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Bank forecloses on former Gaylord India site

Original post made on Mar 4, 2010

A bank has foreclosed on the El Camino Real property that was the site of the former Gaylord India Restaurant, a Menlo Park official has confirmed. The owner of the property had recently obtained permission from the city to redevelop the site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 3, 2010, 2:21 PM

Comments (87)

Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 4, 2010 at 12:12 am

Who could ever have guessed that a company would run into trouble waiting YEARS for high government poobahs and public servants to approve their building plans? [portion removed.]


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2010 at 8:13 am

Just one more lesson for anyone who wants to try to do business in Menlo Park - the City will never just so NO but rather it will keep demanding more and more and take longer and longer until it grinds you into bankruptcy. And then the City will say "but we gave you a permit".
In this case it was a permit to die.

Lesson learned by potential MP businesses? You bet.

Lesson learned by Menlo Park? I doubt it?


Posted by Ranch Gal, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I have nothing to add to those astute comments but to say I AGREE. Menlo Park is very business UNfriendly with their years of RED TAPE!


Posted by Long time resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Another in a long list of strangled projects. Our current council majority recently reduced the amount of floor area available for commercial development on El Camino- in a recession.

This El Camino study is a bluff. When it is finished it will be very close to the ridiculously restrictive ordinace we have now. The council majority will continue to kill projects everywhere, salt flats and El Camino included.

The only solution is to throw out Robinson and Cline in November.


Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Which bank? It'll be interesting to see who ends up with the property & whether or not that buyer has any relationship with the bank partners.


Posted by cynic, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

How can you blame the city? They approved the plans. Blame Infiniti, for defaulting on their loan payments.

This is a tough economic climate, and it's not surprising that a few businesses are going under. But sure, put all the blame on Robinson and Cline (not John Boyle, of course). Can we also blame them for H1N1, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and African genocide too?


Posted by One Who Knows, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Yes, do blame Cline, Robinson, Cohen and especially Fergusson who at the 11th hour claimed she didn't like the architecture. She had years to pull the design card but the Just Say No supporters of this council majority like the slow death approach. Traffic studies upon traffic studies, nitpicking and fussing over roof top HVCC systems. Boyle did his best as he did when trying to save the project at the Cadillac site. Acorn and Gaylord sites were blight and Menlo Park was fortunate that a developer stepped up with plans. El Camino Real in Menlo Park is a disgrace. We need to replace both Cline and Robinson and get council members who are not answering to the small but seemingly powerful no-growth, no-change NIMBYs that are really calling the shots in this town. Delay equals bankruptcy. The council is to blame.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Sorry, as a resident living 150 feet from the Gaylords property and having been involved in the hearings and review of the original plans, which were garbage by the way, the problem was not the city. The problem was a developer that was able to ram through the ugly piece of junk at the corner of Watkins and El Camino with inadequate parking and thought they could do it again in our neighborhood. We demanded that the appropriate amount of parking be included in the plan. We also wanted the design of the building to be more in keeping with the other buildings in the neighborhood. By far though the most contentious issue was parking. When they put forward a design that provided the zoning required, adequate parking the neighborhood had no further objections and the city approved the project. Finally, the economy caught up to them as it has many others. I suspect it was cheaper to walk away than to try and get the project built.


Posted by Interested, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Brian:
What other buildings in the neighborhood should the development on the acorn site have emulated? Just wondering as I can't picture any other commercial buildings near acorn and gaylords.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Interested:

The building at the corner of Encinal and El Camino.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Brian provides a case study for what is wrong with this process.
A commercially zoned site became available for development.
An enterprising developer, unaware of the Menlo Park ethos, decided to make an investment in this site and developed a plan consistent with the current zoning and submitted it to the City.
Brian and his friends convinced the Council that their narrow neighborhood interests trumped the interest of both the developer and the broader community.
The developer was forced to revise his plans to accommodate Brian and his friends and, in the process the developer lost both time and economic value as the revised plans were less financially viable.
The City grants the developer a delayed and depreciated permit.
The developer cannot get financing because the granted permit is for a building which is not financially viable.
The project goes into foreclosure.
The developer loses his entire investment.
The City loses the tax revenue from the property.
Other developers realize that the Menlo Park ethos will not support their economic interests and invest in other communities.
The City is convinced that it did the right thing.
Brian and his friends are very happy.
Everybody else loses.



Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:34 am

Peter:

given that you live in Atherton and will never have to deal with commercial development in your neighborhood I find your argument a bit specious and hypocritical. How would you feel about living 150 feet from the ugly piece of junk they are building at the corner of Watkins and El Camino? Somehow I think you would feel differently if the developer was trying to shove that ugly building into your neighborhood. I also think you would be more than a little upset by the parking impacts, especially from the original plan that had only 50% of the required parking. The developer wanted a variance from the parking that was required in the zoning. If we aren't going to follow the zoning ordinances, why bother having them? How would you feel about people parking in your driveway because all of the street parking was taken up? I don't think you would like it too much. We had to deal with that regularly when the building across the street had a dance studio in it.

By the way, I know the developers and they are well aware of the "Menlo Park Ethos." They previously developed residential properties here on the peninsula for many years until they put themselves out of business then reemerged as Infinity. They took a calculated risk on the Gaylords property thinking they would be able to just slide it through like they did with the El Camino and Watkins building. They miscalculated.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:44 am

Brian - congratulations at your good fortune of being able to preserve a vacant property in your neighborhood at the expense of the rest of your community. With the foreclosure perhaps now you will be given a free easement on that site for the foreseeable future.

I would ask - did the commercial zoning of that parcel predate your willing purchase of your home 150 feet away from it?


Posted by get off it, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:46 am

Are we not talking about El Camino Real? How can Brian call this 'his neighborhood"? It's a commercial street with liquor stores, nail shops, hair salons, gas stations etc. Brian's neighborhood is a side street off El Camino Real, sandwiched in between Highway 82, a state highway and the caltrain tracks. The Infinity development was a good project and appropriate for the site.

Also, the building at the corner of Encinal is a beautiful building and the "neighbors" opposed it tooth and nail, even to the point of a Morris Brown law suit against the developer. Of course, the court threw the case out. I don't remember who on the council voted for the Encinal building but it was a typical Menlo Park blood bath.

Menlo Park sucks


Posted by Stop the Negativity, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 7:50 am

Could Brian describe what kind of development he wanted or still wants at these two sites? Can the neighbors tell the council what they want and not what they don't want. What is this, the Just say NO people?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:20 am

Brian - have you checked to see how much the City and the school districts have lost in property and other taxes as a consequence of the loss of this project and the granting of a free scenic easement to you and your friends?


Posted by Brian:, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:42 am

Peter:

congratualations on living in a community in which you will never have to deal with this issue.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:51 am

To all the others:

The project as approved was fine by the neighborhood. As I said before, the issue was less about the appearance of the building than it was about parking, or lack thereof. I would ask all of you how you would like people using your property as overflow parking because the parking of an adjacent building was inadequate as designed? None of you would stand for it. Once the inadequate parking was remedied we had no issue with it.

We were quite clear about what kind of development we wanted in this location. We did not have an issue with what was going in there just what it looked like and the LACK OF ZONING REQUIRED parking. Infinity wanted a variance so they could put in less than the required parking. This would have severely impacted our neighborhood. Again, if you folks were looking at the same impacts in your neighborhood you would have been screaming bloody murder.


Posted by A. Nonymous, a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:00 am

Peter: I've heard a lot about your commitment to the public process when it comes to employee pay. More public access to union negotiations! More time for the public to review union contracts! Bravo!

Now you're criticizing Menlo Park for 1) Making sure it has a legally defensible environmental impact report on the Bohannon project, and 2) Making sure neighbors to a commercial property are satisfied with that property's design before granting a permit.

I see a disconnect here. The public should get plenty of information and discussion about union contracts, but not about development projects? Release a flawed EIR, hold fewer public meetings about development projects, just get them built already? Are you a defender of a public process, period, or a defender of the public process only when it suits your ideological bent?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:01 am

Brian - you missed the essential and now proven point, the project as AS APPROVED may well have been fine with the neighborhood but is was not economically viable. The permit issued was a death warrant for this project, particularly in this economic climate. And your City is facing severe revenue losses which this project would have helped counter.

As stated above:
Brian and his friends convinced the Council that their narrow neighborhood interests trumped the interest of both the developer and the broader community.

The developer was forced to revise his plans to accommodate Brian and his friends and, in the process the developer lost both time and economic value as the revised plans were less financially viable.

The City grants the developer a delayed and depreciated permit.

The developer cannot get financing because the granted permit is for a building which is not financially viable.

The project goes into foreclosure.

The developer loses his entire investment.

The City loses the tax revenue from the property.

Other developers realize that the Menlo Park ethos will not support their economic interests and invest in other communities.

The City is convinced that it did the right thing.

Brian and his friends are very happy.

Everybody else loses.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:09 am

Nonymous states:"Now you're criticizing Menlo Park for 1) Making sure it has a legally defensible environmental impact report on the Bohannon project, and 2) Making sure neighbors to a commercial property are satisfied with that property's design before granting a permit."

I am a FIRM believer in process - for ALL of the parties involved in an issue.
I do not believe that in the case of the Bohannon project is is proper to keep changing the rules and moving the goal posts.

In the case of the former Gaylord project, I simply believe that requiring the neighbors' consent before granting a permit goes far beyond zoning laws and proper process. What you have described, " Making sure neighbors to a commercial property are satisfied with that property's design before granting a permit", would essentially give any one individual the right to blackball any given project - sorry that is not a system of laws and fair process. But it does seem to be the de facto Menlo Park process.


Posted by Hold on a minute, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:16 am

Peter, first of all, I second everything A. Nonymous said above. But I must add:

1. You claim the developer submitted a plan consistent with zoning. False. They were seeking a parking variance to GREATLY reduce zoning-required parking.

2. You state the neighborhood's interests "trumped" that of the broader community. False. The community benefits when our city upholds its laws in the interests of its residents. NOT when it grants zoning variances in the interests of developers AT THE EXPENSE of neighborhoods.

You seem to think that communities should be willing to give developers anything they want in exchange for the promise of tax revenue. This is shortsighted and not consistent with the principle that good government must protect the long-term interests of the people.

The project as first proposed was not right for the site, because parking was inadequate. The developer shot for the sky in his first proposal, then the proper negotiations (in the loose sense of the word) took place. If the developer, at the time, didn't think the revised proposal was financially viable, he wouldn't have pursued the plan with the city. The economy tanked. It's a different world. Whose fault is that?


Posted by cynic, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:22 am

Oh please. Projects in Menlo Park do get approved without neighbors' consent, but not without neighbors' input.

Infiniti did not want to play by the rules, which require a certain amount of parking. They knew what the rules were when they bought the property, but they bought it anyway and designed a project that flouted the rules. It should have been no surprise that the city called them on that.

Developers should not buy property in Menlo Park with the idea that the rules don't apply to them, and they should factor those rules into their economic projections. If it doesn't pencil out, don't acquire the property!

Given the state of the economy and Infiniti's apparent lack of business sense, if the project had been approved without any neighborhood input, they might have started building and then gone bankrupt. Better to have that property vacant than to have a half-finished project on El Camino. Go visit Sunnyvale if you want to see what that looks like.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:01 am

Now those local neighbors can enjoy the abandoned Acorn site for a few more years. The rest of the city will just have to do without those pesky tax revenues this site has produced during that time.


Posted by Peter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

Peter:

you miss the essential point that you are commenting on something that 1) you know nothing about, 2) is in a city you don't live in and 3) you live in a town in which you will never be faced with the possibility of this type of impact on your neighborhood.

If you lived in Menlo Park I might put some validity to your opinion.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:13 am

"....if it doesn't pencil out, don't acquire the property"

It is exactly that attitude toward development that is at the heart of why most financially viable developers in the region view projects in Menlo Park as not worth the brain damage to even consider. The attitude that a zoning ordinance can be so precisely written so as to apply to every project sends a message of rigidity that essentially tells developers--develop elsewhere. While it is true that any community has the right to set zoning restrictions as they want, that right comes with the obligation to be willing to accept the fact that the City will not see the revenues that would come from development.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:14 am

Cynic:

you are absolutely right. You only have to look to the building Infinity has under way at El Camino and Watkins during one of the frequent work stoppages there to get an idea of what the half finished Gaylords project would look like.

I am a builder and among the things I do, I work with developers. When I see a project under way that has the frequent work stoppages that I've seen at The Watkins project I suspect the developer is having money problems (in other words teh builder isn't being paid). So I suspect Ifinity's problems extend beyond the Gaylords property.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:17 am

Peter ? states:"you miss the essential point that you are commenting on something that 1) you know nothing about, 2) is in a city you don't live in and 3) you live in a town in which you will never be faced with the possibility of this type of impact on your neighborhood."

When you cannot deal with the facts then attack the individual.

1 - I do know a lot about this issues having been a Planning Commissioner on Palo Alto for 4 1/2 years,

2 - I spend a lot of money in Menlo Park and my sales taxes help support your community,

3 - I chose my residence location for a number of reasons but it was a choice. I could have chosen to live adjacent to a commercially zoned parcel but I did not.

Now can we please get back on topic and answer some of the above questions:

1 - did the commercial zoning of that parcel predate Brian's willing purchase of your home 150 feet away from it?

2 - have you checked to see how much the City and the school districts have lost in property and other taxes as a consequence of the loss of this project and the granting of a free scenic easement to the adjacent neighbors?

We have a very interesting social experiment here - how long will it take to attract economically viable projects to Menlo Park as long as the rules keep changing and neighbors are given a veto right over any proposed development?

Time will tell and in the meantime the City's and the school district's revenues will suffer. Perhaps that is what the good citizens of Menlo Park want.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

Peter:

Now can we please get back on topic and answer some of the above questions:

1 - did the commercial zoning of that parcel predate Brian's willing purchase of your home 150 feet away from it?

Yes it did and had you been paying attention you would know that we did not object to a commercial building being built there. We only wanted one that followed zoning rules and provided the mandated parking.


2 - have you checked to see how much the City and the school districts have lost in property and other taxes as a consequence of the loss of this project and the granting of a free scenic easement to the adjacent neighbors?

This is a false argument. The economy tanked. The developer made a calculated risk and miscalculated. The lost tax money is due to that not that neighbors demanded the zoning laws be followed. It's due to the developers thinking they didn't ahve to follow the rules. So you can blame them for the lost tax money. Our desire had nothing to do with a "free scenic easement" and you know it.

You are a planning commisioner in Palo Alto and you're downing the planning process in Menlo Park?????!!!!! Pot this is kettle, you're black.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:39 am

Brian states:"You are a planning commisioner in Palo Alto and you're downing the planning process in Menlo Park?????!!!!! Pot this is kettle, you're black."

I WAS a Planning Commissioner in Palo Alto in the 70's which is why I feel that I have a good deal of both experience and expertise in these matters. I am not holding Palo Alto up as a model but I happen to think that Palo Alto is doing much better on timely review of commercial projects than is Menlo Park in the current climate - but neither set a very high standard for clarity and speed.

I am pleased to know that you willingly bought your property knowing that it was adjacent to a commercially zoned parcel. I still would like to know if you have you checked to see how much the City and the school districts have lost in property and other taxes as a consequence of the loss of this project and the granting of a free scenic easement to the adjacent neighbors? Do you care?


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:59 am

Peter:

you know about the process but you don't know the specifics about this project so you are commenting in ignorance. It's bliss isn't it?

As I said before, you can blame the developer for the loss of tax revenue. Had they not assumed they could not play by the rules they might have saved themselves a lot of time and therefor already have been under construction long ago. The problem is they thought they didn't have to follow the rules, they miscalculated. Their miscalcualtion cost them and unfortunately it also cost us tax money. If they hadn't tried to do an end around on the rules the building would have been built already and the taxes wouldn't have been lost.

Also, you keep saying they have granted "a free scenic easement." I challenge you to find anywhere there is such an easement. You can't because there isn't. Again, your argument is false.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 11:50 am

Peter ? states:"you know about the process but you don't know the specifics about this project so you are commenting in ignorance. It's bliss isn't it?"

Actually, I not only know a lot about the process but I have followed this project closely. In my opinion the developer was forced to make concessions in order to "Making sure neighbors to a commercial property are satisfied with that property's design before granting a permit". Those concessions doomed the project.

A smarter developer would have walked away at that point but there is always the hope that you can still make it work - it didn't. And the next ten developers who look at this parcel will also look at the public record and walk away before spending a dime.

Brian states:"Also, you keep saying they have granted "a free scenic easement." I challenge you to find anywhere there is such an easement. You can't because there isn't. Again, your argument is false."

WRONG, you have successfully prevented something from being built in your view space and your success will, sadly, probably discourage any alternatives for the foreseeable future - enjoy the view space and also the City and school parcel taxes that you will next see to make up for lost revenue from this and other lost opportunities.

Or perhaps you and the neighbors have reached out to other developers and offered to help them create a win-win project that you would agree in advance to give your wholehearted support?


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:51 pm

You're right, smarter developers would have walked away. In fact, with the experience the owners of Infinity have dealing with the cities on the peninsula they should have known better than to try and run through a project that had no hope of being built in the first place. Had they started out with a viable project it wouuld have been built by now or at least under construction.

And I'm sorry you are WRONG about the easement. There is none. You are also WRONG because you keep identifying this view space as if it had anything to do with our objections to the original project. To repeat, loss of view had NOTHING to do with it. I repeat, it was about lack of adequate and REQUIRED parking. And do you really think I am concerned about losing my view of El Camino?

Also, we did not discourage something from being built. I repeat, had the developer not tried to avoid following the rules, it would have already been under construction at this point. Infinity would have been able to get construction financing ahead of the tanking economy. Instead they took the calculated risk to not follow the zoning rules, gambling that the neighbors would roll over like they did at the Acorn site. They miscalculated and their gamble didn't pay off. That is not my responsibility.

I would agree in advance to support what has been approved now. I suspect it is still a viable project. My sense is this default is a product of larger financial problems at Infinity.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Interesting discussion - I'm enjoying seeing how Peter Carpenter keeps avoiding directly confronting the fact that Infinity chose to ignore the zoning laws concerning parking in their plan. Seems to me that that's where the problem began. By the time they acknowledged it and came back with a workable plan, the economy had tanked and the project was toast.

But to put this into a historical perspective. Are folks aware that the building under discussion is where the jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi (best know for writing the music to the Charlie Brown TV specials) played his last gig back in 1976 when it housed a club called Butterfields? During a break in the performance he went to his room in the Red Cottage Inn where he died, either of a heart attack or heroin overdose. A fan put together a web page that tells the tale: Web Link


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm

It occurs to me that both sides should put on one of Vince's disks and calm down and enjoy the moment. We'll all be following Vince all too soon.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Steve states:"I'm enjoying seeing how Peter Carpenter keeps avoiding directly confronting the fact that Infinity chose to ignore the zoning laws concerning parking in their plan."

Not true, the developer did NOT chose to ignore the zoning laws but did ask for a variance, which is a permitted request and something frequently done. The process then degenerated into 'how much can we extract from the developer in order to give them something we need - including making sure the neighbors to a commercial property are satisfied with that property's design before granting a permit."


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Peter -
I guess the test of your last statement is: Did the final plan change to comply with the original zoning laws regarding parking? Or, was the variance granted in exchange for some quid pro quo?
If the former, then shame on Infinity - they screwed themselves.
If the latter, then maybe you've got a point.


Posted by Henry Riggs, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Regardless of other aspects of the project, 1706 El Camino did not apply for and did not need a variance for parking, it was proposed within the Parking Guidelines - that's a separate document from zoning code.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Henry -
If they didn't need a variance for parking, why did they apply for one? I believe, without rereading everything, that both Brian and Peter stated this was the case.


Posted by Judge Tutti Frutti, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Brian writes: "To repeat, loss of view had NOTHING to do with it. I repeat, it was about lack of adequate and REQUIRED parking. And do you really think I am concerned about losing my view of El Camino?"

Sorry, Peter. Brian wins.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Steve:

the variance was NOT granted. Infinity screwed themselves.


Posted by Phil Giurlani, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm

The original application's parking was based on the City's own Use-Based Parking Guidelines which allows an applicant to reduce its parking requirement based on the proposed use, in this case medical. The reduction from 6 spaces/1000 sf to 5 spaces/1000 sf amounted to 10 spaces.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm

The issue doesn't need a judge to decide who won and who lost.
The many empty commercial buildings and sites in Menlo Park, even adjusted for the current economic conditions, speak for themselves.

Other communities will continue to attract new investments, like Tesla's headquarters in Palo Alto, while Menlo Park continues to have the ever changing rules and neighbor veto rights that will discourage new investment in Menlo Park.

And when the economy strengthens, investors will have good memories and will look at how other proposed projects were treated by a community.

Hopefully, Menlo Park has other ideas for new revenue - probably parcel taxes.


Posted by Phil, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Link to Parking Reduction
Web Link


Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm

2 questions for Brian, please.
Did the developer of the property where you live have to get a variance exempting him from any zoning regs?

Do patrons of Curves & the hair salon really park in your driveway? If so, the managers of those businesses would happily cooperate with you by posting notices at the reception desks. You can also contact MPPD to ticket the offending vehicle(s).


Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm

There have been several proposals to develop the Park Theater site, arguably the worst eyesore on El Camino. In each case, the City refused to modify its requirements for off-street parking which would have allowed intended uses.

If the City was willing to modify stipulated Gaylord's parking, it must have been quite reasonable. Generally, med-dental or offices require parking onkly during M-F business hours, which is considered quieter & less intrusive than restaurant parking at night, which predated the building of Brian's home.


Posted by Long Time Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm

If Brian lives on Stone Pine Lane or Buckthorn, adjacent to the gaylords site, that neighborhood was developed in the county and does not conform with the Menlo Park zoning ordinances. As phil Giurlani points out the city requires 6 parking places per 1000 sf of floor area. That is almost double what Palo Alto and other cities require. Plus MP includes stir well, mechanical rooms and service mezzanines in the floor area, an addition made in 2009 byt our council majority.

These details kill projects. The ordinances are far too restrictive and the built fabric of El Camino reflects it. We need to get the no growthers off the council and the planning commission. That includes Cline and Robinson on the council and Pagee, Cadvany and Bressler on the PC.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Getting back to something Brian mentioned. A building similar to the Mission-style office building on the corner of Encinal & ECR would be wonderful. That building is beautiful to look at and I would imagine it's also a pleasure to work in. It will grace this location for decades to come. I expect the developer also made a profit with it.
If this is the kind of construction the Planning Commission is holding out for then I think it's worth the wait. The economy will come back in a year or two and commercial developments will once again be hot items. Better to forgo a couple years of property taxes and get what we want than to be stuck with an eyesore for the next 100 years.


Posted by brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Downtowner:

yes the developer needed a variance.

It actually wasn't the patrons of curves, pilates zone or zink. At the time we had the problem there was a dance studio in the building which had a high level of parking demand. Gaylords parking was being used to supplement the building parking, when that wasn't enough they would start parking on our property. Once the dance studio was kicked out that problem went away. Knowing that once the medical office building went in and that parking was lost it gave us a clear indication of what would happen.

I don't think posting notices by teh businesses would do any good as it didn't do any good before. Unfortunately the police can't cite on private property. Our only recourse is to have the vehicles towed. They were ususally gone by the time a tow showed up.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Peter:

Menlo Park doesn't have "neighbor veto rights." The affected neighbors get to have input as to what goes into their neighborhoods. Those are two completely different things. If there were neighbor veto rights as you say, nothing would have been approved at that site as there were many neighbors that were against any kind of office development there.

As to developers having long memories and doing things elsewhere - sorry that doesn't fly. As I said, I work with developers. They are all about the bottom line. When the economy improves and they see opportunites to make money they will be back. It won't matter how they perceive Infinity was treated.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Steve:

many of us would have been happy with the mission style building you mention, in fact we pointed to that as a better design than what was originally proposed and more in keeping with the area and what would look nice. What was originally proposed was a tile covered box like the one they are building at Watkins and El Camino.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Brian,

Developers do have long memories and no one wants to go through what the current developer was forced to go through. But, let's let the facts speak for themselves:

I will buy you dinner at the Menlo Park restaurant of your choice if construction begins on an approved project on that site by Dec. 31 2011.

Peter


Posted by Just Wondering, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Peter,
Just what is it with you and lunch/dinner?


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Peter:

that's a sucker bet Peter and you know it. The economy has to improve sufficiently first. I don't see that much improvement happening until the at least the end of 2011. Now if you want to make it 12/31/2012, you're on.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Just Wondering asks:" Peter,

Just what is it with you and lunch/dinner?"

Simple, I like to put both my real name and my money where my mouth is.


Posted by Beauty is Subjective, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 5, 2010 at 6:24 pm

The Mission style building at the corner of Encinal was a controversial project with the same neighbors opposing it as opposed the building on the Acorn site and the Gaylord site. The council members who approved the building on a 3 to 2 vote were Steve Schmidt, Bernie Nevins and Bob Brewmeister. Paul Collacchi (the Derry project executioner) and Chuck Kinney voted against approval. The fight was, as usual, about traffic. Menlo Park nimbys always use traffic or parking as the weapons to give developers trouble, hoping to kill projects or delay them long enough that the developer will run out of money or the economy will take a down turn. Typical Menlo Park M.O.

Since its construction, the neighbors have come to like the building and now we read that it is used as an example of beautiful architecture. Go figure!


Posted by Doberman, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm

You can't have it both ways, Peter.

I have seen you repeatedly harp on the concept of transparency, with all of its trappings. I believe that you've even said, if transparency's cost is lost time, legal fees, or delayed projects ... it's OK. Democracy is not free; it's not necessarily efficient. In essence, you advocate slowing things down and driving up costs.

On the other hand, when Government does things by the numbers, you attack it for being screwed up.

Can't you see that MP's review processes and over-inclusion is directly responsible for the lack of progress on numerous fronts?

It's all in the name of transparency and open access. If you want decision by committee, this is the result.

If you want progress, then we had better elect competent people and trust that they will do the right thing.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Doberman? states:"when Government does things by the numbers, you attack it for being screwed up."

I strongly belief that government MUST do things by the numbers and my concern in this case is that government is constantly changing the rules in the middle of the game. That is unacceptable.

I believe that you can have accountability and transparency - but you cannot be constantly changing the rules.


Posted by Ryan, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 6, 2010 at 12:06 am

[Post removed; personal attacks violate terms of use]


Posted by Numbers, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 1:51 am

Peter C - so lets see how much the city would lose in business license fees for one year.
According to MP biz license fees sec 5.12 a business with annual gross receipts of $500K pays an annual fee of $275, receipts of $1 million to $2 million pays $750 and receipts of $2 to $3 million pays $1000. So lets say there were six suites in the med building and three brought in $500K and three brought in $1-2 million. That's a total biz license fee for the year of $3075 to the city. There's no sales tax on med services.
The property tax general tax rate is 1.0% of the assessed value. So if the land and building are assessed at $5 million then the general property tax would be %50,000 - for 2005-2006 the city received 12% of every dollar collected or $6,000 of that $50,000. Additionally there are numerous bonds (or debt payment) - MP Parks&Rec, MP School District, Sequoia HS District and Community College District - for 2009-2010 these added up to an additional 0.1022% or about $5,000.
So the city and the schools would lose out on about $15,000 per year (I added in another $1K for business personal property), less the current tax revenues on the property. If the assessed value were $10 million then add another $10,000.

So it's not a huge amount of money Peter. Not enough for you to keep banging your keyboard about.


Posted by arbitrary, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:19 am

Architectural taste is subjective. Menlo Park does not have a Design Review Board and only has one architect on the Planning Commission. Menlo Park does have an architectural review code that allows the City to ensure that a design is in keeping with the area. Peterson Architects was the original architect and the architect for 1906 El Camino as well, I think. He designed Menlo Center (Keplers) and a number of other buildings in Menlo Park. I trust his "taste" over the neighbors and/or City Council.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:35 am

My keyboard does rest in the knowledge that the good citizens of Menlo Park get exactly what they want and deserve in empty buildings, vacant sites, lost revenue and forgone opportunities.

Enjoy the spreading emptiness and the inevitable parcel taxes.


Posted by cynic, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 8:48 am

"...my concern in this case is that government is constantly changing the rules in the middle of the game. That is unacceptable."

Not true, Peter. The developer knew, going in, what the parking requirements were. The developer may have hoped to get a variance, as others have done, but the rules remain the rules.

Or are you suggesting that Menlo Park should never offer variances? Since the case you're trying to make is that Menlo Park is unfriendly to businesses, you can't want that! Of course, Atherton is even less friendly to business than Menlo Park is, so why are you posting here anyway?


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

Peter:

please identify where in this case the city "changed the rules." Infinity was fully aware of what the rules and processes were when they purchased the property. They gambled that they would get the variance they wanted. They didn't. They miscalculated. No matter how you twist and spin you cannot change those facts. The city and the neighbors are not responsible for Infinity's miscalculation.


Posted by why read this, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:51 am

Peter obviously knows little or nothing of interest on this subject. The partnership, led by characters of dubious backgrounds (google them), apparently has gone bankrupt. Several local people have lost their investment. It a risk you take when you join in one of the get rich quick real estate partnerships and they lost in this case.

The same leadership group is developing 1906 (El Camino and Watkins). That project, is another of developers trying to squeeze as much out of a small parcel as they can -- this results in close to the street building. It should not have been approved. It received a lot of criticism in the planning commission because of its architecture, and councilperson Fergusson was not happy at all with its design (rightfully so -- but she voted for it anyway. That corner has been the scene of numerous accidents and this structure is most likely going to increase that accident rate.

I recall Lori Sinnott, who was on the PC at the time saying, she didn't think the design was all that important since it was the very end of MP and people wouldn't care. Of course that is only true when laaving MP going north. Coming South on El Camino, 1906 is the first building on El Camino --- it is not a pretty structure as in introduction to our City.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:28 am

Why read this states:"Peter obviously knows little or nothing of interest on this subject"

Just one more lesson for anyone who wants to try to do business in Menlo Park - the City will never just so NO but rather it will keep demanding more and more and take longer and longer until it grinds you into bankruptcy. And then the City will say "but we gave you a permit".

In this case it was a permit to die.

Lesson learned by potential MP businesses? You bet.

Lesson learned by Menlo Park?
Actually, after reading all of the above comments, I am certain that Menlo Park learned nothing from this because they still don't understand that the free market has firmly declared that a building which meets with the approval of the neighbors is not financially viable.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:40 am

Peter writes: Actually, after reading all of the above comments, I am certain that Menlo Park learned nothing from this because they still don't understand that the free market has firmly declared that a building which meets with the approval of the neighbors is not financially viable.

The free market has done nothing of the kind. The building at Encinal and El Camino was built after a great deal of neighbor input and approval wasn't it? I'm betting that developer made money. What happened here is the developers miscalculated and the economy tanked. It's really that simple although you refuse to acknowledge it.

Peter, after reading your comments I think I can say if they were trying to do something like this in your neighborhood you would be leading the charge to have your voice heard.

The same process is involved anywhere someone wants to build in the city, be it residential or commercial. Story poles go up, neighbors get to put in their opinions and a final decision is made, sometimes the plans get modified to satisfy the neighbors. I know because I've been directly involved in those scenarios. Guess what, that's the way communities work. You don't get to build whatever you want where ever or however you want to build it. The developers are fully aware of this.

I also have to wonder, as one who doesn't even live in the city but is obviously excercised about this, did you have some financial stake in this project? Are you a freind of the developers? Just curious.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:46 am

Brian asks:"I also have to wonder, as one who doesn't even live in the city but is obviously excercised about this, did you have some financial stake in this project? Are you a freind of the developers? Just curious."

I have NO financial interests in this project and do not know any of the developers.

My interest in this matter is simply that I would like Menlo Park to remain a vibrant business friendly community so that I and others can continue to support it with our time, efforts and money.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Peter:

if your only interest is the improvement of Menlo Park, I suggest you move here so you can excercise your franchise to make the changes you think need to be made.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Brian states:"I suggest you move here so you can excercise your franchise to make the changes you think need to be made."

The responsibilities of good citizenship are not restricted to one's neighborhood, town, county or state. I will continue to offer my views wherever I think I can make a difference. In some instances my ideas will find support and in others they will be found wanting - that is what a vibrant democracy is all about.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Peter:

you can, of course, continue to offer your views as that is your right. To make a difference you need to vote.

I leave the last word on the matter to you.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm

A well presented and defended opinion can often result in many votes being cast in support of that opinion. The burden is on the presentor to make his case in a way that is sufficient to compel others to act.


Posted by Joe Sixpack, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm

"My interest in this matter is simply that I would like Menlo Park to remain a vibrant business friendly community so that I and others can continue to support it with our time, efforts and money."

Translation: I'm a hoity-toity Athertonian who does not want my own community to actually have to host crass commercial establishments within our town borders, so be good dears, Menlo Parkers, and do it for us exactly as we dictate, because Lord knows we'd just DIE if we had to step foot in Redwood City (Target, Costco, Safeway? How do those people live productive lives???).


Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Out of curiosity, just how many of you people who write or comment in the ALMANAC...mostly fair and generous.....have lived in the area it serves for more than one generation?
I compliment the observations of Peter Carpenter, who is no slouch on his knowledge of the area, the laws, the "operations", politics, and most of all, the "timbre" (en Francais), of what Menlo Park is as a city, a community and place to live in the mid 20th century up to today. Being an inbred 5th generation San Franciscan which up to a few years ago, would have qualified me as a genuine snob for any city outside of Hillsborough.
Palo Alto was refererred to those going there as "High Stick" for its silly name to most. Like people who want to change Mount Diablo to Mount Reagan today....that silly. In between, was Menlo Park. A "semi"
joked about community.
If anyone has any cultural, social or even comic history of the kind of areas these areas served today by the ALMANAC, our families, our help, our "new" immigrants to this area where we would play in tennis tournaments as if going to Australia to compete in the finals, was what it represented to us.Yet, we were not snobs. In there, were a lot of enterprising "foreigners" and a lot of corrupt people who, when they became rich in developing the Levitt town (as we analogized)part of the growing south Bay Area, and saw a few mansions erected to emulate mostly the Hearst thinking, with only the money and not the genius. To give it reality and genius, big money came to Stanford and respectability all of a sudden embraced your area.
If someone knows of a book or growth pattern AND the DEALS and the corruption one knows exists here to this day, it would make a great read just as CHINATOWN was a great film about the Owens Valley Project. From family pride (MONEY) emerges a lot of philanthropy which in this entire area, goes to outside areas today. Like Oakland, or minority filled areas who are learning how to paint, as opposed to being educated, or have the ability to rise above a certain income level.....there are those who were and are gifted, honest and motivated in spite of the adversities which befall those not to the manor borne. Most of those who are rich and populate and decide the planning here, were lower than working class two or three generations ago.
The research needed for all of this area takes about an ankle deep amount of research to reconstruct the history and I have heard it is being done in order to get most of you who know you who are going to be under investigation (including and mostly government appointed and elected officials)who have spent most of your salaries paid by elections (just like Bush/Gore)in the White House to Sacramento and all the California Counties which add up to close to trillions over the years.
Now, back to the Charter Schools. Just how many people actually know what they are? Are they fair? And most of all, are you prepared to take on all of the people losing their jobs daily and finding out what is going on with their medical and educational systems and who it is who may be investigated? I think not.But it is happening.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Mr. Gordon:

all I can say is what??????


Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Joe Sixpack:

you nailed it!


Posted by Numbers, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

R. Gordon - how long in Menlo in order to comment in the Almanac? I delivered it by bike in 1961-1964 when it was the Menlo Park Recorder. Is that long enough for you?


Posted by Number, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Ah, Menlo and even Atherton used to be such friendly places before the current and former high-tech and bio-tech execs from such places as Alza decided their jobs and money gave them the license to be experts upon how those with less should behave and how the "laws" only apply if they suit their desires.
Heck, we even have one former high-tech exec trying to buy herself a governorship.


Posted by in the know, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Actually its Peter's wife who is the smart one --- he just a house man


Posted by Menlo man, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2010 at 11:30 pm

"...before the current and former high-tech and bio-tech execs from such places as Alza decided their jobs and money gave them the license to be experts upon how those with less should behave and how the "laws" only apply if they suit their desires."

Yes, the used to be referred to as "nouveau riche." Old money doesn't behave that way.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 7:18 am

The responsibilities of good citizenship are not restricted to one's neighborhood, town, county or state. I will continue to offer my views wherever I think I can make a difference. In some instances my ideas will find support and in others they will be found wanting - that is what a vibrant democracy is all about.


Posted by Menlo Man, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:19 am

In this case Peter, your views are wanting.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 9:26 am

You know that the discussion is over when the opponents have nothing left but anonymous ad hominem attacks. Clearly they do not appreciate the value which the Town Forum provides or understand its simple rule "Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion".


Posted by Menlo Man, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

boo hoo


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm

So sorry the Menlo Man has to cry - why is she so easily upset?


Posted by cynic, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 7, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Why am I not surprised? Elitist AND misogynistic!

Here's a clue: women are no longer considered the lowest life form on the planet, so trying to insult a man by suggesting he's acting like a woman only makes one of you look like a fool, and it's not the man.

The days when developers could ride roughshod over a community for their own selfish benefit are also over. Menlo Park demands quality construction that serves the best interests of all. Once again, the massive recession/depression is not our council's fault!


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Menlo Man, cynic, numbers et al - the readers have no idea who you, where you really live, how you make your living, who you are married to, what your qualifications are, what your gender is simply because you choose to use anonymous names - no accountability, no responsibility and no credibility.

Editor's note: This thread is worn out, so I'm closing it. You can start a new thread on a new topic.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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