Viewpoint: An update on the Flood School site and Measure V

by Ray Mueller on October 8, 2022

In July, I wrote the following guest column on InMenlo.com:  It’s time to reach a reasonable solution on the Flood School site. I write this column as a followup to that Viewpoint.

Everything I share in this description is from public meetings or my own personal interactions with the parties.

On the Measure V side, the proponents refused to accept anything more than 60 units as their official position of compromise. Unofficially, the proponents of Measure V indicated they might be willing to increase the number of units to 70, but that was the upper limit and the City or County must commit to a second entrance to the site, as well as to some processes in future upzoning citywide to ensure community interaction.

Opposing Measure V, the Ravenswood School District (RSD) refused to offer anything less than 90 units as an official position of compromise.  Unofficially, RSD indicated it might be willing to drop the number of units into the 80’s, but never would consider anything below 80. RSD however, was willing to allocate parking spaces to two sides of the lot, and design the site for a second entrance. As time went on, both sides became more confident that their own side would win.

Significantly, both the City and County never officially committed to opening a second entrance to the site in a public meeting, nor committed to a framework resembling a commitment. Further the City never entertained discussing setting a limit on the development on any number of units less than 90 for the site. Thus neither side was ever presented with a compelling reason to compromise.

I believe had the City or County committed to opening a second entrance, and limiting the development to approximately 75 units, give or take a few units, Measure V would not be on the ballot today. It’s unfortunate.

Ultimately though, I am left in the position where I will be voting against Measure V. Why?

First, there is already a remedy existing for voters. There is a City Council election taking place presently. Voters citywide can decide to support or oppose the incumbent based on how the City handled this matter to date, and weigh in on how the matter should be handled going forward. I believe this matter is more appropriately decided in a City Council election.  Campaign contributions, and people volunteering power local campaigns, and are not limited by district lines.

That being said, I am empathetic to the complaints of residents that those most impacted by the development can’t vote in the election, and that District elections have made it difficult to know if Councilmembers from other districts take seriously their concerns regarding impacts of development. These complaints resonate strongly with me, and are not unique to this issue. I understand how these complaints may lead reasonable residents to vote for measure V. And we have heard the same complaints from other districts over the last four years. There is no question this concern led to the crafting of Measure V. However, I believe the issue of representative government highlighted by this matter is broader than development, and touches all policy areas the city faces.

To address it, I believe the City should consider moving to a hybrid district system, and adding two city wide elected seats to the City Council. In doing so, every vote of seven city council members would include at least three city council members elected by the district affected. I would propose one of those two city wide seats be a City wide elected Mayor, as other jurisdictions on the Peninsula have adopted.

Ultimately though, what shaped my personal vote in this matter, is that unfortunately Measure V does cover sites that in my belief should not require going to the ballot. One being the church site across from Menlo-Atherton High School.  With this being the case, I cannot dispute Measure V would make it more difficult to build affordable housing at otherwise appropriate sites for infill.

Proponents of Measure V will argue this unintended consequence affects a small amount of land city wide. But the argument discounts that the basis for comparison is not land city wide, but the amount of land in the city that would ever be a candidate for affordable housing, given property values. In such circumstances we cannot leave it to the battle of resources to decide the fate of affordable housing projects.

I will continue to advocate strongly, no matter what position of service I hold, for a second entrance to this site, to mitigate the future traffic impacts from the development.

City Council member Ray Mueller was elected at-large in 2012 and 2016. In 2020, he was elected to represent District 5.

Photo of Flood School site as it looks today by Linda Hubbard (c) 2022

10 Comments

Joe October 08, 2022 at 6:57 pm

I am not voting for you for county supervisor.

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Tim Yaeger October 08, 2022 at 8:47 pm

Wow, Ray Mueller really is the politician none of us deserve. After coordinating with the Yes on V campaign for months he suddenly finds himself losing his supervisor race and he flip flops on Measure V. These compromises Ray keeps broadcasting were never any real discussions they were just Ray’s way of imagining he was the great negotiator and going to come up with a grand deal he could take credit for and help his chances to win the supervisor race. His ideas actually came from council member Drew Combs so it was interesting he was trying to publicly take credit for himself. Two days ago he said he was only going to state he wasn’t voting for Measure V in an interview with the Almanac and not come out with an endorsement. Then he writes this blog post. Whatever Ray Mueller tells you in the future I’m sure you’ll take his word for it. Wink wink he’s a politician. I have to ask myself is he really voting No on Measure V or is this just a ploy for votes in his Supervisor race.

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Ronen October 09, 2022 at 11:47 am

Measure V is terrible policy. If it passes there will be no more housing built in this city, unless it’s single family.

The Peninsula has an affordability crisis, and while we keep building offices, no city is willing to build housing for all these employees.

I’m seeing many talented young professional leave the Bay Area and the state because of our terrible housing situation. We need more housing and we need it everywhere. Enough splitting the baby, enough NIMBY attitudes, build houses for our kids.

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Rick Moen October 09, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Being a neighbour to the municipality, not a constituent, I steer clear of Menlo Park’s internal political affairs, but on the other hand wish to wholeheartedly praise Ray’s two very thoughtful and meticulous analyses on this issue, which are the single best, most clear-sighted pieces I’ve yet seen about the Flood School proposal. Thank you, Ray.

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Valerie Ambwani October 09, 2022 at 1:38 pm

Wow, interesting to hear Ray’s view; he has been a major voice for not destroying our low density housing. I guess running up a popular opponent has changed his mind. I guess he won’t be getting my vote. With the signing of AB2295 the Flood School project will be built – it will – but with Measure V it will not be a high-rise, and will have to allow Menlo Park City School district teachers and staff live there — without V, NOPE NO MPCSD STAFF will have a shot at it. Ray has some dreams for our city council, too bad they will never happen, and thus the residents must protect themselves from council members like Nash who protect their property but not another neighborhood.

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Jacqui D Cebrian October 09, 2022 at 7:39 pm

The law only says adjacent. Sequoia and Redwood City are also adjacent, so it guarantees nothing to mpcsd. And these other district will only get space if there is any available after Ravenswood’s teacher and staff needs are met.

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Katrina Marxer October 09, 2022 at 2:42 pm

I was planning on voting for Ray, attended 3 of his campaign functions and donated money. I’m shocked he turned his back on our community, he kicked off our Measure V campaign and stood with us; now that he needs the votes desperately, he flip flopped. Ray- all you had to do is say, “I will leave it with the people”. You could have at a minimum just stayed neutral.

Was it a big campaign contribution you received and you had no choice but to sell out?

We can view your 460’s after the election to see who your biggest contributors were.

What other campaign promises did Ray Mueller flip flop on? I guess if he wins , we all will find out.

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Katie Behroozi October 11, 2022 at 11:51 am

Don’t you have to actually live in Ray’s district to vote for him? The County Supervisor for Suburban Park and Flood Triangle is Warren Slocum (not up for election and he came out against Measure V a while ago).

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Katie Behroozi October 11, 2022 at 11:57 am

Seeing as how Suburban Park isn’t even in Mueller’s district (council or supervisor), I’m not sure how you imagine that his behind-the-scenes work was supposed to help him in that race.

I guess I’ll add that it’s illuminating to see how some residents really do believe that political donations buy favor from elected officials. Maybe in this case it’s actually NOT about the money.

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MB October 12, 2022 at 4:07 pm

Just give it time – Ray will change his mind and flip flop again. In the meantime, I’ll be voting YES on V and NO for Ray M.

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