News

Voter's Guide: Measure T would allow Bohannon to build office-hotel complex

Measure T, the Bohannon Menlo Gateway project, is the ballot measure that almost wasn't. Despite the 4-1 vote by the Menlo Park City Council on June 15 to approve the project, the council members still decided to leave the final approval up to voters.

If passed, the measure would amend the general plan to add a "business park" land-use category, and apply that category to 16 acres on the east side of U.S. 101 that span Independence Drive and Constitution Drive. This change would allow the Bohannon Development Company to construct the mixed-use Gateway on that site.

The plan for Menlo Gateway consists of a 230-room, seven-floor hotel, a 4,285-square-foot restaurant, and a 70,000-square-foot fitness club in one multi-story building. Three other buildings would house office complexes and parking garages.

At roughly 950,000 square feet, the total floor area of the office buildings, hotel and health club would be roughly equivalent to that of the Sun Microsystems campus at the east end of Willow Road, according to city planning staff.

Background

When the Menlo Park City Council voted to approve Menlo Gateway, Councilman John Boyle provided the lone dissenting vote, saying that although he supported the project, he didn't want a complex land-use decision to be spun by political campaigns. Later, colleague Andy Cohen went on to help write the ballot arguments against Measure T, even though he voted for the project.

Menlo Gateway became controversial in part because of its environmental impacts, such as carbon emissions, traffic, and noise. Opponents also argue those impacts outweigh the city's financial benefits. "It's a lousy deal for the city," said Patti Fry, a former planning commissioner.

The city's projections estimate $1.4 million in annual hotel revenue — a fraction of the $40 million to $60 million Mr. Bohannon would earn, according to the "No on Measure T" camp. The developer also agreed to contribute $1.25 million for improvements to the Belle Haven neighborhood and Bedwell Bayfront Park on Marsh Road, which borders the site.

Which schools would benefit from the project's property taxes remains contentious. A "Yes on Measure T" postcard mailed to Menlo Park residents stated Gateway "also provides $1.8 million in revenue for local elementary, high school and junior college districts."

Bohannon spokesman Patrick Corman broke the numbers down like this: One-time impact fees to the Redwood City Elementary School and Sequoia Union School districts of $343,000; then annual revenue of $925,000 for the Redwood City schools, $611,000 for Sequoia, and $266,000 for the San Mateo Community College District.

However, because the state funds Redwood City schools on a revenue-limited, per-student basis, funding from Menlo Gateway property taxes will be offset by a reduction in state money. And "local" doesn't equal "in Menlo Park," although high school students attending out-of-town campuses could benefit.

Per its conditional development permit, the company must provide documentation showing the hotel is designed to meet LEED silver certification, while the office complex is designed to meet gold certification, based on 2009 standards. Deputy City Manager Kent Steffens said the agreement also requires the company to make "good faith efforts" to meet whatever new standards are in effect when it applies for a building permit.

Gateway's environmental consultant Andrea Traber of KEMA outlined several design aspects that incorporate LEED features, such as high-efficiency heating and cooling; insulated windows; and shade-sensitive building orientations. Software models of energy use show "across the board, for all buildings, they perform 23 percent better than the energy code requires," she said.

As for traffic mitigation, the development permit outlines the use of shuttles during rush hour to Menlo Park and Redwood City Caltrain stations. Mr. Bohannon said money has also been set aside to ease the strain on intersections near the project.

Ms. Fry countered by saying Gateway would increase the number of cars from 2,000 to 11,000 at already-congested intersections along Middlefield Road, Bayfront Expressway, University Drive, and Marsh Road. She also suggested the traffic would hinder Belle Haven and Willows residents who don't drive from being able to travel downtown.

In September, a voter survey paid for by Mr. Bohannon showed 68 percent of the 400 participants would probably vote for Measure T. If the measure does win at the ballot box, construction may not start for four to 20 years, according to the developer, depending on when the economy recovers enough to support financing such a large complex. The company will have to pay $300,000 in penalties for delaying construction more than five years. Opponents highlighted the delay as another reason to vote against Measure T, since the estimated 2,300 jobs generated may not appear for years.

Support

All but one of the six Menlo Park City Council candidates endorse Measure T. Educator Chuck Bernstein remains opposed. Other city officials supporting the Gateway Project include Chamber of Commerce CEO Fran Dehn, former mayors Gail Slocum and Dee Tolles, and Belle Haven Homeowners Association President Matt Henry.

Joining Mr. Cohen, Ms. Fry, and Mr. Bernstein in the campaign to defeat Measure T are Planning Commissioner Vince Bressler, Transportation Commissioner Charles Bourne, former mayors Paul Collacchi and Mary Jo Borak. Community activists Morris Brown, Peter Carpenter, and Don Barnby also signed on with the opposition.

Websites

No on Measure T

Yes on Measure T

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Sandy - I'd like to correct a few inaccuracies in this article. First, I did not say "...the traffic would hinder Belle Haven and Willows residents who don't drive from being able to travel downtown." There are no improved pedestrian or bike pathways across 101 or to any Menlo Park neighborhood. Without such improvements, new employees will mostly use their cars to get around. The greatly increased traffic congestion will make it even more unsafe than currently for Menlo Park residents who might wish to cross over 101 on bicycles or on foot.
I mentioned University Avenue (along Bayfront Expressway), not University Drive.
The schools information remains overinflated because the COSTS incurred by various districts is not deducted. The net, after deducting costs and reductions of state funding appears to be about 1/3 of the gross amount claimed. Menlo Park K-8 school districts (Las Lomitas and Menlo Park City) actually lose money because of estimated additional students with no additional revenue, according to city consultant BAE.
Your article fails to mention the fact that the 3099 new direct and indirect jobs will result in demand for approximately 1800 new homes regionally, none of which are provided by the project. Bohannon is one of the largest property owners around, and isn't providing land for housing, either.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2010 at 10:48 pm

To my knowledge council candidate Russ Peterson also opposes Measure T. The Almanac should check that fact.

There is no contention over which schools benefit from property tax. There is an official fiscal impact report that describes it precisely. Both the developer and council members have finally stopped lying about it, and "lie" is the proper term. We know what they knew. Its on video tape.

Both the "No on T" website and "No on T" literature quote the official Planning Commission transcripts in which, under questioning, Developer David Bohannon acknowledges that only the Sequoia Union high school receives a net benefit, and that no Menlo Park k-8 schools receives any money. Go here to see the transcript: Web Link We also have video tapes of the correct information being told to council members.

The facts are actually worse. Las Lomitas and Menlo Park Elementary school districts lose money in proportion to the number of new students in new homes that are built in Menlo Park as a result of the project. Officially, that is predicted to be about 100, but the project creates direct and indirect demand for 1800 new homes.

Finally, if the developer really believes that 68% of the public is going to vote for the project, what possible excuse could he have for the two hit-pieces sent out recently against council candidate Chuck Bernstein? Is his project actually in trouble, or is he just mean spirited toward those who disagree with him?



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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 17, 2010 at 7:47 am

I am a life long Republican, who comes from a family of Democrats and who makes good faith efforts to seek out the best candidates. I am going to illuminate several deficiencies of the Democratic Central Committee which my critics will respond by saying ΅§he is just trying to promote the Republican Name brand ƒ{ and while I generally prefer Republicans over Democrats I am coming out strongly in favor of a Democrat for the upcoming Menlo Park City Council election.

One source of our lack of qualified candidates for the Menlo Park City Council elections can be traced to the Democratic Central Committee of San Mateo County and its emissary Gail Slocum. The Democratic Central Committee has an inviolate commitment to the labor unions and that commitment is reciprocal. The Unions through forced donations from its membership contributes very handsomely to the Democratic candidates chosen by the central committee. The committee, in turn, through its endorsed candidates who hold public office (about 90%) reciprocate by bestowing egregious salaries and benefits to the employee unions that are way out of proportion to what the vast majority of hard working residents receive.

What is wrong with this picture? Several things.

1) Responsible Fiscally Responsible Democrats are shunned by their own party. For example, 3-time mayor Nicholas Jellins was hectored off the Democratic Central Committee by Gail Slocum and Kelly Fergusson. His crime? He was a member of the Democratic Leadership Council-- a moderate and responsible group and the only part of the Democratic Party that has not been co-opted by the far left elements within its structure,

2) The candidates endorsed by the Democratic Central Committee have sworn an oath to promote Union interests even at the expense of the residents whom they are sworn to serve,

3) The Central Committee candidates, once elected, follow through on their promise of allegiance to the Unions-- the residents be damned.

I commiserate with Democrats who have had their party hijacked by the far left. But they have to fight hard to reclaim their party and restore its tarnished image back to its glory days when it was once known as a party which respected individual rights and was fiscally responsible.

One way Menlo Park Democrats can regain control of their Party is to ignore the Democratic Party Central Committee endorsements and make up their own minds about which candidates can best serve Menlo Park. The best way to do that is to elect candidates who embody your values.

I have known Chuck Bernstein for 14 years. He and I disagree on many issues but here are the irrefutable facts:

1) Chuck Bernstein is honest as the day is long,

2) Chuck Bernstein does not resort to cheap theatrical tricks or deceptions to win people over to his way of thinking,

3) Chuck Bernstein does his research, uses his most excellent analytical skills, seeks out opinions from diverse groups of people, examines the pros and cons of each issue and makes an informed decision that overall benefits the people he represents,

4) Chuck Bernstein can not be bought,

5) Chuck Bernstein promotes ideas and civil discourse and not himself. He is a very humble and thoughtful person,

6) Chuck Bernstein epitomizes character, integrity, and honesty, and

7) Chuck Bernstein will work tirelessly on your behalf.

Everything I have said about Chuck Bernstein goes for Peter Ohtaki as well. My critics try to paint me as a right wing Republican. If that allegation is true, then why I am I supporting both a Democrat and Republican for City Council and why are my critics not even willing to vote for a moderate from their own party?

Respectfully,

Hank Lawrence


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Posted by Outside Looking In
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 17, 2010 at 10:04 am

Hank Lawrence: You are right-on when you state that the moderate Democrats are being co-opted by the extreme left-wing part of the party, just as the moderate Republicans are being co-opted by the extreme right-wing part of their party.

Since Slocum and Fergusson represent that extreme left-wing part of the Democrat party, I think it's safe to say that the candidates they support are also part of that extreme left-wing contingent.

Thankfully, the choices are clear. However, I'm not talking about their stance on the issues. I'm talking about integrity and honesty. The incumbents have a proven track record of "bending" the truth-- to say the least! Given the state that Menlo Park is in financially, I want people who are straight shooters and truly understand finances-- not some ideologue like Robinson or slick politician like Cline.

I don't agree with Bernstein's stance on Measure T, but I respect his thought process, and after talking with him, I think he's willing to listen and see the different angles.

I do agree with Bernstein's stance on Measure L 1000%!!! His knowledge and understanding of the financial challenges Menlo Park faces are extensive. He's not a finance person like Ohtaki, but he is the only candidate who has grown and runs a business that MUST provide essential services for children and balance a sustainable budget, while meeting a payroll for 140 employees, and paying taxes.

Ohtaki is the ONLY candidate with a finance background. I think it goes without saying that he needs to be on the Council just to help the others understand the difference between 35% and 5%-- yes, I'm talking about Robinson, who supposedly is a scientist and should understand basic mathematics.

If you want positive change NO UNION INFLUENCE, BOOT OUT THE INCUMBENTS!


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Posted by No More Hyprocrisy
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 17, 2010 at 10:52 am

In response to:
"'local' doesn't equal 'in Menlo Park,' although high school students attending out-of-town campuses could benefit."

To the Almanac: Are you saying that local funds should stay in local school districts or should be redistributed to less-advantaged school districts? What exactly are you saying?

If the Almanac truly cared about this issue, it would have reported on the Everest situation more accurately. Last I checked, there were students from outside of the Sequoia Union High School District, which is much bigger than the Menlo Park and Las Lomitas districts combined! Unless there has been a significant change in enrollment year-over-year, funds that should be going to our "local" high school district are being used for students outside the district, and some of those funds may not even be reimbursed.

For those who supported Everest and do NOT support Measure T, you should be happy that a struggling school district like Redwood City School District, which also has student growth issues, MIGHT receive some money from Menlo Gateway. Our local high schools, which include students from Menlo Park and Las Lomitas, will still receive money from Menlo Gateway. Too bad Ravenswood is not a beneficiary of those funds, as well. Do you think our schools are so lacking in funds now that we should try to get every penny, instead of spreading the wealth to neighboring, disadvantaged school districts?

Re the proponents of Measure T who wrote the language for ballot arguments supporting Measure T (Slocum), please stop misconstruing the facts. It appears that schools/students in the Menlo Park City School District will NOT benefit from property taxes from the Menlo Gateway Project. Without this basic understanding, I shudder to think how knowledgeable your endorsed candidates are in understanding and managing finances. You should be happy that a neighboring, disadvantaged school district is receiving funds from the Menlo Gateway Project, as well.

The hypocrisy is amazing! No one is looking at the big picture, especially those who claim to want to help students in a school district like Redwood City, which is part of the Sequoia Union High School District.


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Posted by No More No Birds
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 17, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Frankly, the #1 public benefit of this project would be to sideline Uncle Andy's Preferred Citizens Brigade aka the Kitchen Cabinet aka Menlo Park Tomorrow aka The Old Gang of Seven. What once may have been honest concern about our community's future has devolved into a consistent cycle of self-pity and paranoia, ending always in the taking down of what others have built up, regardless of what it is. Exhibit A: the anti-Gateway documents that say it should be rejected because it doesn't provide housing and isn't near transit, while at the same time Andy stands with the Downtown Alliance protesting the downtown plan because it has too much housing near transit. Maybe that makes sense in your heads, but it just looks two-faced and self-serving to the rest of us.

When the votes come in and Measure T has passed, I hope it's the gut-check that allows you to check your egos at the door and put your intelligence to positive use. Our city deserves better.


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