City poised to settle lawsuit involving former Cadillac site on El Camino Real
The Menlo Park City Council is poised to approve a settlement agreement with a group called Concerned Citizens of Menlo Park, which in November 2009 sued the city and would-be developers of the property at 1300 El Camino Real after the city issued preliminary approvals for a planned office/retail project for that site.
The council plans to vote on the agreement, which scales back the size of a planned grocery store on the site, at its Tuesday, July 20, meeting. The item is on the agenda's consent calendar, but Mayor Rich Cline said the council may move it from that section if council members want to discuss it.
The Concerned Citizens group filed the lawsuit anonymously, but the settlement agreement names Tony Alexander as the plaintiff's representative. The document lists an address on Mt. Hamilton Road in San Jose for Mr. Alexander.
Former mayor Lee Duboc wrote in her regular Menlo Park's Future e-mail bulletin, sent on July 18, that Mr. Alexander is the political director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents employees of grocery stores including Draeger's and Safeway.
The union's Local 5 website lists a Tony Alexander as its political director. Mr. Alexander of Local 5, which is headquartered in San Jose, could not be reached for comment before The Almanac's press time.
Under the agreement, the city will place two additional restrictions on the planned project at 1300 El Camino Real, according to a staff report released by the city.
The first restriction states that the maximum size of a grocery store on the property will be limited to 32,000 square feet. The original plan called for a grocery store of nearly 51,000 square feet.
That restriction also requires other tenants to limit the amount of retail sales floor space dedicated to the sale of non-taxable items, including food, to 15 percent. The limitation doesn't apply to small-scale food shops such as Starbucks and Jamba Juice, the staff report says.
The second restriction prohibits the "self-checkout of alcohol sales" by any retail business on the site.
The agreement requires the developer — Peter Pau, president of Sand Hill Property Management Co., and SHP Los Altos LLC — to pay the Concerned Citizens $38,000 in attorney fees and costs. The developer must also pay "for all city costs and fees associated with processing the project and fees related to the lawsuit and settlement," according to the staff report.
The lawsuit was filed using the California private attorney general statute, which allows private citizens acting as public-interest representatives to sue government entities. It challenged the city's approval of the project's environmental impact review.
The property is the former site of a Cadillac dealership. In 2008, when details of — and rumors about — the planned development of the abandoned site started circulating about town, several business owners expressed concerns over talk that a Whole Foods specialty grocery store would open there. Among them was Richard Draeger, who told The Almanac that his family-owned store, Draeger's market, could become "unfeasible" if Whole Foods moved to town.
After the lawsuit was filed last year, Mr. Draeger said his store was not involved in the litigation.
Whole Foods told The Almanac in August 2008 that it had no plans to open a store in Menlo Park.