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Menlo Park kicks off specific plan review

Original post made on Sep 10, 2013

The Greenheart Land Company said it waited for Menlo Park's new specific plan before moving forward with a project for 1300 El Camino Realand the former Derry project site. Then Menlo Park decided to review the specific plan, starting with the Planning Commission on Monday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 10:54 AM

Comments (38)

Posted by Sandy Bardas, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Several residents spoke in favor of a high density corridor with appropriate infrastructure as opposed to the un-village-like sprawl of a strip mall.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Does anyone doubt that make significant changes to the Specific Plan at this time will have very real negative consequences?

""It's very sad. It's very, very disconcerting, in our opinion. (The specific plan) is one of the reason we came here and decided to invest in this community," he said, since developers would know what the rules were and how to comply."

Fortunately the Planning Commissioners seem to get it.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This was the perfect opportunity for the "increasingly unanimous opposition" cited by Petry to make its case.

So how many of this allegedly huge number spoke - several.

Time to move on.

Oh, and also last night the Redwood City Council unanimously approved a 1.5 million sq ft Stanford project designed to "truly integrate Stanford University into the fabric of the community."


Posted by Conscious, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I'm confused...does Peter Carpenter support or oppose the MP Downtown/ECR Specific Plan?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"does Peter Carpenter support or oppose the MP Downtown/ECR Specific Plan?"

I wholeheartedly support the ECR Specific Plan and the long process by which it was developed and adopted. It provides the vision and stability required for orderly development.


Posted by Movie Fan, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Is there any accountability anymore? Mr. Crittendon removed the beautiful marquee from the Park Theater on a weekend after he was told by the City council to leave it intact. He was not fined. His hand wasn't even slapped. Crittendon also let the building deteriorate to the point that it has lost all historical significance in the eyes of the Menlo Park Historical Association. What a pity. Menlo Park lost a landmark of our town. What lesson did we learn with this? So very sad.


Posted by Conscious, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm

To Mr. Carpenter: Glad for the clarification and your wholehearted support.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

So the review process has begun. That is a good thing. A question for anyone in the know, is there a timeline (a reasonable one) for when the review will end?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is what was stated in the slide presentation:
"Multiple PC meetings possible to complete review"

That sounds like months rather than weeks for just the PC portion of the review.


Posted by Movie Fan, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Doesn't anyone care about Crittenden's destruction of the Park Theater, its beautiful marquee, not to mention his ignoring the instructions of the then Menlo Park City Council? Where is the outrage? Where is the justice? Traveling north on El Camino, the Park Theatre's beautiful Art Deco marque marked your entrance into Menlo Park.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Movie Fan:
No, no one cares about the theatre anymore. It was an unsafe wreck and was an earthquake disaster waiting to happen.

The owner would have to totally rebuild it with a replica because it was beyond refurbishing. No one stepped forward to do that, or even to buy the marquee.

Sadly, the property exceeded it's useful life long ago. You can't save them all.


Posted by Movie Fan, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm

[Post removed. Please don't attack fellow posters.]


Posted by Concerned, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 10, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I am one of those residents of Menlo Park (since l953) who is concerned about the density of the buildings ... particularly the lack of set-back. I rather see cars parking in front of a building than to see the building right up to the sidewalk. Haven't we learned anything from Palo Alto? And as far as Redwood City Council unanimously approving a 1.5 million sq ft Stanford project designed to "truly integrate Stanford University into the fabric of the community." Take into account where that project is being built. I would have no problem with something like that built in Bohannon Industrial Park either. I am not anti-growth, but would prefer some thoughtfullness put into these projects that will directly affect the village atmosphere of Menlo Park.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 7:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Figure E7 depicts front and side setbacks facing streets for
the Specific Plan area that maintain and enhance existing
patterns. The Specific Plan places buildings close to the
street with no or minimum setbacks in the downtown and
station area to help create a strong street edge or street
wall. One exception to this is for El Camino Real within the
Station Area where setbacks are established that allow for
widening the sidewalks along El Camino Real between Oak
Grove Avenue and Menlo Avenue, consistent with setbacks
for other sections of El Camino Real. The Specific Plan
calls for a range of setbacks in other areas."

These are the ranges of setbacks established:
No Setback
7' Min. - 12' Max. Setback
10' Min. - 20' Max. Setback
5' Min. - 20' Max. Setback
5' Min. - 8' Max. Setback


Posted by Active Citizen, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:20 am

Because the Specific Plan allows 4-5 story buildings in the area under discussion does not mean that they should be built. At the City Council meeting on 8/27, the Stanford representative, Steve Eliot, denied any 5 story buildings would be constructed and later described a residential building of 5 stories. If the community saw the most recent drawings we would be better informed, but it is hard to address the construction plan which is an invisible moving target.

At the Planning Committee meeting about 12 people spoke to making some level of modification or change in the Plan. None of them was opposed to development. They are not afraid of change,but want to see change that will be of a permanent nature reflect the long term values of community: livability for people of all ages.

Everyone is concerned about traffic on El Camino which is already bad and a death trap for the dreamers who think it is a place for bikes. Walkers are fearful of crossing El Camino now. The more floors on a building, the more traffic. Scale does matter. Real open space within a development does matter. Do we cater to developers or do we stand for our town and the kind of place we want it to be? Whatever is built, we will live with for a very long time.


Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

Parking in front of buildings is unpleasant and less safe for pedestrians - you have to walk further and through the cars to get to the building. One of the goals of the plan is to have a better pedestrian experience.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" If the community saw the most recent drawings we would be better informed, but it is hard to address the construction plan which is an invisible moving target."

That is not the way that zoning, design review and building approval works.
The purpose of zoning, including the Specific Plan, is to set the parameters and guidelines and limits for any proposed development. No developer is going to produce design plan until the rules are set. Once the rules are set then a developer can reasonably invest in design plans - which may be subject to certain architectural reviews but those reviews cannot be used to change the size or scope of the proposed project.

NOW is the time to make specific suggestions as to how the Specific Plan might be improved. It is sheer laziness to say that you cannot comment on the design parameters set by the Specific Plan until you see the final design of a particular project.


Posted by Enuff, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

Nonsense! The pedestrians are the ones who park on El Camino, close to the store they wish to shop in, so they can comfortably walk on to their destination, after which they may stroll down the street to other shops or restaurants, having fun, generating revenue, and creating "vibrancy."

It is ludicrous to speak of "pedestrians" as if they were some other class of citizen. We all magically transform at will from drivers to pedestrians and back. The common denominator is that we are all people, pure and simple. And it is absurd to pretend that drivers are the enemies of pedestrians, when they are one and the same individuals.

In addition, Menlo Park is and always was an easily walkable city. And the way to keep it attractive and convenient for residents and visitors alike, whether in their cars or on foot, is to prevent high-density urban developments from overcrowding our streets, overtaxing our schools and infrastructure, and dwarfing our human-scaled small-town suburban character.


Posted by Active Citizen, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:40 am

To make myself clear, I was not referring to final design plans. Over the year, Stanford/Arrillaga been shown several sets of drawings at the various City Council and Planning Committee meetings. It is hard to see them or count the stories of some buildings. They most often look like fantasies of what could be but are only minimally informative. They are not always updated to match the descriptions of what Stanford is currently saying or proposing--such as a 5 story residential building. It is not too much to ask for visual clarifications. That also is part of planning.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" It is not too much to ask for visual clarifications. That also is part of planning."

No, it is not. Zoning defines the parameters and guidelines and limits for any proposed development. You are trying to do it backwards. I know it takes time but read the ECR-SE section of the Specific Plan and then make specific suggestions as to what you want the plan to permit.

No developer can or should be required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce drawings of their final plans just so that you can then ask that the zoning be changed.


Posted by JK, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

As a long time Menlo resident, it saddens me that every project seems to be stopped by concerns about traffic, or whatever. We cannot seem to build anything, while our neighbors to the north & south are vibrant communities. Someday we will be just a bunch of vacant lots.


Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Downtown is nicely walkable. I live near downtown for that reason. El Camino is not nicely walkable. Have you tried to walk from Santa Cruz to Palo Alto? Or tried to run errands on different sides of the street without driving, like dry cleaning and Staples? The sidewalks are way too narrow (being fixed gradually over time because of the Specific Plan). The Big5/Staples/BevMo building doesn't have entrances on the street, and you need to walk all the way around through a parking lot. There are multiple "one-legged" intersections so you need to wait through 2 light cycles to cross the street. It's just not set up for walking the way it is.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm

"Someday we will be just a bunch of vacant lots."

A "village" of vacant lots.

Enjoy the view.


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Menlo Park, as a whole from north to south, is not a truly walkable town. Sure, downtown is walkable, but walking along El Camino in MP (or Redwood City, Palo Alto, etc.) is only good in short distances. You simply NEVER see any people walking along El Camino unless they've parked nearby and are then going into a local store (of which there are fewer and more far between on ECR in MP). My question is what would everyone rather have in these old, run down ex-car dealerships? From what I'm hearing, people would seem to just want them to stay the same old blighted empty buildings and concrete lots. Absolutely ANYTHING built on them will increase traffic somewhat, you have to pick your poison. I'm sure even if they were changed into city parks, you'd get some folks complaining about kids possibly running into the street. Just pick something to develop there, and do it.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why would a developer want to put more retail space into Menlo Park?

Can someone enlighten me as to why the "village" of Menlo Park does such a poor job of supporting and retaining its retail merchants? Look at how many retail vacancies there are in Menlo Park compared to our neighboring communities.

Perhaps Greenhart has part of the answer:""It's very sad. It's very, very disconcerting, in our opinion. (The specific plan) is one of the reason we came here and decided to invest in this community," he said, since developers would know what the rules were and how to comply."


Posted by Sam Tyler, a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2013 at 4:24 pm

In response to Active Citizen, who said complained that "if the community saw the most recent (Stanford) drawings we would be better informed".

I totally agree! Like everyone else, I thought the original architecture was not appropriate for Menlo Park, but in fairly to Stanford, I did see that they were willing to make changes.

However, the Save Menlo anti-anything folks have prevented Stanford from moving forward with its formal application. I would love to have the Stanford application move forward so that the City staff, Planning Commission and the greater community have a real project to comment on.

After six months of delay (April to September), the City Council finally approved the scope of work for the traffic analysis, which was what the Save Menlo group said they wanted in the first place. Strangely enough, now that the scopes were ready for approval, the Save Menlo folks suddenly objected to having the traffic analysis move forward.

Please let the application move forward so we can replace the rumors, misstatements, and "gloom and doom" prognostications with real facts and building plans that rational people can review and comment upon.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sam - You are absolutely right!

The only problems is that when the Stanford project is submitted the Save Menlo folks will start all over again and demand that, in spite of the fact that it will comply with the Specific Plan, it be dramatically changed. And they will refuse to accept the fact that the city cannot turn down a proposed project which complies with the zoning ordinance and that the city will only have limited review of exterior architectural features (but not the size or scope of the project).

Everyone needs to realize that the opponents of this project are a much smaller group that they pretend and most of the folks who signed the original Save Menlo petition now appreciate that Stanford has already given them more than they asked for - no medical, more housing, bike tunnel contribution, etc, etc, etc.

Time to move on.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I challenged the opponents to put up or shut up - and they declined to respond:

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2013 at 7:14 pm
Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online

Since the opponents are unwilling to answer the questions posed above I think it is time to put this opposition to rest. In order to place this issue on the ballot of the next general election the opponents would need about 1800 signatures of registered Menlo Park voters and in order to place in on a special election ballot they would need about 2700 signatures of registered Menlo Park voters. i have reviewed all of the Town Forum comments posted by identified Menlo Park residents and all of the emails and public comments to the city council by residents and there are less than 100 unique identified individuals who have spoken out against this project. It appears highly unlikely that they could obtain the required signatures particularly IF they provided each potential signer with a copy of the latest staff report and the subcommittee report (you do believe in full disclosure don't you?).

It is time to move on.


Posted by Mary I, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 11, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Peter,

Are you a Menlo Park resident?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Mary - What don't you understand about "Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood,"?

I am, however, a very frequent shopper in Menlo Park, I travel ECR almost daily and I have a lot of experience in city planning having been a planning commissioner in Palo Alto and I have been twice elected by Menlo Park voters to serve on your Fire Board. Feel free to ignore the voice of experience in favor of someone who lives in Menlo Park but lacks that experience.

I challenge you to search this forum and find one other person who has posted more facts on this issue.


Posted by joe, a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Peter askes: Why would a developer want to put more retail space into Menlo Park? Can someone enlighten me as to why the "village" of Menlo Park does such a poor job of supporting and retaining its retail merchants"


A:If MP allowed medical offices as Peter insisted was the right thing to do, there would *more* traffic with frequent medical trips and *less* opportunity for retail.

Greed has a very short memory and many helpers.

Safeway in MP is what's right with the city - a good store that services the community and mitigated community impacts because MP citizens got involved.



Posted by joe, a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Peter writes about "experience":
"I am, however, a very frequent shopper in Menlo Park, I travel ECR almost daily and I have a lot of experience in city planning ....
Feel free to ignore the voice of experience in favor of someone who lives in Menlo Park but lacks that experience."

I too have experience.
I also experience congestion.

Meno park residences are worried about the degraded experience they will have in this congested, over developed city Peter insists is in MP's interests.

Peter Carpenter is experienced in bossing around people and making decisions for others well being, not at all interested in living the experience he wants to create for Menlo Park.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 13, 2013 at 7:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"A:If MP allowed medical offices as Peter insisted was the right thing to do,"

I have never made such a statement. I did however point out that the council approved Specific Plan permits such offices.

Please get your facts straight [portion removed; be respectful of other posters]

" this congested, over developed city" - Do you want all the current vacant properties to remain that way to avoid more congestion? How will you block the increased traffic coming from new developments in Palo Alto and Redwood City?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter Carpenter is not at all interested in living the experience he wants to create for Menlo Park."

On the contrary, I am a huge supporter of Menlo Park and of its merchants and I live closer to the Downtown ECR area than do almost 30% of Menlo Park residents. I live the Menlo Park experience every day.


Posted by Gern, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm

"How will you block the increased traffic coming from new developments in Palo Alto and Redwood City?"

Why would we wish to do so, Peter, when we can merely add the traffic to that generated by the 400,000 s.f. of office space slated for 500 ECR; to that generated by all the new construction on the Stanford campus; to that generated by the proposed Arrillaga Towers, and truly make a cluster of El Camino Real through Menlo Park?

Remove 500 ECR from the Specific Plan.

Approve the Specific Plan.

Limit 500 ECR to its original and reasonable ~0.55 FAR.

It is time to move on, and as we do let's not pretend that Peter Carpenter speaks for or even understands the desires of the average Menlo Park resident. Read the email to the City Council, listen to the public comments offered at Council and Planning Commission meetings, speak with your Menlo Park neighbors, and ignore the silly pontification and claims of "expertise" seen in this forum.

Gern


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 16, 2013 at 8:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Save Menlo just does not have the votes it needs to fulfill its obstructionist goal - now restated to down zone the 500 ECR property to a 40% lower FAR than any other property in the Downtown Specific Plan and less than half of most of the other FARs. Who knows what they will demand next.

I have reviewed all of the Town Forum comments posted by identified Menlo Park residents and all of the emails and public comments to the city council by residents and there are less than 100 unique identified individuals who have spoken out against this project. It appears highly unlikely that they could obtain the required signatures particularly IF they provided each potential signer with a copy of the latest staff report and the subcommittee report (you do believe in full disclosure don't you?).


Posted by Vincent Bressler, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm

This article is not an accurate account of the meeting.

The video of the meeting is here: Web Link

The Specific Plan review starts at about 1:07:00.
There were three presentations: Staff (Rogers), Kadvany and Bressler

Followed by public comment
Discussion
Straw votes

The PC is not finished with this review.

If you really what to know what happened, review the video.


Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Vince:

From the story -

1. "Four commissioners -- John Kadvany, Ben Eiref, Katie Ferrick and Vince Bressler -- thought more control beyond architectural review may be needed."

2. "The commission unanimously agreed to consider whether the city needed more ways to guide the selection of uses proposed for a site."

3. "The Planning Commission will continue its specific plan review during upcoming meetings ..."


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