SRI proposes big changes to Menlo Park campus | December 12, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - December 12, 2012

SRI proposes big changes to Menlo Park campus

by Dave Boyce

Big changes are in the works for the 63-acre headquarters campus of SRI International in Menlo Park. The nonprofit innovation powerhouse sits a few blocks east of downtown Menlo Park and is often on the cutting edge of research and development despite its facilities in 38 fairly old buildings built over three mid-20th-century decades.

In a plan on file with the Menlo Park Planning Department and dated Nov. 29, SRI describes a 25-year plan to "revitalize and upgrade" its campus without changing the overall size of its footprint.

The plan shows 33 of the existing buildings coming down and 13 taking their places, including three at 64 feet high (five stories plus basements), one at 56 feet, and five at 48 feet. The total floor area of 1.4 million square feet would be 11 percent under the allowance in SRI's conditional development permit, the plan says.

One component of the plan: a new "research campus" zoning district that appears to be designed to allow SRI's plan to go forward.

Menlo Park Senior Planner Thomas Rogers said that Planning Commission and City Council review would be required for the proposed general plan and zoning ordinance amendments, as well as for the rezoning, the development permit and agreement, the heritage tree removals and the environmental study.

"With a project of this scope, I'd imagine that study session(s) would probably occur as an initial step," Mr. Rogers said in an email to the Almanac.

The company employs 1,300 people in Menlo Park and has facilities throughout the United States as well as in Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and Arecibo, Puerto Rico, where SRI operates the radio-telescope observatory. The plan proposes an upper limit of 3,000 employees in Menlo Park, which is 10 percent under the number allowed by SRI's permit.

SRI's clients include corporations large and small, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as government agencies at all levels here and abroad. Among its federal clients: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the federal departments of defense, education, energy and transportation.

At the Menlo Park campus, bordered by Ravenswood Avenue, Middlefield Road and Laurel Street, the plans show an outdoor amphitheater, extensive vegetative screening to create a "shady, soft edge that will be visually appealing to neighbors and passersby," and nine pedestrian entrances governed by turnstiles, with six of them apparently set up for secure access.

The work appears be divided into three phases, with reconstruction following demolition in each of three areas of the campus. The plans do not include timelines or cost estimates. Among the anticipated effects are greater energy efficiency, a greener footprint, and better access for pedestrians and cyclists.

The plan shows the upgraded campus using 10 percent less electricity, 7.6 percent less water and 1.7 percent more natural gas. The extensive recycling program would include composting, turning used cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel, and collection of batteries, light bulbs and vehicle tires.

Of the 1,287 trees on the campus, 520 are considered heritage trees, meaning they cannot be arbitrarily cut down. The plan shows arborists recommending the felling of 35 heritage trees. The project as presented would add another 56 for a total of 91 heritage trees cut down, all done through tree-removal permits from the city. The plan proposes replanting 10 heritage trees.

Remarkably, there would be many fewer parking spaces. The current 3,244 would drop to 2,444, including 519 in a parking structure. Much of the current parking is "unused" and will not be needed in the foreseeable future, the plan says.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

If you have property of any size in Menlo Park, you'd BETTER have a 20 or 25 year plan that shows meaningful use for all of your property. Just wanting to have a little buffer around you isn't satisfactory. If you have property without an acceptable plan for using it, the city is liable to "eminent domain" your property for city use.

SRI may not have much in mind for all of their land. But apparently they'd like to prevent MP from grabbing a bunch of it for public soccer fields...

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm


when/what was the last public domain "grab" Menlo Park made?

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Menlo Voter, I have no idea when the last one was. And I didn't make any claims about how much Menlo Park is using eminent domain these days. I just know I was brought in by a MP institution about 5 years ago to help generate a presentation of their 20-year property-use plan for the city, to justify keeping a chunk that, at the time, was an empty field. And they were told at the time that the city hoped to locate some public recreation space there, most likely a soccer field or two. And it sounds like that's the position SRI is now in.