About SOS

In 1990 a small group of Willows traffic activists launched a major attempt to block "cut through" traffic associated with the East Palo Alto corner of the Willows.  Their "Preferred Plan" included full closure of five streets just inside the border of East Palo Alto.  The City rejected the barriers but approved a trial consisting of forty-some obstacles (dubbed "street furniture" by the activists) to "discourage or preclude traffic but not actually block it."  They had worked for two years behind the scenes with City engineers and consultants to create a plan to turn Willows streets into a maze of street obstacles.

In 1992 the activists went public with a petition campaign using scare tactics linking traffic mobility to risk of crime from East Palo Alto.

SOS was formed by residents who believed the proposed obstacles were not wanted by most residents, not warranted by traffic conditions and were, themselves, unsafe.  Our first flyer, distributed to every residence, stated: "We believe in open, free, access to public streets.  We beleive that no traffic device should be installed which is not wanted by 60% of local residents, and which is not warranted by accident, speed and volume statistics."  We pointed out that Seattle, the vanguard of traffic calming, required a petition signed by at least 60% of households in the blocks near to a proposed traffic circle, before any technical work would be performed.

SOS flyers warned of likely safety, esthetic and economic damages due to street obstacles in the Willows.  Our petition was signed by residents of 627 Willows households, including 273 who had signed the anti-crime petition but changed their minds when they saw the obstacles appearing in the streets. By this measure, neighborhood opposition to the obstacles was double the support.

But the wheels of government grind slowly.  After two years of neighborhood conflict, the street obstacles were rejected by the residents finally given a vote, and removed by the City in 1996.  Since then, the activists have made repeated demands on the City to block or divert traffic.  The result has been twenty-one speed bumps to slow traffic on the activists' streets, but they are not satisfied.  Their holy grail is street closures.

In 2004, the City created a Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP), a process for residents to obtain traffic calming.  A highlight of the NTMP is a requirement that a super-majority of affected residents support the proposed changes before the City will devote significant resources to the request.  This requirement makes it difficult for a small vocal minority to engage the City in wasteful projects not wanted by their neighborhood.  It also prohibits the use of street closures for the purpose of re-routing neighborhood traffic.  Now Willows traffic activists have gained membership on the City's Transportation Commission and formed a committee to revise the NTMP.

SOS is dormant much of the time, rising only when necessary, in response to new adventures by the Willows traffic activists.

This website is intended to:

1. Preserve the historical record of Willows traffic conflict since 1990.

2. Inform the public about possible negative consequences of traffic calming devices and the treacherous nature of the forces.

3. Explain the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program, an orderly traffic calming process which requires traffic activists throughout Menlo Park to demonstrate neighborhood acceptance for their goals before receiving support from the city.  Other important features are numerical limits on traffic diversion to neighboring streets and delayed emergency response.