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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Market Forces

Uploaded: Mar 17, 2014
Sunday, on the cusp of spring, and with mornings lengthening at one end of days, evenings at the other, why not head for the Farmers Market? Here everything Menlo Parkian is on display, being bought or sold or merely viewed. Including political causes. Growth is a perennial issue, and I am happy to engage petitioners in friendly discussion. More offices downtown...surely that would increase our tax base, I insist. No, one supporter explains, it's actually retailers who boost tax revenues. I listen and learn. This does make sense. For sales taxes from the erstwhile auto dealerships along El Camino must have been considerable. And, yes, we need housing.

But traffic? How is reducing office construction downtown going to lessen traffic congestion? This thought occurs to me somewhere between the cauliflower and the lettuce. It develops into a full query by the time I hit the Asian pears...where, fortunately, another petitioner is waiting. I point out that people tend to drive to and from retail stores, not to mention their homes. But work is another matter. Increasingly, people take the likes of Caltrain to and from transit-friendly locations...like downtown Menlo Park.

The woman with the clipboard seems surprised. Transit? Do people go to and from offices on transit? Yes, I tell her, citing the daily foot traffic from Caltrain to SRI. Oh, she says. Wandering slightly off-topic, I add that European-style development along El Camino would be a good thing. With medium-rise shops, apartments and, yes, offices in a concentrated strip. She urges me to have a nice day.

I am. After all, we are talking to each other, the populace and I. Unfortunately, it's mostly the old, land-owning populace that's out with petitions. Growth issues...reducing traffic...and ensuring that Menlo Park with its urban property values somehow remains sleepily suburban...it's an issue divided along generational lines. My young professional neighbors have other priorities.

And so, come to think of it, so do I. Caltrain electrification being high on my list. The rail line's newly released draft environmental impact report may not sound exciting. But read it I will. We are all stumbling forward. And forward is good.

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