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 will vote on the agreement, which scales back the size of a planned grocery store on the site, at its Tuesday, July 20, meeting.

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, did not return The Almanac's phone call.

Under the agreement, the city will place two additional restrictions on the planned project, 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.

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by No good guys
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 16, 2010 at 7:41 pm

This outcome is thoroughly awful. There are no good guys here. The named plaintiff and the anti-competitive unions behind him, the city for doing their dirty work, the courts for not having thrown this case out, and the developers for folding. Who knows what type or what size businesses belong in that project site? What we do know is that once again, we've sacrificed property rights, due process, and the interests of the citizens in a fair hearing to the machinations of unholy trinity of the organized labor, capital, and the self interested politicians.

Like this comment
Posted by Instigated by Beltramo/Draeger
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 16, 2010 at 9:48 pm

No doubt the union was motivated by the anticompetitive Draeger and Beltramo clans
Retail Clerks union bringing a CEQA based lawsuit?
What a great cover for the Brahmins

Like this comment
Posted by Not a Foodie
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 17, 2010 at 8:11 am

I haven't bought anything from Draegers or Beltramos since they organized their fake grass roots campaign a few years ago against allowing Bevmo to come to Menlo Park. Shame on the other merchants who assisted. This time they were clever enough to hide their hands behind the union that represents the Draegers workers. Lets hope that the union extracts a high price next time they negotiate with the Draegers.

Like this comment
Posted by Safeway/TJ fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 18, 2010 at 8:56 am

This would be an interesting story to dig into- who was really behind the lawsuit and why? Of course, if you think the Almanac is going to investigate its biggest advertisers (look at the Draeger's insert or Beltramo's ads sometime), you're pretty naive.

A side issue is the absurdity of CEQA lawsuits- how did something allegedly about saving the environment become about limiting competition? Get ready for more fun with that and the downtown plan- the Downtown Old-Timers Anti-Change Club will suddenly act like 'ecowarriors' when that EIR is out.

Like this comment
Posted by legal abuse
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 18, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Do you remember CEQA was used against the Allied Arts Guild renovation? The guild won in council and in court but the decision was appealed and the panel upheld the appeal. Unbelieveable! the gall of a judge going beyond the law and local control to legislate from the bench.

As for the draegers, it's not hard to imagine them quietly making a phone call to the union and suggesting the mischief. they would get plausible deniability and yet keep a competitor out.

Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Would a pool hall with a beer and wine license be out of the question?
It would keep kids off the street and a fun way for them to bond with their fathers.......divorced or widowed.

Like this comment
Posted by wewantchoice
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

As an MP resident, I still shop at Whole Foods.

Like this comment
Posted by Irony Redux
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm

"... which allows private citizens acting as public-interest representatives to sue government entities."

Ah, the rich irony of the above quote! As a citizen, I revel in my good fortune that the union and unnamed plaintiffs acted on my behalf.

Like this comment
Posted by fascism in MP
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Oh yes...let's allow private entities to stifle competition in Menlo Park, thereby driving up prices for all of us. I will never shop at Beltramos or Draeger's again. And I will continue to patronize one of the nearby Whole Foods. By the way..when I travel to Los Altos or Palo Alto or Redwood City to shop at Whole Foods, I also tend to run other errands, so the sales tax that MP could derive from those purchases will go to other cities.

It's appalling that our city could not stand up to these bully tactics.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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