http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2013/11/13/editorial-another-huge-project-beckons-in-menlo-park


Almanac

Viewpoint - November 13, 2013

Editorial: Another huge project beckons in Menlo Park

Just as some Menlo Park City Council members were surprised when Stanford sought approval to develop its entire 8-acre holding at 700 El Camino, rather than build several smaller projects, another development is moving forward with a plan to build an equally large housing, office and retail complex on the combined 7-acre site of the former Cadillac dealership at 1300 El Camino and the Derry family holding on Oak Grove Avenue.

With its corner site, stucco finish and red tile roofs, the Greenheart development appears less massive than the Stanford/Arrillaga proposal for 700 El Camino Real, although in total it adds up to 210,000 square feet of office space and another 210,000 square feet of housing and retail space. The Stanford/Arrillaga proposal, about 200,000 square feet of office space and 170 units of housing, adds up to 413,000 to 459,000 square feet of space in a group of three- and four-story buildings, with some floors stepped back from El Camino. It size and density has generated a significant amount of protest from some Menlo Park residents.

Those disappointed in the Stanford project are concerned about parking and traffic impacts, as well as drivers hoping to avoid congestion around the Stanford/Arrillaga buildings cutting through neighborhood streets. In a conciliatory move, Stanford has agreed to pay for a traffic impact study and said it will help fund a bike-pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks at Middle Avenue that would provide access to Burgess Park and City Hall.

Since it was revealed last week in the Almanac, the public is invited to comment on the Greenheart project, which would be a short walk from the Menlo Park train station. No definitive studies showing the impact of traffic have been conducted on either project. Both projects plan to build underground garages to provide parking for the majority of the vehicles used by apartment owners and office workers.

Greenheart principal Steve Pierce provided some detail on the company's housing plans — which will feature 215 mostly smaller apartments with an average size of 825 square feet. The mix will include 144 studio or one-bedroom units, 64 two- bedroom units and seven units with three bedrooms. Greenheart's vision for the site begins with the hope that its smaller units will attract young workers who might liven up the nightlife scene in Menlo Park. The plan is to use the allotted ground floor retail space fronting on El Camino and Oak Grove to entice destination restaurants, food shops and other appealing venues.

It remains to be seen how Greenheart will fare with the City Council and the vocal core of residents, including those with Save Menlo, who have protested the Stanford/Arrillaga project. The developers have carefully drawn both projects to conform to the new downtown specific plan, which has been under review at the Planning Commission and will reach the council in a few weeks. So far, despite strong criticism from Save Menlo and other residents charging that the new plan gives far too much away to developers, it is not anticipated that either body will suggest massive changes to the specific plan.

The Greenheart project expects to qualify for a public benefit bonus, which will be negotiated with the city. The Stanford development does not require a public benefit.

All of this adds up to the expectation that several large eyesore properties — vacant car dealerships on El Camino Real and the Derry site off Oak Grove Avenue — may soon become home to buildings that will house hundreds of office workers and new residents.

The best the city can hope for now is that local government leaders carefully scrutinize every detail of the specific plan, which could be changed if a majority of the council agrees. But unless that happens, the projects conform to the new plan and will be given the OK to proceed with building a combined 800,000-plus square feet of mixed-use development that is certain to have a lasting impact on the city and nearby neighborhoods.

Comments

Posted by Menlo Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 17, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Greenheart's vision is to attract young workers to liven up the nightlife scene.


Posted by old timer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 18, 2013 at 6:51 am

Greenheart has one vision and that is to make as much money for its investors as possible and Greenheart with Mr. Pierce and Tim Tosta leading the charge, they will build as dense and high as possible, with no benefits for Menlo Park residents. This project is about as obnoxious as can be imagined; Council should immediately dismiss it as unwanted, but that won't happen.


Posted by reality bites, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2013 at 10:40 am

Greenheart + Stanford will use up all the development capacity in the Specific Plan. The Specific Plan was supposed to cover development for the next few decades, but the streamlined process simply won't exist for future developers thanks to Stanford's and Greenheart's combined greed. Cheers to staff and the much-vaunted "public process" that lulled residents into believing that anyone truly cared about our standard of living/quality of life vs the developers' profiteering.

Every time a housing project has been proposed, the developer insists that the new occupants will be young single bicyclists No new cars on the road. No more kids crowding the schools. And time and again that's been proven a lie. Yet our ever-gullible council falls for it every time.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 18, 2013 at 10:54 am

Reality and Old Timer - what specific changes did you propose during the Planning Commission just completed review of the Downtown Specific Plan?


Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Unfortunately, whether or not projected residential occupants are child-free and commute solely by train & bus, the worker bees who'll arrive daily for those office jobs probably will not be dedicated public transit users.

Like a broken record, I repeat: MP does not have enough roadway infrastructure, particularly on El Camino. Oak Grove, Valparaiso-Glenwood, Middlefield, Laurel, Alma, Encinal, and Ravenswood to support the increased traffic that project would inevitably generate. The Manhattanization & gridlock of MP is well underway. Oops, somebody forgot the subways, or at least the grade-separations & street widenings.


Posted by reality bites, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I met privately with commissioners, Mr. Carpenter. Many times. Everything in this town happens behind the scenes. Public process is a pathetic joke. Too, we can no longer rely on most of our commissioners or council members to act in the best interests of the city.

I am with Downtowner on the subways. How come the people who want to give away the store to developers never seem to have time to consider any other part of the equation? Many of our streets are gridlocked for hours every work day, though if you spend your time hanging out at your computer ripping into other posters, you might not have noticed.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Reality - what specific changes did you propose during the Planning Commission just completed review of the Downtown Specific Plan?


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm

@Reality Which commissioners, how many times, indvidually or in a group? And, repeating Mr. Carpenters question, what specific changes did you propose to them during those "behind the scene discussions" that you had?


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

IF you are interested in the FACTS here is what the Planning Commission will be considering tonight:

Web Link

In my opinion the PC is doing a superb job in this review and the recommendations being considered tonight reflect a great deal of both thought and citizen input.


Posted by gunste, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Nov 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

In 1956-64, when I lived in Walnut Creek, I had decided to become active in city affairs and represented the Rancho San Miguel development at City Council meetings.
We scuttled and delayed a few developments by presenting alternative plans. When I move to the Menlo Park area, I was told by one of the Walnut Kernal reporters that I cemented my standing with the council: anything I was for they would be against.
It was a loosing battle to retain the city's character. Just look at it today.
High rises, dense developments, inadequate parking and traffic gridlock.
Living in Ladera, at least no one can make this area more dense, but I expect to see more high rises emergy from the tree studded flatlands.


Posted by Fred Lippy, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Stanford/Arrillaga's plan for the new development is 7 times the size/density of the Safeway across the street per Daily Post newspaper 11/19/13.

How do you like them apples Menlo Park citizens? Got traffic/congestion? Think the terrible traffic will get ANY better after it is done?


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:54 pm

"Stanford/Arrillaga's plan for the new development is 7 times the size/density of the Safeway across the street per Daily Post newspaper 11/19/13."

The Post article says nothing about relative densities of the two parcels.

Safeway is on a much smaller parcel and as a grocery store it generates far more trips per sq ft than the planned office and residential uses of the Stanford parcel.


Posted by Fred Lippy, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I don't care Peter. I care about what is being built on this property not "relative". Plain and simple this development is OVERBUILT, MASSIVE, and will forever change the character of Menlo Park. This 4-story development will have long-range effects on pollution, infrastructure, population, traffic/congestion, density, energy, tax revenues for the City, and jobs!


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Fred - did you present your views and propose specific alternatives to either the Planning Commission or the City Council? If so, what are your specific proposals other than NO?


Posted by honor the plan, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm

This project may require a new EIR of its own. If so, that alone makes a mockery of the entire specific planning process. The plan was supposed to last for 30 years and the impacts, good and bad, were weighed.

The community believed that they could count on the vision and the tradeoffs. It would be scandalous if this project has even greater impacts and would have to be weighed on its standalone merits. If so, I hope the city board says straight away that it would reject it outright.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm

honor the plan: they are. The plans comply with the DSP.