BY EMILY MIBACH
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.
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.
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.
Editor and co-publisher
The Daily Post and padailypost.com
385 Forest Ave., Palo Alto CA 94301