The university and developer John Arrillaga want to replace the car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real with a mixed-use complex. The most recent proposal suggested 96,000 square feet of medical offices, 133,500 square feet of offices, 10,000 square feet of retail, and up to 150 apartments.
The council voted 3-0 on April 2, with Cat Carlton absent and Ray Mueller recused, to put the review on the council's April 16 agenda.
Councilman Rich Cline said that, to date, the proposal was not in any way what the university discussed doing during the creation of the specific plan, and it violated the spirit of the plan.
Councilwoman Kirsten Keith, who along with Mr. Cline asked the council to consider reviewing the project, said she wanted to make sure the public had a chance to be heard.
However, she said, she wanted "to be very clear" that she thought there is a way "to make this a good project for Menlo Park. I just think it's time to have a dialogue."
Dozens of residents have raised concerns about the complex's potential traffic impacts, among other issues, and formed a grassroots coalition that called for an early review of the specific plan in protest of the development. Menlo Park is currently conducting a traffic analysis.
The council asked city staff to provide an evaluation of options ranging from removing the Stanford parcels from the specific plan to a possible moratorium on medical office construction. City Attorney Bill McClure said the staff report for the April 16 meeting would include discussion of the legal viability of those options.
Reviewing the physical details of the Stanford project currently falls under the Planning Commission's responsibilities. The commission will take a look at the project after the new batch of changes are submitted to the city.
Although Stanford wasn't ready to go into detail about those changes, city officials told the Almanac they expect to see a significant reduction of medical offices and a redesign of a public plaza off Middle Avenue.
The council's decision to review the project before the Planning Commission takes a look at the revised design set off alarms for local government watchdog Peter Carpenter, who has since said he plans to create a website "that will contain facts, quotes from elected officials and case studies to help potential developers decide if they should attempt to locate a project in Menlo Park."
He told the Almanac that "since (Menlo Park) doesn't seem to want to play by the rules, i.e. respect its established zoning, then I think that prospective developers need to have easy access to case studies which demonstrate what the city actually does. Just the facts."
Mr. Carpenter's recent comments to the council suggest that he views the attempt to force Stanford to modify a project that follows all specific plan requirements as disastrous for future development in Menlo Park:
"Don't be at all surprised if other developers now simply walk away from the zoo that is called the City of Menlo Park," he wrote in an email on April 3. "(Menlo Park) is now a city without any credibility when it comes to zoning and planning — even thinking about removing parcels from the specific plan and moratoriums less than a year after the Specific Plan was adopted are clear signs of lunacy."