Last week, the Menlo Park Fire Protection Board of Directors authorized the rebuilding of Fire Station 6 located on Oak Grove Avenue in downtown Menlo Park. General Contractor Gonsalves and Stronck was awarded a “not to exceed” contract for $7,547,400 as the lowest, qualified bidder.
Menlo Park Firefighters assigned to that station have moved out of the old fire station and into a residential structure located behind the station on Hoover Street where they will continue to operate until the new fire station is built.
“I’ll be happy to see us tear down the old station and start construction by the end of the year,” said Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.”It’s been a long, rough road to get to this point.”
The current fire station was dedicated in 1953. In 2007, the Fire District determined that the station’s current location best met its strategic deployment needs but would need to be enlarged. The existing lot was found to be too small, even if the District decided to add a second story to the proposed building.
In 2008, the residential structure directly behind the station was acquired, giving the District the ability to build a two-story, partial drive-through station that would be able to accommodate its largest piece of fire equipment and the ability to add additional apparatus and personnel.
After deciding to stay at its current location in 2007 and purchasing the home behind the station in 2008, the District stalled the project during the recession and focused all of its limited resources on its East Palo Alto Fire Station, which was completed earlier this year.
The District’s lot behind the station was not included into the City of Menlo Park’s Downtown Specific Plan in 2011, despite a request to do so, which eventually led to additional project delays and environmental analysis costs, according to the Chief.
Controversy isn’t new to this station’s location. Neighbors protested the building of a much larger proposed Headquarters Fire Station in the early 1950’s when the Fire District owned two lots along Oak Grove. Eventually, the Fire District and its neighbors settled on the much smaller fire station, which is at the current location. The second lot was sold off, and the larger Headquarters Station was built on Middlefield Road in 1955, after acquiring property from Saint Patrick’s Seminary.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, the Fire Station 6 was closed at times due to budgetary constraints and because it was surrounded by other District fire sStations that could cover its deployment area. In fact, the need to keep this fire station open has at times been a debated topic within the Fire District itself.
Since then, the 2015 Districts Standards of Cover, an assessment report on strategic geographic emergency deployment, has formally validated the importance of this location on the edge of downtown Menlo Park.
Added Chief Schapelhouman: “It’s not lost on me that the gentleman who was at the center of the protest and controversy in the early 1950’s – who allegedly prevented us from building our Headquarters at this site – well, we now not only own his former home, but the fire crew will temporarily be operating out of it until the new station opens and we can tear it down for our station drive-through and parking lot. Life’s funny that way.”
Photo of existing Fire Station 6 by Linda Hubbard (c) 2016