Almanac

News - March 19, 2014

Menlo Park briefs: $150K consultant to study ballot measure?

by Sandy Brundage

The tab for Menlo Park's downtown/El Camino Real specific plan keeps rising, even though the $1.7 million plan was approved in 2012 after five years of study and community engagement.

The City Council planned to discuss on March 18 whether to spend $150,000 to hire a consultant to analyze a potential ballot measure that seeks to revise the specific plan.

(Go to AlmanacNews.com for updates. The meeting occurred after the Almanac's press deadline.)

Save Menlo, a grassroots coalition opposed to two large mixed-use complexes proposed under the specific plan regulations, is trying to collect 1,780 signatures to qualify its initiative for the November ballot.

The initiative would cap office space in any individual development at 100,000 square feet; limit total new office space in the specific plan area to 240,820 square feet; and restrict overall new, nonresidential development to 474,000 square feet within the plan's boundaries.

The initiative would also redefine open space to mean only areas no higher than 4 feet tall. Save Menlo has stated that one of its goals is to prevent balconies from counting as open space.

In addition, voter approval would be needed to revise the ordinance or to exceed the square footage limits for office and nonresidential development.

Church gets OK for

denomination switch

The regional governing body overseeing the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church has voted to approve the church's departure.

Earlier this month, 93 percent of participating church members voted in favor of leaving Presbyterian Church USA for ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a much smaller, more conservative denomination created in 2012.

One motivation for the change relates to real estate. PCUSA holds the titles to real estate property used by its churches. In ECO, the churches own the property. To claim the titles, Menlo Park Presbyterian agreed to pay its former parent organization $8.89 million.

Theological conflicts also inspired the move, including one over PCUSA's approval of gay clergy in 2011 and current debate over whether to recognize same-sex marriages, according to some members of the congregation. ECO, on the other hand, states that members not in a heterosexual marriage are expected to remain celibate.

MPPC has about 3,400 members and a couple of thousand more people attending services each week. That number may go up, as church leaders have said the denomination switch will pave the way to adding five more Bay Area campuses in addition to those already in Menlo Park, Mountain View and San Mateo.

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