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February 08, 2006

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Publication Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Menlo Park: Hotel-office complex would impact traffic Menlo Park: Hotel-office complex would impact traffic (February 08, 2006)

By Rory Brown

Almanac Staff Writer

A report on a proposed hotel/office complex at Sand Hill Road and Interstate 280 says it will cause a significant increase in traffic, including morning traffic exiting 280 for eastbound Sand Hill.

A draft environmental impact report on the 270,000-square-foot complex lists measures that could reduce the congestion, including altering an off-ramp that connects Interstate 280 to commuter-heavy Sand Hill Road.

Stanford University and Dallas-based Rosewood Hotels and Resorts are proposing to build a 120-room hotel, five extended-stay villas, a restaurant, a health spa, and four 25,000-square-foot office buildings on the 21-acre site.

If the stages of review go according to schedule, the project will go before the City Council this summer, and if approved, could be finished in 2008.

The city of Menlo Park invites public comment on the report, which was released January 31. So far, the city has received no comments, said Deanna Chow, a senior planner and the project manager.
Handling traffic

In July, about 40 people attended a public meeting to comment on the scope of the environmental report. Many expressed concerns about increased traffic congestion on Sand Hill Road, and spillover traffic into nearby neighborhoods.

The report lists several potential traffic impacts, including congestion where the northbound I-280 off-ramp intersects with eastbound Sand Hill Road.

One way to reduce congestion there, the report says, is to allow drivers to turn right onto eastbound Sand Hill Road from both lanes of the I-280 off-ramp, rather than just the right lane.

Bill Phillips, managing director of real estate for Stanford Management Co., promised that most of the negative traffic impacts will be mitigated.

"The traffic issues really aren't significant," he said. "A big benefit of this project is that it isn't in the midst of the city, so we're not adding to other traffic issues."

Under a city policy, the developer will pay a traffic impact fee of $1.60 per square feet of gross floor space. The fee will give Menlo Park about $430,000 to devote to congestion-reduction measures, such as timed signaling on Sand Hill Road.

Mr. Phillips added that the report doesn't account for two shuttles that will transport employees of the hotel, office complex and nearby properties to and from a Caltrain station.
Wetlands

In order for the hotel/office complex to move in, some wetland areas, and their native species, will be forced out.

About 0.92 acre of the site is considered "wetland habitat," according to the report. The hotel-office complex would have a "potentially significant impact" on two birds that nest in the wetland area -- the Alameda song sparrow and salt marsh common yellowthroat, according to the report.

Stanford can compensate for this loss by creating wetlands elsewhere, and the university plans to create at least 1.5 acres of new wetland habitat on the other side of I-280, said Mr. Phillips.

Lennie Roberts, the San Mateo County legislative advocate for the Committee of Green Foothills, could not be reached to comment on the project's impacts on wetland areas.
Projected revenue

Mr. Phillips said the hotel, if approved, will be "a very high-end hotel," which means "high room rates and high tax revenue for the city."

Unlike sales and property tax revenues, which cities must divide with state and county governments, hotel taxes go directly into city coffers. The city's hotel tax is 10 percent of the room rate.

For the first three years, the city would receive a total of about $1.3 million annually from the project, according to Mr. Phillips. City revenues would climb to about $1.9 million a year, he estimated.
INFORMATION

** The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed Sand Hill Road hotel/office complex at 7 p.m. Monday, February 27, in the council chambers at the Menlo Park Civic Center, between Alma and Laurel streets. ** The draft environmental impact report is available for public viewing at the main library and Community Development Department. Comments on the report should be submitted to the Community Development Department on the first floor of City Hall by Thursday, March 16. Comments can be e-mailed to dmchow@menlopark.org. The draft EIR is not available online.


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