Almanac

News - November 10, 2010

Voters OK with Bohannon development

by Sandy Brundage

While developer David Bohannon celebrated the passage of Measure T, which allows him to build Menlo Gateway, a nearly 1-million-square-foot office-hotel complex, opponents of the project closed their website, and paused to consider their defeat.

Measure T passed Nov. 2 with a 65.1-percent "yes" vote. (According to the latest count, 6,036 voters favored the measure and 3,241 were opposed.)

After hosting an election night party at the Oak City Bar and Grill in Menlo Park, as midnight approached Mr. Bohannon said, "Right now I'm so tired I can't think of what to say. It does look like we're pretty clearly going to win."

Asked what he would do now with his spare time, he laughed, thought for a moment, and answered, "Well, I'll be happy not to be involved in a political campaign, believe me, and go back to my life as a real estate guy."

Former Planning Commissioner Patti Fry, who helped start "Measured Growth for Menlo Park," a coalition hoping to see Measure T defeated at the ballot box, called the results disappointing, but said she was very proud of the "fact-based and honorable grassroots campaign."

During the campaign, the coalition argued that the project's environmental impacts, such as carbon emissions, traffic, and noise, would outweigh the city's financial benefits. They also stated that the city's revenue is a fraction of the $40 million to $60 million Mr. Bohannon would earn.

What could the coalition have done differently? "Win the lottery," she suggested. "So we would have had more resources to communicate the facts, refute misleading information, and denounce the personal attacks and smear tactics used by a wealthy developer to win his special and exclusive deal."

Ms. Fry also said that the coalition could have spent more time with individual council members to help explain the financial and environmental complexities of the project, and the need to hire professional negotiators to represent the city's interests in the deal.

Measure T amends Menlo Park's general plan to add a "business park" land-use category, and applies that category to 16 acres on the east side of U.S. 101 that span Independence Drive and Constitution Drive, where Mr. Bohannon plans to build Menlo Gateway.

The total floor area of the planned office buildings, seven-floor hotel, restaurant, parking garages, and fitness club would be roughly equivalent to that of the Sun Microsystems campus at the east end of Willow Road, according to city planning staff.

Mr. Bohannon had thrown $475,000 at last report into funding the campaign to support Measure T, with at least $14,864 dedicated to a series of mailers attacking the one City Council candidate who vocally opposes Menlo Gateway, Chuck Bernstein.

Mr. Bohannon also contributed an as-yet-undisclosed amount of assistance, in the form of precinct walkers handing out campaign fliers, to four council candidates who support Measure T: Incumbents Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson; Planning Commissioner Kirsten Keith; and Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board President Peter Ohtaki.

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