Arrillaga revises plans for Stanford lots
Developer John Arrillaga and Stanford University have submitted a revised plan for an eight-acre project in Menlo Park, but the changes don't bring the proposal closer to what the city hoped for.
The project will replace car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real with a mixed-use complex of medical offices, offices, retail and housing. Stanford confirmed that existing tenants — including Tesla, one of the city's top 25 sales and user tax generators — would move out when their leases expire on March 31 next year.
Submitted to the city during the first week of November, the revised plan cuts the amount of medical office space from 153,000 square feet to 96,000 square feet, but also eliminates 28 apartments, leaving 120 housing units.
The revisions also removed 2,000 square feet of retail space, leaving 10,000 square feet still on the drawing board. The changes allow the project to bring the amount of office space to 133,350 square feet.
The project would also provide a 120-foot wide building break at Middle Avenue — allowing for the possibility of a pedestrian-bike tunnel — and a 15-foot wide sidewalk along El Camino Real to comply with the city's new specific plan.
Parking will primarily be underground, with some surface spots, according to Steve Elliott, managing director for development, land, buildings and real estate at Stanford.
Mr. Elliot said the floor-area ratios for the entire project are smaller than the maximum allowed by the specific plan.
Those changes weren't quite what Menlo Park was looking for as the city struggles to identify ways to increase housing density as required by state law.
"The project as it stands will provide less housing than I had hoped," Councilman Rich Cline said. "The idea that we have a growing demographic of seniors and folks in need of affordable housing seems to have not stuck in the Stanford team discussions."
"Instead we have a tremendous amount of office space and medical, both some of the highest traffic-inducing uses you can find. The building looks pretty, but because of the size of this property, even a smaller portion of medical under the allowable (floor-area ratio) will have significant impact on El Camino Real. I think it is obvious that earlier discussions with Stanford around the aforementioned desirable uses and the open invite to have Stanford involved in the specific plan from the beginning, had little impact. That is unfortunate."
Mr. Elliott served as a university representative during the specific plan process. "Stanford consistently stated that we believed it was important for Menlo Park to undertake the planning process in order to determine what would be acceptable to the city to see developed on our parcels."
He said that while Stanford "never advocated for a specific mix of land uses, we did state that we thought a mix of uses would be appropriate for this site, including potentially office, medical office, retail, hotel and housing."
The Arrillaga proposal appears consistent with the baseline requirements of the specific plan, according to city staff, which don't trigger public benefit discussions. That means there won't be much for Menlo Park to negotiate apart from the number of below-market-rate homes on the site, and no need to get approvals for anything beyond the Planning Commission's signing off on architectural details.
Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson and other residents had argued for setting the trigger level for public benefit negotiations lower before the City Council approved the specific plan in June. Speaking only in general terms — she cannot comment on the Stanford project as her husband works for the university — Ms. Fergusson said this is the sort of situation she had in mind.
So did Planning Commissioner Vince Bressler, who hopes that Stanford at least pays to build the pedestrian-bike tunnel under Middle Avenue. City staff and consultants "set the base limits pretty high for that area, and you know the rest. Patti Fry spoke many times about what we were giving away. Very few people understand this, fewer still give a damn," he said.
"I guess I expected about what we ended up with, but I was certainly hoping that Stanford would build the tunnel; who knows, maybe we will end up with the 'Arrillaga Tunnel' for a mere $5 million in city money."
Senior Planner Thomas Rogers said that because it's a larger project, the Arrillaga-Stanford development would likely first be reviewed during a study session by the Planning Commission, although it's too early to be specific as to dates.