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Menlo Park: Specific plan initiative supporters critique consultant's analysis

Original post made on Aug 5, 2014

The backers of an initiative to change the Menlo Park downtown/El Camino Real specific plan have released their take on a consultant's analysis of the initiative.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 10:45 AM

Comments (31)

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Posted by Progress
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:13 am

If you want to see a revitalized vibrant downtown with excellent shopping, great family restaurants and thriving small businesses,
VOTE NO ON THE INITIATIVE.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the initiative's authors state above-ground space could count towards open space requirements for residential developments in some zoning areas."

Lanza and Fry don't even understand their own initiative:
3.2.5. As adopted on July 12, 2012, ECR Specific Plan Standard E.3.6.02
states: "Residential open space (whether in common or private
areas) and accessible open space above parking podiums up to 16
feet high shall count towards the minimum open space requirement
for the development." The foregoing Standard is hereby amended,
restated and adopted by the voters to instead read: "Ground floor
open space up to 4 feet high (whether in common or private areas)
and accessible open space above parking podiums up to 4 feet high
shall count towards the minimum open space requirement for the
development. Open space exceeding 4 feet in height (regardless of
whether in common or private areas or associated with podiums)
SHALL NOT count towards the minimum open space requirement for
the development."

If the authors don't understand the initiative how can they expect anybody else to understand this 12 page poorly written and confusing initiative?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Is it that they "don't understand" or are they lying about what the initiative will do?


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Posted by Member One
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm

I don't shop in MP, I don't dine in MP, and if I didn't HAVE to drive thru MP, I wouldn't. Unfortunately, living in Atherton, I have to deal with the mess the town has created.

What mess you ask?

Well, FB comes to mind. Unanticipated traffic, the result of a poorly scoped and implemented study, now has long lasting effects on quality of life issues. Downtown MP is no longer a destination, and much of MP is a regrettable commute zone.

Another part of this (expletive deleted) equation is lack of suitable commercial enterprise, including restaurants, quality storefronts, and interest points that disappeared long ago. Thanks MP for inadequate parking, high rents, and an outdated look. The food trucks will not add substantially to your success factors. Unless you believe that's the solution.

Oh, and how attractive is ECR from University (former car dealerships) to Encinal complete with vacant lots, low quality or abandoned businesses adding to the eyesore value (looks a lot like Detroit).

My suggestion: Come to your senses, MP planning people, and City Council members (better yet, MP voters who installed these idiots) and try to mimic Palo Alto's success, where I frequently shop, dine, and enjoy that area's class act.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Member One:

many of us are trying to make a better Menlo Park with all of the things you mention. We spent six years coming up with a plan. Then when it came time to implement that plan a few cry babies that didn't get their way threw a monkey wrench into the whole thing. As usual in Menlo Park.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Brian is a registered user.

You want to talk about winers, read the comments above. Enough people want a say in their city that they got the initiative on the ballot. Deal with it. Fine, oppose it, that is your right and speaking you mind is also your right, but the vireol expressed by the opponents of the initiave certainly does not help your cause and in most cases makes you look like a bunch of "crying babies" to use Menlo Voters words.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Brian - just exactly where is the vitriol in any of the above postings?

Is it vitriol to quote verbatim from the Lanza/Fry initiative?

Is it vitriol to point out that even the authors do not understand what they wrote?


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Posted by Sam Tyler
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Brian:

I have tried to keep my comments on point and addressing incorrect statements. (Please permit me the occasional snarky comment.) However, the Save Menlo camp continue to make incorrect statements, even when corrected by facts. Then they go on and repeat the same old incorrect statements. MY question to you: If someone makes an incorrect statement that they know to be incorrect when they make it, what do you call them?

The Save Menlo camp seems to embrace the philosophy of throwing anything against the wall, hoping some of it sticks. They are clearly engaged in a "by any means" strategy. They doesn't seem to care when proven wrong. I am not talking just about these blogs, I am talking about statements made in public and on their web site. Saying the same incorrect statement over and over again does not make it true.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Saying the same incorrect statement over and over again does not make it true."

"To lie = to make an assertion that is believed to be false to some audience with the intention to deceive the audience about the content of that assertion."

I believe that when Save menlo supporters repeat statements which have been shown to be false that they are either lying or stupid - you can take your choice.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Peter, you read and interpret what you want. If you don't see any attackt or vitreol in the above posts that's fine.

Sam, It would be nice if you held everyone to the same standard. As an example let's go back a few weeks to when certain people were using their position to blame "the initiative" for causing Fire Board to abandon the new downtown fire station. do you consider that a fair and accurate statement? Do you think all the facts were included in that statement? A project that had been delayed for over 7 years? Certain folks with a strong bias against the initiative and a position to cast blame took an opportunity to use it as a scapegoat for poor planning and project management on the part of the fire board and the city of Menlo Park.

Member One, I feel the exact same way about Atherton, don't shop there, don't dine there and wouldn't even give the city a passing thought if I didn't have to drive there and watch out for the people jay walking accross El Camino.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" blame "the initiative" for causing Fire Board to abandon the new downtown fire station."

This is exactly what the initiative has done - with considerable harm and expense to the taxpayers of the Fire District. Watch the Fire Board discussion to both understand the facts and to see how I was personally attacked by the Lanza/Fry supporters.


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Posted by Member Two
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Here's my thought for the day, week, year...

Get on the ballot a requirement for the property owners (Stanford Trust, others) of the blight areas - ECR from University to Encinal - to clean up the land, remove the chain link fences, plant trees, shrubs, and flowers. It might look like someone gives a damn about what the town looks like, then perhaps a few investors might believe it's a nice place to properly develop.

Just because you own property doesn't give you the right to neglect it until someone with deep pockets offers a plan to improve the property.

Wait a minute...that's been done already.
Stupid me.


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Posted by Member One
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Brian,

There are no shops in Atherton.
There are no restaurants in Atherton. (Both are Town Code)
And it's far more attractive to drive thru than the ugly spots on ECR that Member Two highlighted.

That's because we have a highly competent Town Council and a Master Plan that seems to work.

And what you drive on (ECR) is a 6 land state highway managed and maintained by Caltrans. The Town of Atherton is a stakeholder, just like Menlo Park. Feel free not to use it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

None of the Stanford or Greenheart properties, in their present condition, constitute what Cali Code 33031 defines as "blight".

And as the law notes "(b) A blighted area is one that contains both of the following:
(1) An area that is predominantly urbanized, as that term is
defined in Section 33320.1, and is an area in which the combination
of conditions set forth in Section 33031 is so prevalent and so
substantial that it causes a reduction of, or lack of, proper
utilization of the area to such an extent that it constitutes a
serious physical and economic burden on the community that cannot
reasonably be expected to be reversed or alleviated by private
enterprise or governmental action, or both, without redevelopment."

Clearly both Stanford and Greenheart have demonstrated their willingness to develop these properties - the only obstacle is the Lanza/fry Initiative and Save Our Special Interests.


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Posted by Member Two
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Peter,
I don't particularly care what or who defines "blight."
The Stanford / Greenheart properties are an eyesore.

I believe what is holding back development is their greed.

If I were in a position to dictate what were to be done, I'd eminent domain their land and build affordable housing.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Member two:

I guess you don't care about traffic as housing has a far higher impact on traffic than offices do.

You've shown your true colors though. Seize someone else's property because you don't agree with how they want to use it. There's a word for that.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Member Two - you clearly do not understand either the laws of eminent domain or the terms of the Stanford Trust.


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Posted by Member Two
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:45 am

Peter,
Here's a thought: My grandparents were forced off their farm by eminent domain so the state could build a school. Surely someone can build something on the "blighted" properties in the public interest.

Also, I don't know about the Stanford Trust, don't care about it, and I don't care who makes money from it. I want to see the properties maintained so they don't look abandoned. Once that's done, let them take 100 years to fight over its development.

Menlo Voter,
The difference in traffic between housing and offices must be miniscule in comparison to the gem of traffic volume the Safeway complex on ECR/Middle Ave created.

Apparently MP can forego tax revenue to reduce traffic flow. Shoulda thought about that BEFORE FB sold the city a bill of goods. Ask the residents of Willow Drive how they like that.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:47 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Member Two - so you just want to ignore the laws?

Eminent Domain may only be used by a government to acquire land for PUBLIC PURPOSES.
I sincerely doubt that the City of Menlo Park has sufficient funds to buy the Stanford ECR property AND then to utilize it for public purposes.

The Stanford Trust PROHIBITS the sale of Stanford land and the only Stanford land that has ever been "sold" was acquired by the State to build 280.


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Posted by 148,000 Question
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm

How many hours did this consultant work on the study? Still trying to figure out how an analysis can add up to $148,000. City Manager's response will be interesting - or are we going to have to wait until after the City Hall Remodel is completed and there are the proper number of desks before we get to hear it?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The consultant was paid for a 'work product', not for X hours of work so it makes no difference how many hours the consultant's staff spent preparing the report.

Does 148k have anything substantive to add to the discussion??


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Posted by 148,000 Question
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 6, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Why not 500,000?! 2 Million dollars? Or is 148,000 enough to pay a consultant to give you the answer you want?

Yes, taxpayers who are footing the bill have right to know how this $148,000 was agreed upon and how many hours were spent by the consultant putting together the report for a public agency.

If you don't find that substantive, Mr Carpenter then it could be that you're not a taxpayer in the City of Menlo Park.


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Posted by Joseph Baloney
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Peter Carpenter writes "Eminent Domain may only be used by a government to acquire land for PUBLIC PURPOSES.
I sincerely doubt that the City of Menlo Park has sufficient funds to buy the Stanford ECR property AND then to utilize it for public purposes."

Wow, you never cease to amaze me Peter.

It is common for governments to seize property under Eminent Domain and then transfer to private developers. The PUBLIC PURPOSE is economic development. This practice has been upheld by the Supreme Court. See Berman v Parker 1954.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Clearly Baloney does not understand the law.

Calif Code Section 33030. (a) It is found and declared that there exist in many
communities blighted areas that constitute physical and economic
liabilities, requiring redevelopment in the interest of the health,
safety, and general welfare of the people of these communities and of
the state.
(b) A blighted area is one that contains both of the following:
(1) An area that is predominantly urbanized, as that term is
defined in Section 33320.1, and is an area in which the combination
of conditions set forth in Section 33031 is so prevalent and so
substantial that it causes a reduction of, or lack of, proper
utilization of the area to such an extent that it constitutes a
serious physical and economic burden on the community that CANNOT
reasonably be expected to be reversed or alleviated by private
enterprise or governmental action, or both, without redevelopment."


Clearly under California law the Stanford property is not blighted because Stanford has publicly indicated its willingness to develop the property.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" taxpayers who are footing the bill have right to know how this $148,000 was agreed upon"

Anyone who wants to review the staff report that submitted the Wise proposal to the City Council for their review and approval - which was all done in public session.


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Posted by Joseph Baloney
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Peter-"Stanford has publicly indicated its willingness to develop the property"

Stanford has already left it empty for how long?
For months you have been fear mongering and saying that if the initiative passes, Stanford would not do anything and the property would remain empty.
If they haven't and won't develop, then they are UNWILLING.

Plus, your original statement said nothing about blight, it just said that Menlo Park would need to eat the cost of teh property with eminent domain which is incorrect.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" it just said that Menlo Park would need to eat the cost of teh property with eminent domain which is incorrect."

No, that is correct. MP would have to pay market price for the property and could not then turn it over to a private developer to develop - because Stanford has already proposed to develop the property.

PLEASE read the legal citations that have been provided and quit posting baloney.

It is sad that the supporters of this initiative have so little knowledge of and respect fro the laws.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Plus, your original statement said nothing about blight,"

Clearly baloney cannot or will not read:
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 5:10 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
None of the Stanford or Greenheart properties, in their present condition, constitute what Cali Code 33031 defines as "blight".

And as the law notes "(b) A blighted area is one that contains both of the following:
(1) An area that is predominantly urbanized, as that term is
defined in Section 33320.1, and is an area in which the combination
of conditions set forth in Section 33031 is so prevalent and so
substantial that it causes a reduction of, or lack of, proper
utilization of the area to such an extent that it constitutes a
serious physical and economic burden on the community that cannot
reasonably be expected to be reversed or alleviated by private
enterprise or governmental action, or both, without redevelopment."

Clearly both Stanford and Greenheart have demonstrated their willingness to develop these properties - the only obstacle is the Lanza/fry Initiative and Save Our Special Interests.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why is it that when the Lanza/Fry and Save Our Special Interests supporters are challenged with facts that destroy their positions that they then quietly disappear?

Clearly they have chosen ignorance as their only ally.


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Posted by Sam Tyler
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:40 am

Joseph Baloney clearly has no grasp of real estate law. When a property owner has a long term lease with a tenant, then the property owner has little control of that property until the leases expire. A lease is defined as a contract by which one party conveys land, property, services, etc., to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment. Since the autop dealers have been around since the 1960s, I can only assume those leases long preceded any specific plan. As was stated in the public record multiple times, Stanford had long term leases with all those now defunct auto dealers. These leases expired in 2012 or 2013, which was in the middle of the adoption of the specific plan. They (Stanford) waited until they had regained control of their property and until the specific plan was adopted before they came forward with an application, which by all accounts, was consistent with the specific plan. (This info is all in the public record and was addressed in the "vision" portion of the specific plan preparation.) Besides putting forth an ugly project (which could have been addressed through the Planing Commission's review of the architecture), Stanford did nothing wrong. The parameters of the initiative do nothing to address the original Save Menlo criticisms of the project. The initiative does not lower the height requirements, and it doesn't even reduce the overall FAR requirements. The initiative imposes open space requirements that will force the buildings higher, not lower.

I can certainly understand why any property owner who is prevented from redeveloping their property would fence it off. Anyone who reads the news (yes, I am old and still read newspapers) sees story after story of copper thieves breaking into buildings to gut the interiors. They have every right to protect their assets.

In response to Brian, I have never specifically addressed the fire station issue, primarily because I don't know enough about that particular issue. However, I tend to accept Mr. Carpenter's statements because he supplies facts and figures.

I agree with another one of Mr. Carpenter's points. This is still America (even in People's Republic of Menlo Park), and property owners still have fundamental property rights. If the community wants a park, get your act together and acquire the property at fair market value and develop it the way you want. The city, by adopting the specific plan, has already told the property owners want the city wants for those properties. Either let the property owners develop or legally acquire it. The Lanza/Fry initiative is geared to stop development in this town, and they have already said as much in public meetings.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 13, 2014 at 9:47 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

We now begin to see the duplicity or ignorance, take your choice, to the Lanza/Fry initiative sponsors.

First Lanza states :""Traffic, traffic and traffic," said Mike Lanza, a Menlo Park resident and author who leads Save Menlo. "That's what got us our signatures for the ballot initiative. We've heard some of the arguments coming from those who oppose us, but they're not able to touch that issue. They know that traffic is bad and getting worse and will get much worse under the specific plan." Silicon Valley Business Journal

Then Lanza states in the SAME article :"Anyone who owns those properties and doesn't build on them at all is a fool," Lanza said.

So let's look at what the Lanza/Fry initiative will encourage owners of large adjacent parcels to build:

1 - one or more big box retail stores of up to 5 stories high with no balconies and no requirement for any public benefits = LOTS of traffic all day long.

2 - Hundreds of 2,3,4 bedroom residences and with no requirement for any public benefit = LOTS of peak hour traffic and huge impact on schools

3 - 5 or six separate office buildings, none exceeding 100,000 sq ft, including 30% medical offices and basically ugly block structures because of the initiative's unique definition of open space and with no requirement for any public benefit = LOTS of peak hour AND all day traffic.

So the Lanza/Fry initiative WILL result in more traffic than the current Specific Plan and will result in ZERO public benefits - no plazas, no pedestrian and bike tunnel, zero, zip.

Duplicity or ignorance, take your choice,


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