Almanac

News - July 7, 2010

El Camino office complex slated for completion in six weeks

by Sandy Brundage

A new two-story, 9,852-square-foot medical and dental office complex at the former site of the ACORN restaurant should be finished in six weeks, according to Phil Giurlani, one of the project's managers.

That news could come as a relief to residents living near the site at 1906 El Camino Real and Watkins Avenue, as well as Mr. Giurlani himself. "No one wants this done more than me," he said.

Construction languished since winter, he said, due to heavy rainfall. "The high water table made the ground sloppy," he explained.

City manager Glen Rojas said the city was not aware of the specific reasons for the work stoppage. "We have been in contact with the contractor and developer in an effort to keep the project moving," he said, agreeing that the complex should be finished during the next five to six weeks.

Residents wrote numerous e-mails to the Menlo Park City Council, demanding action be taken to correct what they view as a dangerous situation — the cyclone fence surrounding the site forces pedestrians to travel in the roadway.

Don Barnby wrote several of those emails, and was unsatisfied with the city's response. "I'm appalled that the city's focus is on covering their tail," he said. "Covering their tail doesn't matter if someone gets killed. Everyone is just ducking and weaving and giving reasons."

He said the contractors have been equally unforthcoming. "Their sense of urgency is zero, as far as I can see."

A sign eventually went up, according to Mr. Barnby, that directed pedestrians to cross to the other side of El Camino Real — which also lacks a sidewalk.

Mr. Giurlani said city code requires the fence. "We met with the contractor to see if there was a way of moving the fence back further, and there really wasn't. The pedestrian ramp is already exposed because people keep pushing [the fence] back to get by." Adding a temporary sidewalk along El Camino is also impractical, he said, because of ongoing construction.

The project's financial status seems troubled. The San Mateo County Tax Collector's Office shows the property in default, with $12,361 owed in taxes since April. Mr. Giurlani stated that was not accurate. However, a representative at the county office said the database's payment information is current. Steve Lehn, chief financial officer of the Private Bank of the Peninsula, which is funding the construction, declined to comment.

The complex is also searching for tenants. "If you know anybody that needs a building, let me know," Mr. Giurlani said. "When we went into this, we had the buildings all sold. We don't have anybody right now, between the delays and the bad economy. But there is a lot of interest. Once the building's done and people can walk through, we'll ramp up the marketing."

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