Their options? Few. The project proposes replacing car lots between Cambridge and Middle avenues with 96,000 square feet of medical offices, 133,350 square feet of regular office space, 10,000 square feet of retail and 120 rental apartments.
Since the project meets the new El Camino Real/downtown specific plan baseline requirements, the city gets no say in whether to approve it. Only the Planning Commission has some input, and that only regarding architectural details. The city also does not get to negotiate for any public benefits.
Save Menlo pins its hopes on the university's desire to maintain a good relationship with the city, given its use of Menlo Park's infrastructure and the number of Stanford employees, alumni and donors living there.
"So we think we have some political leverage," said Perla Ni, spokeswoman for SaveMenlo.org, in an email.
The offices will add traffic to an already-jammed El Camino Real, without generating sales tax revenue for the city, making the project the target of ire from the group as well as city officials. However, according the city's finance director, Carol Augustine, the university does pay property taxes on the lots, which would increase after development.
Council members and planning commissioners have noted that the project differs from what the university led Menlo Park to expect during specific plan negotiations. Save Menlo would like to see Stanford live up to its assurances by building the senior housing the university reportedly indicated it wanted to build during those discussions — a much less traffic intensive development that would also expand the city's housing capacity.
"Instead, now they have reneged on their commitment, and exploited the good faith that Menlo Park placed in them," Ms. Ni said.
She told the Almanac that Save Menlo stands at 173 members and counting. The group has been putting notices in neighborhood mailboxes, handing out fliers and organizing meetings. There's one coming up on Monday, Dec. 3, at 8:15 a.m. Location? The Peet's Coffee next to the Safeway at 525 El Camino Real — a spot with an excellent view of the car lots Mr. Arrillaga intends to build on.