News - August 18, 2010

No sign of work on project

by Sandy Brundage

Last week came and went at 1906 El Camino Real without any sign of the tile installers who were scheduled to show up Aug. 10, according to what the developer told Menlo Park city officials.

Residents in the area are losing patience with the construction project, whose fencing has blocked off most of the sidewalk bordering the site for months and forced pedestrians into the busy thoroughfare. (There is no sidewalk across the street.)

The city's community liaison for the project, Cherise Brandell, is out of the office until Aug. 19. City Manager Glen Rojas replied to The Almanac's request for an update, saying he continues to press the developer to finish work and open the sidewalk, but that the city's options are limited because it can't take action on the project until the developer violates the building permit.

"The only real violation related to the sidewalk would be if the developer stopped working for 180 consecutive days," Mr. Rojas said. "Once they conduct work on the site, the clock stops on the 180 days and starts again if they stop work." He acknowledged the frustration of both residents and city.

The site's building permit expires on the last day of September, according to the planning department, but could be extended another six months if the city inspects the site before the deadline. The last inspection took place on March 30.

Mr. Rojas said the city had looked at the site for code-enforcement issues, but did not find any violations. "It's properly fenced," the city manager said. He added that the city attorney did not identify any legal hazards.

Nearly a month ago, work began on the sidewalk, but remains unfinished. Project manager Phil Giurlani suggested last week that the focus was on opening the sidewalk sooner rather than later. In July he told The Almanac that the city code required the fencing and there was no way to push it back from the walkway. Installing a temporary sidewalk would only impede construction, he said.

Mr. Rojas said the project manager did not explain why the latest deadline for opening the sidewalk, Aug. 15, would not be met.

Construction seems hindered even without the impediment of a temporary sidewalk. The developer hopes to fill the new two-story, 9,852-square-foot building with medical and dental offices.

Residents wonder whether the repeated construction delays are due to financial problems; as of Aug. 12, the amount of late taxes owed on the parcel had risen to $12,732.88, according to the San Mateo County Tax Collector's Office.


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