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Menlo Park: Battle heats up over Stanford's proposed mixed-use project on El Camino

Original post made on Aug 14, 2013

Even as Stanford confirms that it has agreed to make changes to its proposed eight-acre complex on El Camino Real, according to a university spokesperson, Menlo Park residents report that the university has conducted a telephone poll to gauge support for the project and a grassroots coalition has raised thousands of dollars to pay for lawyers to fight the development.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 10:20 AM

Comments (63)

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Posted by Sandie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm

While I am not opposed to this project, as a business owner and Realtor, I do have some simple questions.
Since roads and schools get some funding from property taxes, how and what is the tax basis for this project. Will the project increase the tax basis of the property to help defer the cost of the chilren that will live in the 170 living units? If these are rental units, they do not supply revenue for the over burdened Menlo Park Schools. This is the same question for roads both during the construction and after to carry the increased burden of traffic, additional repairs and research on the timing of the signals throughout the El Camino corridor through Menlo Park. Stanford's non-profit staus may influence the property tax revenue.


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Posted by Same old Same old
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm

So this is what has become of Menlo Park the last opportunity the city had to demolish decrepit buildings and up grade our blight stricken corridor resulted in a referendum (spearheaded by a group called MENLO PARK TOMORROW) and a law suit and once again NOTHING this is also why the Stanford Cadillac site now sits vacant NO DIRECTION the last owners of the property Sand Hill properties pulled out and sold it because of the cities and citizens dysfunction (please see Alma Plaza in PA this is what happens when you have a community design a project) now SAVE MENLO PARK is threatening a lawsuit after Stanford made concessions? I hope Mr. Arillaga and his cyclical development dollars scraps the whole project and gives this city what it deserves blight and dysfunction all to satisfy a small minority? and to all those naysayers who say that all this is background noise that doesn't affect future development should ask the question why was the Derry project not pursued? get used to the view we have become the city of CANT DO and we have the blighted land to prove it thanks to SAVE MENLO and MPT? hopefully the citizens will wake up someday and ask them selves why is development going on all around us but not Menlo we have had the same blighted spaces for years remember Park theater? its still there and vacant? is this what you call smart growth? you are just cementing our reputation as a city who cant dream big and by the way I have been a retailer and property owner for over 40 years and have seen it all.


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Posted by look around
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm

SOSO - look around. Obviously you haven't seen it all.

There are a number of projects being built on El Camino right now. These ALL were approved under the old rules.
The Derry applicants got a project approved by the Planning Commission after that referendum; they just didn't take it forward to the council, probably because of the economy. Remember? The economy that tanked for a while? It's better now and projects are coming forward.

The Park Theater is another matter. The owner closed a popular tehater and created the blight.

I have no doubts all the vacant lots could be developed, even under the old rules. Just keep watching.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2013 at 5:48 am

"SaveMenlo" is doing incalculable harm to Meno Park. By standing in front of every single attempt to advance our town, we remain stuck in neutral. They represent to goals of just one person, not a community. Doing nothing, ever, is not a strategy......


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Posted by look around
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

The savemenlo group is bringing needed attention on an enormous project that will greatly worsen traffic congestion. They seem to comprise a lot of new voices, and they've been quite explicit they aren't for "doing nothing".


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2013 at 11:46 am




While I agree with some of SaveMenlo's objections to the Specific Plan and to Stanford's El Camino development proposal, I have chosen to step aside and wait for the group to get up to speed on the complicated land use issues raised by the Stanford proposal. 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 SP.

There were elements of the Specific Plan, such as project vehicular access through the Middle Avenue Plaza, reduction of open space requirements from 40% to 30%, definition of private balconies as open space, elimination of publicly-accessible building breaks that were either initiated by Stanford and/or City Staff and in some instances, 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 in the El Camino Real SE Zone to 0.75 so that these and other defects can be repaired. The reduction of the Floor Area Ratio on ECR has given Stanford an increased value to its property that will bring somewhere near an additional $5M 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.

Steve Schmidt, Former Mayor of Menlo Park


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The reduction of the Floor Area Ratio on ECR has given Stanford an increased value to its property that will bring somewhere near an additional $5M per year in rental income for the life of the buildings."

I suspect that Schmidt meant "the increase of the Floor Area Ratio...". It is nice however that he values the difference at $5M per year which is what Stanford would lose if the current FAR in ECR-SE were reduced to 0.75. He would be an excellent court witness on damages.

The Specific Plan rationale for the current FARs is stated as follows:
"The Specific Plan places the highest intensity of
development around the train station, consistent with goals
mentioned in the paragraph above. It also focuses higher
development intensities on the parcels on the east side
of El Camino Real south of Ravenswood Avenue. These
larger parcels can accommodate more development, and
they are isolated from adjacent residential neighborhoods
by El Camino Real to the west and the railroad tracks
and Alma Street to the east."

Note that the FAR in ECR-NE is 1.10 and in 2.00 in Downtown - it is hard to see how an FAR of 0.75 for ECR-SE could be logically justified except as a selective downzoning of Stanford properties.


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Thanks, Peter, for the correction. The reduction of the FAR to 0.75 would require negotiation of public benefit for any development above that level, and not limited to Stanford properties. Stanford could submit a proposal similar to what appears to be on the table at this time, only with greater public benefit.


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Posted by really concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Look -- Can you identify areas of true advancement that have been fostered by SaveMenlo? I dont know of any but would be interested in your thoughts and examples. Folks can also suggest that it all comes down to wording and very precise elements of a design proposal but that is not the main point. Details matter but that does not seem to be the hold up. The reality is that this community needs to actually take some action in order to keep its downtown from decaying. You take an action and learn from it, which informs your next decision, and so on. That is how progress is made. But the key is starting. It is far easier to try to stall progress than it is to take a well-reasoned first steps. If you dont trust Stanford to be responsible, then would you prefer and out of state investor with little reputational ties? This is not a public service project, it is business and we should assume that business people will be very focused on the numbers. The best business people also know that they need to work with the local community to foster long term relationships. The $ will not wait for Menlo Park -- they will go elsewhere, which I think SM will see as a victory. Thanks


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Posted by Bike Tunnel
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Steve Schmidt, are you saying the FAR should be lowered far enough to force Stanford to pay for a bike tunnel that connects Linfield Oaks to El Camino as a public benefit?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I think what Schmidt is proposing is to require ANYBODY who wants to build an economically viable project in Menlo Park must pay a bribe in the guise of a public benefit payoff. In any other country such a payment by a US entity would be illegal.
This is also a devious way to impose a new tax on development.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 15, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Peter:

"entitlements" as they're called are pretty standard in every city where one does development. Some are bigger than others but every city requires them of any significant development. Especially developments that will create impacts on city services without equal incomes. The Stanford project is a prime example as is the Gateway project. In the case of the Stanford project the store was given away without any significant entitlements. Of course we didn't get much out of the Gateway project either, but.... The Stanford project will have significant impacts on the city with little to no sales tax or property tax income to offset those impacts.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 15, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I predict that the Stanford project will yield large revenues to MP both in permit fees and property taxes. Stanford would not be developing this project unless it was a revenue generator rather than for non-profit educational purposes.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Peter:

office space doesn't generate sales tax. What other taxable revenue will this project generate. That is taxes that will benefit Menlo Park directly?


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Posted by correction, please
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Regarding permit fees, these are to be revenue neutral (per council direction years ago). The fees are to pay for staff time for overseeing the construction process of the development. this is the same mistake Peter Ohtaki made in 2012. This development will take years and many hours of staff time.

Wait till the excavation of the garage begins and the 18,000 truck trips start hauling the 160,000 cubic yards of dirt from the site. ECR will be a dusty nightmare for a very long time. This will be the beginning of the impacts we will all have to suffer. there are impacts of every kind that MP residents will live with.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"What other taxable revenue will this project generate."
Property taxes based on the valuation of the completed project - which will be in the tens of millions.


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Bike Tunnel: The Menlo Park Bike & Pedestrian Master Plan identifies a bike/pedestrian undercrossing of the Caltrain tracks in the vicinity of Middle Avenue. The July 2012 Specific Plan mentions this facility as one of several possible public benefit elements to be considered for negotiation if a developer seeks to build a project above the base level Floor Area Ratio. That's on Page E17. So far that is something that Stanford has told Council Member Keith that they are willing to at least partially fund. So I'm not the only one that considers an undercrossing to be a valuable public benefit that provides east-west connectivity, nor is it an alien concept as Menlo Voter has reminded you.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If Stanford wants to contribute to a bike tunnel that is great. But to reduce the FAR for the entire ECR Specific Plan to 0.75 in order to force ALL new projects to pay a fee for constructing economically viable developments is an act of stupidity.


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Posted by joe
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Peter Carpenter predicts "that the Stanford project will yield large revenues to MP both in permit fees and property taxes."

Wikipedia tells me CA cites seek retail development for the sales tax revenue given property taxes are regulated by Prop 13. Stanford's taxes will forever be protected by Prop 13.

Hotel or retail would generate more revenue for the city and allow MP to pay their fire fighters pensions.


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Posted by MenloFam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 5:56 am

I believe that a top notch bike tunnel must be central to the negotiated solution. The east west connectivity, in particular access to Burgess and the library, would be a great benefit to the community and the project. If done right, it can draw non cat traffic to and through the area, adding a clean element of vibrancy.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 16, 2013 at 6:58 am

Joe:

actually Peter is correct about the property taxes. I had forgotten about that. Whenever one does a work of improvement to a piece of property it is subject to reassessment. It happens to my clients all the time when they tear down an old home and build new or add on. The tax assessor bumps up the property value. And the increased value is based on the value of the improvement.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 16, 2013 at 7:00 am

One other thing Joe. Menlo Park doesn't have any firefighters. We have a fire district. The district pays the fire fighters. And if I'm not mistaken the fire district is funded solely by property taxes.


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Posted by C'mon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 8:48 am

I wish we had a strong civic voice and vision to move this forward. After over 10 yrs observing, it is clear that MP has neither. In time here, Santa Cruz has gone backwards, as has ECR. All the while, investment has gone to paly, Burlingame, Los Altos, etc. If we did not benefit so much from our proximity to Stanford and Valley, we'd be in tough shape. We have done very little to drive our own future.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 9:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I continue to advocate for a Middle Ave Tunnel which can accommodate not only pedestrians and bicycles but which would also be an automobile link to the garage of the Stanford project (not permitting thru car traffic). This would more equitably distribute the auto traffic from this project and also would reduce the traffic impact on the ravenswood and oak grove intersections with ECR.


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Posted by joe
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Menlo Voter, " Whenever one does a work of improvement to a piece of property it is subject to reassessment."

How many clients are corporations? I take it none are given what you described so residential property owners subsidize corporate property owners.

It is simple. A development that generates sales tax revenue also pays property tax and helps MP. Medical offices generated excessive traffic - little sales tax. Offices are better but not as good as that Hotel I thought would be built or more retail.

I also propose the pensions MP owns and that worry Peter so much could be paid with MP revenue. That's not a fire dsitrict - it's a pension fund.


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Posted by JK
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 16, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Unfortunately, it appears to me that Same Old Same Old may be right. Despite our highly sought after location, we have empty lots that have been vacant for years. Stanford has made concessions--lets go with it. Let's stop waiting for Prince Charming. I would like to see MP be a vibrant community--not a bunch of vacant buildings/lots.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Under Prop 13 ALL property is reassessed when it changes ownership or is improved.

The current assessed value of the Stanford parcels is based on the long ago construction costs and valuation with same Prop 13 annual increases. When the new Stanford project is built, absent savemenlo throwing themselves in front of the train, the assessed value will probably be 100 times the current assessed value and the property tax increase will be huge.


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Posted by Correction, please
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Auto "Link to the garage" at Middle Ave. on the east side of the Stanford development? That's not a bad idea. Another place where a garage entrance should go is Cambridge at Willow. Two garage entrances would relieve some of the pressure of traffic on ECR. It is not good planning to have stanford project's added daily trips all enter and exit on ECR.

If our council and our city is in support of this "progress", then spread the pain around equally. I like this idea.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Joe:

as Peter stated, it matters not whether it is residential or commercial property. When a property is improved it is reassessed. The costs of this project will be huge and result in a huge increase in the property taxes collected. Property taxes are what our city uses for much of our infrastructure as I understand it. That and utility taxes. A project of this size will also be hit with a sizable utility tax.


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Posted by Not exactly progress
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

So some of you believe it would be a great idea to have the cars from this project exit directly onto Alma? Right across from a park where a lot of children play? Great idea! Sharing the pain means that the Willow gridlock that currently exists east of Middlefield will now extend the length of Middlefield and probably affect Alma too. Ravenswood will be impassable. And the benefit to us is, possibly, a one-time bump in property tax?


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Posted by look around
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:27 am

Reliance on property taxes to pay for city services is like getting addicted to a narcotic. There's an initial rush, but it's unsustainable. The growth of property taxes is limited by Proposition 13, so that revenue stream won't grow as quickly or as high as the city's costs to support the development will.
Not all development is equal in the net revenue provided. In the case of the Specific Plan, the Financial Impact Analysis concluded that new development would be a net drain on city coffers unless there were two hotels, one of which was illustrated to be on Stanford's site. Neither residences nor offices pay their way; retail can, though, and it makes sense to promote it. The city's economic development manager just reported that demand for retail space is up. There's a lot of new activity on Santa Cruz Ave downtown to substantiate that.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 17, 2013 at 7:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The growth of property taxes is limited by Proposition 13, so that revenue stream won't grow as quickly or as high as the city's costs to support the development will."

This is only true if the leadership of the city fails to exercise responsible fiscal management. Effective cost control is a learned discipline and any local government that does not learn that lesson will run into financial trouble.


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Posted by Prop 13
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm

If you believe in fairy tales, you'll love the fiction that governments can simply belt-tighten to stay within financial constraints. Fact is that adding this amount of office space to Menlo Park will require an increase in management resources that are not limited to a !% per year increase in costs.

If this project were 100% retail on the first floor and included a hotel, it would pencil out for the city. As it is, it will be a huge drean on resources, more so with each passing year.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"you'll love the fiction that governments can simply belt-tighten to stay within financial constraints."

Wrong, it is fiction and fairy tale to believe that local government (which cannot print money) can spend more than they receive. Note that both the Fire District and West Bay Sanitary District have NO sales tax revenue and no parcel tax revenue and both have balanced budgets.

"limited to a !% per year increase in costs."
Wrong, under Prop 13 annual increases to the base year value are limited to the inflation rate, as measured by the California Consumer Price Index, or TWO percent, whichever is less. A new base year value, however, is established whenever a property, or portion thereof, has had a change in ownership or has been newly constructed.


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Posted by Correction, please
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Not exactly progress: thank you for your reality check. Middle Ave. and Alma would not be a good place for a garage entrance because of its proximity to the park. However, Willow and Cambridge would be a better site for a garage entrance. Taking some of the traffic off ECR would definitely help. I find your words "gridlock" and "impassable" examples of hyperbole. Congestion is what exists twice a day as people come from and travel to 101. That's life in 2013.


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Posted by MenloFam
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 6:33 pm

While interesting and useful, most of the detailed comments in this thread miss the main point about the importance of this project. In 10 years in the area, we have seen MPs downtown deteriorate while business $ has good to towns with better economics, such as Burlingame, Palo Alto and Los Altos. The difference is striking and they all lived through the downturn. We can debate cause and effect but clearly Menlo Park does not present itself as a welcoming town for new business and, at the margin, we lose to other towns. This project, while destined to be imperfect like all projects, can be a CATALYST for the rest of the town. One project provides opportunities for new businesses to open, which encourages others. One must think of the totality of the benefit, not just the economics of on project as if it was in isolation. Nothing is in isolation but if MP is seen as unwelcoming, investment will go elsewhere and Santa Cruz will remain the street that we all drive down to go somewhere else for dinner, shopping, errands....do not take this opportunity for granted.


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Posted by joe
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm

"This project, while destined to be imperfect like all projects, can be a CATALYST for the rest of the town. "

Uh. I have zero interest in visiting a Office Building. I visit MtView for the retail and dining also Palo Alto for the retail store fronts. Offices will sit empty at night - crickets.


And I think it's silly to fret about businesses passing up Menlo Park if you don't add this office park. It's a great location and the city can expect a better, more tax generating development.


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Posted by joe
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm

"limited to a !% per year increase in costs."

Wrong, under Prop 13 annual increases to the base year value are limited to the inflation rate, as measured by the California Consumer Price Index, or TWO percent, whichever is less. A new base year value, however, is established whenever a property, or portion thereof, has had a change in ownership or has been newly constructed.

Peter's just arguing against reality. Anyone here think Stanford is going to sell this property? Not in a Hundred years.

Wikipedia is more trustworthy.

It clearly shows Peter's telling half truths.

"Proposition 13 sets the value of properties at the time of purchase, with a possible 2% annual assessment increase. Therefore, properties of equal value have a great amount of variation in their assessment, even if they are next to each other.[4] The disparity grows when property prices appreciate by more than 2% a year. The Case-Shiller housing index shows prices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco appreciated 170% from 1987 (start of available data) to 2012 while the 2% cap only allowed a 67% increase during this 26-year period."

Oh my.



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" A new base year value, however, is established whenever a property, or portion thereof, has had a change in ownership or has been newly constructed."

Stanford's property does not have to change ownership to be reassessed it just has to have newly constructed buildings.

PLEASE pay attention and read what has been posted.


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Posted by MPResident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2013 at 6:02 am

Joe: it appears that you don't live in Menlo Park and that you, in fact, don't even visit for the businesses. As a resident, I can tell you that it is frustrating to have a downtown that has so few choices, especially if you have a family. The decision of a business to open in Menlo Park is a big one and if the climate is non hospitable and if the town has modest foot traffic (which we do), they will take the business elsewhere. The result is empty storefronts and a total lack of vibrancy. This impacts new offerings, tax revenues and ultimately home prices. A Class A development has benefits to a town that go beyond just that project. Tweaking the SF of the project and the allocation to office space, etc. matters, of course, but the key is removing the blight and getting something moving. You take an informed step, learn from it and move forward.


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Posted by look around
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

If the property does not change hands, only the new structures are reassessed, not the land. That is one of the reasons our school systems are having so much trouble. Commercial land doesn't turn over that often so commercial property taxes aren't increasing as much as they used to do before Prop 13.
It seems that few of those posting here have looked at Menlo Park recently. Almost every downtown storefront on Santa Cruz has activity; even the long-vacant new space next to the spice store seems to have a new tenant coming. There are at least 3 projects under construction on El Camino. Look around. Consider that none of these are using the new standards of the specific plan.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 18, 2013 at 10:22 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"If the property does not change hands, only the new structures are reassessed, not the land"

Correct, and in the case of the ECR-SE project that increased valuation from the proposed project will far exceed what result from a valuation based on the current market value of the land.


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Posted by C'mon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Look around. Yes, some new businesses but very few and certainly none that capture retail traffic and create vibrancy. Some is cost related but some is choice. If u don't see traffic, u don't open a store that depends on it. Take a closer look.


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Posted by pragmatist
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I wonder how many residents of Menlo Park -- even long-time residents -- have been to 3000 Sand Hill Road, venture capital haven. Similar to this El Camino project, it's almost 100% office. Vibrant? Not exactly. It does generate quite a bit of traffic, but because it's right by the exit onto 280, the traffic doesn't affect most residents.

It's not a destination, other than for people who have business at one of the firms. It hasn't sparked new retail development. Since those offices don't pay sales tax, and even if its property taxes rise at the max every year, it contributes little to the city coffers.

The big difference between 3000 Sand Hill and this proposed development is that 3000 Sand Hill attracts so many business customers that Stanford realized it was worth the investment to build a hotel across the street. And the hotel is a big revenue generator for our city. But the promised hotel on El Camino is not going to emerge.

Score card: vibrancy -- neutral impact, traffic -- much worse, revenue -- overall negative impact, worsening over time, housing allocation -- ABAG will insist that we zone for another 1000 housing units, and therefore schools -- negative impact due to overcrowding from housing. And that's without looking at the impacts on infrastructure, including water, storm system, sewage, etc.

No one likes the ugly empty lots, but surely we can do better. First floor retail is the way to go, and should be required. Retail, and only retail, generates vibrancy.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Pragmatist:

ever wonder where all those people at 3000 Sand Hill ate lunch before the Rosewood was built? Where do you think all of the occupants of an office development on ECR are going to eat lunch? Hint: they won't be bringing their lunch. Late workers also bleed over into dinner traffic for local restaurants. Think about it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Some people just don't seem to understand that you cannot have customers without traffic and no customers means no sales tax and no income for local merchants.

For example, the medical offices that have been forced out would have brought more traffic but also more customers to Menlo Park merchants than the other uses in this project.

Guess how much local business is created by the current uses of these parcels.


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Posted by pragmatist
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I've eaten lunch at the 3000 Sand Hill restaurant. Many times. The food is not very good, and it's not exactly a destination, unless you want to eavesdrop on VCs. I'm sure the new office building will have a sandwich shop, but since that complex will be roughly equidistant from the mall and downtown MP, and not very far from downtown Palo Alto, anyone who ventures outside is probably not going to be eating in Menlo Park. Why would they when the options are much more plentiful elsewhere?

When I go to the doctor, just about the last thing I want to do before or after my visit is shop, especially if I'm sick or have kids in tow.

So, offices not great, medical probably worse. Retail brings vitality. Retail brings the city revenue. None of you has an argument that refutes that, so you're coming up with nitpicky distractions.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Do you ever think why so many retail stores on Santa Cruz fail? Retail needs customers. Adding more retail without adding customers is a losing proposition.
The ECR-SE project will add a lot of new customers for any MP business that has the savvy to attract them. People who need gas, auto repairs, groceries, services, etc.

Of course MP could simply freeze itself in time and everyone could sit around and enjoy the good ole times.


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Posted by Cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Thank you Peter and MV. It is so obvious. just driving down Santa Cruz after taking in a movie at Guild (near empty) and I thought it was a city holiday -- essentially no one in any of the stores. Almost zero on a beautiful summer day in city loaded with ready consumers. This analysis paralysis is harmful to Menlo Park. You start in a reasonable position of compromise and then you evolve from there. That is how progress happens.


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Posted by pragmatist
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Logical inconsistency! Adding office space on El Camino is not going to increase the retail activity on Santa Cruz on a Sunday. No causal effect.

I see the Stanford lobbyists are out in full force trying to control the messaging. Fortunately, many residents have degrees from the hallowed institution -- we're not stupid enough to fall for empty rhetoric!


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Posted by C'mon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 4:46 am

Not an inconsistency in the least. The point is that progress on ECR begets progress in the vicinity, which will benefit Santa Cruz. We have tried the do nothing approach for a long period of time and it has not worked. Reach a reasonable compromise on this project, learn, adjust, move on. I say we try it.


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I can guarantee that the residents in the Willow/Alma area will fight any garage entrance until the death.

I don't think anyone can argue that such an entrance would increase traffic in a 100% residential neighborhood.

And as I asked in another thread: Wouldn't it be less expensive to build a bike/ped bridge than digging a tunnel?


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Posted by Samia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm

For those discussing a car tunnel across the railroad tracks to the Stanford development, Senior Planner Thomas Rogers addressed this at the January 28, 2013 Planning Commission meeting:

"Commission Questions: Commissioner Bressler asked staff to put the plaza design from the Plan on the screen...He said there were also rumors that a car tunnel might be constructed in the location where there had been discussions for a bicycle/pedestrian tunnel. He asked if that would be allowed under the Plan. Planner Rogers said that would not be consistent with the Plan in any respect or the EIR prepared for the Plan."

Web Link


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Samia:

why should an auto tunnel being inconsistent with the Plan or the EIR matter? Clearly Savemenlo doesn't care that the proposed project IS consistent with the Plan and the EIR. If it's good for the goose it's good for the gander. Let's just toss the whole plan shall we?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I can guarantee that the residents in the Willow/Alma area will fight any garage entrance UNTIL THE DEATH."

Don't you love the wonderful spirit of compromise that permeates Savemenlo and their eastern counterparts in the Willows/Alma area?

Why in the world would any developer waste time talking to the people about how to improve a project knowing that the opponents only goal is to stop anything that in any way impacts them?


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Me thinks they protest too much. They think they are more important than they are. Move forward already!!


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

BTW - I live nowhere close to Alma/Willow. But in this case, I would be very sympathetic to their objection (if it were to come about).

You have the Sunset and Geo Survey, plus two small office complexes that go up to Waverly. So there is *some* traffic on south Willow. But to drastically change the traffic flow with a garage entrance on Alma would have a huge negative impact upon the *neighborhood*.

Plus if you acknowledge that the traffic patterns of the neighborhood have essentially been that way since the 1960s, that everyone has purchased their homes (or rented their apartments) based upon a largely neighborhood existence...adding a commercial entrance/exit into the neighborhood is not right at all.

Unless --- someone wants to step up and tell MP to finally build the Willow Expressway that was on the books back in the 1960's.

Yeah, right.


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Posted by look around
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Housing on El Camino would generate a lot more hometown vibrancy than offices would. Offices are dead at night. There wasn't a line item in the Specific Plan's Vision about wanting more office buildings.

Residents would support the kinds of local businesses a small town wants to have locally so existing residents don't have to go to other towns to shop for things we need. Stanford's project still is about 50% office, and will cause more pressures on Menlo Park to add housing someplace else. The additional jobs Stanford would add don't balance the housing it adds. There have been hopes this site would help relieve the housing shortage already here, not add to it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"There wasn't a line item in the Specific Plan's Vision about wanting more office buildings."

Wrong, offices are mentioned dozens of time AND included in the ECR-SE zoning )see Table E9).
"Maximum FAR for Offices, inclusive
of Medical and Dental Offices -
One half of the Base or Public Benefit Bonus FAR, whichever is applicable"

PLEASE do your homework before posting false and misleading statements.


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Posted by look around
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Read the Vision


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

PLEASE do your homework before posting false and misleading statements.

From the Vision

"On the east side of El Camino, south of Ravenswood Avenue, new
buildings are up to 4 stories in height. Uses include residential, retail,
office and potentially a hotel with conference facilities."

Group 1 comment:
"-Office and housing more appropriate in northern portion of El Camino"

Group 9 comment:
"-Attract medical office uses"


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Posted by look around
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 20, 2013 at 6:08 pm

The Vision Goals from the city website:
Vision Plan Area Character: Maintain a village character unique to Menlo Park.
East-West Connectivity: Provide greater east-west, town-wide connectivity.
El Camino Real Circulation: Improve circulation and streetscape conditions on El Camino Real.
Neighborhood Context: Ensure that El Camino Real development is sensitive to and compatible with adjacent neighborhoods.
Vacant and Underutilized Parcels on El Camino Real: Revitalize underutilized parcels and buildings.
Train Station Area: Activate the train station area.
Santa Cruz Avenue Pedestrian Character: Protect and enhance pedestrian amenities on Santa Cruz Avenue.
Downtown Vibrancy: Expand shopping, dining and neighborhood services to ensure a vibrant downtown.
Housing: Provide residential opportunities in the Vision Plan Area.
Open Space: Provide plaza and park spaces.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation: Provide an integrated, safe and well-designed pedestrian and bicycle network.
Parking: Develop parking strategies and facilities that meet the commercial and residential needs of the community.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""There wasn't a line item in the Specific Plan's Vision about wanting more office buildings.""

Wrong as noted above.

From the Vision Plan (things conveniently left out by look around:
"The character identified in the visioning process for El Camino Real is one that
includes variety in development."

"A mix of uses, with upper floor uses ranging from residential to office
and—under specific circumstances—retail."

"On the east side of El Camino, south of Ravenswood Avenue, new
buildings are up to 4 stories in height. Uses include residential, retail,
office and potentially a hotel with conference facilities."

"Community members continually expressed their concern
about the blight these vacant parcels bring to Menlo Park and urged that they
be redeveloped in a timely manner. Additionally, the community supported
redevelopment of other parcels along El Camino Real currently developed in
a less-efficient manner. For example, some community members expressed
that small, 1-story auto mechanic and service uses were not appropriate on El
Camino Real."

etc, etc. etc.....

Plus the Vision Plan was followed by and superseded by the ECR Specific Plan.


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