PRO: A great deal for Menlo Park
By John Boyle
In my business career, I've been involved in a lot of negotiated agreements — many involving hundreds of millions of dollars. I've never seen a "perfect" deal. There are always pros and cons. The key is to recognize when the pros outweigh the cons by enough margin to take a risk and move forward.
Menlo Park is facing such a decision right now with Measure T, the Menlo Gateway Project. If approved by the voters, this measure will allow the redevelopment of an underutilized light industrial area adjacent to U.S. 101 and Marsh Road near the Bayfront Expressway. It will transform this largely dormant area into a vibrant, productive, job-producing new region. The project will include high-tech oriented office space, a four-star hotel, and a new athletic club.
Collectively, the project is projected to deliver over $15 million in one-time impact fees, over $1.6 million in annual net incremental revenue to our city, and millions more to other parts of our overall community (the high school district, fire district, county agencies). The project is projected to create 1,800 construction-related jobs and provide more than 2,500 permanent jobs.
Those who oppose this project point to fears about traffic impacts, changes to the region, and other concerns that all have been discussed and debated over several years and through an extensive public process. In the final analysis, the people who have studied the data most closely all have come to the same conclusion — this is a great deal for Menlo Park and our community at large. The consultants hired by the city (multiple experts in environmental, traffic, and other key issues) all gave it unanimous support. The Planning Commission and the City Council both approved the project.
I take notice when experts say that something is a great deal for Menlo Park. It's important to me because I care about this city. I've lived here for almost 30 years. One of the things that my family and I really appreciate about living in Menlo Park is the quality of life it affords us — and all residents — thanks in large part to the number of city-provided services, such as libraries, parks, swimming pools, and the police department.
But these services cost money. To avoid drastic cuts in services, we must continue to grow the top line for the city. And that means embracing smart projects like Menlo Gateway when they come along, which isn't very often.
In fact, the revenue boosts from recent projects like the Rosewood Hotel on Sand Hill Road and the Safeway on Middle Avenue have helped Menlo Park weather the economic downturn far better than some of our neighboring cities. Menlo Gateway can grow our top line in similar fashion to help secure the city's financial future.
There are always challenges in any deal. But the upside to Menlo Park on this deal far outweighs the downside risks. The city, in fact, isn't being asked to invest any of its cash in this project. The investment risk will be 100 percent on the developer. Nor is the city being asked to provide any form of "tax holiday" or other incentive, as is often the case for a city that wants to attract a new hotel.
So if Menlo Gateway is built, we all win. If it isn't, we all lose: the developer loses a significant investment, and the community loses the opportunity to create jobs, revenue, and a revitalized region at Marsh Road and U.S. 101.
Menlo Gateway is a great deal for Menlo Park. Please join me in voting yes on Measure T.
John Boyle is city council member who is currently serving as vice mayor.
CON: Largest zoning change in city's history
By Vincent Bressler
Measure T on the November ballot is a vote on the largest zoning change in the history of Menlo Park.
I will vote no on Measure T for a variety of reasons.
Measure T provides no up-front money to Menlo Park. The city gets no payment in exchange for giving the biggest zoning entitlement in its history.
In other words, if voters approve Measure T, the value of the land for this project will immediately increase by about $100 million, but the city does not receive any money until and unless the Bohannon Group pays for a building permit. David Bohannon has stated that he does not intend to build until the economy can support his massive project.
Measure T will not create jobs when we need them. Under Measure T, the Bohannon Group has the right but no agreement or obligation to build. In fact, the 20-year time frame presents an opportunity for Bohannon to wait for the best economic conditions before proceeding.
Measure T may hurt existing job-creation mechanisms. Companies like Pacific Biosciences, Geron, and InVisage, headquartered in the M-2 zone where the Bohannon project is located, are most likely to provide job and revenue growth for our city over the next 10 years. However, the development agreement gives the Bohannon Group priority over other projects. Even if the Bohannon Group has not moved ahead with its project, those companies may be unable to expand — because important resources required by any development will have been reserved for the Bohannon Group.
If not Measure T, then what? A new process defined in the M-2 Zoning Plan streamlines development projects for companies doing business in Menlo Park.
What went wrong with Measure T, and how do we fix it?
The negotiation process for the development agreement was closed and insular. City Council members who were part of the "negotiation team" were barred from the negotiations, which were conducted in closed sessions and included only the Menlo Park city manager, city attorney and public works director along with the Bohannon negotiating team. The attitude of the majority of City Council members seems to be: "This is the best that we can do." But that is clearly not the case.
The M-2 Zoning Plan is taking place in a much more open environment. That process is a model for what should happen here. Vote no on Measure T, and let's move forward in the right way.
Visit FactsNotHype.org for more information.
Vincent Bressler is a member of the Menlo Park Planning Commission.