Bank protests Menlo Park's downtown plan
Five years is a long time to put together a specific plan — time enough to raise objections, rework the fine points and figure out compromises. But protests continue even as the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan nears completion.
Wells Fargo sent a letter to the city last week outlining its objections. The bank, which has a branch on Santa Cruz Avenue, said it "unequivocally opposes" three features of the plan: widening the sidewalk, which would reduce available parking near the bank; converting Chestnut Street to a pedestrian walkway or paseo; and creating a marketplace on part of the parking plaza Wells Fargo leases from the city.
Saying the changes would leave the bank at a competitive disadvantage, the letter argues that the plan's "parking analysis underestimates parking demand because it is based on surveys conducted during the recent economic downturn."
"Thus, even the flawed assumption that remote garage parking can substitute for adjacent street or rear parking lot access is poorly supported by the record," the letter says. "The record does not adequately demonstrate that actual and practical capacity will exist for parking under improved economic conditions."
Wells Fargo Vice President Jeffrey Rader concluded the letter by stating the bank supports the position of the Menlo Park Downtown Alliance, a group of business and property owners in the city that have also raised concerns about the impact of parking changes and the marketplace on local merchants.
Mr. Rader did not respond to the Almanac's request for comment on the timing of the objection.
Thomas Rogers, the assistant city planner overseeing the specific plan, said that like all property and business owners in the plan area, Wells Fargo was notified about every step of the project from 2007 through today. "I can't speak to why (Wells Fargo) hasn't really participated until just recently," he said.
The bank's stance doesn't put the kibosh on the city's plans, however. Menlo Park owns another nearby parking lot off Chestnut Street that could be used for the marketplace, according to Mr. Rogers, and the trial installations of items such as the paseo are designed to test the impact before anything permanently changes.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously on Monday night to forward the specific plan to the City Council for a final review. The council is scheduled to do so on June 5.