The City of Menlo Park altered its public notification process to save about $20,000 per year by printing communications in the Daily News instead of The Almanac.
“This is another example about how staff is looking at ways to reduce costs and help save money,” said Kirsten Keith, Menlo Park Mayor.
Prior to City Council’s June 12 meeting, the city would notify residents who lived within 300 feet of a proposed project area of new development applications by snail mail. Residents received a description of the project on 8.5x11 inch paper. A notice would subsequently be printed in the local newspaper The Almanac and added to the city website to raise awareness of the project in the broader population.
City Council voted unanimously to change that policy during a meeting on June 12; not all Council Members were comfortable with the decision.
“It’s not a good feeling,” said Council Member Rich Cline. “Cities are very loyal to papers that cover them and have covered them for years,” he said about the relationship the city has with The Almanac. He acknowledged that the cost savings to the city was significant, noting that it was a difficult decision to make, as the paper has been reporting about Menlo Park issues since 1965.
The decision boiled down to interpretation of the law, said Bill McClure, Menlo Park's City Attorney. California law mandates that public notices be printed in newspapers that are located within the city, McClure said.
“Government code requires that we go with the newspaper that’s published in Menlo Park. Only the Daily News meets that legal definition at requirement at this time,” he said, after researching case interpretations of the statute.
The Almanac relocated their office from unincorporated Menlo Park to the Palo Alto Weekly offices in Palo Alto, an act that played a role in this decision he said.
City Clerk Margaret Roberts said the city pays about $30,000 per year to publish notices in The Almanac. This switch will reduce that cost to $10,000 per year. She said another primary driver of this decision is the advancement of technology and the desire to save paper.
Neighbors will now be notified of new projects with a single postcard that has description and a QR code that links back to the project on the city’s website. The new policy becomes effective on July 1.