Almanac

Viewpoint - July 16, 2014

Letter: Analysis confirms need to limit office space

Menlo Park's $150,000 analysis of the impacts of the (Save Menlo) initiative confirms the need to limit office space. Current market forces for office will consume almost all the specific plan's maximum net new nonresidential space cap of 474,000 square feet over 30 years. According to the consultant, the Stanford project's net new nonresidential is 95.23 percent office, and Greenheart's is 92.83 percent office.

Office domination of the cap will preclude reasonable retail, restaurants, personal services, hotel, commercial entertainment, and business services, all mixed uses that support a balanced residential community, and that residents envisioned under the multi-year specific plan process. The plan's "Vision and Guiding Principles" are not even considered in the consultant's report, nor did it acknowledge that the 474,000-square-foot maximum was intended to last 30 years.

Equally compelling are the consultant's findings that if office space replaces retail and hotel uses, Menlo Park's coffers will have a negative, not the expected positive, financial impact. The Specific Plan Fiscal Impact Analysis depended primarily upon sales tax from retail use and transit occupancy tax from hotel use, which are neither generated by office use, nor offset by office property taxes, a loss in revenues before expenditures of approximately $2 million annually.

The report also clearly states that by limiting office space per the initiative, the city will have an opportunity to obtain financial benefits from developers competing for office space if the city adopts mechanisms to capture those benefits. Such benefits can help pay for specific plan-needed infrastructure such as improving the El Camino Real corridor, which the current traffic study finds "does not adequately serve the Menlo Park community's need for safe and efficient multi-modal transportation and access to local destinations," as well as parking garages, under-crossings, etc.

No comprehensive market analysis is needed to evaluate the initiative, because the market has clearly spoken through the Stanford and Greenheart proposals for massive offices. The initiative is needed to limit office space and fulfill the plan's Vision and Guiding Principles, specifically: "Enhance public space, generate vibrancy, sustain Menlo Park's village character, enhance connectivity and promote healthy living and sustainability."

George C Fisher Cotton Street, Menlo Park

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