Outrage remains after Stanford changes project | Page 5
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ButterďŹ‚ ies and
Edgewood Park Volunteers wage a pitched battle with invasive grasses SECTION 2
W W W. T H E A L M A N AC O N L I N E . C O M
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UP F RONT
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Stanford Graduate School of Education Cubberley Lecture Series presents
The West Coast premiere of
REBIRTH: New Orleans
A story of community, leadership and educational access
Tyler Williams, a Hillview seventh-grader, focuses on the target during an exercise of skill and concentration called Archery Apocalypto. Teacher Michael Kaelin said the exercise was the physical component to a learning project that used historical data from Aztec/Maya/Inca civilizations.
Innovative thinking to take center stage at Hillview Middle School By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
illview Middle School Principal Erik Burmeister is a true believer in “design thinking” — a process that emphasizes innovation, experimentation and collaboration to learn and to create. He believes so firmly in it that he used the process to redesign Hillview’s educational program in a way that he says will help students develop “high-order thinking skills” and an openness to learning. The specifics of the redesigned program — what the first-year principal is calling “Hillview 3.0” — will be unveiled at presentations on April 24 and 25 in the Menlo Park school’s performing arts center. Although he’s waiting until that time to provide details of changes, which will be launched next school year, Mr. Burmeister said the new approach to the educational program would involve longer teaching and learning periods in which students would be immersed in “hands-on,
project-based, design-thinking learning opportunities.” At an April 18 program at which the PBS documentary “Extreme by Design” was screened, Mr. Burmeister told the audience that design thinking in the classroom gives kids “permission to think creatively,” which means they must also be given permission to make mistakes. “We program them to avoid failing,” he said, but without the risk of making mistakes, “they can’t imagine what can be.” Mr. Burmeister and other Menlo Park City School District administrators partnered with the Stanford design school, which developed design thinking, to study ways that the concepts can be incorporated into the local schools’ programs. At Encinal School, kindergarteners and third-graders are using the process to enhance reading programs, and teachers in all district schools have begun to learn about design-thinking concepts, according to the district. At the middle school, a team of 18 people — including students,
staff and parents — gathered to “imagine what could be” for Hillview. Mr. Burmeister said they called on design-thinking practices, which begin with “empathy” to understand the perspectives and experiences of others. The next steps in the process are to define the problem or goal, to come up with many possible solutions (ideate, in designthinking parlance), to create and test prototypes of a solution or program, then to finalize the solution based on feedback. Mr. Burmeister told the Almanac that the team came up with two prototypes, one of which was then chosen for Hillview. “Beginning in August, it’s going to be who we are, what we do, how our curriculum and courses we offer are going to change,” he said. As the team was working on creating prototypes for the program, some Hillview eighthgraders explored design thinking in their flex classes, according to a district statement. See HILLVIEW THINKING, page 17
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John Merrow President, Learning Matters Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
In conversation with Prudence L. Carter Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education
Friday, May 3, 2013 Film, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Discussion, 7:00 to 7:45 p.m. ■
Cubberley Auditorium Graduate School of Education 485 Lasuen Mall Reception, 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. ■
ohn Merrow’s latest ﬁlm, based on 6 1/2 years of ﬁlming in post-Katrina New Orleans, reveals how a failing school system has become a fair-to-middling system of public charter schools. The cast of characters in the one-hour documentary includes Brittne Jackson, a 19-year-old senior who has failed the graduation exit exam about a dozen times; Bobby Calvin, an engaging young man chaﬁng under the harsh behavior code at his charter high school; two Teach for America corps members having dramatically different classroom experiences; and Clarke Bordelon, a special needs student whose mother cannot ﬁnd a charter school willing to take on the challenge of teaching her son. As the ﬁlm reveals, real change is possible, but anyone looking for a silver bullet will be disappointed. Merrow and Professor Carter will use the ﬁlm as a springboard to a broad range of issues. Audience participation will be encouraged. GRADUATE SCHOOL OF For more information, please call 650) 723-0630.
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Image courtesy of Stanford
A rendering of Stanford’s revised design for the office buildings proposed for El Camino Real in Menlo Park. These buildings would be between College and Cambridge avenues.
Outrage remains after Stanford changes project By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer
eaction from those opposed to StanfordArrillaga’s joint proposal for an 8.43-acre mixed-use complex on El Camino Real in Menlo Park did not waver after the university recently presented a new version with less medical office space and more housing. Twenty-four of 31 speakers lambasted the proposal during the April 16 council meeting. Grading the project as an average ‘D-’ — “We thought Stanford would understand the notion of a report card,” Save Menlo spokeswoman Perla Ni told the city council on April 16 — the grassroots coalition said Stanford got an “F” for not fitting Menlo Park’s “vil-
lage character,” not helping the town’s east-west connectivity, and potential for dumping cutthrough traffic in surrounding neighborhoods. The proposal did get a “C” for providing some housing Comparing the revised design to “re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” Ms. Ni said, “This traffic will kill Menlo Park.” One speaker, Elizabeth Houck, called for Mayor Peter Ohtaki’s resignation and the firing of City Manager Alex McIntyre. Some of those who spoke at the meeting were familiar faces to those who followed the creation of the newly implemented downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, which allows Stanford to build its mixed-use complex.
Comparing the revised design to ‘re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,’ Perla Ni said: ‘This traffic will kill Menlo Park.’ Planning Commissioner Vince Bressler, long a proponent of removing the Stanford properties outside the boundaries of the specific plan, urged the council to do so. “We don’t need to give anything away if we’re not going to get anything.” Fellow commissioner Henry Riggs struck a more moderate note, saying that big projects scare some Menlo Park resi-
dents. He asked the city to find a way to fund a bike and pedestrian tunnel under El Camino Real — a project it was hoped Stanford would contribute to. Former councilman Heyward Robinson wondered where the process went wrong. Saying the point of the specific plan “was to not have these battles every time a new (project) came up, it’s fairly dismaying to see us on the first project here with the pitchforks out.” Given that Stanford’s proposal caught the city by surprise, he suggested the council consider whether the specific plan’s size threshold for requiring public benefits was too high, a criticism levied by former councilwoman Kelly Fergusson while in office. The council had given away its
leverage, Mr. Robinson said. While fewer in number, voices have been raised in support of the proposal. Three were heard at the April 16 meeting; others submitted emails to the council. Menlo Park resident Noah Eisner wrote, “I’ve found it much easier to complain about options rather than to act. Through that, you get nothing done. That’s the state of affairs for downtown Menlo Park. It is a pass-through town even for people who live in it. We don’t shop, eat or work there. El Camino Real is a disgrace with empty lot after empty lot. The Park Theater has been closed for 11 years!” Rather than act, he wrote, See STANFORD CHANGES, page 6
Council names subcommittee to work toward compromise with Stanford By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer
fter a discussion that started on a Tuesday night and stretched into Wednesday morning, the Menlo Park City Council decided to form a subcommittee to help figure out how to make the proposed Stanford-Arrillaga mixeduse complex more palatable to the city. The council voted 4-0 on April 17, with Ray Mueller recused, to form the subcommittee and appoint Kirsten Keith and Catherine Carlton to serve on it.
Stanford’s most recent plan would replace mostly vacant lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real with 25,000 square feet of medical offices, 199,500 square feet of regular offices, 10,000 square feet of retail, and up to 170 apartments. Two car lanes would pass through a public plaza at Middle Avenue to allow vehicular access to the site. Steve Elliott, managing director of real estate for Stanford, said they wanted a project the community would be happy with. While the university had researched building senior housing or a hotel on the lots, it
Councilwomen Kirsten Keith and Catherine Carlton are appointed. decided the mixed-use complex was more suitable, he told the council. Asked whether he could guarantee that Stanford would not designate the buildings for academic use — which would allow it to claim an exemption from paying property taxes — Mr. Elliott responded that he wasn’t willing to promise that. “(But) these have always been
investment properties,” he said, like those the university owns on Sand Hill Road. “The provost thought that will continue to be the intent. ... I would not advise the university to put Stanford offices on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, but I can’t guarantee (they won’t).” The subcommittee’s goals include facilitating discussion between the city, residents and Stanford University that could lead to compromises that bring the project more in line with what the community wants. It will also help city staff expand a traffic analysis to look at poten-
tial cut-through traffic along Middle Avenue and into the Allied Arts neighborhood. Ms. Carlton said she was worried that bringing the two sides together may be impossible. “My fear is that there are members of the community who will never be happy with this and I don’t know how to reconcile that.” Twenty-four residents spoke against the project, highlighting its size, inclusion of medical offices and traffic impacts. Perla Ni, spokesperson for Save Menlo, a grassroots coaliSee MENLO PARK, page 6
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Menlo Park aims to shape compromise with Stanford continued from page 5
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tion organized to oppose the project, said the recent changes Stanford made amounted to â€œre-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.â€? She urged the council to remove the Stanford parcels from the boundaries of the specific plan and reinstate the zoning that existed prior to the planâ€™s passage. Several asked that the height of the buildings be restricted to two stories. The current design has two five-story residential buildings, one four-story office building and two three-story office buildings, according to Stanford, which the new downtown/El Camino Real specific plan allows. Three speakers expressed support for the proposal and four indicated they would if minor changes were made. Chamber of Commerce CEO Fran Dehn asked the council to â€œtrust the process; donâ€™t undermine the (specific) planâ€? created through years of public outreach and discussion. Councilman Rich Cline said that should the subcommitteeâ€™s efforts prove futile, he didnâ€™t mind looking at removing Stanfordâ€™s parcels from the specific plan boundaries, although he noted the plan does technically comply with the new regulations. â€œI need to see a better balance of housing and office use. I need to see a traffic study that shows me thereâ€™s a way to mitigate traffic,â€? he said, along with a way to help get people who arenâ€™t in cars from one side of the city to
Big Bear 5K run set for May 5 The five-kilometer Big Bear Run, open to runners and walkers of all ages, is set for 9 a.m. Sunday, May 5, at MenloAtherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road in Atherton. Proceeds help pay for equipment and tournament fees for more than 50 athletics programs at M-A, said spokeswoman Diana Holliday. Entry fees are $25 for adults and $15 for students 18 or younger. Rates jump slightly after April 29, and for online registration. Same-day registration begins at 7:30 a.m. at the main gym. Go to www.active.com to register online. Set the search locality for â€œAthertonâ€? and enter â€œbig bear runâ€? in the search box.
the other. He asked Mr. Elliott to explain how the proposal ended up so far afield of what the city and community indicated it wanted during the five-year specific planning process. â€œCompliance is one thing. Iâ€™ll grant you that,â€? Mr. Cline said. â€œBut we were in the same meetings and had the same discussions ... no one said they wanted medical office on El Camino. In fact people said (they did not want it). ... This became a majority of office and not housing, and I think that starts the disconnectâ€? between what the city expected and what Stanford actually proposed. Acknowledging that â€œdisconnectâ€? was an accurate description, Mr. Elliott said that Stanford indicated that a variety of uses might work, including senior housing or a hotel or medical offices, and never guaranteed to develop any one type of use. â€œWould more residential be a deal-breaker?â€? Mr. Cline asked after further discussion. Mr. Elliott initially declined to comment one way or another, but later told the council Stanford wasnâ€™t interested in adding more housing. City review of the project is waiting on completion of Menlo Parkâ€™s traffic analysis, which staff expected to take at least two to three months. The Planning Commission may review Stanfordâ€™s new proposal in August, which is also when the council subcommittee may return with recommendations, although the exact timing remains to be worked out. A
STANFORD CHANGES continued from page 5
the city prevents development based on complaints â€œfrom the vocal minority. There is no bias for action here, which results in lower revenue from restaurants, shops and businesses and our schools are impacted.â€? Steve Taffee also wrote the council to say he supported the project. â€œStanford has demonstrated flexibility in design considerations. The opposition that is being mounted is, unfortunately, mostly of the NIMBY type who are motivated by fears about projected personal inconvenience or loss of property value.â€? Traffic, parking and noise were concerns that could be managed, according to Mr. Taffeeâ€™s email, given the overall value of the project to Menlo Park. â€œEveryone needs to give a little. This is part of living in community.â€? A
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Police union letter raises residentsâ€™ ire By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
ome residents are calling it a scare tactic and a â€œshamefulâ€? attempt to misrepresent reality. But the head of the police union insisted that the letter his group mailed to Atherton residents earlier this month was â€œintended to help foster communication between the less engaged residents and their elected representatives.â€? In the one-and-a-half-page letter, the Atherton Police Officersâ€™ Association addressed what it called â€œa staffing crisisâ€? in the police department, the parcel taxâ€™s role in funding the department, and upcoming labor negotiations for a new contract for police officers and dispatchers. The letter was signed by police dispatcher and APOA President John Mattes. The City Council will be focusing on the parcel tax and the police contract in coming weeks, and its decisions, the letter says, â€œmay change the way the town provides your safety and security services. Ultimately, the councilâ€™s choices may lead to the outsourcing of the Atherton Police Department to another local agency.â€? The APOA â€œis trying to strike fear in our hearts,â€? resident John Ruggeiro charged during the public comment period at the April 17 council meeting. A former San Francisco police captain whose son is now on the San Francisco force, Mr. Ruggeiro compared police-to-resident staffing ratios in both cities, and contested the letterâ€™s claim that Athertonâ€™s police staffing is inadequate. â€œThe letter is not â€˜fear mongeringâ€™ or scare tactics,â€? Mr. Mattes wrote in an email to the Almanac. Instead, itâ€™s part of a campaign to publicize issues the APOA believes need to be understood by residents. â€œThe problem we face ... is the