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Menlo Park: Changes in Stanford/Arrillaga project on El Camino please some, not others

Original post made on Apr 12, 2013

While some say Stanford and developer John Arrillaga took a step in the right direction by adding housing and reducing medical office space for its proposed El Camino Real development in Menlo Park, others said the changes don't go far enough.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 12, 2013, 11:28 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I urge interested and awake citizens to read the staff report prepared for the 16 April meeting. It is detailed and thoughtful.

Web Link

Note in particular this process comment:

"Staff believes the current process is functioning as intended by the Specific Plan, with
the revisions being pursued by the applicant as evidence that key issues are being
identified from public input and Planning Commission direction, and are being
subsequently addressed. Although details on the environmental review (in particular,
regarding traffic) have not been provided to date, they are being worked on and are
required to be addressed in full prior to any potential project actions. As noted
throughout this report, the proposal is required to meet an extensive set of regulations
and guidelines contained in the Specific Plan, which were established through a
transparent and community-oriented process that looked at opportunities and
challenges on a comprehensive basis for El Camino Real and Downtown. The review
process for this individual development proposal is generally proceeding carefully and
deliberately, and is being informed by applicable analysis."


Posted by Heads should roll, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Thomas Rogers, who wrote the staff report, stood up at a Planning Commission meeting and stated, for the record, that removing Stanford from the Specific Plan would be straightforward and simple. I guess he's hoping no one reads the staff report.

We residents (and may I emphasize "resident") need to ask why our city is employing a planner who wants to impose a San Francisco aesthetic on our suburban community and who seems to be in the pocket of developers. This kind of brownnosing the moneyed interests may help his career and increase the likelihood of his making more money in his next job, but it doesn't help Menlo Park one iota.

Time to find a new city planner, preferably one who lives here and understands our city. We're not a wannabe SF. Meanwhile, Stanford properties need to be taken out of the Specific Plan. The plan was intended to encourage development in the downtown/station corridor, not to give our rich university neighbor the chance to plunder our city.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Stanford properties need to be taken out of the Specific Plan."

Please read the report:
"With regard to the possibility of removing the subject parcels from the Specific Plan,
staff believes this scenario would likely be more complex than other major Plan
modification options. The subject parcels have been a key focus of the entire Vision
Plan and Specific Plan processes, and the concept of their redevelopment is embedded
within all sections of the Specific Plan and the Program EIR. A complete removal of
these parcels from the Plan would require significant technical revisions, and could even
result in new environmental impacts depending on the attributes of the replacement
zoning. For example, the C-4 (ECR) zoning that was preempted by the Specific Plan did
not require any front setback, in contrast to the ECR SE zoning that requires a 10- to
20-foot setback in order to provide a significantly expanded sidewalk. Similarly, without
the Specific Plan, the requirements for the Burgess Park Linkage/Open Space Plaza
and LEED Silver certification would no longer apply, which could result in new and
unanticipated impacts."

And Stanford and Arrillaga would simply walk away and leave their properties vacant if the city even starts down this road. Developers not only want but must have certainty with respect to the rules for development. If you remove that certainty by pulling the rug out from under the years long process that led to the Specific Plan then all developers, including Stanford, will retire to the sidelines and wait a very long time until they are certain of 1 - what the rules are and 2 - that those rules won't be changed the minute that they submit a new project to the city.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Thomas Rogers, who wrote the staff report, stood up at a Planning Commission meeting and stated, for the record, that removing Stanford from the Specific Plan would be straightforward and simple."

It would be easy to remove ECR-East from the Specific Plan. What is very difficult is then to develop new zoning for that area which is consistent with the adjacent ECR zones. And what is even more difficult is dealing with the consequences for potential developers/investors of removing a zone from a brand new Specific Plan - see above.


Posted by Gov't out of control, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I would like to see an ordinance that no buildings can be taller than the trees in Menlo Park.

Also, I think Stanford should be forced to pay the property taxes. This enterprise is commercial and is not for furthering education. Apartment buildings, retail and professional space. The link to furthering education is tenuous at best.

We pay a lot of rent/mortgage payments and those of us who live between Middlefield and El Camino put up with a lot of road noise already. I don't understand these ratios of 1.5 jobs to 1 housing unit and such. They seem artificial. We are not all going to jog, walk or bike to work. Sorry, that's just reality. I don't want to live where I work. Your home is supposed to be a restful place from the world.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Also, I think Stanford should be forced to pay the property taxes. This enterprise is commercial and is not for furthering education. Apartment buildings, retail and professional space. The link to furthering education is tenuous at best."

PLEASE do your homework:

"The applicant has indicated that the 500 El Camino Real proposal is intended at this
time to be a revenue-producing property, not an educational or hospital/non-profit facility
for the benefit of Stanford University. Staff believes that the proposal's location (noncontiguous to the main Stanford campus and on a high-visibility corridor) and design
(with regard to amenities and aesthetics) are consistent with the Stanford-owned 2825-
2895 Sand Hill Road office-hotel complex, which is an investment project for the
University that generates full property tax revenues for the City. "


Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Once Menlo Park *residents* realize the size, scope and mix of the development that Stanford is currently proposing for the gateway into Menlo Park, they're going to be shocked.


Posted by Long time resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm

This type of anti development opposition occurred 25 years ago when the Kepler's - Cafe Borrone Building was proposed. Similar fears and dire warnings highlighted by traffic. Their fears were not realized. Quite the opposite.

Fortunately we had strong leaders at the time who based their decisions on the facts in the staff and environmental reports - not the misinformation campaigns of a few neighborhood activists.

Where have all the leaders gone?


Posted by Heads should roll, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Oh, right, and people objected to the Golden Gate Bridge too. Therefore, every project that draws public objection should be automatically approved. Is that written in the Rabblerouser's Guide to Politics?

I don't remember opposition to the Kepler's/Borrone project, though I expect there was some. But how can you compare? Kepler's had been a much-loved institution for years; many of us were glad to see it move to bigger quarters. And the cafe-with-plaza combo? Exactly what the consultants promised us for the specific plan! Also note that Kepler's/Borrone is appropriately sized for the site. Whereas this proposed monstrosity, with only a narrow strip separating it from El Camino, is going to loom over the street. We keep seeing references to five stories, but it's actually 60 feet high. (That is not what the people wanted, by the way. I went to the meetings.)

We can and should return those parcels to their prior zone. Then, and only then, will the proposal be given the scrutiny it demands.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"We can and should return those parcels to their prior zone."

Please read this:
"A complete removal of these parcels from the Plan would require significant technical revisions, and could even result in new environmental impacts depending on the attributes of the replacement zoning. For example, the C-4 (ECR) zoning that was preempted by the Specific Plan did not require any front setback, in contrast to the ECR SE zoning that requires a 10- to 20-foot setback in order to provide a significantly expanded sidewalk. Similarly, without the Specific Plan, the requirements for the Burgess Park Linkage/Open Space Plaza
and LEED Silver certification would no longer apply, which could result in new and
unanticipated impacts."

And, most important, Stanford and Arrillaga would simply walk away and leave these properties vacant if the city even starts down this road. Or Stanford could simply develop these properties for academic uses with NO benefit to the city.

Stanford has listened to feedback from the community and modified its proposal. The new proposal fully complies with the Specific Plan. Cline states ""But I don't think we're done talking." I think he will be surprised to find that Stanford has no interest in any discussions which involve changes from what is clearly permitted by the Specific Plan.

This project will produce hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit fees and millions in property taxes and critically needed housing. Menlo Park's housing plan update is a part of a lawsuit settlement over the city's failure to comply with state housing law for the past 10 years. To catch up, Menlo Park has to find sites where zoning changes could allow construction of about 900 new housing units - the Stanford project provides 170 such units NOW.



Any sensible community would welcome it with open arms - as do the majority of residents of Menlo Park.


Posted by Sniper, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 12, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Oh, what can the disgruntled champions of "small town feel" do? How about calling the process "flawed" or maybe personal attacks on the planner assigned to present it to council and commissions? Better yet, just snipe at it with fake figures like "one project [the largest by far, on seven parcels] will eat up 90% of the allowed development!"? Or "office buildings cause herpes!"? Hey, this is fun!


Posted by Heads should roll, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm

We can't build our single-story residences so close to the street. Why should an enormous building be permitted such a tiny setback? Obvious answer: it shouldn't!

No need to quote the staff report. Rogers says one thing there; his statement is not consistent with other statements he's made. It's his opinion, not gospel, and just the latest example of his inability to serve the people who pay his salary.

Stanford isn't going anywhere! If the zoning reverts to the former zoning, they will develop the properties to the extent allowed. (It would probably be best for all of us if Stanford sold that land. But they won't.) Stanford has also said that they will not be paying property tax. I'm not sure how they're going to make that happen, but Bill McClure is no match for their lawyers.

The project, as currently proposed, will consume most of the allowable development. Anyone who doesn't understand this needs to read the plan, study the EIR, take Stanford's numbers, and do some really simple arithmetic.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The project, as currently proposed, will consume most of the allowable development"

WRONG. The Plan established a residential use net cap of 680 units and a non-residential use cap, including retail, office, and hotel, of 474,000 square feet. This Project would use 25% of the residential use cap and he non-residential development for this Project is estimated to use 45% of the Plan's development cap.

Web Link

PLEASE do your homework before making this and your other equally erroneous statements.


Posted by Hotel?!?, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 12, 2013 at 6:33 pm

What happened to the hotel the planners and plan participants were counting on? Did or didn't Stanford indicate they were going to build a hotel in this location?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Did or didn't Stanford indicate they were going to build a hotel in this location?"

No, Stanford did not indicate that they were going to build a hotel in ECR-East.

Here is the staff report to the Planning Commission - which I have posted at least 6 time on this Forum - PLEASE DO YOUR HOMEWORK and read the other postings before you ask a question which has already been answered numerous times:

"The subject applicant, Stanford University, participated throughout the entire planning process, in particular by serving as a City Council-designated representative on the Oversight and Outreach Committee. In public correspondence and through remarks at meetings, the applicant repeatedly supported the community planning process and stated an intent to pursue a comprehensive mixed-use redevelopment proposal in compliance with the adopted Plan. At various points, the applicant provided detail-type critiques of some draft regulations and Draft EIR elements, but did not submit correspondence or make in-meeting remarks that committed to a particular type of future development proposal, nor did the Planning Commission or City Council make findings that their Plan-related actions were based on any particular assumption of what the applicant ultimately might propose on this site."


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Heads:

actually, depending on location and lot size you CAN build your single story house as close to the street as allowed in the zoning for this project. Please see the post by Peter above. The setbacks are 10 to 20 feet. 20 feet is the front setback for standard lots in Menlo Park. Some substandard lots allow 10 foot set backs and that's for single family home zoning areas.

So, as Peter has repeatedly said, do your homework before you make erroneous statements. This project has 10 to 20 foot setbacks WHICH IS MORE THAN THE PREVIOUS ZONING REQUIRED! Under the previous zoning they could have built much closer to the street.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There are two sad parts of this situation.

First, none of the opponents except Brielle Johnck seem to able to present any facts ('I oppose this horrible project but I really don't know anything about it, or about the rules, or.....).

Second, that the city council has backed itself into a totally inescapable corner. Next Tuesday the council will have only two alternatives - either sit quietly and allow the proper process to proceed via the planning commission (thereby causing Keith and Kline to lose face because of the dashed hopes that their actions have created for the opponents) or to exercise the nuclear option and begin to revise the Specific Plan (in which case the issue becomes moot because there will no longer be an applicant or a project.)

It will be very interesting to see how the council decides - if Mueller is recused then they may be saved by tie votes that will preclude doing anything.


Posted by Stan, a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Apr 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm

How about all of these nay sayers that want to change the approved zoning the minute a conforming proposal is made come up with a plan of their own that would return income to Stanford equal to any proposals that conform.
Perhaps they should ante up a fund to build a strip park and their much loved tunnel under the tracks and lease the land from Stanford. If they want to keep changing the rules every time a proposal is made the city may end up having to do what Palo Alto had to do with the land the became the Arastradero Preserve - buy it at a pretty high price. (or in the case of the Stanford lands lease it).
Peter Carpenter is quite right - the current attitudes of the obsessive "I don't like anything" crowd have a high likelihood of creating another decade of an abandoned and unsightly strip of buildings that add nothing of benefit to anyone.
GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE AND TRY SOME COOPERATION FOR A CHANGE!!!


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Stan:

another voice of reason. Thank you.


Posted by Glen Wood, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm

"How about all of these nay sayers that want to change the approved zoning the minute a conforming proposal " ???

it works both ways, actually. How about this:

""How about all of these developers that want to change the approved zoning the minute they have a project"", such as the Glenwood Inn project not conforming to parking without the city changing the rules.




Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Glen Wood:

agreed. Teh city never should have granted parking rights to the developers of that project. They were flat out wrong to do it. Juat as they will be wrong if teh rezone teh Stanford parcels.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Darn phone and fat fingers!


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