Wells Fargo to city: Don't bank on marketplace

Bank protests Menlo Park specific plan

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the owner of the Wells Fargo parking lot as the City of Menlo Park. The bank owns the lot, while the city leases a portion of the property. The Almanac regrets the error.

Five years is a long time to put together a specific plan – time enough to raise objections, rework the fine points and figure out compromises. But protests continue even as the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan nears completion.

Wells Fargo sent a letter to the city this week outlining its objections.

The bank, which has a branch on Santa Cruz Avenue, said it "unequivocally opposes" three features of the plan: widening the sidewalk, which would reduce available parking near the bank; converting Chestnut Street to a pedestrian walkway or paseo; and creating a marketplace on part of the parking plaza the city leases from Wells Fargo.

Saying the changes would leave the bank at a competitive disadvantage, the letter argues that the plan's "parking analysis underestimates parking demand because it is based on surveys conducted during the recent economic downturn."

"Thus, even the flawed assumption that remote garage parking can substitute for adjacent street or rear parking lot access is poorly supported by the record," the letter says. "The record does not adequately demonstrate that actual and practical capacity will exist for parking under improved economic conditions."

Wells Fargo Vice President Jeffrey Rader concluded the letter by stating the bank supports the position of the Menlo Park Downtown Alliance, a group of business and property owners in the city that have also raised concerns about the impact of parking changes and the marketplace on local merchants.

Thomas Rogers, the assistant city planner overseeing the specific plan, said that like all property and business owners in the plan area, Wells Fargo was notified about every step of the project from 2007 through today. "I can't speak to why (Wells Fargo) hasn't really participated until just recently," he said.

The bank's stance doesn't put the kibosh on the city's plans, however. Menlo Park owns a nearby parking lot off Chestnut Street that could be used for the marketplace, according to Mr. Rogers, and the trial installations of items such as the paseo are designed to test the impact before anything permanently changes.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously on Monday night to forward the specific plan to the City Council for a final review. The council is scheduled to do so on June 5.


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Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on May 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I don't know why Wells Fargo didn't speak up before, but I support the bank's position (and I have expressed my thoughts before). We have been hoping that the ill-begotten "paseo" would be dropped from the final plan. We still hope so. Closing Chestnut is a hare-brained scheme that does no one any good. Endangering our vibrant, successful, and beloved farmers' market by starting a new competing market is even sillier. Interfering with parking will just guarantee that I shop elsewhere and will harm Menlo Park's tax base.

The part of the plan I support is denser housing and mixed-use development along El Camino.

Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

It is about time that Wells Fargo, and the other banks
step up to this issue. Trader Joe's, it is now your turn.

Like this comment
Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I am very surprised that Wells Fargo is taking a political position. Is Jeffrey Rader authorized by upper managment to make this statement? If upper management did authorize Wells Fargo to take a political position, it will definately change my opinion of this bank for the worse.

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Posted by Susannah
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Question for the article reporter:

Is Wells Fargo speaking up for the first time at this late date? Or they were involved earlier but did not speak publicly until now?

Too bad they are not happy about the plan because it could be an improvement to our tired-looking downtown.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm

@ Been There, you should have dumped Wells Fargo a long time at.

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Posted by banks suck
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Banks already screwed up our national economy. Now they want to screw up our neighborhoods, too? I say tell them to go to h*ll. Who's with me?

Our tax dollars bailed out the banks. Now it is time for them to give back.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Amazing - here we have a long time local business that serves the community and they express concerns about how the proposed plan will impact them and the above posters can only respond with angry, childish statements.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I canNOT stand Wells Fargo. But, they raise a viable concern. I'm curious, as Susannah asked, if it's only now that they're coming forward, which the article also suggests. If that's the case, why now, why not sooner?

Sheesh, I can't stand it when a lousy bank raises a good point.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 4, 2012 at 6:00 am

Yes, what Menlo Park needs is an even more hostile environment for its businesses and even more empty store fronts.

I'm sure other businesses are already lining up to fill that vacant Wells Fargo space!

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 4, 2012 at 7:58 am

I agree with Menlo Parker's comments.

We don't know the complete story whether or not when Wells Fargo said something. They have been a stable business in MP for 20+ years when other stores have come and gone.

I would look to the city to work better with the established businesses as to how to move forward and find a workable solution. I just hope we don't have to wait another 5 years for a solution.

Like this comment
Posted by business exec
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 4, 2012 at 9:32 am

The DETAILS of this plan have not been known for 5 years, so that's an exaggerated and false claim.

Where are concerns about a business's property rights? They need their parking area to operate their business and they own that parking. Many other businesses are concerned about parking, too, but they don't outright own the parking plaza area near them so don't have the same power Wells does.

The market place idea and its siting came from the consultants, not from the community. This is the time to iron out remaining issues, and this is a biggie. There has been talk for a long time about conducting a trial of the market place, paseo, parklets and there has been time to do so before the plan is up for approval. It's inexplicable why the Council and staff have dragged their feet.

I fully support Wells Fargo's position.
I'm very surprised Trader Joe's isn't speaking out about the loss of 35 parking spaces in the lot behind their store. Their business would be severely affected.

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

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