News - March 2, 2011

Menlo update: downtown plan delays; Facebook upgrades

by Sandy Brundage

Menlo Park residents will wait another four weeks before seeing the environmental impact report for the downtown specific plan. In the meantime, the city is focusing on Facebook's desire to add amenities to its new home on the former Sun campus, according to presentations at the Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting on Thursday, Feb. 24.

Mayor Rich Cline told a crowd that included fellow council member Peter Ohtaki, City Manager Glen Rojas, and developer David Bohannon, who serves on the chamber board, that the environmental impact report (EIR) for the downtown specific plan could be released by the end of March.

First expected last fall, the release of the EIR was delayed as the city refines each element of the report in anticipation of heated public debate.

The council will take no action on the report during the summer to give staff time to analyze public comments, Mr. Cline said, but hopes to vote in the fall as long as the plan escapes the "political paralysis" that plagued similar Menlo Park projects in the past.

Stanford University, which owns vacant lots along El Camino Real, is actively participating in the planning process, according to the mayor. The university particularly wants to see senior housing that would include retail and hotels along that corridor.

Meanwhile, the city remains busy helping Facebook settle in at 10 Network Circle. The social networking giant's dreams for its new campus include opening a bike shop, small bookstore (perhaps Kepler's), and a three-days-a-week farmers' market, according to Dave Johnson, the city's business development manager.

The company also wants to add a "European feel" to the central corridor of the former Sun campus that would spill out into the nearby business area, Mr. Johnson said. The first employees should move in during July, after Facebook finishes knocking down interior walls and other renovations to buildings 10 and 11 on campus.

A "charrette" at the campus on Saturday, March 5, will feature 77 design professionals and 25 student architects working with Belle Haven residents and other stakeholders to suggest plans for four regions around Facebook's new home. This community planning process is scheduled to run from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Posted by sadfsf, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm

LOL! The downtown should move to the facebook site. That way the city can plan a new modern downtown without the current downtown tenants complaining!

Posted by new guy, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I don't think its the tenants complaining. Its the landlords who don't want change, and think that the next big tenant is going to come along and pay the rent they want.

News to landlords. We already have a starbucks on santa cruz.

Posted by Morris Brown, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm

First, there was a set deadline of August last year for the completion of the EIR. (not last fall). This time frame was given to all who attended "stakeholder" meetings. The consultant made quite clear that was the deadline and that it was set from the beginning of the process. The obvious political ramifications were, that the release was to be before the Fall 2010 election and that it would be a spring board for those running for office to campaign upon.

Well, behold there was opposition. So much opposition that Staff decided to push ahead on the Bohannon project and shove this off on the pretense that the downtown EIR needed more work.

Nonsense. This is all a "charade" wherein City Staff is working to wear down the opposition to the plans. Last summer thee was pressure put on opposition leader Nancy Couperus, who owns property on Santa Cruz, but was not allowed to have her presence in front of her own store fronts to display her materials during the block parties.

One of the more shameful tactics used by City Staff to try and suppress opposition.

Furthermore, City Staff has been sent out to lobby the business and property owners seeking to convince them this proposed plan is in their best interests. Thus far they aren't buying into this.

The City is now into this "project" for way over $1 million and 3 years and they certainly don't want to rush it along.

Of course, in the air of "transparency" that is supposed to be the foundation of all who currently sit on the dais, we see behind the scenes courting of Facebook and proclaiming the wonders that their moving here will bring to Menlo Park.

Strange, that Palo Alto didn't want to keep them isn't it.

Please note Facebook has hired Tim Tosta and his group, the same group that drove through the Bohannon project to push though this latest piece of over development.

By the time this is all over, the Bohannon project will look like small potatoes and the streets of Menlo Park will have traffic congestion akin to 19th Ave in San Francisco. All of this in the midst of a City that doesn't have a certified housing element for its general plan.

Some are wondering if the EIR when released won't have 10 story housing units along El Camino which will in addition to those that will be needed in the Belle Haven region to accommodate the jobs housing imbalance that is forth coming.

Of course, our schools meed more students and these projects should meet those needs.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Talk about losing touch with your city, I give you Morris Brown. No to new gyms, no to Rosewood, no to downtown plans, no to Derry (now killed), no to to the future.

Ridiculous. If Gateway did not prove what a minority voice the no birds are to the is community, maybe we need another vote to do it.

I am tired of old buildings and businesses that serve a generation that I cannot relate with and I am tired of vacant aged storefronts. I am tired of vacant blighted lots on El Camino, some of which are a direct fault of Morris and I am tired of hearing no from people as if they represent me.

Posted by Or Consequences, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2011 at 11:43 am

And we are all tired of Truth!

Posted by Good Job Truth!, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Truth is dead on, absolutely, positively correct! Morris, please, please, and your cronies need to move on and let us improve our city. I realize that you and your folks are partial to more nail salons, consignment shops and rug stores, but you have to allow progress to take hold. It really is o.k. for us to consider small to medium development, it really is.......gosh maybe one day we'll wake up and see some life in the car lots, or life in the 12+ vacant stores, or real parking..........gee, I'm not even making this up!

Posted by c'mon c'mon, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I'm honestly not trying to be rude, but does anyone really care what Morris "Gadfly" Brown thinks about the downtown plan or anything else? After the drubbing Andy's Kitchen Cabinet got with the Menlo Gateway project, as well as the flame-out of Chuck "Sabotage!" Bernstein's awkward campaign, can't we say the emperor has no clothes? I'm not sure teaming up with Nancy Couperus is the 'vibrancy' injection they need.

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