For right now, at least, and the nuisances it sometimes brings will have to live with the problem for a little bit longer.
After a lengthy discussion Tuesday night, the City Council decided to hold off on closing the walkway—which about 20 percent of the residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Memory Lane support—until city staff can bring back further analysis showing what would be the best option for both the city and the residents.
“I want to exhaust every possibility before we close something,” Mayor Jim Ruane said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Ruane said he didn’t think closing the path permanently would solve the problem. But he also agreed with what many of the residents who showed up to the meeting, including some of the council members, thought: that they shouldn’t have to suffer anymore with the nuisances Memory Lane has caused them for years.
The most immediate solution would be to close off access to Memory Lane, which has existed since the 1930s between Elm Avenue and El Camino Real.
That option would satisfy the eight homeowners who live near the walkway and who have hired an attorney to address the problem, as well as , where Memory Lane splits right through the auto dealership’s property.
’s staff also agree that the path should be permanently closed because the students have been blamed for a majority of the nuisances there, including vandalism and graffiti. Memory Lane also is known as a place where students go to fight. Despite Parkside’s efforts to be vigilant about stifling bad student behavior when they leave school, said Parkside Principal Angela Addiego, the school alone—or any school in the city, for that matter—can’t stop every incident that happens there.
“If you live there, and if people throw rocks through your windows,” said George Corey, the Millbrae attorney representing the residents who want Memory Lane closed. “When you find things on the ground that you are not happy to find, when your house is graffitied, when it is egged, you start to feel it is not such a comfortable neighborhood to be in.”
But that’s where the dilemma about Memory Lane begins.
The city took its own survey of Memory Lane and found that about 70 percent of the residents favor keeping the path open because it is often used to go shopping downtown, visit family and friends and access other convenient activities.
“I sympathize with my neighbors experiencing vandalism,” said Jeffrey Shurtleff. “However, to me, public right to access trumps all other concerns.”
The city also examined police reports filed about problems along Memory Lane and found that a lot of calls about nuisances have dropped over the years.
However, many say they have stopped calling the police out of fear that the people responsible for the nuisances will retaliate on them.
“We need to close Memory Lane before taxpayers have to pay for higher taxes (because of a lawsuit), property damage or, even worse, life,” said Gary Souza.
The city now has some options that it needs to sort through:
- Making some improvements to the path, such as adding fencing or vegetation;
- Having the police step up monitoring of the lane; or
- Closing down the walkway temporarily to test if a longer closure would work.
“There are a lot of complexities here,” City Attorney Marc Zafferano told the council after laying out the options.
City staff will be bringing back further analysis at the council’s March 27 meeting.