Almanac

Viewpoint - July 2, 2014

Letter: Initiative would kill 'winning agreement'

Heyward Robinson did not understand the potential housing impact of the Fry/Lanza initiative (letter June 25) on Menlo Park. Many don't. The question is not whether housing is allowed in the specific plan — that doesn't change — but what kind of housing might be built.

Zoning is partly about restrictions on, and partly economic encouragement to, development. The specific plan went through many iterations to balance likely uses of private lands up and down El Camino Real, and a balance was found between office, retail and housing. Of course, the landowner has to evaluate what to build, justifying to partners, investors, or trustees.

Last fall, Stanford agreed to forgo medical offices and to build mostly small units. But that winning agreement via the City Council disappears if the initiative is enacted.

So what will Stanford build on its portion if this unfortunate initiative becomes law? Three "by-right" choices are likely:

(1) Emphasize medical offices, since the advantage of building regular offices is removed by the 100,000 square foot restriction, which could bring day-traffic.

(2) Build family housing, since this brings in more rent than grad student and empty-nester units. This will surely bring families for our schools.

(3) Stanford could leave the land vacant until emotions settle, as they did for a decade for Sand Hill Road projects.

I don't like any of those choices. Clearly Menlo Park deserves better.

Henry Riggs, Callie Lane, Menlo Park

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