News

First look at Arrillaga's Menlo Park development

Medical offices, offices, retail and rental housing planned for Stanford lots

An eight-acre span of car lots on El Camino Real will turn into a mixed-use complex of medical offices, offices, retail and housing, if developer John Arrillaga goes forward with his plan for Stanford University properties in Menlo Park.

The lots stretch from 300 to 500 El Camino Real. Stanford confirmed that existing tenants -- including Tesla -- would move out as their leases expire on March 31, 2013. "We are incorporating retail space in our redevelopment project, and Tesla would be a tenant that we would be interested in locating in the new project," said Steve Elliott, managing director for development, land, buildings and real estate at Stanford.

Tesla's possible departure from the city may not make officials happy; Menlo Park Finance Director Carol Augustine said Tesla ranked as one of the city's top 25 sales and user tax contributors for fiscal year 2011-12.

The informal architectural plans remain under copyright, according to city staff, so the Almanac was able to review but not duplicate the renditions. The centerpiece of the project includes 76,500 square feet of office space and 153,000 square feet of medical offices in two four-story buildings, designed to look straight at street level, curved like the bottom half of an "S" in back. The buildings would sit between College and Cambridge avenues, with Partridge Avenue separating the two structures. Parking for the entire project would be mainly underground, with some surface-level spaces planned at the rear of the development for an estimated total of 1,190 spaces.

The final ratio of office to medical office space remains to be seen. Also unknown is whether the medical offices are meant for private practitioners or would be incorporated with Stanford's medical center.

"We do not know and have not determined who the potential tenants, including any medical office tenants, in the new project might be," Mr. Elliott said. "While the specific plan allows for up to 153,000 square feet of medical office on this site, we anticipate that the project may include significantly less than this amount."

A third building next to Cambridge Avenue would have 17,800 square feet of office space spread over two floors.

Housing

Next to Middle Avenue, 36 units of rental apartments, with 8,000 square feet set aside for retail, would be built. Next door, bordering College Avenue, the preliminary plan calls for 112 units of rental housing and 4,000 square feet of retail.

Mr. Elliott said the residential portion of the project would include below-market-rate (BMR) housing, with the actual number of BMR units waiting for the "determination of the final mixed-use design and allocation of square footage, as well as discussion with the city regarding its affordable requirements for the site."

There won't be much for Menlo Park to negotiate apart from the number of BMR homes. According to Thomas Rogers, associate planner for the city, the plans appear to meet baseline requirements for development within the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, meaning that the project would not trigger any negotiations for public benefits. It also won't require approval beyond the Planning Commission's signing off on the architectural details.

Timeframe

"We anticipate starting construction of the new project in the summer or fall of next year. Demolition of the existing buildings would need to occur before this, and this cannot begin until all of the leases have expired," Mr. Elliott said.

Stanford and Mr. Arrillaga are working together closely, but whether the developer plans to donate the buildings to the university has not yet been decided, according to Mr. Elliott. "Mr. Arrillaga is a very generous philanthropist who has provided great benefits to the university, as well as to the city of Menlo Park and other local community projects."

Those benefits include Menlo Park's new multi-million-dollar gymnasium, gymnastics center and recreation center.

Mr. Rogers said the city expected formal submission of the plans within the next two weeks.

Comments

Posted by Revenue, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Where's the revenue from this. I thought that we were going to get something here that generated hotel tax revenue?


Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 23, 2012 at 1:32 pm

If the MP Redevelopment plan does NOT include revenue criteria/considerations for new development, that's a huge problem for the city that should have been foreseen


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Revenue:

if it's mixed use and part of that use is retail, wouldn't that mean the city would be getting sales tax revenues?


Posted by Sam Sinnott, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Who is the Architect?

A new building is its own reward for the City. Revenue comes from the traditional source - property taxes - and shouldn't be a condition of approval if it is outside the requirements of the specific plan.

Please note the developers will either provide BMR housing or pay an in lieu fee. This is a burden for them, but it is also a public benefit and we should be grateful.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Sam:

no we shouldn't grateful. BMR housing is socialism pure and simple and has no place in our economy. Our democratically controlled legislature in its infinite stupidity may think it's a great idea, but that doesn't make it so. A free market operates best when it is FREE.


Posted by Arrillagaville, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm

"A new building is its own reward." Seriously? I think a park would be a much greater asset. There's only a tiny bit of retail, and a huge amount of medical. Hello, gridlock.

As for prop tax revenue, thanks to prop 13, the positive effects of that boost in income subside rapidly as time passes. The taxes stay relatively flat, while the pricetag associated with city services required to support those buildings continues to increase.

If Arrillaga pushes this and his MacArthur Park development through the councils, say goodbye forever to the much-prized village culture that residents prefer.


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 23, 2012 at 9:40 pm

According to this article: "There won't be much for Menlo Park to negotiate apart from the number of BMR homes."

I had hopes that the city would get a real public benefit, like a pedestrian/bike tunnel under the tracks at Burgess drive. This is why I asked for the Stanford lands to be taken out of the El Camino specific plan area. I got no support for this from the rest of the planning commission. I also pushed very hard to get better public benefit for the city as part of the ECR Downtown specific plan. My "ad hoc" sub committee produced a report with a lot of fresh ideas that did not make it to the city council in any meaningful form.

This is very disappointing, but expected.

There was never any question that Stanford was going to develop this land soon after their leases expired. The arguments that we need to sweeten the pot for this developer never made sense.


Posted by Econ 101, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 24, 2012 at 8:03 am

@Menlo Voter
Get off your "Free Market" high horse. Even the most conservative of us would agree that free market doesn't automatically make everything work. There are economic externalities (pollution, societal degradation, financial criminality/fraud) and the need for common goods (military, roads, schools) that the free market tosses on the side of the road without government involvement.


Posted by Dusgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2012 at 10:30 am

Staff and the consultants knew full well what they were doing in proposing extra development rights at the Base level on the Stanford-owned lands. This stinks to high heaven; the consultants also work with Stanford.
The rest of the Planning Commission and the City Council were incredibly naive and misguided in allowing this to happen, foolishly thinking that Stanford and associated developer (we know it's Arrillaga now) would provide public benefit like a bike-pedestrian tunnel and park out of the goodness of their hearts. The free market system rewards greed, not altruism. Shame on the decision-makers.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

Econ:

yes there are a need for common goods, but those things are paid for with taxes not by forcing someone to provide something that the free market will not support. If we as citizens decide we want to pay for low income houseing, then we as citizens should vote to tax ourselves to pay for it. In that way everyone that pays taxes particiapates as opposed to punishing developers and reducing only their incomes.


Posted by crony capitalism , a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

The free market has nothing to do with this proposed development. The opposite is true. A small group of wealthy people worked behind the scenes to ensure that these parcels would be zoned to maximize the profit to the owners. If the "free market" truly existed, you and I would be allowed to develop our property to maximize our personal profit.

The rezoning and accompany entitlements served as a gift to an already rich institution, for which our council/staff should have negotiated a benefit in-kind. That's how our world works. They failed to do so, and our community is poorer because of it.

If you've got a lot of money and power, maybe that sounds ok to you. But it doesn't benefit the majority of residents, and those are the people our council/staff are supposed to serve.


Posted by Menlo Park-ing, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm

1,190 new parking spaces underground? Will all those cars be added to the commute up and down El Camino getting to/from these new homes and offices? More cars on Willow Road, Sand Hill, and El Camino? Oh my! The 8AM & 5PM commute time is lousy now. It is impossible for locals to move around town at that time. PLEASE invent a creative NEW exit strategy for this complex that doesn't gridlock El Camino, Middlefield, Willow, & Middle even further!! People passing through Menlo Park joke that our portion of El Camino should be called "Menlo Park-ing" as the commute traffic crawls on a daily basis. Please plan brilliantly and add lots of green grass!


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Sorry, but the planning is done.
There is absolutely no leverage the city retained to negotiate anything. Stupid stupid stupid -- or is it corrupt, corrupt, corrupt?

Heads should roll!

The only council member who tried to equalize development rights was Kelly Fergusson but she had to recuse herself from discussions that were specific about this particular stretch on El Camino. The other four should be run out of town.


Posted by Not so bad, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm

In spite of all the hand wringing, and proposed neck wringing, in the comments, I kind of think this outcome is not all that bad:
- We want a viable and good looking development that hopefully pays property taxes and at least some sales taxes, instead of the mostly empty junk we have today.
- Medical / Retail / Housing is a pretty good long term bet from a jobs and viability basis. We're much better off than communities that are scrambling to win prisons or keep military bases, just to keep employment.
- Housing is good, BMR is good, expecially in proximity to CalTrain. I didn't move to Menlo Park to live in a "village" - I' moved here to be part of a growing, vibrant urban community.
- Mr. Arrillaga and Stanford would go a long way toward maintaining their history of collaboration with the local community by adding a bicycle underpass to their plans.
- It's an issue that a good sales tax payer., Tesla, is being forced out of a very appropriate property for them. I'm hoping for Stanford to do better than "Tesla would be a tenant that we would be interested in locating in the new project"


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Not so bad,

You make some good points. However, the tunnel is going will cost about 10-15 Million to build if the Homer tunnel in PA is any indication.

The specific plan provides a space for it, and yet it will not be a public benefit of this project.

Sorry, but that's just poor planning. We could have done better.


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Let's see -- the whole economic viability of the Specific Plan hinged on a new hotel. Ooops, that's not going to happen on Stanford land.

As a token requirement, Stanford's land needed to provide a small amount of retail. Ooops - Tesla's sales tax revenue goes away and 8,000 SF of retail is planned.

There was confidence that Stanford would fund the underpass and provide additional public benefit because they would want to build to the maximum allowed. Ooops - Stanford figured out the game: they get a big boost in what they can build and no requirement for any public benefit whatsoever.

Is Stanford aggregating the development rights from its entire property (including the existing hotel) to build what it's proposing? At least the Council can say no to that.

The staff responsible for this debacle should be fired. This is not what the community believed would happen. Some predicted it, but the Council was deaf.


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Taking the Stanford parcels out of the specific plan would have given the city the opportunity to negotiate properly for this.

I explained all of this to the Planning Commission at the time, and yet the proposal (to take the Stanford parcels out) was treated as if it were coming from outer space.

I am sure that there would have been a massive outcry had we done this. Those who stand to benefit are not shy. They did not get where they are by being unwilling to stand up for their personal interest. But I can tell you, it is a very lonely job to stand up for the public interest. I wish that it were not so.


Posted by Henry Riggs, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Henry Riggs is a registered user.

I'll just note that all seven commissioners, not just one lonely guy, spend Monday evenings volunteering their time for the public interest. Best intentions go for staff in this case as well, even when we don't agree. And not everyone does agree what will best serve the public. None of us are totally certain, but after five years of very public debate, we reached some kind of consensus. We will now judge - overall - by the renewal of our vacant land we do or do not get. But it won't be for lack of best intentions for our city.


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Henry,

I'm no better than anyone else when it comes to spending the time on the Planning Commission, that's not the point, and I'm not holding myself up as such.

My point is that I proposed taking Stanford out of the ECR Downtown Plan and I gave my reasons why. I got no support, no one addressed my points, it was just a case of letting the train keep rolling, inertia, meetings held, it was late, etc, etc.

It is difficult opposing that kind of inertia, questioning things. I think that you are just proving the point.


Posted by Arrillagaville, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Thank you, Vincent, for fighting the good fight. I know there are a few people who care who are willing to speak up. But they are too few. Most MP residents don't know what is going on, and won't until the buildings go up, or maybe not until they are hit with another tax to pay for the additional services these buildings require. Utility tax, take two! Meanwhile, our quality of life continues to degenerate.


Posted by Dollar Late, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 9:57 am

Vincent: "You make some good points. However, the tunnel is going will cost about 10-15 Million to build if the Homer tunnel in PA is any indication."

I commend your concern for a pedestrian/bicycle tunnel under the Caltrain tracks. This is such a refreshing concept and one that a loud and adamant group in your neighborhood fought and killed 13 years ago. At that time, a tunnel would have cost $4M and hundreds of students could have been using it to get to Hillview Middle School and Menlo Atherton High School.

Now,the figure is over $10M and the chance to construct it in Arrillaga's plan is slim to zero. I thank you for your sentiment and only wish such feelings existed a decade ago. Menlo Park is known for its lack of concern for children and adults who use bicycles.


Posted by crony capitalism, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

I remember that tunnel debate very well. No way would it have cost $4mm -- the Homer tunnel came in at about 2x the budget, and that tunnel would have as well. Nor would students have taken it to get to Hillview or M-A, given its location at the southern end of town. It would have facilitated the trip between Linfield Oaks and the Oasis, hardly a point in its favor.

The tunnel exit was to have been located in the hotel parking lot, and the hotel rightfully had safety concerns. The nearest cross street on El Camino is Cambridge, an intersection that sees a lot of u-turns. Not exactly safe for anyone to cross. And biking on El Camino is not something I'd do, much less want my 11-year-old to do.

The proposed tunnel would be located roughly between Middle -- a street with bike lanes (not speed bumps, like Cambridge) and Burgess Park, a destination for many. It may cost a little more than the nowhere-to-nowhere tunnel, but you're not really saving money if you build something no one needs, are you?


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:22 am

The old bike tunnel was to be located at the end of Willow. Some of the objections were about the location. Putting a tunnel at the end of Burgess drive makes more sense. I've been explaining and defending this tunnel (at the end of Burgess Drive) for a while now.

I have a question in to planning staff regarding the easement for the path on the Stanford Parcel. My understanding is that this easement is built into the specific plan. I will report back here with what I find.

I'm not going to be happy if we gave away that easement along with any other possibility of real public benefit in this situation.


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 25, 2012 at 11:19 am

I've just received confirmation from Thomas Rogers that a 120' wide swath of land at the mouth of Middle Road, between the West Side of ECR and the RR tracks is set aside via the plan.

You can find the details here: Specific Plan Figure E9 (p. E27)

Now we just need to figure out how to pay for the tunnel.


Posted by Dollar Late, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I suppose Vincent that your news is good news. I don't however understand what children will do when they reach the West side where Middle starts. What with the entrance/exit of both the gas station and Safeway, a child or adult will have a challenge dealing with cars, some of which are darting to the El Camino Real intersection to make the light.

And of course at Burgess there's another dangerous situation with cars moving north and south on Alma. A light will have to be installed so pedestrians and bicyclists can cross the street safely once they reach the curb.

I don't know what the opposition regarding Willow might have been as that's a safer tee intersection. I have been told that the hotel and Anderson Chevrolet approved the trail out to El Camino Real. The city better be very careful about constructing a bicycle/pedestrian tunnel that leads to Middle that has 2 dangerous situations and a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. I don't think this design at this site is going to win the city any awards.


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Dollar Late...

This has to be a lot safer than crossing the RR tracks at Ravenswood. The intersection of Ravenswood, ECR and the tracks is dangerous now and is the future home a whole lot of housing.


Posted by Arrillagaville, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm

The hotel was opposed to the tunnel at Willow, and none of the other property owners along El Camino wanted the tunnel The neighbors were also opposed to it. Support came primarily from a few cyclists who said it would shorten their commute from the East Bay to Stanford by a few hundred yards. However, I do not favor adding more cyclists to El Camino. It makes more sense for them to cross at Sand Hill, where there is a bike trail.

Sand Hill/El Camino is a dangerous intersection, but there is really only one El Camino intersection that feels safe today -- at Santa Cruz. And that's because traffic is going slowly and there are no u-turns! We can't really talk about tunnel safety without addressing the El Camino flow. Which, to get back to the subject at hand, will slow to a new baby crawl with the addition of Arrillaga's monuments to himself.


Posted by Gern, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm

With an additional eight acres of chiefly medical office filling this location I suppose we may expect cut-through traffic in the Linfield Oaks neighborhood to double or triple once those offices are occupied. That coupled with the proposed high-density housing slated for the neighborhood as part of the idiot housing plan update should leave us up to our eyeballs in "vibrancy."

Seriously, there is no good outcome or reasonable mitigation for the traffic impacts this project will foist on our city.

Gern


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm

And people wonder why those of us living near the medical office development at the old Gaylords property wanted to make sure there was sufficient parking. Some of us wanted the traffic to be addressed but they wouldn't. This project is going to seriously screw up traffic on El Camino. You can bet adjacent neighborhoods will have parking impacts as well.


Posted by Biker, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:27 pm

A tunnel with alignment with Middle is a heck of a lot safer for kids biking from the east side of El Camino to Hillview. Both the Ravenswood / El Camino area and downtown areas are bike accidents waiting to happen with an unpredictable mix of trains, cars, bikes and pedestrians. The notion that only a few want a tunnel is BS. A fair number of NIMBYs might believe otherwise, but there are many supporters in this part of town.


Posted by Dollar Late, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

Why are we comparing a tunnel at Middle with a crossing at Ravenswood? Those are not the only options. The city of menlo park can and should now work with Arrillaga and the Stanford Park Hotel for an easement so that an under crossing at Willow can be constructed. It would be cheaper as there's no need to dig deep at that site. The tracks are at their highest point there. The easement could be a path that leads out to the light at Cambridge. The light already has a cycle that holds the u turns while pedestrians and bicyclists cross. Cambridge is a quiet street and the gentle speed bumps mean nothing to bicyclists.

It's hogwash that the El Camino Real property owners opposed the tunnel at Willow. Just because it's been 15 years since this site was chosen for the under crossing does not mean that the small but loud Linfield opponents can rewrite history. Good Grief, we're talking about a project that has been approved up and down the peninsula by cities who care about people who choose alternative modes of getting around. Let's join the cities who walk their talk.


Posted by Arrillagaville, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Dollar Late, thanks to your ongoing advocacy of the tunnel, we now know your identity. You are the only Menlo Park resident who insisted that Linfield Oaks was an ideal terminus for the tunnel. And then did everything in your power to "punish" the neighborhood.

The then-president of the hotel wrote a persuasive letter to the council. They did not want that liability, and you can't blame them. Their parking lot is tricky enough to navigate without worrying about bicyclists and pedestrians popping up.

The idea of a Middle undercrossing was floated at the time, but those property owners were not at all interested. That is documented fact. I expect we will not see a tunnel anywhere anyway, and my preference would be to see the train underground. Yes, I know it's expensive, but when land keeps getting more valuable and our area more crowded, at some point you bite the bullet.


Posted by Biker, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm

A Willow / Cambridge alignment would work nicely as well. Anything to avoid Ravenswood / El Camino / Santa Cruz hazard zone.


Posted by disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Those who think there is a chance to negotiated just don't understand that the new specific plan simply gave away new development rights, and gave Stanford even more than any other property owner in the area.
The old plan would have required negotiation to do what Stanford/Arrillaga propose, and the project would not be as large if the base level (the give-away level) were set the same as other properties.

The game was over when the Council approved the Plan.

Somebody should be held accountable -- surely staff had some inklings of what Stanford wanted and didn't want. It should be no surprise that they favor medical offices and other offices. Staff should be helping the community, the Menlo Park community, get the sales tax revenue and public benefits like an underpass. Instead, they helped the Council make a stupid decision. Let's hear their plans for how to pay for the underpass now.


Posted by MP Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I agree with above comment about where's the revenue (and revenue growth potential) from the Arrillaga developments in MP/PA? If we are going to approve all these developments which increase density/traffic/pollution/congestion and stress our limited resources (water, electricity/gas, sewer/storm drains, landfill/trash, etc) we should be making it as clean/GREEN/eco-conscious as possible AND MAXIMIZING revenue growth so the stress on our city budgets/coffers and taxpaying citizens are lessened. I am pro-Arrillaga . .he has been good to the citizens of MP with rebuilding MP gyms, however, I am not for giving him exemptions from density/growth restriction requirements which will make Menlo a less attractive place to live and own a home! Be smart about what is allowed! Make it BEAUTIFUL as well!


Posted by Grade Separations in MP!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Menlo needs a grade separation done BADLY at Ravenswood and Oak Grove crossings! Let's bring it into the 2010's!! Not only dangerous crossing the tracks but unprogressive. Have developers on El Camino contribute to (and/or pay for) the grade separation costs!


Posted by Bike Tunnel & Access to El Camino, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

The access to El Camino/MP is horrendous and needs to be fixed ASAP!
Having no left-turn signs near the MP library onto Ravenswood (from Alma) makes it impossible to get to the El Camino/MP corridor. Add in traffic/trains and it is a giant mess and a plethora of car/train/bike accidents waiting to happen. The only crossings are Oak Grove/Ravenswood over Caltrain tracks. In the very least a bike tunnel/trail thru the Burgess/Willow area needs to be done. Another car crossing can be done now while the developments are not built/approved yet. Make it all happen now (not later)! Add more stoplights also.


Posted by Arrillagaville, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Clearly, the solution to all our city's (current) problems is to raze the neighborhoods of Linfield Oaks and Allied Arts, rebuild them with super high density (100 units/acre) housing, line them with high-speed bicycle trails, and fortify them with a few dozen more stoplights, all out of sync so as to slow traffic.

Bicyclists, befitting their status as members of a superior race, will of course have free license to ignore all stoplights and stop signs in their paths.


Posted by Dick Givens, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

All of the comments are interesting. But they would gain a great deal of credibility if the authors would have the courage to use their names.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2012 at 10:44 am

Hotel with office buildings might work, housing could be built elsewhere. What is a matter with a tunnel connected with this project, get Mr Arrillaga pitch in some of the funds. Looks like on map you could have tunnel start around City Hall, have curve under the tracks and lead out out to El Camino via parking lot, between to properties. Just an idea.


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Lots of wishful thinking!

The city can't make Stanford or Arrillaga do what you want. That chance evaporated when the Council decided to approve the Specific Plan and remove the Use Permit process for nearly all projects. They gave away more development rights without requiring any negotiated public benefit.

Savvy developers must be laughing to the bank


Posted by also disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Actually the Council can pretty much do what they want. They could even over-turn the disastrous specific plan --- BUT THEY WON'T.

Present council has been completely inept at almost everything. Cline instituted the specific plan and refused to make it adhere to what the public wanted as shown during the visioning process. Rather a new consultant came on board, staff got into the drivers seat, along with a City Manager who was doing nothing to stop the process, but rather encouraged it.

Cline, Fergusson and Cohen ran and were elected to council vowing to support a slow growth approach to development. My word, this is slow growth!!

Extremely doubtful that Fergusson will be re-elected with all the garbage she has hanging on her neck. Meuller is a supporter of high density development and it appears that Carleton is as well.

Nothing will change; indeed it is full throttle ahead on the route to converting our suburban city into something more akin to SF.


Posted by richard cline, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Also Disgusted,

We obviously disagree on what slow growth means. To you, perhaps empty lots and closed businesses was good for Menlo Park. I disagree. Perhaps you believe that if we just say no, then we can protect Menlo Park from over development. I disagree. We spent more than four years collecting data from the community around this plan. That data drove the outcome. You do not like the outcome. But I have the data to prove it. The city has the data to prove that people wanted housing on ECR and that 30-40 units per acre was not too dense in certain areas. People wanted more activity downtown and wider sidewalks and better retail experiences.

I went into the plan with the simple goal of getting a community-based plan for our ECR and downtown area. We have that now. The outcome is a result of the community input and that is accessible on the city website.

We selected two different consultants through a selection board that included myself and John Boyle, Vince Bressler and Henry Riggs from the Planning Commission and two staff members.

For the record, I voted to stay with the visioning consultant. But others felt by having a new consultant, it would avoid having a consultant control the entire process.

That was a great point.

Facts. Just facts.


Posted by Morris Brown, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 31, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Rich:

I'm afraid that many of us, voters who voted for you and supported your election to council strongly disagree with your analysis and certainly with what you say are the Facts - Just Facts.

I'm quite tired of hearing this analysis that "we are tired of looking at empty car lots". As you well know, those lots are owned by Stanford and were under lease and Stanford was just sitting and waiting for those leases to expire before they would even reveal any plans for them.

The visioning process certainly did not endorse 4 and 5 stories on El Camino all the way to Ravenswood. Higher density maybe on the south end near the creek but not all the way and certainly not 5 stories built right up to the sidewalk creating a wall, was not what anybody wanted.

I saw no energy for 3 and higher story buildings on Santa Cruz.

I pretty much support what "also disgusted" wrote above.

Let me just add, every Menlo Park citizen should be outraged that Council hid behind closed doors the decision to settle the issue on the housing element. This issue should have been fully vetted to the public and a decision behind closed doors, even though recommended by staff and counsel, should not have allowed to take place.

At one time you were a champion on "sunshine"; This certainly was not one of those times. (your fellow council members also fully guilty on this as well)




Posted by richard cline, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Morris,

City Council did not hide. The facts of the law suit are public. The litigants are bragging about it. You can go to their website and read it. I am disgusted with the parties who brought the suit. I am unhappy that we must move forward with a housing element based on some group putting a gun to our head.

Yes, it is very easy to say from outside the chambers that you would have taken on this lawsuit and you would have been willing to have all permits restricted by a judge while we settle the case and that you think the Menlo Park position is better than other cities who lost to the same litigants and lost millions of dollars.

In our case, we also would have lost Facebook, for it would have not been able to process its permits and it would have had to find another location.

I did not want to take that chance.

Disagree with me, fine. I respect you, Morris. You and I can disagree.

But these are the facts. I have them and they are public.

Where are yours on this one instance?

Nobody talked about three stories on Santa Cruz. It is 38 feet. Never was it three stories. It is eight feet higher than many of the current buildings. This is a simple fact.

As far as the any lawsuit goes, Morris, you have negotiated behind closed doors on matters of a legal nature. Even on projects here in Menlo Park (the O'Brien/Derry property). Surely you understand how some matters that are of a legal nature must be held out of the public domain until the case or the matter is considered closed and public by a judge?

And yes sir, I am very familiar with the Sunshine Act. I have received an award for my work under the Sunshine Act when I was a journalist. If you wish to debate the Sunshine Act and whether this was followed in any decision I was involved in, that is a debate I am willing to have.


Posted by Arrillagaville, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2012 at 12:13 am

Rich, you have become really cynical and dismissive of the residents in your years on the council. I remember when you ran in 2006, and I supported you because I thought you honestly cared.

No one in Menlo Park, NO ONE, wants to see those empty lots remain vacant. They have been an eyesore for way too long. The city could have enacted a vacant lot ordinance, as some cities have done, but MP in its wisdom decided against it.

Stanford wasn't about to sell that land. Stanford wasn't going anywhere. We had the perfect opportunity to negotiate, but Menlo Park is horrific at negotiating. Once again, we gave up that chance in exchange for, well, nothing. More traffic, more space devoted to businesses that don't produce revenue. (And don't tell us that this is "transit-oriented development" and that all those employees are going to be sitting on the 22 as it trundles down El Camino rather than driving. Please.)

The housing element is a travesty, and from the above comments, sounds as though the council still doesn't get it. Yes, Public Advocates made a mint off their Pleasanton case, but Pleasanton had the audacity to enact an ordinance in defiance of state law. Stupid. Totally different situation. And then they dragged it out for years and years. Thanks to Menlo Park's terrible negotiating skills (are we seeing a pattern here?)we quickly wrote a check to the law firm and agreed to their requests. There was no quid pro quo!

Why not hire the blimp or take out ads on Facebook: "Come to Menlo Park and sue us! Easy money!" Because Public Advocates or one of their friends will be back. Count on it.

Someone has to stand up for Menlo Park. Our staff doesn't seem to be willing to stick their necks out, and why should they? They're trying to keep their noses clean so they can move up to a bigger city with a higher salary. Unfortunately, that leaves our city council. We all recognize that your load is great, and that you are volunteers, but this Sacramento-spawned chimera aint going to disappear on its own. Ready to take on Sacramento, Morris?


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 1, 2012 at 12:46 am

Rich:

Had I known that Facebook would precipitate this housing element burden, I would have voted against it. If the council and/or Bill M knew about this lawsuit when the Planning Commission was looking at Facebook, then that information should have been disclosed. If we are going to take ABAG and the Housing Element seriously, then every project that adds significant new office must be mitigated (must provide its own housing).

What was the risk of losing Facebook? Embarrassment? What about the real risk to our community and schools from these demands to develop high density housing?

I also predict that soon after the new high density zoning demanded by the lawsuit / housing element is passed, we will see a brand new lawsuit. If you don't think there are grounds for one then you weren't listening last night. After all, once zoning is passed, you can't take it back. The way that we handled this lawsuit, Menlo Park is just begging for more. Now that is going to be embarrassing.

Vince


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2012 at 8:26 am

The concept of the Base standards without negotiated public benefit was not part of the workshops. It came from staff and consultant. Stanford was given more rights. Frankly it smells.
The council did agree to revisit the concepts before a full year is up. The horse may be out of the barn for some properties but it wouldn't be too late to reign in the give aways.
This was supposed to be a long term plan not a plan just to fill empty lots. If that were the case, certain terms would expire quickly. But no, that wasn't what was done. It was clear in the workshops that the public expected negotiated benefit for extra density. ooops


Posted by richard cline, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

Vince, thanks for the post. What I see is you making predictions and trying to map out a future, but I do not see it based on anything other than your fear.

Every council member has stated publicly what you stated at the meeting last Tuesday. We need to challenge the legislators in California and take on this ridiculous housing scam requiring cities to build homes without regard to population increase (population is going down but the housing requirements do not...), or city policy/environment.

It will not happen in MP. Not in SM County. Only in Sacramento.

So we do need to watch other cities and work with other cities to take this on.

But you and I will never agree if your belief is "who cares if Facebook goes somewhere else?"

What our community gains from FB is obvious. You will say more traffic. I will say revenue, business attraction, jobs, funding for health and human services programs.

Again, as with Morris, I respect you and respect that we do disagree on our future. I do not see a doomed future. But one that may require different policies from today.

In this case, the lawsuit risk was too acute.


Posted by Vincent, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

Rich,

Once the zoning for this round of the housing element is completed, no action in Sacramento is going to change it back.

Once the zoning is completed, there no reason for Public Advocates not to sue Menlo Park again. There IS value in not being an easy target. The worst thing that we did was to give Public Advocates money.

Fear is not what I am experiencing.

I can certainly make a case that the actual cost of Facebook will exceed the benefit (unless this state law is overturned).

Vince


Posted by crony capitalism, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2012 at 11:53 am

Most of us don't have a lot of gripes against Facebook. Facebook was the reason we got sued, however. And that's not Facebook's fault, it's the fault of our city. When East Palo Alto expressed concerns about Facebook employees displacing existing tenants -- a legitimate fear -- our city blew them off, annoying them enough to knock on Public Advocate's door. (We're too small to have been on Public Advocate's radar. But now they know there's a rich little city that can be easily scared into submission. And so does everyone else.)

Yes, it's nice to have that $500k nonprofit pot from Facebook, and at least the city negotiated some in lieu money from them. But lots of people believe that Facebook is a fad, and that it won't be around in 10 years. However, we'll be stuck with the cheap housing for decades, at least until someone decides to dynamite it, as happened with the housing projects (a prior generation's solution to low income housing) or simply burn it all down, as is happening now in the Rust Belt.

We want our city back. And that begins with standing up to ABAG and not backing down when the lawsuits start rolling in.


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