Community members and development officers met Thursday night in the first of four public forums to gain communal insight concerning the Grand Boulevard Initiative.
The initiative, with a collaboration of more than 30 different agencies and spanning 17 cities, aims to revitalize El Camino Real into a more walkable and transit oriented space while bringing vibrancy to the historic highway.
“I think everybody wants a really well-designed plan,” said Rick Benavides. “The benefit of getting together in groups like this is how we’re going to get it.”
The meeting began with a presentation by Greenbelt Alliance representative Michele Beasley. She presented the social and economical benefits of creating a more accessible community.
“El Camino Real is rich in resources, but its potential could be so much more,” she said.
The opportunities of revitalization for El Camino Real will have palpable affects on the health of the community, Beasely said.
She cited a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control that found if 10 percent of adults began a regular walking program, $56 billion in heart disease costs could be saved.
“We’ve actually engineered walking out of our daily lives,” Beasley said.
By increasing the ability to move on foot and by bike, individual health, air quality and water quality will increase, she said.
Beasley also said the current plans for the Grand Boulevard Initiative will offer advantages to each generation.
Beasley referred to the planning principle the 8-80 rule.
“You should design your streets so an eight- or an 80-year-old feels safe and comfortable crossing the street,” Beasley said.
As demographics are changing and the general population is becoming older, Beasley said there must be an effort to accommodate senior citizens. Research has shown that 20 percent of people aged 65 and older do not drive, therefore, a more transit oriented plan should be implemented, Beasley said.
Younger generations, notably Generation Y, has statistically shown interest in urban environments where they can ride their bikes and prevent what is viewed as unnecessary pollution.
“They view the car as a huge productivity waste,” Beasley said. “Younger workers are increasingly concerned with the health of the planet.”
When the more prevalent older generations begin to leave the workforce, Beasley said, the community must have younger generations to replace those positions.
“We don’t need a crystal ball to see there are changes on the horizons,” she said.
Meeting attendees split up into four subgroups to discuss the presentation and give personal opinions on how they thought the plan could be bettered.
Some residents were concerned about the possible height of the proposed buildings.
“If I wanted to live in New York, I’d live in New York,” said Cory David of the proposal of towers.
Development plans along certain parts of El Camino would allow for some buildings to be up to 150 feet tall. David called the prospect of a 15-story tower “wholly inappropriate and totally over the top.”
The Buri Buri community member said that there is poor communication between administrators and the community. David said he received no notice of the meeting because he was not within 300 feet of the proposed construction site, but he feels the whole community should be involved and notified of the process.
“This has quite an impact,” he said. “Far beyond a crosswalk or stop sign.”
The notes and comments received by the public will be typed up and distributed. The next public forum has yet to be scheduled but is estimated to take place in Menlo Park sometime toward the end of the summer.
The key to building an ideal plan, Beasley said, can be complex.
“It takes political will, community support and good planning,” she said.