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Tonight: Menlo Park looks at 'east side' zoning

Council to vote on consultant for general plan, M2 update

With all the attention focused on Menlo Park's downtown and El Camino Real corridor, it's easy to overlook the development activity happening on the city's east side, in the M2 district.

Some city observers have characterized the changes as a shift in character, away from industrial, towards residential. Now Menlo Park is working on updating the zoning for that area to help guide its future.

The zoning update is part of a broader revision to the city's general plan, the overall "constitution" for development in Menlo Park as described by the city's staff.

The $1.65 million contract with PlaceWorks, a consultant that also worked on the visioning process for the city's downtown/El Camino Real specific plan as well as the housing element revisions, is scheduled for a vote during the council meeting tonight (June 17).

Sometimes referred to as an "industrial backwater," the M2 district roughly spans parcels wedged between the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, Marsh Road and U.S. 101.

During the past four years, the approval of the Bohannon Menlo Gateway project and Facebook's move into the district has sparked new life in the M2.

The Sobrato Organization submitted a proposal in March to build two four-story research and development buildings, totaling 259,919 square feet, on 13.3 acres at 151 Commonwealth Drive and 164 Jefferson Drive.

Facebook has started construction of a new "west" campus on Constitution Drive, within walking distance from its headquarters off Willow Road, and recently confirmed that it's bought additional land for future expansion. Housing projects are also lining up, with at least 735 nearby apartments already in the development pipeline.

Circulation how pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers navigate from one part of the city to the other will be a key part of PlaceWorks' analysis.

The contract includes a series of community workshops to be held from August through March 2015 in the M2 area as well as other locations.

A General Plan Advisory Committee, consisting of five Menlo Park community members appointed by the City Council, and one member each from six commissions, will provide guidance to the consultant and review the findings at each stage of the update process.

A timeline provided as part of the staff report to the council estimates that the final updates are projected to be completed by June 2016.

Review the complete agenda and associated staff reports for tonight's meeting here. Following a closed session, the regular meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St. It will be broadcast live online.

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