Almanac

News - April 3, 2013

Menlo Park council may hear concerns about Stanford project

by Sandy Brundage

Debate has raged since Stanford and developer John Arrillaga first proposed building eight acres of mixed-use office space, retail and apartments on El Camino Real in Menlo Park late last year. Now the City Council is getting involved a bit ahead of schedule.

The most recent incarnation of the project depicts the car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real being replaced with 96,000 square feet of medical offices, 133,500 square feet of offices, 10,000 square feet of retail, and up to 150 apartments.

"It appears that there is significant concern about the Stanford project," said Councilwoman Kirsten Keith, who along with Councilman Rich Cline, has asked the council to consider reviewing the project at the April 16 council meeting. "We are simply asking if the council would like to hear from the public about this project. The (Planning Commission) will have a future meeting to analyze the latest plans and traffic data."

However, the Stanford development currently falls under the purview of the Planning Commission, which has asked several times within the past month about the next steps for the project. Staff said that it was better to wait until the plans were resubmitted "as opposed to getting comments on something that was already changing," according to Menlo Park Senior Planner Thomas Rogers.

Stanford wasn't ready to talk about those changes, but city officials told the Almanac they expect to see a reduction of medical office space.

Residents and city officials have expressed disappointment with the proposal. They said Stanford appeared to support building senior housing on the lots during the creation of the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan — not medical office space expected to add heavy traffic.

While Menlo Park waits to see Stanford's revised designs, the city has started an independent traffic study to clarify whether the proposed uses and size of the project comply with the those studied during the specific plan process in terms of trip volume and flow, Mr. Rogers said.

The next time the Planning Commission takes up the topic, they'll likely hold a study session to review the initial traffic study and design revisions, according to staff.

Councilman Cline said he respects the role the Planning Commission plays in taking the lead on projects, but didn't think the council was stepping on toes by holding a review.

"I don't think the number one priority of a council member should be territories. I understand that some people think the commission and the process is more important than the actual project and the integrity of the specific plan," Mr. Cline commented. "Having a discussion at multiple levels is OK. If we were to take zoning laws into our own hands, then we'd be wholeheartedly stepping all over the Planning Commission's responsibilities. We're looking at the integrity of the specific plan by considering the impact the Stanford project will have."

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