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The City of Menlo Park now considers the fate of The Willows.
In the coming months can the people of the Willows expect to find our streets much as they are, or will we find them changed, marred by new “furniture” and marked with state-of-the-art gates, blinking electric signs and posted restrictions that demand long detours, cause more pollution and noise, and are the result of a flawed process utilizing errant data?
Will the city choose to spend another $400,000, in addition to the $120,000 spent so far, to change a community’s patterns for the sake of change itself? Does a half million dollars have no better use?
There is a plan.
The plan was developed. As the plan developed, the problem was shaped. As the shape of the problem evolved, the plan was revised. As the community began to learn about it, the plan was re-shaped. As the public became more engaged in the matter of the planned changes, an alternative was designed. As the history and consequences of the plan began to be discussed by neighbors, the alternative plan was refined.
The plan, The Final Draft Alternative Plan, The Refined Draft Alternative Plan, was laid before the Transportation Committee. Tasked by the City Council to decide if the plan should be put to a “survey” of the residents of part of The Willows, the Committee voted it should not.
Now that the Transportation Committee has voted down the plan, will the City Council put it to a vote in The Willows anyway? If they do, will the residents of the Southwest Corner of The Willows get to vote on the plan? Will the residents of The Hidden Willows in East Palo Alto have a say?
If it does come to a vote what will The Willows decide? Will more than half of those chosen to be surveyed say yes to this plan cultivated by 3% of residents? Will we even be voting on the same plan presented to the Transportation Committee?
Will history repeat itself?
Will changes recommended by the same consultants trying to manipulate the same amorphous problem suffer the same fate? Will barriers and signs and street furniture be installed in our community, only to prove themselves ineffective and unsightly and unwanted? Will some physical obstacles prove themselves dangerous, slow down emergency responders, endanger bicyclists, cause accidents? Will we pay again to have them removed?
What if the Council put aside this plan? What if they work with our police and citizens to identify existing trouble spots and actively promote safety at those locations? We may never know.
Can we build a monorail next?
Stuart Sussman is a resident of the Willows.