City Struggles With Density Issue In Fighting Global Warming

<p>Menlo Park, California, struggles with the compatibility of being green and fighting climate change, while resisting high density housing, even around transit stations and corridors.</p>
May 20, 2007, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Menlo Park is sincere about fighting global warming. It assigned a "50-person task force to study how the city can cut greenhouse gas emissions; and with unanimous approval from the City Council, it is now one of almost 500 U.S. cities that has pledged to address global warming at the local level".

"Although the council recently voted unanimously to endorse the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, the wording was slightly changed to avoid committing the city to supporting high-density and transit-oriented projects."

"But amidst efforts to make Menlo Park as green as can be, the city isn't doing one thing (local) environmental groups say it should: building multiple-story residential projects, with at least 25 condominiums and apartments per acre, near the city's train station and downtown area."

The 135-condo Derry project, planned for a 3.4-acre site opposite the commuter rail station and along San Mateo County's major transit corridor, El Camino Real, was halted after a successful citizen-led referendum effort.

"I'm not sure that denser housing belongs along the Caltrain corridor," said Councilman Cohen, who has emphasized that the council should always put the potential impacts on Menlo Park residents before regional needs".

"Growth is happening no matter what, so we have to plan where people are going to live now, and for the next 25 to 30 years," said Michelle Beasley of Green Belt Alliance. "Land-use decisions and dealing with global warming run hand-in-hand. ... El Camino Real is a prime opportunity for development, and it would be wonderful to see Menlo Park embrace that."

"The kind of density that some of these environmental groups are supporting is too much," said Morris Brown, leader of Menlo Park Tomorrow, the residents' group that led the referendum effort against the Derry project. "I'm not at all convinced that we should pack everybody in a small circle, to save more green space."

Thanks to Jeff Rensch

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