For nearly a year now we've been told by Menlo Park residents that an above-grade structure along the Caltrain ROW is somehow going to destroy their tightly-knit community, that there's just no way to provide methods to cross under the tracks that can preserve community, that unless the CHSRA gives them the tunnel they demand, well, they'll just have to oppose the whole project in order to ensure their community's very survival.
Those claims have always been overwrought and questionable. And now those claims may be shown to be hypocritical, as a group of Menlo Park residents demand a planned pedestrian bridge be canceled because of concerns it will draw the wrong kind of people - i.e. the poor - to their community:
A Menlo Park neighborhood is circulating a petition asking the city council to rescind a decision made 16 months ago to build a new bridge that connects them to the low-income Belle Haven community after the old, existing one is demolished.
Once the 53-year-old Ringwood Avenue pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 is demolished by Caltrans as part of the state's $81 million project to add a freeway auxiliary lane, no overcrossing should replace it, say residents of the Flood Triangle neighborhood west of 101 between Marsh and Willow.
They trot out the familiar "property value" and "nobody told us" arguments:
"Literally everyone I'd talked to about this petition had not heard of this issue, or had heard of it in the last couple weeks," said Flood Triangle resident Mark Throndson, one of the petitioners. He said his house has been broken into, and police subsequently arrested someone who came over from the east side of the bridge....
But residents such as Cathy Tokic argue the project also affects homeowners farther from the overcrossing and insist that most residents are just now learning of the council's decision.
"The people in this neighborhood have spent millions of dollars remodeling their homes," Tokic said. "People's homes have been broken into multiple times; windows broken multiple times."
And then propose inane and unworkable "solutions" designed to give the appearance of meeting existing needs but that in fact do no such thing:
Ideally, she said, residents would prefer that the Willow Road overcrossing be rebuilt to and made safer, although that bridge is about a half-mile away from the Ringwood Avenue walkway. In addition, she said Menlo-Atherton High School students, who make up a majority of the bridge's roughly 50 daily users, should be given better bus access across the freeway.
[Menlo Park Transportation Manager Chip] Taylor said the bus option would be costly and it is inconvenient for pedestrians to travel out of their way to Willow, the closest access across the freeway from Ringwood.
Why does none of this surprise me? Belle Haven is a part of the city of Menlo Park - but apparently it doesn't quite count as much as the wealthier parts do. In one breath Menlo Park residents say they don't want transportation infrastructure to divide their city. In the next breath they say that's exactly what they want - gotta keep the poor, presumed by some Menlo Park residents to be carriers of crime, out!
I find it difficult to take Menlo Park's concerns about HSR seriously when so many of their residents are actively trying to keep other members of their out of their neighborhoods. The HSR project is designed to improve mobility AND the community by making it easier to cross the Caltrain ROW. What they have run up against in Menlo Park is a community of wealthy people who believe it's government's job to keep their individual property values high even if it means gutting the state's efforts to solve global warming, dependence on oil, joblessness and congestion, and even if it means an entire city neighborhood is cut off from the rest of the city.
Menlo Park's more vocal anti-HSR activists are good at dressing up their arguments. But when you look at the city's overall attitude towards infrastructure, it seems to be typical NIMBYism in a different guise. I don't see any reason why we should let these people dictate to the rest of the state how to build and implement passenger rail.