Fire board candidates want district to own land beneath fire station

Menlo Park Fire Station 77 at 1467 Chilco St. Photo from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Two candidates for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District’s board said yesterday (Sept. 10) they’d like to see the city sell the district the land at 1467 Chilco St., where Fire Station 77 is located.

Appointed board member Robert Jones and Sean Ballard, a member of the district’s community emergency response team, said the importance of Station 77 in Menlo Park and Station 2 — at 2290 University Drive in East Palo Alto — is heightened because it’s very difficult for emergency vehicles to move between the district’s east and west sides, which are divided by Highway 101.

Sean Ballard

“During most daylight hours the district is split in two, an east side and a west side, and there’s no hope to get across,” said Ballard, who is also a member of the district’s strategic plan committee. “Station 77 does a great job protecting the area, but we need more flexibility, so I’d like to see the land owned.”

The district currently has a long-term lease with the city for the land. The district attempted to buy homes next to the station, but then letters were sent to homes within 300 feet of the station on Feb. 17, 2017, saying the district was considering using eminent domain to seize two nearby homes.

More than 50 residents showed up at a March 21, 2017, fire board meeting to protest the idea, which was promptly dropped by the board.

Jones said given the expected growth in East Palo Alto in the next five or so years, the district needs to brace itself by building a “strong presence” on the district’s east side. He said that includes possibly expanding Station 77, or at least buying the property the station is on now.

Robert Jones

Jones, who is the only board member who lives on the district’s east side — in East Palo Alto — said Station 77 is in a great location, especially when it needs to respond to Facebook.

Fire trucks are easily able to get to where they need to go using Hamilton Avenue or Newbridge Street.

At one point the district floated the idea of opening up a small station on Willow Road, something Jones said may not be the best idea. It may not even be possible, given the development occurring along Willow Road, with Facebook’s Willow Campus on one side and affordable housing on the other.

Ballard said the city and the district need to sit down and have a discussion about the property, possibly finding a compromise that both entities can live with so the fire district can better serve
the residents of the area.

Ballard and Jones are two candidates for three seats that are up for grabs in the November election. The other candidates are Jim McLaughlin and incumbent Chuck Bernstein. Here’s a link to an earlier story about the candidates. The board has five directors. The terms of the other two directors, Virginia Chang Kiraly and Rob Silano, expire in 2022.