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Menlo Park commissioners 'favorably disposed' toward specific plan's height, density allowances

Original post made on Sep 18, 2013

The Menlo Park Planning Commission signaled its confidence in the provisions of the city's new downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, during the first of what's expected to be a multiple-meetings review.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 10:52 AM

Comments (21)

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Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Majority support for more control over the process is the big change. You would not know that by reading this article.

The video of the meeting is here: Web Link

The Specific Plan review starts at about 1:07:00.

There were three presentations: Staff (Rogers), Kadvany and Bressler

Followed by public comment

Discussion

Straw votes

The PC is not finished with this review.

If you really what to know what happened, review the video.


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Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Vince:

From the story -

1. "Four commissioners -- John Kadvany, Ben Eiref, Katie Ferrick and Vince Bressler -- thought more control beyond architectural review may be needed."

2. "The commission unanimously agreed to consider whether the city needed more ways to guide the selection of uses proposed for a site."

3. "The Planning Commission will take up the specific plan review again during its Sept. 23 meeting."


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Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Sandy,

I'm not disputing the facts presented. But context matters. Happy to talk to you about it.

Vince


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Posted by Misleading title
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm

The title of this piece is absolutely misleading. I followed the meeting online, and my observation was that most of the members of the public (not counting out-of-town developers) were concerned about the height, density, and traffic, and that the commissioners by and large understood and resonated with those concerns. As one of the commissioners pointed out, Menlo Park is a highly desirable location for many businesses. The developers who are hinting that they will leave town if the specific plan giveaways are trimmed are simply trying to get a better deal for themselves. Projects in the plan area are underway now -- approved in accordance with the old zoning!

I participated in the public process, and my observation is that there is little connection between the resident inputs and the plan that emerged. The majority of the planning commissioners seem to perceive this. So talking about a "five-year process" is misleading. There was a lengthy public input phase and a brief approval phase, but the plan approved had only superficial resemblance to the "village character" plans we all loved.

Most people in Menlo Park have busy lives, and are only dimly aware of the current discussion. But everyone is opposed to development that will put additional burdens on what is already pretty unbearable traffic. I am shocked to learn that the traffic studies don't even look at the areas east of El Camino, although most of the traffic to and from the sites will use 101. Willow Road is already gridlocked for chunks of the day. Where will all those cars go? Our public transit system is a joke, and there isn't even a whisper of giving us something that might help alleviate the congestion, like BART.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" the "village character" plans we all loved."

The 'we' in that statement is very misleading since it represents only a very small number of Menlo Park residents. Most MP residents want to see orderly development and have no desire to revert back to a 1930's village.


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Posted by Misleading title
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 19, 2013 at 8:05 am

Since you're not a resident of Menlo Park, Peter, perhaps you didn't attend any of the meetings that many of us attended. The result of the first phase of the plan was a document that emphasized retaining the village character of Menlo Park. It was widely praised. If having a walkable city with lots of cafes and retail opportunities is tantamount to reverting to a 1930s village, then I guess some of our favorite cities in Europe are 1930s villages. Doesn't seem to hurt them. Wouldn't hurt us either.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 8:19 am

"then some of our favorite cities in Europe are 1930s villages" I have been trying to understand just what the term "village" in the context being used by Save Menlo looks like. I looked up the term "village" on wikipedia - and the definition there is of no help. So I googled images of both "villages" and "urban villages". Lots to choose from, but YUCK with regard to most of them. Perhaps Save Menlo could take a look at the images and point to some that represent their vision for Menlo Park. There are several from Europe, and yup, they look right of the 1930s to me.


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Posted by Misleading title
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 19, 2013 at 9:11 am

Whether out-of-towners approve or not, "Maintain a village character unique to Menlo Park" was the primary goal that emerged from the first phase of the planning process. And if you don't like Paris, stay away so the rest of us can enjoy it more.


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Posted by Checking the facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 11:22 am

I continue to hope that people stop "cheery picking" quotes and pictures from past documents. (I am an optimist.) The Vision Plan (and later the Specific Plan) clearly differentiated between the Downtown area and the El Camino Real corridor, and hence, "village character" is addressed in different ways. (One size does not fit all.) On page 20 of the Vision Plan, it states "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." That is what the Specific Plan ultimately codified.

I fear that many are misusing the phrase "village character". How among us ever thought that the old auto dealerships had "village character"? It is time to move forward and seek economic vitality in the area, and freezing the clock to 1965 isn't going to do that.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2013 at 12:22 pm

We don't live in a "village" and haven't for a long time. Santa Cruz Ave doesn't have "village character." It looks mostly like something caught in a time warp that needs to catch up to current times. It's part of the reason our downtown isn't "vibrant."


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Posted by likes villages
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Large office buildings are inconsistent with a village character. The Planning Commission and Council need to deal with the problem created by the consultants, allowing greatly larger office buildings along El Camino Real.
Many villages in Europe have busy streets going right through them. But the heart of those towns is characterized by residential buildings and retail, not by offices. Menlo Park has other sections where large offices are more appropriate. Neither downtown nor El Camino are suitable.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2013 at 4:42 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Menlo Park is not a village:

Web Link


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 6:58 am

Peter Carpenter did not attend the Visioning meetings that led to the Specific Plan. Peter Carpenter seems to support everything Stanford.

And most important Peter Carpenter is not a resident of Menlo Park.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 20, 2013 at 7:13 am

Peter Carpenter presents facts. Something no one else that is opposed to the Stanford project seems capable of producing. It doesn't matter whether he lives here or not. Like most Atherton residents he spends money here because Atherton has no businesses. Would you prefer all Atherton residents take their spending elsewhere or is ok that they spend money here, but they need to keep their opinions to themselves?


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:10 am

Dismissing the opinions of people interested in what happens in Menlo Park is becoming the standard approach for those disagreeing with the stated opinions. To counter the argument, I do not live in MP; however I have worked here for over 40 years. I travel thru its streets everyday, I shop here, including my groceries, I would guess that relative to residents who work elsewhere, I spend more waking hours here on a weekly basis than they do. As a result, I tend to concern myself with things going on in MP that affect my life even more so than I do my community of residence. I repeat my previous statement, perhaps Save Menlo could take a look at the images of "villages" on Google, and point to a few that provide a clear visual of just what they want to see MP look like.


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Posted by likes villages
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:37 am

The visioning process came out loud and clear that residents want a small town or village character for Menlo Park, and want the Specific Plan to support that concept.
Not once during that process were large office buildings encouraged. Indeed, those would be inconsistent with the General Plan that calls for small-scale offices only.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is what Menlo Park's official web site states:

Our City (Population: 32,026)
Menlo Park, a Tree City USA community, is a quiet yet vibrant CITY of pleasant, tree-lined neighborhoods and friendly people. Situated on "The Peninsula", Menlo Park is conveniently located between San Francisco and Oakland on the North and San Jose on the South.

Not a village or a town but a CITY.

Time to move on.


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Posted by likes villages
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 10:05 am

The Specific Plan's Vision starts with this statement:
"Vision Plan Area Character: Maintain a village character unique to Menlo Park."

Yes, let's move on to maintain that. Other comments are irrelevant.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

So sorry to tell you but the Vision statement was superceded by the Council adopted Soecific Plan which successfully merged a lot of interesting and some conflicting ideas with a rational plan for the downtown/ECR area.

We have moved on.


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Posted by likes villages
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm

The Specific Plan specifically calls for support of the Vision in its guiding principles, below. Please deal with facts.

"Building on the Phase I Vision Plan, the El Camino Real/
Downtown Specific Plan establishes five key guiding principles for the plan area. A principle is an assumption or fundamental rule that underlies the concepts, policies,standards and guidelines of the Specific Plan. The Specific Plan's guiding principles are:
 Enhance Public Space;
 Generate Vibrancy;
 Sustain Menlo Park's Village Character;
 Enhance Connectivity; and
 Promote Healthy Living and Sustainability."


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Posted by City, not Village of MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Village character is not defined by its visual appearance. Villages are communities of farmers, crafts people, artisans, and shopkeepers etc., all forming an interdependent, teaming society. Because they have been around for many – often hundreds of years – they developed physical characteristics that we consider today as romantic and pleasant to visit. The reality is that almost all of them are struggling with modern traffic and fast growing populations.
The City of Menlo Park has never been, is not now and never will be a village!
Yes, as one poster points out, different parts of the city need to develop differently. Downtown Santa Cruz Avenue has and should retain a more retail, pedestrian oriented character than a major arterial like El Camino Real. Our focus needs to be on good design within the guidelines of the specific plan. Forget the village label but create new spaces of interest, comfort, and beauty.


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