Council members won’t talk about secret meeting on measure to restrict new apartment buildings

The red dot shows the site of the former Flood School, where the Ravenswood City School District wants to build 90 apartments but is encountering strong opposition from neighbors. Google maps.

Daily Post Staff writer

The Menlo Park City Council declined to shine a light on a meeting it had behind closed doors about the controversial Measure V, which could make it difficult for apartments to be built in single-family neighborhoods.

Councilman Ray Mueller said during the council’s meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 20) that he would be open to a public council discussion about Measure V and the project it could immediately impact – employee housing for the Ravenswood School District at the former Flood School site at 321 Sheridan Road.

No one on council responded to Mueller’s request.

As the Post has previously reported, the council met behind closed doors on Aug. 4 to discuss potential lawsuits related to Measure V. But, no information related to threatened lawsuits was posted with that agenda.

It was during that meeting, that the council discussed a possible agreement where the ballot measure would have been pulled.

The tentative agreement would have called for the city zoning the lot for 60 apartments at the site and adding a second access point to the site. Measure V proponent Nicole Chessari also previously told the Post that the tentative agreement would have made the city council approve an ordinance that would have weeded out some of the properties that would be impacted by Measure V, but would still require a vote of the people if something other than a house was proposed where it is currently zoned for single-family housing.

The majority of council appears to have passed on the resolution during that closed session meeting.

Council asked to ‘cure’ violation

Dave Price, the Daily Post’s editor, sent what California law calls a “cure notice” to the City Council on Monday.

Price says in his letter that the council broke the state’s open meetings law, called the Brown Act, and called for the council to remedy the violation.

Council can cure the violation by holding a public meeting so council members can report their positions. And the city can release any threat of lawsuits the council received that was discussed at the Aug. 4 meeting.

It wasn’t the only time council members were silent on Tuesday about Measure V. Earlier in the meeting, during a brief discussion of the upcoming environmental impact report for the SRI redevelopment, Mayor Betsy Nash and Councilman Drew Combs briefly brought up Measure V and its potential impacts on the city. But Nash called for a five-minute break before reminding the council that Measure V was not on the council’s agenda. The council moved on from the topic of Measure V.

Text of ‘cure’ notice

The following is the letter Price sent to the city of Menlo Park asking that council “cure” its Brown Act violation.

Subject: Notice of Cure under Brown Act

Sept. 19, 2022

Mayor Betsy Nash
Menlo Park City Council members
Menlo Park City Clerk Judi Herren
Menlo Park City Attorney Nira Doherty

Dear Mayor Nash,

This letter is to call your attention to what I believe were substantial violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act.

On Aug. 4, City Council held an executive session to discuss, as the agenda put it, “anticipated litigation” — one potential case.

Based on statements Councilman Drew Combs made to a Daily Post reporter, a proposed compromise involving the Measure V initiative was discussed during this meeting.

During the executive session, I believe council considered the choice of accepting the compromise or letting Measure V go to the voters.

If council had accepted the compromise, it would have resulted in the removal of Measure V from the ballot. However, Measure V remains on the ballot.

I believe three violations of the Brown Act occurred.

1. Discussion of a political issue, i.e. a ballot initiative, does not fit the definition of “anticipated litigation” as described in Government Code Section 54956.9 (a)-(e).

2. If there was a threat of litigation, the city was required to provide the threat to the public with the meeting packet, according to Government Code Section 54956.9 (e)(5) and affirmed by Fowler v. City of Lafayette (2020). No such document was provided by the city.

3. A decision was made by council to reject the compromise, but the action was not reported to the public. Government Code Section 54952.6 defines “action taken” as “a collective decision made by a majority of the members of a legislative body, a collective commitment or promise by a majority of the members of a legislative body to make a positive or negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of the members of a legislative body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order or ordinance.”

As you are aware, the Brown Act creates a remedy for illegal meetings.

Pursuant to that provision (Government Code Section 54960.1), I demand that the Menlo Park City Council cure and correct the illegally taken action as follows:

• Release any threat of litigation made to the city that was discussed during the Aug. 4 meeting.

• Hold a public meeting so members of council can report the positions they took, by vote or otherwise.

As provided by Section 54960.1, you have 30 days from the receipt of this demand to either cure or correct the challenged action or inform me of your decision not to do so.


Dave Price
Editor and co-publisher
The Daily Post and
385 Forest Ave., Palo Alto CA 94301


  1. I can remember it was roughly a year ago when we invited the city council members to discuss development. Almost all of them came individually, hearing our concerns at neighborhood meetings in driveways and distanced. Every single one of them had a variation of the same answer, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” It wasn’t until thousands of Menlo Park homeowners, furious that the city council wasn’t standing up to their obligation to preserve Menlo Park’s lifestyle, gladly backed removing this power from them. People have invested their life savings and lives to live in this community, and they won’t let it be destroyed by developers and groups outside if Menlo who tell us that our single family lifestyle is over. I’m happy to say that we’re going to make the council members earlier answers more true than they want. In just a few weeks we’re going to make it so “there’s nothing they can do about it.”

  2. The Measure V campaign will say anything to trick the voters. Now they’re saying they’re pro-teacher housing … even though their measure would stop teacher housing.

    • You must know that the organizers of Measure V approached RCSD and proposed a slightly smaller while still dense that would be 50% reserved for teachers. The RCSD denied that in favor of a “first crack at renting” option because they said filling it with teachers won’t generate the revenue they want (they have to rent to teachers at below market rates). The organizers are the only group – not RCSD and not Menlo Park City Council – that has advocated for dedicated teacher housing. Don’t buy the developer’s lies.

  3. To “remove this power” from council, you have to violate SB 9. That’s going to result in a lawsuit from the state and probably some housing groups. If the Suburban Park people are so certain that they’ve got the solution, why won’t they agree to pay the city’s legal bills from these suits?

    • Scare tactic. Measure V was crafted to in no way violate SB9. It prevents nothing in terms of building housing, it simply gives the homeowners of Menlo Park a stake in where that building occurs. The city coucil is lazy and just shoving new developments wherever they can. They won’t listen to the homeowners who live here. There won’t be any legal bills, and housing will get built with Measure V. It will just get built in a thoughtful manner.

  4. The Suburban Park people won’t indemnify the city because this is a bait-and-switch ballot measure. They’re going to get people to sign the petition and vote for it based on the argument that it’s needed to save “our single family lifestyle.” But it won’t do that because SB9 allows up to 9 units on a lot. All Measure V will do is kill a housing development for teachers that is intended to pump a little money into an under funded Latino-majority school district. Hopefully the voters will figure out that this is bait-and-switch before the election.

  5. It’s about time that a progressive city council made housiong affordable for everyone. Vote NO on Measure V to let the Menlo Park City Council do their job and start to break down the wall of single-family housing. It’s about time privileged people stopped hiding behind property values. Let’s make Menlo park affordable!

  6. I signed the Menlo Balance petition but now regret it. They lied to me. This isn’t about preserving our neighborhoods, it’s about redlining to keep Latinos from getting apartments. Disgusting. I’m voting “NO”!

    • [Comment removed for violating Terms of Use. You can use any name you want, but don’t use different names in the same thread.]

    • How do such race baiting posts get approved? I’m Latino, I am a homeowner in District 2, and I support Measure V. It has nothing to do with redlining. I’m amazed that this sort of comment would get approved by the moderators.

  7. Mueller was all in on dense housing without public input a month ago, wonder what happened? Maybe he understands Measure V will pitchfork his political aspirations forever.

  8. Thanks to Dave for requesting a Brown Act civil process remedy. The “threatened litigation” clause of this Brown Act business I find to be one of the most misunderstood and therefore most often violated parts of this Open Government protection. I had not been aware of the recent case law ruling on “Fowler …”.
    – Often school boards and councils do not include the “threat” even when it is written and has been sent to the agency. There is also a requirement that if the threat was verbal, a contemporaneous written note by an official – is also ‘public evidence’ of a threat and must be disclosed. That is, verbal threats in a one-to-one are also to be documented (written) and available to the public!
    – I’m a little fuzzy, on if properly “Closed Session” items, that result in no decision need to be disclosed at the end of the session. (It would be nice if ‘collective promises’ to each other / not to a potential litigant / were required / that’s a stretch)
    – Why “Daves” are needed: without such strict Open Meeting citizen push, the agencies (and their agency paid lawyers) will try to keep contacts, lawsuits, and any possible embarrassment to staff or elected officials hidden behind Government Opacity.
    Been there / done that / won one myself ‘for the public’.

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