United Menlo Park council approves Stanford deal

Also clears way for Beechwood negotiations

Swapping the right to sue for more money, the Menlo Park City Council voted 4-0, with Kelly Fergusson recusing herself, to accept Stanford's offer of $3.7 million for traffic mitigation and other improvements related to its planned hospital expansion.

The $3.5 billion project would bring about 1.3 million square feet of new development and more than 2,200 new employees to Palo Alto by 2025. But it could also add an estimated 10,000 new daily car trips to the area, with 51 percent of the traffic passing through Menlo Park, raising concerns on the city's Transportation Commission and council.

The new deal includes $2.4 million with the flexibility to be used for infrastructure and community improvements instead of just traffic solutions, and $290,000 for adaptive traffic signals at the intersection of Middlefield Road with Willow Road and also Ravenswood Avenue.

Finally, Stanford agreed to three payouts instead of a lump sum – one third after final project approval, and the remaining amounts estimated to arrive in 2013 and 2018, respectively, as triggered by permit issuances.

City attorney Bill McClure reminded the council at its May 10 meeting that by approving the deal, Menlo Park agreed not to sue over the project's environmental impact report. "If litigated, those monies are off the table," he said.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki thanked the transportation commissioners for the extensive analysis of the document presented to the council last month.

Beechwood School cleared to negotiate

The council also unanimously agreed to accept Habitat for Humanity's withdrawal from a plan to build affordable housing on Terminal Avenue, a decision greeted with cheers from those attending the meeting to support Beechwood School's desire to buy the land to expand their program.

"Study your hearts and think with your heads," Rose Bickerstaff urged the council before the vote. A resident of the Belle Haven neighborhood where the private K-8 school is located, she spoke of the positive impact it has on its students.

Before casting his vote, Mayor Rich Cline called the need for better education immediate, and suggested the city should take a look at consolidating the Ravenswood and Menlo Park City School districts.

"We should not have multiple school districts in this city," he said. "There should be one; our kids should be in the same schools."

The Habitat for Humanity plan would have addressed another of Menlo Park's critical needs – affordable housing. But the development stalled after nine years of community opposition. In the meantime, Menlo Park spent $998,000 on environmental remediation to prepare the site for housing, while the nonprofit paid $481,590 to buy an adjacent parcel to get access to the building site.

Whether Beechwood will purchase the land remains to be seen, although Tuesday night's action clears the path for negotiations – the school will need to offer a price the council considers fair market value for the parcel.

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Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

My compliments to both MP and Stanford for coming to a rapid solution which both parties obviously agree is equitable. Also, big kudos to whomever the individuals were on both sides of the negotiation. Can we find out who they were? They deserve a big public thank you--especially the team representing MP's interests.

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Tha Almanac gets it wrong again. The vote was 4-0 with one council member not voting due to a conflict of interest.

Like this comment
Posted by Uhhhh?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

So Rich Cline wants to decrease the amount spent on each Menlo Park City school child's education by $2000 because he thinks Menlo kids "should be in the same schools?"

Because all that would happen if you merged MPCSD and Ravenswood is that the State would take $5M of MPCSD's 'excess' local property tax and hand it to Ravenswood ... then take $5M of its own funding of Ravenswood and go home chuckling to Sacramento.

Menlo Park City school funding would drop from $11,000 a child (about the national average) to $9,000; while Ravenswood (which gets over half its funding from special state and federal budget programs) would remain at $13,000 (yes, more is spent on Ravenswood kids than MPCSD kids) ... unless Ravenswood lost some of its special funding, too, because of the merger. Go do the math from the excellent website if you doubt this.

Meanwhile, who does Mayor Cline think will end up running the new district? Ravenswood kids outnumber MP kids. My guess is that MP parents will either pull out en masse ... or Oak Knoll, Hillview, and Encinal will become 'magnet' schools. I suppose that's one way of reducing enrollment (moving the Tinsley kids back to EPA).

And why does Mayor Cline never mention Las Lomitas? Why does it fall to MPCSD to "fix" Ravenswood ... why does he assume that a district that knows how to educate a middle-class white population somehow has magic know-how in dealing with poverty, itinerant families, and language learners? Classic paternalistic thinking ... disguised as caring.

Like this comment
Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Thanks for catching that, Hank. It was a unanimous vote, with Kelly Fergusson recusing herself.

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

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