Letter: Downtown plan EIR misses church project impactsSomething is missing from the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan Draft EIR.
According to the Draft EIR for the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan (Section 4.9-32), "... Land use changes within one-half mile of the Specific Plan area (approximately to Olive Street) could contribute to cumulative land use impacts. ... However, given the primarily residential nature of the surrounding area, no substantial changes to the area are expected."
The Menlo Park Presbyterian Church owns four parcels of land within in the Specific Plan area (on University Drive) as well as land adjacent to the Specific Plan area. As reported in an article published in the Almanac May 21, 2008, the "Presbyterian church plans a campus overhaul" the new facilities on this site may include a performing arts center, gymnasium or recreation building for local youth.
The July 2009 TOD Technical Assistance Panel Briefing Book prepared by Menlo Park city staff for the Urban Land Institute's San Francisco District Council's "Bay Area 2009 TOD Marketplace Report" refers to the city's knowledge of the overall plans, stating: "...Aside from the unique Stanford University ownership discussed earlier, the only other major private entity of note is the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, which owns several parcels on the western edge of Downtown at Santa Cruz Avenue and University Drive. The Church is interested in a long-term redevelopment of these parcels as part of an overall campus, and has also expressed some interest in partnering with the City for a Downtown parking garage that could be used for both Church events and Downtown business patrons."
A new project on the several parcels owned by the Church or its foundation (Church of the Pioneers Foundation) is likely. The Menlo Park Presbyterian Church has a large congregation and one can expect expansions to its facilities, especially the addition of a performing arts center and/or recreational building (that) will generate increased traffic for regular services as well as special events, would alter the aesthetic qualities of the neighborhood in ways not addressed in the Draft EIR. Failing to include any discussion of this in the cumulative impact section not only renders the DEIR inadequate, it brings into question whether a good faith effort at full disclosure has been followed at all times during the creation of the document.
Roxanne Rorapaugh, Sherman Avenue, Menlo Park