Almanac

News - July 24, 2013

Menlo Park: Warring Louise St. factions may reach a compromise

by Sandy Brundage

The expected showdown over the fate of an approximately 53-by-60-foot tangle of greenery on Louise Street did not come to pass on July 16. Moments before the Menlo Park City Council opened the public hearing, City Attorney Bill McClure announced that both sides were now talking to each other and asking to delay the hearing until Aug. 20. The council concurred.

What revived the possibility of a compromise between developer Sam Sinnott's team and Louise Street residents, who had described themselves as implacable in their resistance, after months of acrimony that has included everything from dueling lawyers to police monitoring of yardwork, remains a mystery.

The developer has hired a landscape architect, according to the city attorney, but representatives of both sides declined to shed any light on the latest developments, saying they had "no information to report at this time."

Mr. McClure said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the parties could come to an acceptable agreement.

Mr. Sinnott and investment partner Mircea Voskerician have been trying to build a paved driveway exiting on Louise Street from a property at 1825 Santa Cruz Ave. that they purchased for redevelopment. The exit would cross over some of the green space in the public right-of-way, and possibly bolster the developer's case for switching the address from Santa Cruz Avenue to Louise Street, which city staff doesn't support.

While staff initially granted a permit for the driveway, the council voted 3-1 to revoke it after Louise Street residents protested.

The residents then asked the city to turn over the public right-of-way to adjoining homeowners — a process called abandonment — with plans to preserve it as green space in perpetuity with easements for pedestrian access. The council was expected to decide whether to proceed with the abandonment or grant Mr. Sinnott's appeal of the driveway permit revocation during Tuesday night's meeting.

Planning commissioners determined on a 4-2 vote last month that the abandonment would be consistent with the city's general plan, but noted that they were not voting on the abandonment request itself.

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