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Town Square

Editorial: Stanford offers should encourage more talks

Original post made on Aug 14, 2013

Now that Stanford has agreed to meet some of the concerns raised by opponents of its proposed office, retail and housing project at 500 El Camino Real, we hope the City Council subcommittee charged with negotiating with the university will continue its efforts to bring in more concessions that would make this 450,000-square-foot development more appealing to the entire community.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 14, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Save Menlo is like a child that got most of what it wanted and now wants even more - or it will cry/sue.

" Save Menlo should remember that it doesn't speak for all residents on this matter"

How true.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 14, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Savemenlo certainly doesn't speak for me, not does it speak for most of those I know that live here.


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2013 at 7:34 am

Mr. Gibboney's editorial is pretty much what one expects. He and friend Steve Schmidt have rooted for everything Stanford for years.

Considering that Keith in all her years on the PC and Council, has never found a project she didn't like, what was to be expected from the committee, except let Stanford go ahead.

This all centers around the approved downtown/ El Camino plan, which which should have never been approved and which despite claims of public participation, was completely taken over by Staff and their agenda to transform Menlo Park from suburbia into a mini San Francisco.

Maybe at the next election, we can replace the council majority and we can return Menlo Park to delivering to it residents a high quality of life, rather than being nothing more than a center for development and a vehicle to deliver pots of gold to various development interests.


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2013 at 11:48 am




For the benefit of Old Timer and others: 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 12:10 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 12:36 pm

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


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Steve - are you proposing that 0.75 be the base FAR for ALL zones in the ECR Specific Plan?


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Peter,
Sure that would be fine with me. ECR SE & SW adjoin low-density residential areas with which higher densities may not be compatible w/o serious public benefit compensation. Gotta go!
Steve Schmidt


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Posted by concerned neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 11:09 am

Thanks, editor, for encouraging discussions. There haven't been any between the neighborhood representatives and Stanford since the subcommittee was established.
You did get something wrong, though. The supposed concessions about Stanford paying for the traffic study and designing the plaza aren't concessions at all. These are already requirements of the Specific Plan. The plaza at Middle was sold to the community as a pedestrian and bicycle friendly area, with people seated at tables and not a car in sight. No one discussed that there must be vehicles there, too. No one discussed whether the vehicular access was for emergency vehicles or a major entry to the complex.
It is nice that Stanford is offering to help fund an undercrossing, but the Specific Plan needs to be amended so the design and plans and costs for that are known now, not when High Speed Rail's final design is available. Otherwise no one will know the value of this offer and no one will know whether the site design is supportive of a safe, attractive, usable undercrossing that all would like sooner than when HSR happens.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 11:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"No one discussed that there must be vehicles there, too. No one discussed whether the vehicular access was for emergency vehicles or a major entry to the complex."

Please READ the supporting documents and the Specific Plan which clearly state:

The 16 April Staff Report states:

"As specified by the Specific Plan, the Burgess Park Linkage/Open Space Plaza is intended to create a welcoming, publicly-accessible open space that provides seating and shade and allows for small, informal gatherings, while ALSO providing vehicular access to the 500 El

Camino Real proposal. The 120-foot width was established in order to allow the break

to serve this wide variety of purposes, INCLUDING vehicle access." Emphasis added for those who may not have read the staff report or who slept through the discussion.


This was what is in the Draft EIR:

"Burgess Park Linkage/Open Space Plaza

The design of the open space plaza and pedestrian/bicycle linkage should include the following:

D.4.12 Visually extend Middle Avenue.

D.4.13 Allow for seating and informal gatherings.

D.4.14 Provide green space and shaded areas.

D.4.15 Integrate with vehicular access needs and associated development.

D.4.16 Provide a pedestrian and bicycle linkage between El Camino Real, the new open space and Burgess Park at

Middle Avenue; this linkage would involve a grade separated crossing if tracks remain at grade.

D.4.17 Emphasize safety and comfort for all users."

And NOBODY raised a question or submitted a single comment about "D.4.15 Integrate with vehicular access needs and associated development.'

NOTHING was snuck into the process - it is just that some people were not paying attention and others don't like the outcome so NOW that are making false statements about what WAS in the Draft Specific Plan, in the Draft EIR, in the Final EIR and in the adopted Specific Plan.

Everybody is certainly entitled to their own opinions but the FACTS speak for themselves.

Here is what the Specific Plan states:

"E.3.4.1.08 In the ECR-SE zoning district, the breaks at Live Oak,

Roble, Middle, Partridge and Harvard Avenues may provide

vehicular access."

What is not clear about that Guideline???????


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Posted by concerned neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 16, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Peter - I am not saying anything about things being snuck in. Just saying that it is high time to have a discussion about what that part of the Specific Plan really means. There never was one. Yes, the wording was in there, but it appears that only staff, consultant and Stanford noticed.

What is "vehicular access"? How can that be compatible with the kind of public plaza envisioned and presented in various presentations and illustrated in the Specific Plan? Now is the time to figure out those details, among many others.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Yes, the wording was in there, but it appears that only staff, consultant and Stanford noticed."

The Specific Plan was adopted unanimously by the council and NO raised an issue about vehicular access on the Middle Ave break. Are you saying that any part of a law or ordinance that was not subject to debate is invalid?

Citizenship is hard work and if you sleep through the process you cannot expect a to a redo - although evidently that is exactly what some people who were not paying attention now want. Ordinances are not comic books and you have to read the words not just look at the pictures (which are, literally, "illustrative" but not definitive).


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Posted by concerned neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

" Are you saying that any part of a law or ordinance that was not subject to debate is invalid?

Citizenship is hard work and if you sleep through the process you cannot expect a to a redo - although evidently that is exactly what some people who were not paying attention now want."
No, that is not what I'm saying. The Council decided to review the Plan in one year in case there were some things they and the public didn't get right the first time. And yes, possibly some things they didn't notice the first time. The "one year" has come and gone, and the review isn't scheduled yet. It's needed and it's overdue. That's what I'm saying.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" The "one year" has come and gone, and the review isn't scheduled yet. It's needed and it's overdue"

As posted before please read the 11 June Subcommittee report which states:
"Review of the Specific Plan should be scheduled to coincide with the completion of the
Subcommittee's work on the 500 El Camino Project. Therefore, staff is currently
preparing to begin the Specific Plan review in September in order to provide the
Subcommittee to finish its work."


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:56 am

Just curious...wouldn't a bike/ped bridge be less expensive than a tunnel?