News

Menlo Park specific plan review culminates in medical office cap, minor changes

Council votes to limit medical office development along El Camino Real

Menlo Park's downtown/El Camino Real specific plan emerged in one piece following its first review: The council decided to cap medical office space development along El Camino Real and adopted several minor tweaks, but otherwise seemed content to leave the plan in place after concluding its review.

Six years in the making, the specific plan garnered criticism during its first year post-approval as projects designed under the new regulations started coming in to the city.

Stanford University and developer John Arrillaga want to build an 8.43-acre mixed-use project that would replace mostly vacant car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real with 199,500 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, and up to 170 apartments.

A second project, designed by Greenheart LLC, would put 210,000 square feet of office space and 210,000 square feet of apartments, with 13,000 square feet of retail included, on 7 acres located at 1300 El Camino Real at Oak Grove Avenue.

Given the criticism voiced -- sometimes shouted -- during the past year, last night was something of a rarity for council meetings as residents showed up to voice support, rather than dissent. Of about 30 public comments, several made by realtors and developers, the majority urged the council to leave the specific plan alone.

Others said that wasn't good enough. Save Menlo, a grassroots coalition organized to oppose Stanford's project, demanded the council cap office space at 25 percent of a building's floor area; limit building height to a maximum of 48 feet; and add a development impact infrastructure fee for new projects. These changes would reduce traffic and improve safety and quality of life, according to the group.

Sierra Club member and architect Gita Dev said modifications were needed to ensure new development would create a balance between housing, jobs and traffic.

Mayor Peter Ohtaki indicated he was listening to both sides of the argument. "I'm definitely tired of looking at empty lots on El Camino Real, and want to see something done," he said. "On the other hand, I'm very sympathetic to the issues about traffic and the concerns raised (by everyone)."

During the ensuing discussion between staff and council, the consensus appeared to be that the specific plan has the tools to allow the city some control over new development, with some fine-tuning.

Changes

The major framework of the specific plan emerged intact with one exception: The council voted 4-0 to implement a cap of 33,333 square feet of medical office space for projects with more than 100,000 square feet of buildings along the El Camino Real corridor.

Smaller projects may include up to one-third medical office space, as originally allowed by the specific plan.

Medical offices generate more traffic than any other use, according to staff; they don't generate any revenue for the city.

Councilman Rich Cline, who championed the motion, said that it was inspired by Stanford's original proposal, which included 96,000 square feet of medical offices. "If we'd had that in (the specific plan), Stanford would not have dropped that 'medical beast' on us," he said.

The university later agreed to eliminate medical offices entirely from the project, which Councilwoman Kirsten Keith noted cut traffic estimates by one-third. An in-depth traffic analysis is expected to be released after Thanksgiving for further review.

Incorporating the medical office cap into the specific plan may create some delays for projects currently in the pipeline, such as the Greenheart proposal, staff said, as planners have to divide their time between assignments.

The council also adopted several minor tweaks in line with those suggested by the Planning Commission, including:

● Allowing the city to evaluate proposed renovations of existing buildings within the specific plan area for compliance with criteria such as sidewalk width.

● Letting construction of a pedestrian-bicycle railroad undercrossing at Middle Avenue start regardless of the status of high-speed rail construction.

● Permitting some flexibility in building breaks, parking and setback requirements for parcels in the southeast portion of El Camino Real, which includes the Stanford lots, to allow design of an "optimal" public plaza at Middle Avenue. The university has agreed to participate in a city-led design group for the plaza, which the council felt would address those design elements.

● Creating a study group to consider forming transportation management association, open to entities within the plan boundaries, to coordinate and monitor traffic-reduction measures.

Funding for infrastructure was a major topic of discussion for both the council and commission, with both agreeing the city should prioritize constructing a downtown parking garage.

However, the council unanimously rejected a recommendation that Stanford pay the entire cost of the Middle Avenue undercrossing after legal counsel said it was too early in the project evaluation process to support that as a requirement.

The university has agreed to make "a substantial contribution" to construction of the tunnel, with the exact amount remaining to be determined.

Councilman Ray Mueller was recused from specific plan discussion due to the sale of property located near the Stanford project site.

Comments

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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm

No. Residents did not show up to support the plan. Real estate developers and investors did, hoping to preserve their windfall profits. They all read similar scripts praising the council and encouraging them not to modify a hair of the plan They disparaged all naysayers as scared and unable to accept change.

With Menlo Park office rents currently among the highest in the world, it's all about ensuring that a small group of rich people get even richer. Not about what's best for current residents or the city. Yes, residents did invest many hours in attending meetings for the plan, but our input was not reflected in the final result. Many residents have concluded that the council does not care about them. And the council reaffirmed that perception last night.

I have yet to meet a resident who is opposed to cleaning up El Camino. We would like to see the "village character" retail and walkable areas that we were shown throughout the lengthy visioning process. I never attended a meeting where a resident requested that high-density office buildings be constructed. Stanford created that plan, and the developers are the entities that have driven it through council.

Too bad. We elected these people but they do not serve us.

Another newspaper has just published an expose of the relationship between Stanford and MP staff that resulted in the Specific Plan. Too bad the Almanac cannot do its part to point out the corruption.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I am stunned that both the Council and the Almanac totally ignored the joint recommendations made by the Sierra Club and SaveMenlo about the Specific Plan.
These thoughtful recommendations were designed to ensure that the Vision of the Plan would be fulfilled better than the reaffirmed rules do.
One big problem is that the office market for now is so hot that hopes of housing and retail along El Camino will not transpire. Once office projects are built in this superhot market, we'll lose an entire development cycle or more before it's realistic to expect new housing and retail.

One speaker last night pointed out "mission accomplished" when the big vacant lots are filled by the massive projects proposed by Stanford and Greenheart. He also pointed out that attention must be placed on what happens after that. Planning Commissioner Bressler stated that the commissioners lack tools to adequately manage projects on smaller lots. The thresholds are so high that the commission has no ability to manage the mix of uses.

As a result of the Council's naive and foolhardy unwillingness to address the stampede to develop offices out of balance with the Specific Plan's expected buildout, no one should be surprised when El Camino becomes a row of office buildings. So much for village character of the Vision.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We'll done Planning Commission - you listened to the collective citizen input and elected to move forward.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm

The Council listened to developers' input and ignored the majority of residents who wrote ahead and spoke last night.
The Plan never was intended to result in tons of offices. That's what is happening. Our Council is blind to that. I didn't think I lived in a community where decision makers ignore facts.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Kudos to the Menlo Park City Council; they got it right. To the critics who would say they didn't listen to the public, BS, 33 people spoke, 4 of whom were from the SaveMenlo camp and only one of those made any sense at all. To Stunneds comments that "the council listened to developers and ignored the majority of residents who spoke last night", sorry, I knew a majority of the speakers who spoke in favor of the DSP; most were indeed residents of MP. THe facts don't lie, all along SaveMenlo has been a splinter group representing less than 1% of the population of MP, a 30-3 showing last night proves that, period. Again, I cannot compliment the City leadership, City Council, Planning Commission and Staff enough.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Maybe you want to identify your financial interest in our city, Who, since you don't live here? Many of the speakers did live in Menlo Park, but almost all self-identified as being aligned with real estate interests, including both Stanford speakers. They all used the same phrases, making it clear that a cheat sheet script had been distributed.

Some of you seem unaware that the two proposed projects will consume most of the development capacity of the SP (a document that was supposed to govern development for decades!) And that the properties are not being developed in conformance with the plan objectives. As the Sierra Club speakers pointed out, the plan asks for a 20/80 office/non-office ratio. Instead, we're getting two enormous office projects.

Again, I hope this newspaper will investigate the behind-the-scenes connections between Stanford and our city staff. The people gave their input. But Stanford wrote the plan. They had to resort to subterfuge to make sure they got what they wanted. That's actionable.


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Posted by DilbertWorksHere
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Using a figure of 200 square feet per office worker, 400,000 sq ft of new office space in the combined projects equals 2000 new office workers. And 200 sq feet per worker is actually the old cubicle style norm of 15' by 15'. Look at how Facebook and most new tech companies pack in their worker bees. Extremely dense, no cubicles, everyone gets a small fiberboard foldup table for their laptop and display. These are all lined up in rows.

2000 new office workers is low ball. Where are 4000 new downtown Menlo Park workers going to eat, sleep, ... Why was this meeting held before the traffic analysis was produced? Because Arrillaga and Greenheart are running the show.

Why did Stanford pick Arrillaga for this project? Because Menlo Park is indebted to him for his huge past donations to the city. Menlo Park planners and council have a soft spot in their hearts for such generosity.


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Posted by SaveMPfromSaveMP
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Save Menlo Park has done nothing but cause blithe, empty lots, loss of tax basis and MORE TRAFFIC (as neighboring cities drive THROUGH MP to Palo Alto and Mountain View) etc... You all need to have all three food groups represented in downtown, in a sustainable way. That means mass and density at public transit sites. Let's get our residents living and working in our community. Let's get the employees off the roads and onto CalTrain. It took six years plus to get the specific planned approved. The entire town has had a chance to voice their concern. DO you REALLY think that developers are controlling the day? Even the Sierra Club recommends this plan of action (dense transportation sites). We also need a very clear definition for "public benefit". This is the City's chance to "Tax" development. Encourage it and then tax it. But be careful, if the tax is too high, developers will shy away from using this and then there will be NO benefit for the city. Save Menlo Park - you had your day. Go find another problem to fix and try not to screw it up like you screwed up our town. I'm tired of fences and blithe. I would like to see a sustainable village with day time population and evening vibrancy. Go Menlo Park. Save Menlo Park from "Save Menlo Park". Oh, and for what it's worth, I am a resident of Menlo Park with no owned commercial interests within Menlo Park and I am not a developer. Just me, my house, wife and children whom we've put through school in this town.


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Posted by Another residentialist
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm

What many seem to be forgetting, or perhaps ignoring, is the fact that residents did come out in droves earlier in the year, hotly contesting the Specific Plan in a number of meetings, and demanding that the SP be reviewed and amended. Although the one-year review was to take place in May or June, it was postponed for over 6 months. During that time two discouraging events transpired: the SP Review task force made only feeble recommendations, and the Planning Commission likewise made only timid recommendations. No major recommendations to amend the SP were ever put on the table. It is sad, but understandable, that residents apparently gave up on the council to restore sensible zoning to our downtown area. We will all pay the price. The only ones who'll benefit, and they seemed well aware of that fact as they congratulated the council on the SP, are the developers who showed up at the meeting, eagerly anticipating the millions they will make from saddling our small suburban city with high-density stack-and-pack housing projects and office parks.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Guess we'll just have to wait and see what comes from these projects since the "droves" of people that are against the DSP as enacted couldn't be bothered to show up and make their voices heard. Kind of like how they couldn't be bothered to show up during the DSP process where they would have had multiple opportunities to make their desires known. Instead they couldn't be bothered and instead waited until the work was done and then bitched about the outcome. They couldn't even come up with specific things they wanted in a project only what they didn't. The final outcome is what happens when all you do is bitch after the heavy lifting gets done by others. Perhaps you'll pay more attention and get off your behinds and make your desires known ALL THE WAY THROUGH the process.


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Posted by menloshopper
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Another Residentialist: the planning commission did consider stronger architectural control and lower thresholds for public benefit. Both of these failed with close 4/3 votes, unnoted by council. The recommendation about Stanford paying for the bike/ped tunnel was also strong and council discussed it at length.


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Posted by Liar Liar
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm

What transpired last night confirms what most of us already suspected; Keith and Carlton must have had a secret agreement with Stanford.

Keith can't be trusted. She is in the pocket of whoever can advance her political career. Shameful.

Her naked ambition was on display when she backed the union candidates in the Fire Board race. Now, her ambition has sold us all out again, but this time to developers. Carlton is at least genuine in the fact that she does not pretend to hide her support for those same developers. Someone please run against Keith next year. The Stanford subcommittee completely failed us.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 10:58 pm

The people participated repeatedly...and were ignored. I talked to a number of residents who did not attend last night's meeting because they realize that the council is not listening to the public.

That said, the blame for most of the El Camino blight (I believe this is the word that eluded you, SaveMP) falls not on the city but on Stanford. Stanford could have developed their property at any point in the last few years. They chose not to. The old zoning served our city well for decades.Buildings constructed under that zoning rent for top dollar! Web Link

Streamlining the process per the plan makes a huge amount of sense for all the mom & pop businesses on Santa Cruz and El Camino. And no sense at all for enormous projects like Stanford's that should have public oversight. Ironically, the moms & pops won't be able to develop under the Specific Plan because the capacity will soon be gone.

Unfortunately, there are a number of planning commissioners and council members who have their own professional, personal, and political agendas. The old "power corrupts" is alive and well in our city.


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Posted by True True
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 20, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Dear Liar Liar, you should stop believing the political rhetoric of Peter Carpebter. Years ago, Peter Carpenter voted for the 3% at 50 union contract that put the district millions of dollars in the hole. This is the main reason why the district can never give the fire fighters a raise, which has landed the district in court for several years. Keith has never been supported by the union, and Keith was the only council member to stand up to the PMA by voting against the flawed contract that continues to allow naked cops busted with hookers to remain employed through binding arbitration.


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Posted by Skip Hilton
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:22 am

Great coverage Sandy, thanks for reliable reporting based on the facts. This is so refreshing given the biased, made up, conspiracy-theory garbage that the Post is printing on this issue. Kudos to you and the Almanac on this one.

Another thumbs up for City Council, Planning Commission and City Staff who thoroughly reviewed the DSP and its impacts after a year in action, dug into the controversial projects, listened to citizen feedback, made and approved recommendations to tweak a few things, but basically decided "this is a pretty solid planning document. Lets move forward."

As one of the many citizens that spoke at the meeting last night in favor of the current DSP, I must come clean. I am not a developer, real estate investor, commercial real estate broker, or even a financier of any of these. I am a high tech worker in an internet company that is based in Burlingame, and I wish we were in Menlo Park, believe me. I can say (because I know them personally) that close to half of the 30+ people that supported the plan during public comment were just like me, with no vested interested in the DSP other than getting rid of the empty car dealerships and vacant lots along El Camino. And a good chunk of those, like myself, participated in the 5 year planning process directly, attending community meetings, going on walking tours, completing surveys, working on design charrettes, and more. What I saw last night was a real representation of the will of the people, and not the vocal minority that has dominated the recent Planning Commission and City Council meetings (and apparently gets their news from the Post).

One item I would like to address is the "village character" issue that keeps cropping up. This was discussed at length during the 5 year process, and yes, it is part of the visioning document we all agreed to that underlies the Specific Plan. But that same vision also acknowledged that growth was going to occur somewhere in our downtown, and so we made a trade-off: higher density, higher buildings, and larger mixed-use developments between El Camino and the CalTrain tracks, and close to our transit hub SO THAT we can preserve the "village character" of our true downtown core: Santa Cruz avenue (where the limits on building height and setback are more restrictive). This was the vision that many smart and informed residents came up with, is embodied in the Specific Plan, and that our City Council decided still makes sense today.

Lastly, if anyone wants to disagree or take issue with anything I have said here, please feel free. But if you do so, please identify yourself as I have done. I have nothing to hide, nor should you. Anonymity is the bane of our internet age, and brings out the worst in everybody. A great teacher once said "conduct yourself as if your actions and deeds will be printed in the paper the next day with your picture and name on it." A good maxim to live by.


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Posted by naked truth
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:24 am

Liar Liar, please move on. Jack Nelson had broad support, he was endorsed by 4 of 5 Menlo Park city council members ( Web Link ) including Carlton.

If you are worried ambitious politicians that support pro-union, pro-development candidates, look no further than Peter Ohtaki who endorsed Jeff Gee ( Web Link ) along with Redwood City Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 2400, San Mateo Central Labor Council - COPE, San Mateo County Building and Construction Trades, Carpenters Union Local 217 San Mateo County, Laborers Local 261, Operating Engineers Local 3, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 467, Sprinkler Fitters 483, and Teamsters Local 853.



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Posted by True True
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:46 am

Good point. The only Menlo Park city council candidates to ever have the support of both the Labor Council and the Firefighters Union were Duboc, Winkler and Jellins in 2002. After the election, the Almanac even published a photo with the three of them posing with volunteers from the firefighter's union.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 2:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Stanford subcommittee completely failed us."

Wrong, the subcommittee did a great job as was affirmed by the council. You just did not get what you wanted.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2013 at 8:23 am

@Mistaken I have, in the past when posting on other topics, explained my interest in Menlo Park. But, will do so once again. I do not live in MP, but have worked in town for 43 years. I spend the majority of my waking hours here, I do most of my shopping here, even find myself here on week ends. I wish I did live in MP. I am not a developer, do not invest in developments and am not in the real estate business. My interests in MP are not financially incented and basically mirror those so well stated by Skip Hilton in his previous post. I would also like to echo the great comments made by Menlo Voter.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

I don't understand why the Council made decisions without addressing vital information that would help determine how well the Specific Plan is working.

One goal was to fill vacant lots, long left empty by a)a property owner with an approved project, and b) stanford who was receiving rent all the while.

Another goal was to provide more housing. That is one reason many in the community supported the Plan despite the expected negative impacts. The amount of office in these two projects is way above that anticipated.

Missing data are the traffic studies about the Stanford project; conducted last summer, no one on council has seen this vital information that might affect their review.

Also missing from public and council view is detailed information about the Greenheart project. Apparently that project might need its own EIR. Seriously? Wouldn't that information help determine how well things are proceeding against the plan?

Facts matter and this council doesn't seem to care about them.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Facts matter and this council doesn't seem to care about them."

Actually the 55 page staff report (35 pages not including the attachments) provided to the council (and any member of the public who wanted to read it) provides lots of facts and answers many of the 'questions' raised above:

Web Link


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

@Stunned I'd like to ask you a follow up question so I can better understand your point in you statement, "one goal was to fill vacant lots long left empty by.......b) Stanford who was receiving rent all the while". I know that SU was collecting rent off of the unexpired leases with the car dealerships who moved out. I can't fault them for enjoying the revenue their rights under those leases provided them. My question is relative to the goal of the DSP. My understanding is that because the DSP provided zoning that made it economically feasible for SU to develop their property, they put forth a project in compliance with the DSP. So wouldn't that indicate that the DSP meets that intended goal? Its only those who want to redo the DSP who have been preventing this project to proceed that is preventing fulfilling the goal. As for the approved project, if I'm not mistaken, that is on hold for financial
economic reasons unrelated to the DSP.


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Mr Ohtaki is "tired" and "sympatahetic" he says.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm

The traffic studies are the most vital piece of information pertaining to this project. Even the council members were wondering at their absence. We can only speculate.

@Skip Hilton, your wife spoke in favor of another development that was opposed by a number of people. Her words: "we're developers and proud of it." I know Maria; I remember it clearly.

Most of the pro-plan speakers did identify as developers or investors. They attended the meeting because the plan guarantees them windfall profits. The residents without financial interests -- most of us in the city -- are just trying to hang on to a vestige of the quality of life that brought us here originally. On Tuesday evening, I was trying to get to a meeting, but turned around because it was taking 5 minutes to travel a block. That's bad, and unchecked mega-development on ECR will only exacerbate those problems. What did we residents do to deserve that? We don't benefit at all from monster office buildings!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is telling that Save Menlo appears to be dying for a lack of interest and the broader community has become much more supportive of the reasonable progress represented by the multi-year Downtown Specific Plan effort.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

Regarding stanford, all during the Specific Plan process there were explicit discussions of what the city wanted on that site: hotel and senior housing. We residents assumed staff and council knew something we didn't about that being highly likely. When stanford showed up with an office intensive project a few months after the plan was approved, council members were quoted as being quite surprised.
The point is that the SP does allow, even below the bonus level, considerably more office than was envisioned in the scenarios studied.

The kind of office attracted to Menlo Park does little to help city coffers (i.e., no sales tax revenue). Better to improve housing and jobs balance, add retail, and a modest amount of small offices. They all add the same to property taxes.


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Posted by Darren Phelan
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I think the Almanac should require a full name/confirmed ID for those individuals to be allowed to post in forums and for any respondents. What do you have to hide?


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm

"We residents ASSUMED staff and council knew something we didn't about that being highly likely"--I'm sorry, I truly am trying to understand the points you are trying to make, Stunned, but like the issue of the SP not meeting a primary goal (the first question I asked you), I would like to ask , what actions/statements came out of council that would have caused residents to assume they new something the public did not know? Given the legal requirement to do the public's business in public, and the great pains the City went to to insure that happened, how could such and assumption be made?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Who:

you beat me to it. If citizens were doing their due diligence they wouldn't have to assume. None of the DSP came about in private. It was all quite public and what the zoning was, was not a secret if anyone cared to read.


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Posted by Check the Facts
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Stunned: You must not understand zoning very well. You said "Regarding stanford, all during the Specific Plan process there were explicit discussions of what the city wanted on that site: hotel and senior housing." If you look at the specific plan itself, which most people haven't, you will see that every property within the specific plan has a list of permitted uses. If the City truly wanted to limit Stanford, the specific plan would have been written to limit Stanford to only hotel and senior housing, which it didn't. I'm sure you will have some response related to some conspiracy theory, but as many other posters have pointed out, this is all a matter of public record.

Stunned also said "The kind of office attracted to Menlo Park does little to help city coffers (i.e., no sales tax revenue)." I personally disagree with your assessment, but I am not asking you to believe me. The City Council has already said that they will require Stanford to provide an economic report with their revised project. That will also be on the public record, and we all can review that too. By your logical, the only projects that should be approved produce tax revenues? Then why do you want senior housing? Are you saying the only thing the City should approve is hotels because hotels generate tax revenue? That doesn't sound like a balanced approach for the community.

Also, the issue of senior housing is just a red herring raised by Stanford haters. Menlo Park does not need more senior housing as much as it needs more market-rate "work force" housing. The VERY first project approved by the City within the newly adopted specific plan actually replaced senior housing with a new hotel. If Menlo Park really needs more senior housing, then why the hotel project sail through?

Mistaken said "The traffic studies are the most vital piece of information pertaining to this project. Even the council members were wondering at their absence. We can only speculate." (Here we go again, another conspiracy theory.) I thought it was amusing that the Save Menlo folks actually tried to postpone the initiation of the traffic studies back in August during the Subcommittee reports. (Check the video of the August City Council meeting.)If they were so important, why prevent the studies from being started? In my opinion, SaveMenlo was afraid that the traffic studies by an independent consultant would have shown that specific plan EIR did, in fact, analyze everything correctly. Having the real facts available would only conflict with the fabrications that SaveMenlo is trying to spread. SaveMenlo is taking a page from Earl Landgrebe, a United States representative back in the 1970s. During the Watergate hearings, Langrebe famously said "Don't confuse me with the facts." That is exactly what is going on here.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm

There is greed written over many of these posts. No surprise, given how much money is to be made. Nor am I surprised at the name-calling and hollow accusations made by the proponents of massive development that does not benefit our city and does not adhere to the vision that preceded the plan or the principles that guide it.

Here's the most important fact: there's money waiting to be made. And some of you are quite happy to stomp all over the truth in your eagerness to grab it, residents be damned.

Let's wait until the traffic studies come out and prove that the traffic generated will be deleterious and unmitigatable. I don't expect any of you to apologize for your misstatements. Nor do I expect the council to insist that the project be downsized, even though it will be their prerogative to do so. That's how corrupt our local system has become.


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Posted by JK
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 23, 2013 at 9:04 am

Nobody likes traffic, but nobody likes empty lots, either. I'm for moving forward. To "SaveMPfrom MP"--the name gave me a chuckle!


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Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 23, 2013 at 10:28 am

I agree with Stunned about trusting staff and council. For example, there is barely any retail required beyond downtown, we are supposed to trust it will occur as an outcome. Luckily Greeheart has a good retail wrap around their project. But there's no requirement it be there. Senior housing is complicated because it may exclude others (eg below 60 years old), so it has to work for the developer, and the target population made clear. So yeah, there's a lot of trust here because of the complexity and uncertainties. This is also a reason why people should continue to clarify development goals to council and developers both.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note that a city cannot zone for senior housing only, it would be discriminatory.

Developers may choose to offer senior housing but the zoning cannot require it.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 23, 2013 at 11:20 am

Check the Facts makes valid points. The Specific Plan does not match what was said in public when it was developed. The Council willfully ignored this when approving it. Several have indicated that they thought they had an understanding from stanford based on non-public discussions. Naive, yes.

Yes, housing does not provide sales tax revenue either. But increasing housing was a goal of the plan. Creating large office buildings was not.
My point about lots of offices was around the idea of what good are they to Menlo Park on El Camino? Some are fine. But the core of town is where transit oriented housing was expected and discussed during the vision process. Retail that serves the community is important. When offices dominate development other desired uses lose out.

It's the council's duty to ensure that the vision will be upheld. They established the rules when they were told by consultants that there was no market for office. That isn't the case now but this council refuses to acknowledge that reality.

Developers will build what's most lucrative. It's the council's obligation to ensure that the plan works to achieve the plan's vision in a market like this one. They ducked that responsibility.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Specific Plan does not match what was said in public when it was developed. "

Stanford made NO commitments regarding a hotel in its discussion during the preparation of the Specific Plan. There is a lot of wishful thinking and Monday morning quarterback going on in this forum

Read the staff report which submitted the Specific Plan to the council for its approval. The council knew exactly what they were approving and what they approved was consistent with the majority of the input received from the public. Those whose views were not adopted are now simply trying to rewrite history.


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Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 24, 2013 at 11:05 am

There's a lot of good discussion here about the 'letter' versus the 'spirit' of the Specific Plan, and so by implication trust. With something as complicated as the Specific Plan that's going to be inevitable. True, all the detail was there for the city council to examine, and so in principle, they had their chance. But there was concern about getting the Plan through, especially given intense opposition from downtown voices regarding trivial stuff compared to El Camino Real. Chuck Bernstein also created a total ruckus over the financial analysis, and an expensive second analysis revealed no significant problems, it was just emotive theater. With such poorly grounded, mostly bombastic, opposition, others found it hard to question if basic analysis assumptions were ok, like how conditions of a really depressed economy implied the 'necessity' of much larger projects and development 'incentives'. That's why ECR, which locates those larger projects, plus the whole public benefit issue, got way less bandwidth and scrutiny than they should have. Many in support of the Plan didn't want to look like naysayers who were consistently an embarrassment. So sides were taken, and lots of trust put in the Plan working out in practice. It therefore is disingenuous when some say, 'The Plan was approved, the council and others knew what was in there.' But what's done is done. Today, the substantive issue is that for ECR, building size and use (housing vs. office, senior, medical, retail) largely got a pass, with only modest modifications to the draft plan. Village character could have been translated to larger, but way more attractive buildings on ECR, such as ones with higher stories set back like Borrone/Kepler's. We've seen push back on medical office use and Middle Avenue plaza design. Maybe the buildings and their uses, still in the design phase, can still see improvement.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 24, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Great comment Dagwood about the letter and the spirit.
The current council has a chance to course correct. It's clear that what is happening was not anticipated.
Two groups came together to make some joint recommendations (the pro-density Sierra Club and the anti-density SaveMenlo group). The Council even requested from saveMenlo "tell us what you want". Then this Council ignored both groups entirely.
It's clear that this council cares more about developers than about residents.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Savemenlo told the council what they wanted? Hardly. They told the council a whole lot of what they didn't want and zero concrete ideas for what they did. "maintaining Menlo Parks 'village character'" is so devoid of detail as to be useless. Could that be why the council "ignored" them? there wasn't anything concrete to act on?


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm

This was sent jointly by the two groups in September:
Web Link

It looks quite specific to me. The Council totally ignored it.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 24, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Patti Fry's outstanding letter to the council -- Web Link
--
provides specific and workable suggestions for modifying the plan.

Patti is a former planning commissioner and astute observer of the city shenanigans. Her advice is always well-researched and practical.


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Posted by Skip Hilton
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 25, 2013 at 12:56 am

@mistaken. I am disappointed that you did not identify yourself as I had requested, and sill hide behind a pseudonym. At least it is a well-chosen pseudonym, since you are Mistaken about so much.

I also find it interesting that you did not take issue with anything that I said specifically in my post, but instead chose an ad hominem attack on my wife. That is a cheap shot at best, but in this case it just confirms why you are so Mistaken. You have taken something that she said completely out of the context, and in the process reversed its meaning. You would like to lump her in with the developers that you feel have a vested interest in the Specific Plan, when she is in fact, like me, a resident with no financial interest in this at all. I find it remarkable that all those behind Save Menlo and the current opposition to the Specific Plan believe you CAN NOT be in favor of the Plan UNLESS you are a developer. Really?

Since you brought it up, I also feel the need to provide the context on the quote you provided. Long before the current Specific Plan battle between the smart growth and no growth force over commercial zoning, we had a similar battle over residential zoning and development. Those that participated in both will experience an uneasy deja vu at this point, as it feels eerily similar to what we are going through today.

Back in 2000 the City Council convened a Residential Review Task Force (RRTF) to review the city's design and development guidelines for single-family residential construction. They selected 16 members From 70+ applicants --including my wife -- to represent a variety of Menlo Park neighborhoods and professional backgrounds. More detail on this effort can be found here: Web Link.

The RRTF worked for 18 months to provide recommendations on the residential ordinance. During this timeframe over 80% of the homeowners in our neighborhood signed a petition affirming interest in retaining our ability to build to the to the maximum square footage allowed by the ordinance, and to dispel the notion that MP residents are opposed to growth. Eventually a majority of the Task Force (10 of 16) proposed recommendations to clearly define guidelines and streamline the review and approval process, in order to reduce the gridlock on Planning Commission and encourage investment in single-family development. The no-growth minority swung into action, mounting opposition to the reasonable and well-crafted policy from the majority, and called everyone in favor of this proposal a "developer".

At a City Council, my wife defended the Task Force majority opinion, and addressed the ridiculous accusation that all proponents must all be developers. As a representative for our neighborhood on the Task Force, she said: "I am a developer, and so are..." and then listed six or seven of our neighbors who like us, chose to remodel our homes in full compliance with the residential ordinance, and with full support of our community. If you are calling her a developer, then I guess anyone that does any remodeling or construction of their own home is a developer in your book, so maybe we all are developers I guess. Maybe you are too.

Lastly, @mistaken - the fact that you were there during the RRTF meetings and raising many of the same exact points now as you did back then, it really helps me hone in on your identity. Thanks for that. So much for anonymity!

P.S. Shout out to Darren Phelan for a great suggestion above. I agree with you 100% of course!
P.P.S. Feel free to respond to anything I have said here, but PLEASE identify yourself so we can have an honest and forthright discussion. Thank you.


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Posted by Sam Tyler
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I am wondering what world "Mistaken" lives in. Mistaken writes "Here's the most important fact: there's money waiting to be made. And some of you are quite happy to stomp all over the truth in your eagerness to grab it, residents be damned."

Everything we do in this world has some sort of fiscal impact or cost. Nothing is free. Food is vital to my life yet Safeway sells it to me. Is that "greed"? Shelter is vital, yet no one "gave" me a house. I think Mistaken's comments are especially ironic, considering that Menlo Park is heralded as the "Venture Capital" center of the universe. People invest capital with an expectation that they will receive a return on their investment. Profit is not really the point here. As others have pointed out, the Specific Plan is reflective of what is appropriate development along the El Camino Real, and especially near transit. The Specific Plan has established appropriate land use controls, and the City Council has spoken (twice, as a matter of fact) on this issue. Let actual review of the developments proceed, and let's move forward.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Patti Fry's letter is excellent and thoughtful, as is her style.

If this project goes forward as-is, we can expect the traffic effects predicted in 20-30 years to occur in 2-3 years.

Drive this section of El Camino on any weeknight during commute hours, and you'll find out how difficult it is to get into/out of the adjacent neighborhoods.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Council totally ignored it."

Wrong, the council considered these recommendations are chose to affirm the Specific Plan.


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Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm

No one at the workshops was clamoring for more office along ECR. We have had 10 planning commission meetings to review/implement/reform the specific plan, not one speaker was clamoring for more office along ECR.

At the last city council meeting most of the speakers were on script "stay the course". But what they were really saying is, we want to right to build a whole lot of office on ECR.

The top three points in the original vision statement were:

1) Maintain village character
2) Enhance East/West connectivity
3) Enhance flow of traffic on ECR

Massive office on ECR is against the will of the residents. But the residents are tired of fighting a system that is rigged against them. Several speakers at the last city council meeting said that "not everyone will win". I agree. A few developers and land owners will win, at the resident's expense.

To compare this give away to a free market transaction, whether it is to buy food or anything else is absurd.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Excuse me Mr. Bressler, but didn't you approve the DSP and send it to the council for approval?


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Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 25, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Menlo Voter,

Are you suggesting that I should support the plan because I ran the meetings where it was approved the first time? What kind of logic is that?

You have ignored my previous post.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Massive office on ECR is against the will of the residents. But the residents are tired of fighting a system that is rigged against them."

Those who give up can always blame the "system" rather than accepting the fact that the majority view prevailed.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm

there was never a vote about the specific plan. Not by us residents. Even the workshops that created the vision never had votes.



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Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Peter,

I'm part of the "system". And I'm telling you that when the residents say they want to:

1) Preserve the village character
2) Improve East/West connectivity
3) Improve traffic flow on ECR

and we end up with massive office developments on ECR, very little retail... then yes, the system is broken/rigged/etc.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Mr. Bressler:

from what I have read in the past you did not simply "run the meeting." You voted to approve the DSP and forwarded it to the city council. Is that incorrect?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Can someone provide a solid list of attributes that make a "village character." The term is so wishy-washy and open to subjective interpretation as to be virtually useless in a discussion of what Menlo Park should be.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm

stunned:

that's right you didn't get to vote on it. That's not the way a representative democracy works. If you want to vote on it you'll have to do the leg work it takes to put it on a ballot. Somehow I don't wee that happening. People are much more apt to come on here and bitch than they are to actually do something concrete to change what it is they don't like. Especially when it involves work.


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Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Peter aka. Menlo Voter,

There were, I believe, 12 votes on the specific plan in the planning commission that final night. I was the dissenting vote or with the minority in opposition on a number of them. I proposed a motion to take Stanford out of the plan, which went nowhere. Mostly I was concerned about getting more control over the process, getting public benefit, etc.

However, I never imagined that we would end up with a monstrosity like the greenheart project, with so much office and so little retail right in the heart of our downtown.

Given what I have seen from you in the past, I expect that you will attack me, "you should have known better!" Have at it. I just hope that anyone reading this can see that the only people who have any right to criticize my previous votes are those who actually disagree with those votes.

Those who say that the development coming out of this plan reflects the public will or the majority will are being extremely disingenuous. Given what we know now, there is no excuse for any member of the city council or the planning commission to support the specific plan because the plan results in development which DOES NOT match the original vision. Everyone who supports this plan now, given what we see coming, deserves to be held accountable by the residents of Menlo Park.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Mr. Bressler:

I am not Peter Carpenter although I am flattered that you might think so. Perhaps I am dense, but I'm not clear on how you voted. You voted against the DSP? If so, good for you. If not, why? If you voted for it then you own the outcome. You and your fellow commissioners.


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Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 25, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Peter aka. Menlo Voter,

We just went through a review process for the specific plan. Anyone who voted to "stay the course" given what we all see coming, really does bear responsibility for what happens now. I will do my part to make sure that the residents of Menlo Park understand what is going on here.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Did any of you read the recent expose of the plan that was published in another newspaper? There were secret interactions between Stanford and a Menlo Park staff member, who made it his mission to manipulate the information the planning commission received. Since the lengthy materials were created by Stanford's consulting firm, the commission and council were always dealing with incomplete and biased information.

Council members and commissioners, whatever their own personal and professional agendas may be, are essentially volunteers who have full-time paid jobs elsewhere and other commitments. They are repeatedly encouraged to rubber stamp the recommendations of professional staff.

Staff, unfettered by the Brown Act, can engage in all kinds of questionable negotiating sessions behind the scenes. (Or go on jaunts to Napa, but that's another thread.)

With office rents soaring, it's understandable that developers will be greedy and anxious to move as quickly as possible. They know this boom isn't going to last. It's our staff's job not to get blown away by developer enthusiasm and to work on behalf of the residents. If you want to point a finger, you need look no farther than the planning department.


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Posted by Cassandra
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

Look at all the fun I have missed not reading Town Square. Vince Bressler denies his votes on the Specific Plan (how biblical) and Patti Fry still does extensive analyses that miss the real point. Yes Menlo Park needs to guard against gridlock but killing the projects that might actually be successful is plain stupid.
After Patti and Morris Brown killed the lovely Derry project, they denied responsibility. Bull. No-one invests in development projects that may tank - no-one. And no-one in six years has trusted running a project past city council. Why would you when Vince Bressler will show up after 100s of thousands$ in plans and fees to
"extract" infrastructure money "for the city". Heard him say that at a hearing.
Like it or lump it, building on the vacant land is a trade off. Someone may make big money on it, some may lose big - like Derry and partners, or the investors that bailed on the Gaylord site, Acorn site or the Cadillac lot. Nobody got rich there Vince.
We'll always have those who really liked 1960s MP and will fight to keep it. Rest of us are ready for this town to wake up. weRe lucky to have a council that seems responsive to the issues and will pay attention to traffic. Lets boot up some life in this town. Miserable people please stay home.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:28 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Vince - I never post using any name but mu own. And Menlo Voter has a long, well established and independent track record as a thoughtful commentator on this forum. We often agree but we are two separate individuals.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2013 at 7:34 am

Mr. Bressler:

another non-answer. Very telling. Thank you.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 26, 2013 at 9:13 am

I see we have some serious black & white thinkers on this thread! I wasn't around in the 60s so I don't know what it was like, but residents of MP unanimously want improvements on El Camino. I have yet to talk to one person who is opposed to change.

The visioning phase resulted in plans for El Camino that appealed to a lot of residents. We saw retail. Cute boutiques and plazas and coffee shops. There were rumors of a Whole Foods.

We were duped.

If you look at the specific plan, it does in fact encourage retail and housing. The problem is that the plan was worded so loosely that it's possible for the big developers to come in and completely subvert the plan's objectives. As is happening now.

That's why Patti and others have proposed fixes to the plan. Not dumping it. Tightening the parameters so that the plan achieves its goals. Anyone who insists that is the same as killing the project is either duplicitous or just plain dumb.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

You weren't duped - you just we're not paying attention to the details.

Democracy and responsible citizenship are hard work and most people don't bother - they just claim that they were duped.


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Posted by stunned
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 26, 2013 at 9:35 am

There are at least two great reasons development stopped for about 5 years. The first is the economy and difficulty getting credit for virtually any project. Once the economy lifted several projects approved under the old rules began construction.

The second reason is the Specific Plan process itself. Why not wait to see what goodies would come from that? Larger projects, less oversight, no need to do an EIR. The Greenheart proposal is a prime example. There was an approved project on the empty Cadillac site that remained vacant for years anyway. There was a project on the Derry site AFTER the referendum that even the developer said was a better project. That was approved by the Planning Commission but not taken to the City Council. I've heard the reason for the latter was disputes among the Derry family members and developer.

Now there's a much bigger project coming forward on the combined sites that is much bigger, with double the office and less retail - a stick in the eye of the 3,000 residents who signed the Derry referendum.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 26, 2013 at 10:33 am

Sorry, Peter, you're wrong again. The plan was written so that it appeared to conform to the objectives. The devil was in the details, and those were supplied by Stanford's consultants. Residents should not be expected to reverse engineer that or any other city document, not when we are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year in local taxes so that professional staff will look out for our best interests.

Read the expose of the plan. The goals created by residents throughout the public process were subverted by private agreements between staff and Stanford. Stop blaming the residents for staff duplicity.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 26, 2013 at 10:40 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The devil WAS in the details and mistaken and others were too busy watching TV to pay attention to the details. Now they want to blame someone else.

Democracy is hard work and they flunked the course.


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Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 26, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Menlo Voter asks, "Can someone provide a solid list of attributes that make a 'village character.' The term is so wishy-washy and open to subjective interpretation as to be virtually useless in a discussion of what Menlo Park should be."

That is a strange -- some might say inconsistent -- comment coming from one who continually derides other residents who "couldn't be bothered to show up during the DSP process where they would have had multiple opportunities to make their desires known." Where are the public meeting comments and numerous emails to Council and Planning Commission from citizen "Menlo Voter" asking for clarification of "village character"? They do not exist because Menlo Voter "couldn't be bothered" to make or send them, of course, leaving him or her yet another resident disappointed by the DSP.

The stated Project Objective of the DSP (Section 3 of Web Link) includes, "The Vision Plan established twelve goals that define the overall intent of the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan to enhance community life, character and vitality through mixed-use infill projects sensitive to the small-town character of Menlo Park and to improve connections across El Camino Real over the next 30 years, as expressed in twelve goals."

Again, "projects sensitive to the small-town character of Menlo Park." First and third of those stated goals?

1. Maintain a village character unique to Menlo Park
3. Improve circulation and streetscape conditions on El Camino Real.

I'm no city planner but I can tell you with some certainty that bookending El Camino Real in Menlo Park with 400,000 square feet of 4- and 5-story office space coupled with an equal amount of rental housing does not a village make. Worse, the traffic impacts of the Stanford and Greenheart projects, when added to those for the massive Arrillaga Towers proposal at University and El Camino and for all the construction taking place near Stanford Hospital Ö just kiss any notion of "circulation" goodbye!

That last is perhaps the most perplexing thing to me in relation to support for the Stanford (and now Greenheart) project. Everyone acknowledges the traffic impacts will be substantial, both along El Camino and in adjacent neighborhoods (mine included), while *no* reasonable mitigations have been proposed to this point. Zero! Yet people appear to insist the traffic will just "work itself out," that adding a second northbound left turn lane from El Camino onto Middle is "a good start," as was suggested by City Staff during one Council meeting I attended.

Apparently, for some, the thought of sitting unmoving in a vehicle while luxuriating in the shadows of glass-walled edifices is preferable to driving slowly past empty lots, to address the ridiculous notion of "blight" I've seen here and elsewhere. I predict the real shit-storm will hit once we see the traffic study — it will either be a farcical ode to the mythical transit-loving empty-nester or it will lay bare how little we can do to mitigate what is already a bad situation on El Camino Real, and none save City Staff will be happy.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Gern:

I will respond, but given your past ad hominem attacks, I'm not expecting much.

Yes, I am disappointed by the DSP and no you won't find comments from "Menlo Voter" in the record, yet you know that don't you? The record has actual names and since you don't know mine you have no idea whether I emailed or spoke to the city council do you? Is your name in the record? Did YOU speak to the council or email them?

Here's the difference between you and me and "savemenlo," I take personal responsibility for not making my voice heard. You and your ilk, on the other hand, insist that it's not your fault for not doing your due diligence as a citizen.

I didn't do my civic duty. Shame on me. You and your ilk didn't either. Shame on you. If you don't like the outcome then you should have done your civic duty. To whine and cry about it now, as you do, is just so much excuse making. This process was NOT done in secret, nor was it done in a short amount of time. It took years. Your excuses as to why you didn't make your voices heard rings hollow.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Gern:

by the way, I still don't see anywhere in what you posted what "village character" is supposed to mean. It's not objective. Your "village character" may not be my "village character." Without some kind of objective definition it's all subjective.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 27, 2013 at 12:01 am

I don't think too many residents are watching much tv, Peter. They're working too hard to pay their $10,000/month mortgage and $50,000/year property taxes while raising a bunch of kids and dealing with godawful traffic every time they leave their homes to go to work/school/playdates. And even if they were spending 100% of their leisure time poring over city documents (ie not sleeping) when are they going to have time to monitor the county government, the state government, and the federal government? Someone lives in la la land.

Let's put the responsibility where it belongs: on paid city staff members who deliberately undermined the objectives of the plan and betrayed the trust of residents.

For those of you who don't understand "village character" or who claim that it was not defined anywhere, I refer you to the text and illustrations in the city's official document: Web Link

Walkable streets, wide sidewalks, public plazas, outdoor dining areas, retail shops. That's what residents wanted to see. That's what we thought we were getting.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 27, 2013 at 12:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Let's put the responsibility where it belongs: on paid city staff members who deliberately undermined the objectives of the plan and betrayed the trust of residents."

When all else fails blame your public servants - and then you wonder why the good ones leave!!

Democracy and responsible citizenship are hard work and most people don't bother - they just blame the hired help.


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Posted by WakeUpMenlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm

It seems that Palo Alto residents are waking up. "Palo Alto asks public for input on growth" Web Link Could Menlo Park be far behind?

Interesting to see Arrillaga get throttled for perhaps once in his life...

"In response to the popular angst over density, traffic and parking, Mayor Greg Scharff and City Manager James Keene agreed last week to hit the brakes on two other large development projects in the city's pipeline: Jay Paul's proposal for two office buildings at 395 Page Mill Road... and John Arrillaga's concept for an office-and-theater complex at 27 University Ave., ... On Nov. 15, Scharff announced that the two projects will be removed the council's agenda so that the city can engage the community on various broader zoning issues."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 2, 2013 at 2:19 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It seems that Palo Alto residents are waking up. "Palo Alto asks public for input on growth" Web Link Could Menlo Park be far behind?"

No, Menlo Park is far ahead. The ECR Specific Plan was developed with huge amounts of public input. The Palo Alto projects were being considered as Planned Community projects which would have exempted them from the existing zoning regulations.

Palo Alto is going to need to work hard to catch up with the citizen based Menlo Park ECR Specific Plan.


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Posted by oldtimer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2013 at 4:08 am

Peter Carpenter wrote:

" No, Menlo Park is far ahead. The ECR Specific Plan was developed with huge amounts of public input."

Indeed Carpenter is correct; there were huge amounts of public input.

The problem is that this input for all practical purposes was discarded. The process was completely bifurcated when a new consultant was hired; a consultant who was also involved with Stanford projects. Then allowing bigger and denser became the name of the game.

All of this supported by City Staff and with the now duly elected council, some of whose members were elected to office supporting a plan that would "maintain a village character", changed their positions.

Let us call it what it is; the process implementing the specific plan turned into a fraud on the voters of Menlo Park.

Years earlier a process called "Smart Growth" was started by City Staff and was to lead to a plan for the future of Menlo Park. Its aim, led by the then City Manager, was to build bigger and denser and under backroom cover, regardless of what input the voters gave, that plan was to produce what she wanted, not what the voters wanted.

Smart Growth was stopped cold in its tracks, when the consultant refused to release raw interview data, and the then City Council killed off the fraudulent process.

Really the only difference between these two "visions" or "planning processes" is our current council has abandoned the Menlo Park Voters and approved a plan that is certainly not what was promised in the visioning sessions.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 2, 2013 at 4:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Most people seem to agree that the process was an open and sound one, some people do not. Those who do support the ECR Specific Plan and the process are in the clear majority and that has been reaffirmed by the ad hoc committee, the planning commission and the city council.

Those in the minority have failed too make a persuasive case and are unable to generate enough support to place this issue on the ballot.

Time to move on.


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Posted by mistaken
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 2, 2013 at 11:35 am

"Those who do support the ECR Specific Plan and the process are in the clear majority."

Cite your sources, Peter? Not that I expect you to retract any of your pronouncements when you are proven wrong!


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Posted by WakeUpMenlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 2, 2013 at 11:46 am

Peter Carpenter has had many comments on the proposed Stanford development on El Camino. He says he is not on the Stanford payroll. Yet he has worked in the past for many many years for Stanford, and likely still has connections high up in various departments, including the Medical Center. Checkout the biography at Web Link , a few lines from that:

1991-2002: Stanford University, various boards and committees

1976-1992: ALZA Corporation, Palo Alto, California [ALZA was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2001 for $10.5 billion]

1975-1976: Executive Director, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California

1973-1976: Assistant Vice President for Medical Affairs, Stanford University, Stanford, California

1968-1970: Assistant Director, Center for Materials Research, Stanford University, Stanford, California

---

Peter asks us to "please move on", and admit that this massive office development by Stanford is in the town's best interest.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 2, 2013 at 11:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"likely still has connections high up in various departments, including the Medical Center"

None.


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I'm sorry folks - but "The City of Menlo Park" Web Link, stopped being a village two world wars ago. Camp Fremont brought in over 40,000 soldiers during WWI.

From Google: Village (n): a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.

From "National Geographic": A village is a small settlement usually found in a rural setting. It is generally larger than a "hamlet" but smaller than a "town". Some geographers specifically define a village as having between 500 and 2,500 inhabitants.

The current population is approximately 32,000. Not a village.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I have just spent the last ten days in an English village. A wonderful experience.

I note that there is no post office, no doctor's office, no grocery store, no hospital, no library, one church, one gas station, single lane roads, no noise except the sheep and cows and only about 300 people.

And homes for sale for anyone interested in moving to a village.


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Exactly.

The "downtown" area of Woodside is possibly the closest example you'll find (as a village) in the immediate geographic area.

Of course you can run up to La Honda, Boulder Creek, etc. But the gist of it is that Menlo Park is not a village and for more than 50 years has not appeared as a village. Not even in the 1960's as some would like others to believe.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm

"village character" is a subjective term and virtually worthless in an objective discussion. I have yet to have anyone provide an objective of what "village character" means. Until they do I will continue to believe that those claiming they want to maintain Menlo Park's "village character" are simply obstructionists and totally anti-growth. As others have pointed out Menlo Park is a city NOT a village.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

How do those who call for more retail in this project on ECR reconcile that with the fact the a well known national brand store, Pendelton, has just closed their ECR shop because of lack of business?


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Posted by Once again
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm

From the city's own website, the official definition of "village character."

Web Link

I would not call Pendleton a "well known national brand." It is a faux prep chain with ugly overpriced items made in China. No one dresses like that around here, plus its El Camino location was terrible. I suspect they chose it because of its proximity to the mall.

Give us some cute boutiques and restaurants and a Whole Foods for good measure, and I'm there every day!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"some cute boutiques" = ugly overpriced items made in China.

"and I'm there every day!" Nice toss of line but I doubt that you would actually be there every day. Did you also patronize every day each of the many now defunct Santa Cruz Ave retail stores that have gone out of business?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"ABOUT PENDLETON
You can see and feel the Pendleton passion for quality. See it in the intricate patterns of blankets inspired by Native American designs and legends. Feel it in the softness of the lightweight, luxurious 100% pure virgin wool clothing we produce. We've been a family-owned business for 150 years, and for 104 of those years we've been weaving world class woolens in our Northwest Mills."

Does not sound like China to me!!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From Wikipedia:
"The headquarters of the company are in Portland, Oregon. The original plants in Pendleton, Oregon, and Washougal, Washington, are among the few woolen mills in operation in the United States today, and Pendleton woolen fabrics and blankets are still woven in these Pacific Northwest mills."

Once Again - did you ever, much less every day, go into the Pendelton store on ECR?
What evidence did you have to support your made in China claim? Or don't you need evidence to make anonymous claims?


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Posted by Once again
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I shop downtown whenever I can.

You can find out the provenance of Pendleton goods with about 2 minutes of online research,including their own website! Like most other "American" labels, they import most items from China! They do manufacture about 10% of their pieces in this country, especially the blankets, but that doesn't change the fact that their items are unattractive and overpriced. How many blanket plaid dresses can one woman wear?

Again, I suspect that the store was attempting to pursue the mall shopper, not Menlo Park/Atherton residents.

Which brings me back to the vision and village character. You can't stick one isolated store on El Camino and expect it to be successful. The plan was supposed to create an environment that would promote small retail and foot traffic. You need a critical mass of appealing stores/cafes for success. Instead, the plan has been hijacked to serve the purposes of a few deep-pocketed developers. "Vibrancy" has been translated into more cars on El Camino.

Over on the Weekly's TownSquare, they are bemoaning the loss of Palo Alto's few remaining non-chain stores. In a few years, Menlo Park is poised to suffer the same fate. Not much point having a vision if the city doesn't stand by it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"You need a critical mass of appealing stores/cafes for success."

Why then isn't Santa Cruz booming?

Why do you like Whole Foods but not other chain stores?


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Posted by WakeUpMenlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Jay Paul 311,000 project in Palo Alto is dropped because of proven traffic impacts:

Web Link

"The 151-page traffic analysis by Fehr & Peers determined that the project would have "significant and unavoidable impacts" at the intersection of Page Mill Road and Foothill Expressway-Junipero Serra Boulevard and the intersection of Page Mill Road and Ash Street.

Combined with other developments in the area and traffic growth, the project would have the same effect on the intersections of ...

The project would add a total of 3,130 net new daily trips, including 481 during the morning rush hour and 419 during the evening rush hour, according to the preliminary study."


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