MP council to take first look at 48-home project
Original post made
on May 10, 2008
Plans to build a high-density condo-commercial project at the site of the former Anderson Chevrolet truck lot on El Camino Real will be the subject of the City Council's May 13 study session.
See a rendering of the project.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Friday, May 9, 2008, 6:13 PM
Posted by NoSpotZoning
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 13, 2008 at 9:43 am
Why is it that a non-project, which has no application before the city, and to which the city has no legal obligation, is appearing before the City Council instead of the Planning Commission before the city has finalized its new plan for El Camino Real?
The charge that the "Derry Gang" and so-called "residentialists" in Menlo Park "oppose all development" is false.
Menlo Park has approved, without Controversy, *CONFORMING* development on El Camino Real, at Beltramo's, Menlo Square, Safeway, Chevron,
145 ECR (office/Retail building at Cambridge) and other locations. In particular, Menlo Square was a conforming mixed-use housing project with conforming BMR units. There is *NO* example of a CONFORMING project on ECR being opposed or creating controversy.
The *ONLY* projects that have raised controversy, including this one,
are exactly those projects that do not conform to the existing zoning codes and General Plan and/or planning review process.
Normal "study sessions" take place before the PLANNING COMMISSION, not the City Council.
A "study session" for a development project is a gimmick used to bypass the normal project review cycle that includes the Planning Commission, Housing Commission, staff analysis, environmental analysis, and neighborhood input. The gimmick allows the Developer to *START* with the City council and "read" council members while they sit on the dais to "study" his concept. He uses the meeting to see if he can get three votes for a non-conforming project.
A "study session" with "direction" is a legal tissue that allows the Council to take action as a result of this study session.
The Brown Act and other legal requirements are fullfilled, by having staff schedule legal action at a separate, later meeting. But by the later meeting council members may already have decided or may be hopelessly prejudiced by what was said at the study session before there has been analysis or community input.
This process is abusive. The developer is trying for a slam dunk from the decision makers based on a concept that is bait-and-switch architectural vaporware. It will conveniently change over time, sometimes dramatically, so that what was originally used to the city is not what is finally built or approved. The Derry project started out "conceptually" as rental units and morphed into luxury condos at the last minute.
Frequently the developer will meet individually with three favorable council members between the study session and the later meeting to shore up their support.
Often times the actual project approval is made by a completely different city council who are made to feel as if they are obligated to the project based on the earlier council's conceptual approval.
It's all part of a well established game that is something of a dance well known to developers, and city staff members are knowing enablers.
In this particular case, the ECR visioning process was supported and requested by concerned citizens to normalize the development and approval process and to avoid the controversies created by spot-zoned, non-conforming projects. The ECR process is revisiting the zoning code with the intent of updating it, if necessary, to allow for those types of projects and densities in Menlo Park.
As far as housing is concerned, the update for the Housing Element of Menlo Park's General Plan was begun in 2000, and put on hold in 2002, by a "pro-development" council who thereafter spot-zoned for housing rather than finishing the Update.
The Housing Element update creates new zoning, mostly in existing RESIDENTIAL (not commercial) zones, downtown and elsewhere, that will support about 1200 new units in Menlo Park and will allow Menlo Park to conform to ABAG standards.
The Update to the Housing Element could and should have been finished years ago.
The sad truth is that some housing advocates are so desperate for outputs, that they have no understanding or concern for process or law, so long as they get what they want, and are unaware of the irony that if they simply used planning processes they would have had more housing sooner.
Instead they unknowingly support spot-zoning commercial zones for housing whenever commercial zones become vacant.
When city councils blatantly abuse laws and process, they become vulnerable to a set of citizen-activist tools including the referendum.
Incidentally, the developer, Duncan Matteson, is a Menlo Park resident, and one of the largest real estate developers in California.