In 1996 virtually all of a maze of traffic calming devices (planned and partially installed) in the Willows was rejected by the residents after three years of neighborhood conflict.  Late in this period, a partial diversion of Willows traffic by The City of Palo Alto was opposed by residents on both sides of the creek and finally removed.  Since 1996, an Interim Willows NTMP (traffic calming protocol) has resulted in twenty three speed humps through much of the area.  The following snapshots show the evolution of Willows traffic calming devices.  Click here for a detailed timeline.


1991: "The Preferred Plan ... a full closure of five Menlo Park streets just inside the border from East Palo Alto" - the final report by TJKM traffic consultants hired by the City.  TJKM and a focus group (ten Willows activists) developed this plan consisting of barriers to exclude East Palo Alto Willows residents from “cutting-through” Menlo Park streets.  The consultant’s report said “there is little or no sense of community with neighbors in the university circle area of EPA.”  [Note: the Preferred Plan was still being displayed by the City at Willows neighborhood meetings in 2003.]





March 1993:  This one year trial is approved by the City Council – “a system of devices which discourages or precludes travel”.   About 750 residents had signed petitions linking traffic and East Palo Alto crime.  The City Council rejected the barriers and diverters of the preferred plan and approved this maze of street obstacles, but the intent was the same – “to make travel difficult, while not actually preventing it”.  The Council appointed a committee of activists, the Willows Traffic Committee (WTC), to oversee the installation of the obstacles.  [Note: the WTC was an official body appointed by the City Council, subject to all noticing and open meeting requirements.]



January 1994:  Phase I of the Willows Traffic Committee’s plan is in place.  Two years of neighborhood protests erupt.  The WTC decided to install the obstacles in two phases.  Phase I consisted of fourteen obstacles and a few stop signs.  Neighborhood backlash to was swift.  A petition was circulated declaring that “the street obstacles reduce quality of life in the Willows”.  It was signed by 1100 residents and presented to the City Council.  Mediation by a county agency failed due to non-cooperation of the WTC – they refused a moratorium on planning their Phase II installation.




January 1996:  After voting by the “affected” residents, most of the obstacles are removed. After several failed attempts to obtain neighborhood support, the WTC took their best shot, deciding that only residents within one block of each obstacle were “affected” and therefore allowed to vote.   The residents voted-out all but two obstacles and a few stop signs.

January 1997:  The Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously to remove a diverter which had been installed on Chaucer St for a six month trial.  The barrier was intended to prevent Willows residents from returning home via Palo Alto Ave, turning left and crossing the bridge into the Willows.  It upset traffic patterns well established for generations and caused an uproar on both sides of the creek.  The barier was a compromise - some Palo Alto residents wanted to close the bridge to prevent "cut through traffic" from the Willows.



January 2004: Traffic calming features after seven years of the “interim” Willows NTMP.  Under the Interim Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan for the Willows (Council-approved 9/95), speed bumps were installed street-by-street with no trial period and minimal protection for neighboring streets against diverted traffic and delay of emergency services.  (Chester St alone cost $156,000 and the activists are still not satisfied.)  The city-wide Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP, approved 10/04) protects the surrounding community by limiting traffic diversion and emergency service delay and by encouraging a more comprehensive approach to traffic control.



2008 - 2011: Willows Area-Wide Traffic Study Rejected

In November, 2008, the City Council, responding to activists on Chester and Woodland, approved another attempt at resolving their complaints. The City hired a consultant and initiated a design study, suspending the NTMP requirement for up front neighborhood support. The final plan (above) was designed to reduce cut-through traffic on Chester and Woodland, with no consideration of its disastrous effect on neighborhood traffic elsewhere. At the last minute City Staff deleted elements noted in the lower box, leaving the Chester features intact. After two years, $120k consulting fees and untold Staff resources, the Council canceled the study.