The Menlo Park Planning Commission voted on Nov. 14 to approve a 163-room hotel on a bite-sized property near the bay, despite a mixed reaction from commissioners worried about limited public outreach.
The site of the proposed Hotel Moxy is located at 3723 Haven Ave. on a 0.76-acre lot, currently home to an office building. The developer, FPG Development Group, is seeking to build an eight-story hotel on the small property along with 124 parking spaces. The project would include a coffee shop on the ground floor and a fourth-floor outdoor garden with a bar and restaurant which comprise some of the 5,393 square feet of publicly accessible open space.
An initial study of the project posed several mitigation measures that could help reduce the potential effects on air quality, noise and other environmental impacts.
The fourth-floor bar and restaurant will close at 10 p.m. and there would be specialized food events for the public on weekends. Representatives for the project said that they would aim to hire largely from the local community and offer 40 or more community jobs with full benefits. Approximately six months before the opening of the hotel, an open house would be held solely for Menlo Park residents.
The building will be partially electrified through reusable resources, with an estimated 15% of the energy coming from solar panels, and have dual plumbing to reclaim water.
Commissioner Linh Dan Do spoke about a perceived lack of community outreach by the applicant.
"I really appreciate your very clear priorities when it comes to hiring local people, but at the same time, other commissioners have raised a lot of issues about (how) this process was maybe lacking community outreach," Do said.
The commission also expressed concern about the suitability of the lot for the project, as it would require building vertically to accommodate all of the amenities, such as the bar and restaurant.
"I'm not in love with the project, and I'm perfectly happy to vote to deny," Commission Chair Chris DeCardy said.
The commission asked for the applicant to do additional outreach to surrounding residents, including signage. However, the commission cannot guarantee participation, only that an attempt is made.
"I can't imagine an outreach effort that you would propose that would be considered unreasonable to the applicant, other than 'go knock on the door of every person within a mile with a plate of cookies,'" said Ed Shaffer of the city attorney's office. "I don't mean to be facetious, but I would think that I'm sure they would intend to do everything within reason to avoid a problem with the commission."
The commission voted 5-1 to approve the project's use permit with the condition that the developers revisit six months before the temporary certificate of occupancy report back on outreach efforts and amend them if the commission sees fit. The applicant will check in with the commission once again regarding outreach efforts six months after the temporary certificate of occupancy.
Commissioner Barnes was the sole dissenting vote. Barnes said that he believes the hospitality project is not the right fit for that lot.