Commission punts downtown plan to council

Recommends modified plan with 6-1 vote

The 6-1 vote in favor of recommending the Menlo Park downtown/El Camino Real specific plan to the City Council didn't quite reflect the heated debate voiced by the Planning Commission at its Aug. 22 meeting.

While most of the commission appeared to support the plan, the recommendation came with some proposed modifications that inspired argument. Other suggestions, including a request that the council lower allowed building heights by one full story, found consensus. Click here to review the commission's recommendations.

After casting his dissenting vote, Commissioner John Kadvany, participating by phone, expressed his frustration as the meeting ended close to midnight.

"I just want to say I told people yes, I would just try to bring this stuff up for you, stuff I didn't even agree with, and now I can't. I just have to say 'Sorry, we ran out of time," he said. "This whole thing has been hurry up, then wait, since this whole project started. It's not right."

The vote allowed the commission to forward the plan to the council, subject to suggested revisions, with the caveat that "not everything was discussed."

Chair Vincent Bressler later said the commission had considered every geographical region covered in the plan, and that the point of the five-meeting series was to provide lots of opportunity to receive and respond to public comment before recommending changes to the plan.

"Our goal was to make the City Council's job easier. I expect that it will be difficult for the City Council to come to consensus on this plan, however, without our efforts it would have been much, much more difficult," he said.

The project's fiscal impact analysis (FIA) also caused a stir at Monday night's meeting. Released last week, the report has come under fire for potential errors.

Educator Chuck Bernstein told the commission he'd documented multiple calculation mistakes. City staff said they would work on double-checking the FIA, which analyzes the impact of the specific plan on the city's revenues, before the council meets on Aug. 30 to begin its own review.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the council ask the finance and audit committee to review the FIA.

All documents related to the specific plan, including the FIA, are available here.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Henry Riggs is a registered user.

Sandy, one correction: the commission did not lower the height of the station area buildings, it lowered the height of the front facade, behind which higher stories may rise, set back from immediate view.
The commission could have discussed the finer details of the plan for hours more, having logged nearly 20 hours in the last six weeks, but thankfully Chair Bressler called for a final vote. This was not a "punt" but was the formal recommendation of approval with the commissions recommended modifications to each quadrant of the specific plan, reflecting several years (yes, years) of public testimony and commission discussion.
The rezoning of our downtown and El Camino has been a city-wide effort - four years total - including very diverse voices and workshops to distill a consensus direction in a town where unanimity is not probable. Now its time to act on all this effort - council's role - and get investment flowing in our downtown within the new guidelines.

Like this comment
Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm

City staff has just posted a correction to the Planning Commission Recommendations that is not reflected in the Almanac's link above. See:

Web Link

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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Su Hong 2.0? Former waiter reopens Chinese standby under new name in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 3,789 views

What is a "ton" of carbon dioxide anyway?
By Sherry Listgarten | 15 comments | 2,477 views

Living as Roommates? Not Having Much Sex?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,423 views

Holiday Traditions
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 397 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $150,000.