Guest Opinion: Questions about The Willows Traffic Plan

by Stuart Sussman on April 17, 2011

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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.


Maria Kleczewska April 17, 2011 at 11:50 am

There are differing opinions among the residents of the Willows about the merits of the traffic plan. It would be nice if we could all be more comfortable with the notion that sometimes you don’t get your way and have to concede to others who think differently.

Jym Clendenin April 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Sorry to see this sort of hard-hitting opinion piece come to InMenlo.

InMenlo Fan April 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm

One of the reasons I like is that this kind of piece hasn’t traditionally part of the mix. Better left to the Almanac blog, IMHO.

InMenlo Lover April 18, 2011 at 11:34 am

I will withdraw my support of InMenlo if strongly worded opinion pieces such as this are featured as if it’s “news.” At best, this is a “letter to the editor” and should have been edited down to 50 to 100 words.

brielle johnck November 26, 2017 at 11:20 am

This opinion piece is merely that: an opinion by one Willows resident who has for several years been an opponent of all traffic-calming suggestions and efforts in my neighborhood. The piece is clever, sarcastic and offers no concrete solutions to a problem that has gotten worse since 2010 when Mr Sussman opposed the neighborhood’s last campaign to slow down the commute traffic using the Willows to reach Palo Alto and the Dumbarton Bridge.
If the City of Menlo Park decided that speed bumps have slowed down traffic on Laurel St in front of the Burgess pool, park and Civic Center, perhaps the residents of the Willows (especially those whose children walk and ride their bicycles to the new Upper Laurel School) agree. Speed pumps and bollards have been used in Palo Alto since the 1980s.
Thank you for printing Mr Sussman’s piece. It’s good to put a name on the opposition to community efforts to preserve a safe and livable neighborhood.

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