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Menlo Park commission reviews specific plan, Sharon Heights apartment renovations

Original post made on Nov 4, 2013

The Menlo Park Planning Commission will attempt to wrap up its downtown/El Camino Real specific plan review tonight (Nov. 4), but first, it will consider whether to allow the owners of a Sharon Heights apartment complex to make improvements to the property that would require cutting down 62 heritage trees.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 4, 2013, 10:12 AM

Comments (19)

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Posted by eliza
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Looking at the changes & developments this community has approved and are in or will be in progress, here's what I see for this:

A LOT of stucco, concrete taking up open spaces with mature trees. Sure, they can plant 150+ trees, small ones. But it will forever change the landscape. Let me guess - are these going to become condos, for sale? Sounds like it.
Also, has the Almanac seen the arborist report? And who are the arborists?

Appreciate the head's up. But how long has this been in the works with the council??


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Posted by Pat
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Nov 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Cutting down 62 heritage trees is an improvement for whom? The developers who promise to plant more trees, but are not specific about those trees. There no way that new tree would replace the beauty of heritage trees. I'm always skeptical about arborists' reports that claim the trees were already in trouble--just where the developers wan them cut down! Subsequently, we'll also discover there are more trees that need to be removed.

After all the building 'improvements' and extras, what will Sharon Heights Apartments become?--"For Sale" is what I'm betting. Rents will certainly soar, pushing out long term residents, who are already paying significant rents.

Will the improvements improve sound insulation between apartments? Will apartments have smaller rooms/square footage?

And why is this the first we're hearing about this? The secrecy is the biggest indicator that this plan is not what is seems to be.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Bocce ball? Just what everyone needs.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"And why is this the first we're hearing about this? The secrecy is the biggest indicator that this plan is not what is seems to be."

No very much secrecy -From the Staff Report (it REALLY is helpful to read these things):

"The property owner provided staff with an example outreach letter that was sent to residents of the project site and neighboring properties;"

"Staff received ten emails specifically with regard to the proposed heritage tree removals. The following individuals expressed opposition to the proposed tree removals, citing corporate profit, possible future increases in densities, and the possible loss of the existing tree canopy and landscaping at the site:

Correspondence:
 Kathryn Mohr of 350 Sharon Park Drive, dated July 21, 2013
 Uzi Bar-Gadda and Dennis Hanley, dated July 23, 2013
 John hunter, dated July 23, 2013
350 Sharon Park Drive/Bob Linder PC/11-04-13/Page 10
 Tatsiana Lobovkina and Sergey Tiourine of 2275 Sharon Road, dated July 26, 2013
 John Fyten of 2455 Sharon Oaks Drive, dated August 4, 2013
 Kristin Boye of 350 Sharon Park Drive, dated August 4, 2013
 Didi Engel of 1015 Continental Drive, dated August 5, 2013
 Robert Freeman of 2446 Sharon Oaks Drive, dated August 6, 2013
 Monica Wong-Albers, dated August 6, 2013
 Aruni Nanayakkara, of Sharon Oaks, dated received August 6, 2013
 David Hughes of 2351 Sharon Oaks Drive, dated August 6, 2013
 Kathryn Venverloh Browne of 2426 Sharon Oaks Drive, dated August 6,
2013
 Marie Holmeberg, dated August 6, 2013
 Cynthia Bright of 350 Sharon Park Drive, dated August 6, 2013
 Rita Pedersen, dated August 6, 2013
 Susan Kang, dated August 11, 2013
 Lauri Battista of 2225 Sharon Road, dated August 22, 2013
 Vanessa Cooper of 350 Sharon Park Drive, dated October 25, 2013
 Stephan Dützmann, 600 Sharon Park Drive, dated October 30, 2013"

No secrets here.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Gees I wish people would take the time to learn and understand a process before they start critcizing it. Eliza, this project is in front of the PLANNING COMMISSION, not the Council. It is going thru the process toward a decision of approval/disapproval which is a Council decision not the PC's decision. Process, Process, Process.


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Posted by eliza
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm

WhoRUpeople - my bad. I didn't read it carefully and I do know the process, tho am not familiar with the workings of the planning commission much (is it fully staffed? Does the council 'usually' rubber-stamp the PC's decisions?)
Yes, the decisions being made are no longer for beautification or aesthetic purposes, with a balance found for community needs. It's for money, in varied ways and forms, and that's so far off my personal preference radar that I'm angry as hell about it. Too much permanent damage is being done.



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"so far off my personal preference radar that I'm angry as hell about it. Too much permanent damage is being done. "

Eliza - Hopefully you will attend tonight's meeting and express your concerns. Plan your remarks carefully as you will only have three minutes. If you want to say more then simply prepare a letter containing all of your thoughts and hand it to to the commissioners at the conclusion of your verbal comments.


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Posted by Peninsula reader
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Tearing down mature trees is absurd. I smell money in someone's pocket. We have far too much stucco and concrete. We need parks and places for families to go and do. Malibu is being developed. SPI holdings closed a great ice rink which is against a master plan of Bridgepoint in San Mateo. Guess all these developers want is people to stay in the confines of walls.


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Posted by Kaz
a resident of La Entrada School
on Nov 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

These apartments are already grossly over-priced for their condition. Their primary current market is families who need to be near Stanford or in the Las Lomitas school district. The type of amenities they want to upgrade with would not add sufficient value relative to expense for existing residents. The apartment owners want to cash in on the increased value of the area as Menlo Park joins the tech town set.

In a twisted way, this is what "affordable" looks like in our school district. If MP allows them to clear-cut and build up, and the rents take a huge jump, families will be pushed out by younger Facebook types. Bocce ball??

The trees would be a loss, but a much bigger issue is the conversion of family housing to Young Suburban Professional housing. I hope MP cares enough about its essential character not to allow Sharon Heights to turn into a tech dormitory.

Palo Alto is struggling with the potential loss of its mobile home park in Barron Park. Although these apartments and their lease rates may look very different, they have a similar function in providing less-expensive housing in an increasingly stratospheric real estate market. The apartment population is currently broadly diverse with many international families, single parents, people staying in their neighborhood while they remodel, etc.

Please, MP council and residents, don't give away the farm. Take a good hard look at what the apartment complex currently provides and what the effect would be of their upgrades. Look at other developments around town, traffic problems, etc., and think about what MP would be like in 10-20 years if the town isn't judicious about how growth is managed as Facebook money floods the town. PA has been on the international map for decades, and somewhat sleepy MP has opened Pandora's box by inviting Facebook to town. We're still a suburban town....do we really want to become more urban? This is just the early stage but it's critical in keeping perspective.

I hope MP doesn't allow all this development, or even 1/2 of it. When will our local officials wake up to the bargaining strategies developers use? If they start by asking for twice what they hope they'll get in the end, and it gets rubber-stamped by the town, we lose. Push back!


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Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Nov 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Even suggesting the demolition of 62 heritage trees is unthinkable. Menlo Park has a tree for its symbol People often like MP better than Palo Alto because of all the beautiful trees. Many of the trees are hundreds of years old. If this is allowed to go forward it is a disgrace.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I hope MP doesn't allow all this development"

"If this is allowed to go forward it is a disgrace."

Did you read the Staff Report?
Did you appear before the Planning Commission and express your concerns?
If not then recognize that posting your thoughts here will have ZERO impact.

Citizenship is hard work.


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Posted by Baloney Schmoney!
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm

There's an agenda here that the developer BRE is not telling the residents and people of Sharon Heights! Wake up people. It will just line the pockets of the company with money and bring more traffic, density, pollution, and higher revenues, and higher rents.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 5, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please look at the facts as reported in the Staff Report:
"The project is generally focused on refreshing the existing buildings, improving the landscaping and on-site amenities, and the construction of a new leasing office and recreation center. However, the applicant also intends to upgrade the interiors of the units, including the provision of in-unit washing machines and dryers. The proposed modifications would result in a slight increase in floor area, but the additions would generally be contained within the existing footprint of the structures. The proposed modifications would result in an increase of approximately 7,741 square feet of gross floor area for a total gross floor area of 380,047 square feet and an FAR of 56 percent. The CDP does not regulate FAR since FAR was not in existence at the time of the approved project. Therefore, there is no limit on the FAR at the site. However, the CDP explicitly limits the overall building coverage for the subject site to 30 percent, and for the overall area covered by the CDP to 15.5 total acres. At this time, the applicant is proposing to increase the building coverage at the site from 38.75 percent (263,212 square feet) to 39.52 percent (268,417 square feet). Additionally, the applicant is requesting to amend the CDP to allow the specific parcel to have a maximum building coverage of 40 percent. Therefore, the applicant is requesting flexibility to add 3,300 square feet (approximately 0.48 percent) in the future. Future building coverage increases would be subject to architectural control review by the Planning Commission, but would not require City Council review of a CDP amendment."

It is baloney to ignore the facts. And I am confident that mr. baloney did not take time away from his TV to appear before the Planning Commission and presents his views.


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 5, 2013 at 10:06 pm

This looks like sprucing up the property and the apartments. I think it's a good idea.


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Posted by Baloney!
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 5, 2013 at 10:24 pm

I am sure Peter Carpenter is being paid and on staff for the developer because he has opinions on and talks about EVERYTHING!

Why does BRE feel it is above the current law/rules/regulations to build above and beyond the CDP current maximum limit for this site of 30% up to a higher 40% level of coverage? The wool is being pulled over residents eyes here because this is a wholly "new project" subject to the current law/rules/regulations and limit levels. The original project was "completed" and any adjustment to FAR is subject to the new law/rules/regulations and limit level for this "new project". BRE is attempting to tie the new project to the "old approved" project from years back hence skirting the rules that everyone MUST abide by! Why does it feel it gets special/preferential treatment when it will impact all of the community and local residents the most? Where is the on-staff City of MP Attorney here when he's needed?! How about the Planning Commission?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 5, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I am sure Peter Carpenter is being paid and on staff for the developer"

No I am not - I don't even know the developer.


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Posted by Ciao
a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Thanks Pete!


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Did anyone at least note that the city-paid arborist said that 50 of the 62 trees are going to have to be removed (no matter what) due to health issues? Hate to be so blunt - what you're really talking about is the removal of 12 trees, not 62.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2013 at 7:14 am

BRE could do nothing to the property, get high rent for run down property, many other landlords have done before. 62 trees that most likely were planted by the developer will be saved.


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