East Palo Alto files lawsuit against Menlo Park | January 4, 2017 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - January 4, 2017

East Palo Alto files lawsuit against Menlo Park

by Barbara Wood and Kate Bradshaw

East Palo Alto on Dec. 29 filed a lawsuit against Menlo Park over recently adopted changes to Menlo Park's general plan and zoning allowing intensified development in Menlo Park's M-2 industrial area.

The lawsuit stems from East Palo Alto's concerns about how the general plan update will affect that city, including displacement of residents, traffic and housing.

The general plan update changed zoning in Menlo Park's M-2 industrial area, east of U.S. 101 and adjacent to East Palo Alto, to allow an additional 2.3 million square feet of nonresidential uses, up to 4,500 residential units and up to 400 hotel rooms. The zoning changes will go into effect on Jan. 6.

According to Ellison Folk, an attorney at the San Francisco legal firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger who filed the case on behalf of East Palo Alto, "East Palo Alto bears a lot of burdens of this development," but does not receive its benefits, she said.

The lawsuit argues that Menlo Park's environmental impact analysis wrongly separated the Facebook expansion project from the general plan update, underestimated the number of new employees and the congestion and housing needs that would be generated, and didn't lay out sufficient steps to address those impacts.

According to Menlo Park City Attorney Bill McClure, the suit wasn't entirely unexpected — typically, when a city hires an attorney to write letters about inadequacies in another city's compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, as happened in this case, it's a good indicator that litigation may be coming. But, he noted, the city hadn't received any notification about East Palo Alto's plans before it received a legally mandated notice of the intent to file a lawsuit on Dec. 28.

According to Mr. McClure, the lawsuit will not delay the changes. However, he added, development projects that rely on the new zoning could get stalled if the general plan changes are overturned. A very rough timeline for a full lawsuit would be between nine months and a year and a half, he said, but it could be resolved in other ways. The next step, Ms. Folk said, is for the two parties to have a settlement conference.

"We would like to see more cooperation in implementing mitigation for traffic impacts and more effort to support affordable housing," she said.

Ms. Folk said the lawsuit will not jeopardize the agreements that Facebook recently announced to donate close to $20 million to East Palo Alto community organizations, mostly to help provide affordable housing. However, the terms of the agreement approved by a coalition of community groups and Facebook say that $4.5 million of the donations to community groups are contingent on any challenge to Menlo Park's general plan update being "resolved in a manner that is reasonably acceptable to Facebook."

The Nov. 29 Menlo Park City Council vote to adopt the general plan update was 4-1, with Councilman Ray Mueller opposed. The plan says it could add as many as 11,570 residents and 5,500 workers in the M-2 area between now and the year 2040.

Comments

There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

 

Meet the winners!

The results are in. Check out The Almanac readers' favorite foods, services and fun stuff in the area.

View Winners