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Even better than planned
September 06, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Sometimes life doesn’t work out as planned. Just ask, ironically, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.

The health organization planned for a new clinic in Redwood City, it researched sites, it submitted applications, it received a conditional nod of approval for a more than 5,000-square-foot center at 2890 El Camino Real.

Then last fall it came undone.

The lack of necessary parking was the official reason for the city’s rethinking of the proposal although undoubtedly the undercurrent of controversy — actually, make that over-current as there wasn’t much quiet or covert about the voices calling for the organization to leave — played a significant role.

The parking situation raised nary a concern until a few county residents appealed the project’s permit and Enterprise Rent-A-Car opted out of the alleged arrangement to provide nine of 27 required spots across the street. The company said nothing had ever been set in stone because the contract terms were never finalized. Perhaps and quite possible. Certainly, the office must be relieved it need not shoulder the burden of an omnipresent abortion protester so well-known in San Mateo County his name needs no further publicity in this space.

Some residents, too, also sighed a bit in relief not to have the issue in their backyard. They aren’t against Planned Parenthood, some wrote and said publicly. Some even went so far as saying they aren’t against abortion, although admittedly the clinic had no plans to offer the procedure at the location. They simply didn’t want the traffic, the protests, the noise, the graphic signs. Put it somewhere else, they said. Let someone else deal with it, they undoubtedly thought.

And now it appears headed for a new location.

Undeterred by the stumbling blocks, Planned Parenthood didn’t opt not to seek a brick-and-mortar locale or resign itself to only using a mobile clinic as a Plan B.

Instead of giving up, Planned Parenthood now proposes to move into the even larger former Chevy’s Fresh Mex restaurant on El Camino Real, not in Redwood City’s borders but in the unincorporated Fair Oaks area of San Mateo County. The county certainly has a record of being welcoming. The Health System let the mobile van park near the Human Services Agency once the clinic proposal fell apart.  

So far, so good.

Of course, the protester with his misguided well intentions and lack of anything better to do with his free time showed up. But so did a few people who weren’t going to have it, according to some reports. These people told him to take down his signs, to go away, to leave Planned Parenthood be. It’s not the organization they didn’t want; it was those who would drive away a legitimate health option for women and a group who legitimately qualifies for the space.

Let’s hope other supporters pipe up, too. I’m certainly not advocating physical confrontations but letters backing the project and appearances at permit hearings are never a bad idea. Sometimes silence equals consent but, in remaining mum, the quiet message isn’t a welcome to Planned Parenthood but open arms to those who would see it go.

This time, Planned Parenthood’s proposal may work out better than previously imagined. That’s why it is important those who oppose the project aren’t the only ones with a plan of attack.

Michelle Durand column "Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor:

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