After 10 months of digging through the record, obtaining staff emails and communications with Stanford, many meetings and discussions, it appears that SaveMenlo now understands when and where the real mistakes were made in approving the Specific Plan.
There were elements of the Specific Plan, such as project vehicular access through the Middle Avenue Plaza, reduction of open space requirements from 40 percent to 30 percent, definition of private balconies as open space, elimination of publicly accessible building breaks, that were initiated by Stanford and/or city staff. In some instances, these additions were made without direction from or knowledge of the City Council.
The key to fixing these mistakes is to revise one key aspect of the Specific Plan: reduce the base level Floor Area Ratio (making development less dense) in the El Camino Real SE Zone to 0.75 so that these and other defects can be repaired. The increase of the Floor Area Ratio on El Camino Real (making it more dense and more advantageous to the developer) has given Stanford an increased value to its property that will bring somewhere near an additional $5 million per year in rental income for the life of the buildings. Menlo Park received no public benefits for this gift. That Stanford is finally clearing out the blight left by its negligence cannot be considered anything more than the university's civic duty.
The city appears to be already negotiating with Stanford but not with any of the neighborhood representatives at the table.
SaveMenlo should be commended for its role as messenger. Despite the discomfort of the message, the Specific Plan is flawed and needs to be reviewed and revised. A one-year review was approved by the council on June 5, 2012. The Specific Plan was adopted in July of 2012. It's time.