@By: by Heather Rock Woods It's a long and narrow road called Sand Hill that is leading the issues in this year's campaign for Menlo Park City Council. Four candidates, including one incumbent, are vying for two seats. One of the seats was left vacant by Councilman Cal Jones who decided not to seek reelection this fall. Each candidate has indicated that they feel Stanford's proposal for the Sand Hill Road corridor has negative impacts on Menlo Park, and each wants to negotiate improvements with Palo Alto. Only incumbent Dee Tolles said he would not support a lawsuit to revise the environmental impact report as a last resort.
The current council has asked the city attorney to research the city's legal options if Palo Alto--which prepared the draft EIR--doesn't meet some of Menlo Park's concerns.
Another issue that has surfaced during the campaign involves downtown, which has been spruced up. Business is flourishing. But that has produced some side effects such as parking problems and higher rents.
Also, the city is getting ready to embark on a $7.7 million renovation and expansion of the Civic Center. The Police Department, currently in a separate building, would move into the basement and first floor of the renovated center, which will meet requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city is evaluating whether to use cash or bonds to finance the project, which has been approved by council already. When project design is finished the construction contract will be awarded.
Name: Harry A. Harrison
Residence: Hermosa Way
Occupation: Retired builder
Experience: Planning Commissioner for eight years, ending this month. Taught classes at College of San Mateo and Cabrillo Junior College. Served on the state Board of Vocational Education under Governor Ronald Reagan in 1970. B.A. in architecture. Active volunteer member of Little House.
Proposed Sand Hill Road projects: Harrison thinks the EIR should address the traffic impact at both ends of the Sand Hill Road corridor: El Camino Real and Santa Cruz Avenue. "I don't think we in Menlo Park have much to say about the internal development (apartments and shopping center) of the project." As a last resort, Harrison said he would support a lawsuit if Palo Alto does not agree to connect Sand Hill Road to Alma Street.
Direction of downtown Menlo Park: Harrison agreed that the business district is more alive. He doesn't want to see any more office space downtown, but he has been advocating a parking structure. The structure could provide permit parking for employees, leaving street spaces free for customers, he said. Harrison pushed for the diagonal parking spaces that now line Santa Cruz Avenue.
Proposed $7.5 million Civic Center renovation: "I oppose putting the Police Department in the basement because of emergencies," like an earthquake where the building caves in, he said. He said he supports the project in moderation.
Name: R.P. (Dee) Tolles, incumbent
Residence: Stanford Avenue
Occupation: Bank vice president
Experience: Four years on City Council, elected in 1992. Banker for past 35 years. Served on a number of community service boards, including the YMCA, and Social Advocates for Youth in Palo Alto.
Sand Hill projects: "I'm in favor of the concept in general." Tolles wants more mitigation of traffic. "I came up with the idea to go to Palo Alto for traffic mitigation," he said. Palo Alto's response is still unclear. Tolles wants Stanford to encourage Sand Hill Road traffic to head toward Quarry Road before it gets to El Camino Real, so drivers don't use Menlo Park streets to get to Highway 101. "I'm willing to work it out through serious negotiations," not a lawsuit, he said.
Downtown Menlo Park: "It's strong, healthy, doing well, alive at night, you can find parking." Tolles said he takes some credit for the beautification project downtown a few years ago that put in trees and diagonal parking. He said the Chamber of Commerce and the city have done a good job encouraging the downtown business community, and that sales tax revenue (citywide) was "outstanding."
Civic Center renovation: "It's very positive for the city, for staff, for efficiency, and very necessary." Tolles advocates floating bonds because the city's credit rating would give the bonds low interest, and city funds can be kept on hand for emergencies and invested at a higher rate of return. Tolles is also advocating moving organizations from old Fremont Park buildings--which he said should be torn down--when the police building becomes vacant.
Name: Charles M. (Chuck) Kinney Age: 55
Residence: Creek Drive
Occupation: Owner and founder of seismic upgrade business
Experience: Work in landscape architecture, land planning, building, transportation engineering. Designer of the Burgess Park gymnasium. First chairman of Palo Alto Architectural Review Board (in 1970s). Consultant with city governments. President of now-defunct Downtown Palo Alto Inc. about 10 years ago.
Sand Hill projects: "It's a bad deal for Menlo Park, environmentally, traffic-wise, and economically, as designed." Kinney wants to explore alternatives with less impact, like beefing up Quarry Road, moving the apartments closer to transportation, and keeping Sand Hill Road at two lanes. Kinney said he wants to talk with Palo Alto, but would support a lawsuit as a last resort.
Downtown Menlo Park: "I think it's very healthy." Kinney thinks his landscape architecture background will be useful when the Center City Design consultants make recommendations for the area. He said people are concerned about downtown-related parking on neighborhood streets, and businesses that can no longer afford the increasing rents. He said he suggested restriping the parking plazas about 10 years ago, which resulted in more spaces.
Civic Center renovation: "It's a big project with a big price tag." Kinney agreed that the Police Department needs to be modernized, but wants to know more to see if the scope is necessary. He said his seismic upgrading knowledge will help the city avoid costs.
Name: Paul J. Collacchi.
Residence: Donohoe Street
Occupation: System engineer
Experience: Transportation Commission from 1995 to present. Council appointee to the Willows Traffic Committee from 1993 to 1995. Community volunteer with Citizen's Patrol and Just Us II Willows neighborhood groups that worked on decreasing crime in the Whiskey Gulch area in 1992.
Sand Hill projects: "I stand for fairer, less harmful alternatives." Collacchi said Stanford and Palo Alto must accept more traffic on their own internal streets, and that the parking garage should be moved and the apartment complex relocated or radically toned down. He supports a two-lane extension to El Camino, but not a four-lane expansion of the road. He supports a lawsuit if Palo Alto does not provide a supplemental draft EIR.
Downtown Menlo Park: Collacchi was involved with the Center City Design Study and thinks it is a useful way to make El Camino Real more pedestrian-friendly and bring the Kepler's-train station-Alma Street area into the downtown. He said the city needs to deal with downtown parking. Many residents have asked the Transportation Commission for two-hour residential parking, he said.
Civic Center renovation: "I'm not convinced the benefits are worth $7 million. I want to scrutinize that project." Collacchi said he agrees that the Police Department needs to expand and modernize. But what to do when the existing police building becomes empty is a "hidden" cost, because the building needs a seismic retrofit, he said.
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