After hearing testimony from 89 speakers, bleary-eyed Menlo Park city council members voted 3 to 2 on November 1 to move forward with plans for a public golf course in the heart of Menlo Park’s only open space. Converted from landfill to open space in 1976, the 160-acre Bayfront Park at the end of Marsh Road is surrounded by the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One edge of the park borders a tidal slough adjacent to Greco Island, home to an estimated 100 California clapper rails.
The cash-strapped City of Menlo Park is looking for a way to cover the $187,000 annual maintenance costs currently paid by a fund that will soon expire. “The park could remain as it is, but that would have financial consequences for the city in a few years,” says city Public Works Director Kent Steffens. The city also needs soccer and baseball fields, and the developer, Orange County-based Highlands Golf LLC, has agreed to build three fields as part of the agreement.
But the proposed 75-acre golf course would shrink the park by half and push park users and wildlife to the perimeter, says former Menlo Park mayor and city council member Steve Schmidt. “This proposal appears to have been hatched too quietly, too quickly, and without the public airing and environmental review it deserves,” says Schmidt, who points out that the first public discussion of the plan was on October 19.
Council members have instructed city staff to negotiate a more detailed agreement with the developer, which would then go before the city council for approval. If the council approves the project, the city will solicit public comment and initiate an environmental impact report.
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