It looks as if the City Council, city manager and the Planning & Transportation Department finally may be on the verge of giving downtown parking at least some of the attention it merits.
Those of us concerned about the situation would be well advised to keep the following points in mind:
Since 2004 the City Council and Planning Department have been aware of the fact that the downtown business district's two-hour parking zones would lead to intrusive parking in the adjacent residential neighborhoods. To date they have done nothing to alleviate the burgeoning problem.
The Planning Department in a recent report to the City Council presented a series of parking policy strategies intended to address the downtown parking deficiency. Those proposed strategies are so inadequate that they would have no effect whatsoever on the intrusive parking problem in the adjacent residential neighborhoods.
Downtown workers will continue to park in the adjacent residential neighborhoods as long as the parking there is free.
If the City Council immediately empowered the Planning Department to implement an affordable Resident Permit Parking program in the adjacent residential neighborhoods the downtown businesses would implement suitable parking solutions for their employees, which is what they should have been doing all along.
In short, the downtown developers and businesses created the current intrusive parking problem in the adjacent residential neighborhoods by failing to provide adequate parking for their employees. They now have a civic obligation to solve it!
Postpone landfill capping
Of course the city should postpone the final capping of the landfill until the question of building a composting facility on the land is settled. That's a no-brainer.
Application for a waiver of state rules requiring immediate capping can be based on trading off a minor increase in methane emissions during the year or so the area in question remains uncapped versus the major reduction in methane emissions brought about by the operation of the composting facility over its lifetime, should that option be proven the best use of the land.
Bad bag ban
If the so-called Plastic Bag Ban, which Menlo Park's Council votes on this month, were only a ban on these bags, it would not involve suddenly charging shoppers for every paper bag the store hands out.
Of course people will purchase disposable plastic bags for the messy jobs they currently re-use grocery bags for anyway. But should city government order residents to stop using safe, hygienic, plastic bags, forcing them to incur increasing costs in their everyday expenses? Should government force retailers to charge for bags?
In truth, the "ban" is actually a fee — a fee on every paper bag you get from groceries and all other stores. (Interestingly, in D.C. they charge 5 cents a bag, not the 25 cents that Menlo Park seeks to mandate.) Such charges on everyday items unfairly especially burden people on low incomes. Ah, but let them buy reusable plastic bags, you say? Those bags are notorious for harboring burgeoning E. coli colonies, cross-contaminating foods and making people sick.
But what about the garbage in the ocean and the poor sea turtles, you say? The environmental arguments are scare tactics and falsehoods. There is no direct connection between the plastic bag you get at Draegers and the "Pacific Garbage Patch," whose size, by the way, has been grossly exaggerated. However, there is a connection between allowing government to micromanage our day-to-day lives, and the "garbage police" (aka trash supervisors) active in cities like Cleveland, who literally prowl through residents' trash and fine them $100 to $500 if they are not recycling "enough" and/or generating "too much" trash. Is that the future you want?