Almanac

News - March 13, 2013

Opponents of Stanford project push for review of downtown plan

by Sandy Brundage

Save Menlo, a grassroots group opposed to Stanford University's proposal to build an eight-acre mixed use complex in Menlo Park, is calling for the council to review the new downtown/El Camino Real Specific Plan that makes the development possible.

"We are not suggesting that the Specific Plan be amended for the purpose of impacting a single known developer," said Save Menlo spokeswoman Perla Ni in an email to the Almanac. "We are suggesting that the development plans shown so far make it clear that the Specific Plan did not get quite right the equation among densities, housing, uses, and public benefit."

Stanford University and developer John Arrillaga are in the process of revising their plans for Menlo Park's empty car lots for a third time, according to project representatives. Iterations to date have proposed replacing eight acres of car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real with a mixed-use complex of 96,000 square feet of medical offices, 133,500 square feet of offices, 10,000 square feet of retail, and two five-story apartment buildings containing up to 152 units.

As the project meets the specific plan's baseline requirements, it doesn't need city approval beyond the Planning Commission reviewing the architectural details.

The city has fielded dozens of comments from residents unhappy with the potential traffic impacts, small amount of housing, and the scale of the complex compared with surrounding neighborhoods.

Now Save Menlo has rallied behind getting the specific plan reviewed, flooding the council's email inbox with form letters suggesting the council refused to put the item on its agenda, and that Mayor Peter Ohtaki is "arbitrarily shutting down the opportunity for public discourse on the El Camino Real-Downtown Specific Plan at the very moment when it would be most convenient and indeed most effective to discuss it."

Mayor Ohtaki said that contrary to shutting down public discourse, he's working with city staff to figure out the best forum for input. "We look forward to public input, and want to assure residents that the city is working on addressing their concerns. Stay tuned."

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