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Guest opinion: Proposed Stanford development would deepen housing deficit

Original post made on Feb 22, 2013

Stanford's proposed new development on El Camino Real creates even more of a housing deficit for Menlo Park.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Thanks for the facts.
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

What a shame that our council of 2010 and 2012 didn't update the Housing Element of the General Plan. Then again what a shame that the 2008 - 2010 council didn't approve the housing proposals for Derry and Cadillac sites.
The housing deficit grew and grew until the City was finally sued. Meanwhile the 2010-2012 council approved the specific plan without acknowledging the housing deficit. The result is Stanford's proposal adds to the deficit.
Can mistakes be now acknowledged by the council and this problem be fixed? Does a specific plan with huge flaws become the rule of the day for the City?
Stanford's plan needs less office and especially medical office. Replace office with housing. The right hand needs to say hello to the left hand and this problem needs fixing now. Let's hope our council members are reading this guest editorial.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is a property owner's responsibility to correct any defects in the city's zoning ordinance. If the city wants more housing then it should reflect that desire in its zoning ordinance.

The current ECR zoning does not require housing - in fact housing is a Conditional Use requiring city approval and not an Approved Use.

If pressed too hard Stanford will simply remove the two Conditional items - housing and restaurants - which would be a loss to the city. Is that what you want - NO housing?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Correction:

It is a NOT a property owner's responsibility to correct any defects in the city's zoning ordinance. If the city wants more housing then it should reflect that desire in its zoning ordinance.

he current ECR zoning does not require housing - in fact housing is a Conditional Use requiring city approval and not an Approved Use.

If pressed too hard Stanford will simply remove the two Conditional items - housing and restaurants - which would be a loss to the city. Is that what you want - NO housing?


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Posted by Stefan P.
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I agree with the author: more housing - or, even better, senior housing - would make this project a lot more manageable. The Vi Residences just around the corner on Sandhill come to mind. I remember senior housing discussions during the Specific Plan process.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 22, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Stefan:

all kinds of things were discussed during the Specific Plan Process. What actually made it to paper? I think you'll find senior housing isn't there


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"more housing - or, even better, senior housing"

If that is what you want then get the city to change the zoning ordinance so that it requires housing rather than making housing a Conditional Use.

Good luck. It took 5 years to get the current ECR zoning.


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Posted by Stefan P.
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 22, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I was just voicing a preference for senior housing over, say, medical office. The city couldn't require senior housing for reasons of non-discrimination anyway.

@Peter: I think those parcels are zoned mixed use and housing is not what you refer to as a "conditional" use. Stanford would be well within the limits of the SP if it elected to build senior living residences there. Furthermore, 10,000 sq.ft. of retail are mandated in the SP. I'd look up the pages in the SP for you but I know you like to do your own research.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Stefan - You are correct. Table E-1 in the Specific Plan lists housing as permitted in the ECR. The confusion arises because of Section 16.43.020 Conditional uses in the Zoning Ordinance which lists Residential dwelling units as a Conditional use with the general comment that the Zoning Ordinance does not yet comply with the Specific Plan.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 10:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is not the proposed Stanford development that would deepen housing deficit but rather the city Specific Plan. The proposed development conforms with the Specific Plan. IF the city really wanted more housing then the city would have/should have reflected that desire in the Specific Plan.

Here is what the Specific Plan says about this portion of the zone:

El Camino Real Mixed Use
The El Camino Real Mixed Use designation allows
for a variety of retail, offi ce, residential and public and
semipublic uses. Building character in this land use
designation relates to adjacent neighborhoods, with
maximum building heights of two to three stories, except
for buildings of up to three to four stories (with provision
of public benefi t) on part of northeast El Camino Real,
and buildings of up to four to fi ve stories permitted on
the southeast end of El Camino Real. The allowed
development intensities vary with the lowest intensity
on the far northern end of El Camino Real, moderate
intensities on the southwest end and highest intensities
on the southeast end of El Camino Real, where parcels
are separated from adjacent uses by El Camino Real (to
the west) and the railroad right-of-way (to the east).

Contrast that to the language for the other portions of the Specific Plan near Santa Cruz:
El Camino Real Mixed Use/Residential
The El Camino Real Mixed Use/Residential designation
emphasizes residential use in close proximity
(approximately 1/2 mile) to the station area and downtown,
in order to support area businesses, transit use and overall
downtown vibrancy. This designation also allows for a
variety of retail, offi ce and public and semipublic uses. The
maximum building heights vary from two to three stories in
most locations up to three to four stories (with provision of
public benefi t) on part of northeast El Camino Real and four
to fi ve stories, and the highest intensities, on the east side
of El Camino Real south of Ravenswood Avenue.

Downtown/Station Area Retail/Mixed Use
The Downtown/Station Area Retail/Mixed Use designation
focuses on uses that enhance downtown vibrancy by
building upon existing community-serving retail and
personal services in the downtown area. While emphasizing
retail for ground-fl oor uses, the designation allows for a mix
of uses, including offi ce and residential uses, enhancing
downtown vibrancy through an increased customer base
for restaurants and retail businesses. It also allows for
theaters (commercial recreation), hotels and some public
and semipublic uses. This designation covers the current
public parking plazas, which could accommodate limited
non-parking uses (see Section E.2.3).
To complement the size of existing downtown business
establishments and building character, the size of some
types of businesses are limited (see Section E.2.3), and
allowable building heights are two to three stories for
all but the area in closest proximity to the train station,
where heights of either three to four or four to fi ve stories
are allowed. Allowed intensities in the downtown core
are generally consistent with historic levels while higher
intensities are allowed in the train station area.
Downtown/Station Area "Main Street" Overlay
The Downtown/Station Area "Main Street" Overlay
enhances the retail emphasis of the Downtown/Station
Area Retail/Mixed Use designation by specifi cally limiting
non-retail ground fl oor uses on Santa Cruz Avenue.
Development standards and guidelines otherwise match
the underlying Downtown/Station Area Retail/Mixed Use
designation.
Downtown Adjacent (Offi ce/Residential)
Allowing for offi ce, limited personal services and
residential uses, the Downtown Adjacent Offi ce/Residential
designation complements but does not compete with
retail uses in the downtown area. The category permits
offi ces and personal services (with certain size limitations),
residential uses and public and semipublic uses. It excludes
retail and hotel uses. The allowable building height is two
to three stories, which complements buildings in downtown
and adjacent neighborhoods
******************
In addition the Specific Plan places a higher priority in its public benefit section on housing nearer the train station than it does on housing in the project site:
"a public benefit bonus could be considered for elements including but not limited to:
....
Affordable Residential Units, in particular for lower affordability levels, particularly in areas nearest the station area/downtown" (note that this does NOT include ECR-SE)
************
Again the Specific Plan states:
"One of the best ways to protect existing downtown businesses is to increase the supply of local shoppers by encouraging more residential development in the downtown
and station areas" (note that this does NOT include ECR-SE)
********************************
Clearly housing was much less of a priority for the city in the Mixed Use ECR-SE area that encompasses the proposed project - and that WAS the city's choice.

Lesson - You get what you plan for. Don't blame the developer. The city could have required more housing in the ECR-SE BUT they did not do so.


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Posted by Stefan P.
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 24, 2013 at 10:58 am

Maybe that is something that can be adjusted in the upcoming SP review. (But let's not start the "vested rights" discussion in this threat also)


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Posted by zone for housing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2013 at 10:58 am

Menlo Park's Housing Element has been outdated for at least a decade, and so has the entire General Plan. Many Councils have come and gone without stepping up to the address this problem. Instead, with active encouragement of city staff, they have embarked on spot zoning for certain projects such as Menlo Gateway and the ECR-Downtown Specific Plan.
As Peter C points out, the city has considerable power to encourage housing short of requiring it. Instead, in the heart of town where transit-oriented housing belongs, the city made it super easy to put almost any use, including those that are most profitable to developers (office), and to build those to much greater levels than previously possible.
If the city were serious about the jobs/housing balance, it would be easier to build housing and harder to build offices, and impossible to build so much office. The Stanford proposed project is evidence of what could be coming on other sites.


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm

I think Stanford needs more available medical offices because they are expanding the hospital, and doctors work both.
I recall having the clear impression after moving to West Menlo Park that Menlo Park in general doesn't like the idea of adding housing, because it wants to preserve the feeling of being a small town. I also recall the City Councils and voters being more occupied with lining up on this or that side of that opinion issue than with simple compliance with the state law being discussed here.



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, 9 hours ago
Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online

IF the city really wants more housing in the ECR-SE area why don't they offer Stanford a variance - if Stanford adds MORE housing to the project then the square footage of that additional housing will not add to their FAR (floor area ratio)?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 6:54 am

Scholar:

the problem is that compliance isn't "simple." Some people want more housing and low income housing others don't. When an actual suggestion is made of where to put it no one wants it because they don't want it in their neighborhood.


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