responsibility for this newly segregated geography lies in institutions from across the region, state, and political spectrum, even as the Bay Area has never managed to build common purpose around the making and remaking of its communities, cities, and towns. Schafran closes the book by presenting paths toward a new politics of planning and development that weave scattered fragments into a more equitable and functional whole.


The Color of Law: The Hidden History Shaping Our Communities Today 
October 3, 2019 at 7 pm – Congregational Church of San Mateo, 225 Tilton Ave. San Mateo, CA 94401
To RSVP, please go to https://hiddenhistory-rothstein-sanmateo.eventbrite.com.

Housing discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity is against the law.  Do you know that in recent history, it was actually required?

Richard Rothstein, renowned author of THE COLOR OF LAW, will deliver a riveting presentation about the little known history of how our communities have been shaped, bringing to light the forces that locked the requirement of discrimination into place.  This is a history that continues to have powerful implications for our communities today. 

The author’s presentation will be followed by a Q&A period and a brief reception in the CCSM community hall. 

Financial sponsors for this event are the Working Families Alliance and the San Mateo County Faith Leaders’ Solidarity Network.  Other sponsors include One San Mateo, Housing Leadership Council, San Mateo NAACP, Housing For All Burlingame, DSA, Peninsula For Everyone, Peninsula Young Democrats, Menlo Together, Faith in Action Bay Area, and Tech Equity Collaborative.  Please address requests for more information to onesanmateo@onesanmateo.org.a

City Council chooses goals advancing housing, transportation, sustainability

Several items from MenloTogether’s priority list were advanced at the council’s goal-setting decision agenda item last week.

Housing study session. Council Member Taylor assertively asked for a housing study session,with a scope that could potentially address a variety of aspects of the city’s housing challenges.

Downtown parking and access. The City Council prioritized “parking and access” strategies to improve access to downtown in the near term. This description helps the city to think about a “pie chart” with slices that include driving, transit, walking, and biking. This language implies that while driving remains important, the city will focus on improving access to downtown with a variety of modes.

Providing a safe bicycle route from Burgess Park through a new crossing of the Caltrain tracks to Olive Street and Hillview Middle school. Mayor Mueller expressed eagerness for this project to get input from Complete Streets Commission and to move forward.

Environmental goals – electrifying buildings. Several council members expressed enthusiasm about the environmental goals including the REACH codes that would set more aggressive standards for new buildings to be installed all-electric (without polluting natural gas). Council referred the topic to the Environmental Quality Commission to scope the project with staff swiftly enough to meet REACH program deadlines.

A few other topics came up at the Goal-Setting meeting related to Menlo Together objectives for housing and transportation:

There is an upcoming study session on Tuesday March 12 on strategies to address longterm homelessness

Council Member Combs proposed removing funding from the parking garage project, rather than deferring the garage while taking short-term steps to improve parking management. A decision to remove funding from the parking garage would need to come back to Council as a study session. This is a complicated topic – considerations might include demonstrating the effectiveness of strategies to use parking more efficiently before making a final decision; and the potential value of shared parking to goals of encouraging more housing downtown. A parking garage study session hasn’t yet been scheduled.

The Council removed consideration of teacher housing on the Flood magnet school site because that project is in limbo due to ongoing change in the Ravenswood school district.

We’ll continue to keep you posted as these topics come up for review and decision at City Council.

Council chooses weaker Tenant Relocation Assistance option

Last Tuesday, over 40 people came to the Menlo Park City Council meeting to ask them to pass the Housing Commission’s recommended Tenant Relocation Assistance ordinance. At the end of a long meeting, in a 3-2 vote with Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor and Councilwoman Betsy Nash opposed, the Council approved a limited ordinance modeled on one passed in Redwood City last year.

The ordinance will apply only to low-income renters forced out of their homes because the landlord of a property of five or more units is opting to permanently remove the unit from the rental housing market and will require landlord to give qualifying tenants relocation assistance equal to three months of fair-market rent (currently $8,427 for a two-bedroom apartment).  Recent news from Redwood City demonstrates why this is insufficient, as long-time renters receive no compensation when forced to move as their rents double. Click here to read a detailed summary from the Almanac.

The Menlo Park City Council decided to pair the Tenant Relocation Assistance ordinance with a community fund for renters not eligible for assistance through the ordinance. At this Tuesday’s City Council meeting Council will have the first discussion about the fund.