Housing, particularly affordable housing, is a front-and-center issue for our City. Housing here is too expensive for people who want to respond to the “Help Wanted” calls by our local stores, restaurants, and other small businesses, or whom we might hire as our teachers, first responders, and local government workers. Young families, our own kids, and long-time residents who are now seniors find home rental or home ownership in Menlo Park out of reach. I want our housing policies to recognize these basic facts and take steps to remedy them. We need policies that thoughtfully meet state requirements, promote equitable housing built citywide, especially near transportation and services, and prevent displacement of our neighbors.
I will continue working hard to ensure that Menlo Park lives up to its legal responsibility to add housing in the City – almost 3,000 housing units must now be planned for. This target number was caused by a former City Council’s decision several years ago to build huge new office buildings in our City. The prior Council (including my opponent) massively over-developed Menlo Park’s Bayfront area while failing to provide for more housing to meet the demand of their new workforces occupying all those offices. The inevitable result was thousands of extra commuters clogging our streets.
We need more housing, especially housing at all affordability levels. I want to focus on solving this problem – not pretending it doesn’t exist, or wasting our City resources to lobby Sacramento, or standing in the way of teacher housing with Measure V. Instead, let’s work together to find creative common-sense solutions to a problem that is rapidly getting worse.
Safe streets are a major concern in District 4 and citywide, particularly where new developments are disrupting old usage patterns. In our district, residents are concerned about the immediate impacts of the two major developments on El Camino that are ready for occupancy in the next few months. The new office and commercial tenants and the hundreds of new residential units will have positive impacts, like increased business activity; but they will also bring heavy traffic and new bike and pedestrian usage patterns. Safe streets means the public right-of-way should be designed to accommodate all users, not just cars. That often means walkable sidewalks, good bike lanes, and traffic calming measures.
I want to focus the City on making our streets and sidewalks functional, safe, and comfortable for all users. This takes experience, outreach, and effective implementation. We need to encourage transportation by means other than cars. We need to make walking, biking, e-biking, and public transit easy choices. We need to reclaim our neighborhood streets for the benefit of our residents. I have a proven record of reaching out to our neighbors to find out how the City can design our streets to effectively serve our residents.
Reducing the strain on our street infrastructure requires regional solutions that take years to implement, like improved CalTrain service and grade separations at Ravenswood, Oak Grove, and Glenwood, and activating the Dumbarton Rail Corridor. There are also local solutions like reducing reliance on cars through smart housing development, and local shuttles. Promoting electric vehicles helps the environment while easing noise and air pollution for all. Dealing effectively with our climate and housing issues will also promote safe streets.
Climate change is a global problem with local effects that we are already experiencing -- higher temperatures, worse droughts, more wildfires, bad air quality, and sea level rise. While some people throw up their hands and give up on the problem, I believe that we can all help meet the challenge through creative practical local solutions. I am proud that Menlo Park adopted the bold climate goal of zero carbon by 2030, and I led the effort for common sense, practical local measures to implement it.
We’re fortunate to have 100% carbon-free electricity in San Mateo County through our electricity provider Peninsula Clean Energy. We are regularly replacing gas-burning municipal vehicles with clean electric ones, and adding public EV charging stations. We adopted improvements to our Building Code to promote easy smart changes for new buildings that have lower climate impact. Lately I led the effort to secure a public/private partnership with BlocPower that will help property owners voluntarily replace gas appliances with clean electric ones. These measures help with the global issues at the same time as they improve residents’ health. I want to build on those gains with new initiatives to improve our lives.
I am also addressing climate by planning housing conveniently close to transportation and everyday services, so residents can walk or bike from transit to homes, jobs, and shopping. The benefits are not just reduced emissions, but also more opportunities for outdoor dining, local commerce, and a sense of shared community. Menlo Park should also have a comprehensive approach to dealing with flooding and sea level rise.
Climate change is a threat to all of us, and we all need to do everything we can to be part of solving it. The future we leave for the next generation depends on our collective action now.