Menlo Park: Housing complex previewed | News | Almanac Online |


Menlo Park: Housing complex previewed

Greenheart plans 195 market-rate apartments on Hamilton Avenue

The Belle Haven neighborhood is seeing an influx of proposed housing complexes, and with a cyber cafe, dog wash and play areas, and "a rather large spa," Greenheart's planned development on Hamilton Avenue looks like it will keep up with the neighbors in terms of creature comforts.

Located near Facebook's upcoming west campus, Greenheart's project will place 195 apartments on 6.5 acres, with an address of 777 Hamilton Ave., about three blocks from Willow Road. The developer bought 21 parcels from numerous property owners, including the city of Menlo Park, during the past two years to create the site.

"We believe this development is a good one for the city as well as the community," Greenheart principal Bob Burke told the Planning Commission during a study session on May 19.

He said that given that the complex's tenants are projected to be working within walking distance, Greenheart expects the location to help minimize traffic impacts by reducing the number of people commuting to work at places such as Facebook.

Zip cars, bike sharing and Facebook's shuttle program are expected to help.

Jeff Adams, speaking on behalf of Facebook, concurred during public comment. "It's important to us that everyone have the opportunity to connect to their community in a meaningful way," he said, and that's easier when home is right across the street from work.

The developer plans to build 117 one-bedroom units, 52 two-bedroom units, and 26 three-bedroom units, divided into three-story stucco buildings.

All of the apartments will be rented at market rate, according to the staff report.

The main entrance to the complex would be off Hamilton Avenue, according to the site plan, with 335 parking spaces provided. Electric cars will have 10 charging stations, with another 50 pre-wired for charging if additional stations are needed in the future, Mr. Burke said.

Trees, always a consideration in Menlo Park, will be well represented, based on the staff report, with 200 new trees slated for planting, including California fan palms. Six heritage trees are marked for removal.

Not everyone is thrilled with the site plan. Belle Haven resident Matt Henry commented during the study session that Facebook is spending millions of dollars to construct its world-class, "work of art" west campus designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.

"And what does Greenheart do? They throw up a wall four blocks long of three-story apartments that is going to totally block Belle Haven's view (of the Gehry building)," Mr. Henry said. He suggested placing single-story buildings in front, while limiting higher buildings to the rear of the Hamilton Avenue site.

Later, Greenheart principal Steve Pierce told the commission that the rooftop forest of the Gehry building will be visible from much of Belle Haven, given that it will be 72 feet off the ground, while the Hamilton Avenue apartment buildings will be about 34 feet in height.

One-story buildings were not viable given the amount of parking required for the site as well as the 30 units per acre required by zoning law. "It's all compromises," Mr. Pierce said.

Farther down the road on Haven Avenue, Facebook in partnership with St. Anton is building a 394-unit complex complete with a doggie daycare, pub and bike repair shop. Next door, Greystar LLC has proposed building 146 apartments.

Coupled with Greenheart's proposal, the projects will shift the character of Menlo Park's M-2 district away from an outdated industrial flavor, according to Chamber of Commerce CEO Fran Dehn.

Greenheart said construction is expected to take 18 months. Since the project requires no discretionary approvals, the final determination of whether the site complies with the city's regulations will be made by the community development director rather than the Planning Commission.

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Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 30, 2014 at 11:40 am

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

Looks good to me. Long overdue for those lots, f.k.a George's Speedy Mart.

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Posted by MENLO
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Spent many days at George's Speedy Market. Best bubble gum around!

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Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm

how can these all be rented at market rates? Isn't the city under the gun to provide below market housing? How can it keep losing opportunities to do this by kicking the can down the road?

Like this comment
Posted by Richard Vaughan
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2014 at 6:46 am

As a commuter into Menlo Park and resident near Marsh & 101, I've already seen an incredible increase in traffic as the economy as come back. With the continued development of projects such as these up and down the peninsula, we are slowly strangling our transportation infrastructure. Particular choke points in MP are Marsh, Willow, Middlefield and Sand Hill. I've pretty much given up on 101 during any commute period and 280 isn't much better. At what point will the peninsula's city planning commissions or regional planners develop light rail in San Mateo County and move forward with the Dumbarton Rail project? The rail line is just behind Greenheart and the Facebook campus seems like the perfect place for a rail stop. I believe that if San Carlos, Redwood City, Palo Alto and Menlo Park put their heads togther, they could come up with a pretty decent light rail system or street trolley system that connected the high tech campuses with Cal Train as well as serving downtown communities with spur lines into western residential areas. This is done in Europe, why not here? Regional traffic impact needs to now be a greater priority in new developments such as these. If ABAG is demanding we build, we've got to do it smarter....

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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 31, 2014 at 7:22 am

While it may sound "great" that there is all this development of new housing close to work for the FB crew. From what I know, the school system is already overcrowded in all the surrounding cities of MP, PA, MV, RC. Where will those children go to school? Oh, and are we already running out of water?

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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2014 at 9:12 am

Dumbarton Rail was just again killed by BART-├╝ber-alles loving MTC. There are forces very much opposed to Dumbarton Rail: the HSR-must-pass-through-SJ crowd headed up by Carl Guardino and his SVLG do not want the possibility of the previously preferred and superior HSR Valley-to-Peninsula-via-Altamont/Dumbarton alignment to be revisited. Then there are the train-fearing Suburban Park NIMBYs who bought homes backing up to the old tracks they thought might never see trains again, who I suspect were behind the middle-of-the-night torching the of decrepit wooden trestle portion in hopes of killing the incipient Dumbarton Rail project. This coincidentally occurred around the time a group of Suburban Park NIMBYs was lobbying in Sacramento and packing local community meetings held by SamTrans and screaming about how Dumbarton trains would surely kill them all in their beds (or something like that).

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Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 31, 2014 at 2:44 pm

@New Guy,
The biggest inflow of new students is turnover of single family homes in Menlo Park and Atherton, not new development, especially in the form of mostly pricey 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. Maybe we should prohibit retirees with empty nests from selling ? That would better address your concerns.

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Posted by East of 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 31, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Yeah this sound grand but it's a keep out complex for the residents of the Belle Haven community. Developers are driving the "under resourced" residents out! I love how the focus is on how that Facebook Billionaire who moved his company from
Wealthy Palo Alto because his money wasn't powerful enough to do as he pleased. Now he is supposedly helping the under privileges school but he is driving all their parents out of the neighborhood! Or the newly hired officer who is raiding that community to kick all of the under paid ,overworked and minimally educated out, LOL. I can't believe this is only apparent to me and a few others ! Cut the bs media and say it like it is!

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Posted by Susanne Chang
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 2, 2014 at 8:14 am

Several letters already mentioned some problems with the Greenheart plan. If the future tenants will have one or two kids where will they go to daycare? Or maybe there will be only one child with a nanny? It is nice to have a large spa to feel relaxed and look nice but is not a daycare center more important? Does Greennheart believe FB has one on site?
As for the schools,another writer mentioned all nearby school districts are at at or near capacity. ( There are plans of opening up another school and a small high school. Will the children end up going to nearby private schools? For a few maybe, but they are not an option for most families.
My final point is the plan itself. Where are the low cost housing units? I believe that if own owns a property one tenth is set aside for that. ( even that is too little). The way it is developed is un inviting to the local Belle Haven residents.

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Posted by New Schools
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 2, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Susanne, yes the schools in the area are already over crowded, however with the recent $120 million dollar donation to fund schools in East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, the Zukerberg money will go to aid strugglilng schools and students on the East side, but also grow Charter schools in the area. All the new Facebook and techie families moving into the new developments on the East Side of town - can you say Gentrification? - will have a variety of public school options to choose from in a few years. The donation was a necessity so that these new techies buying condos in the East side will have a place to send their kids to school. It's a win:win for the Belle Haven and EPA communities. Well, assuming that the poor people living there now can still afford to pay market rents. A bit disappointing the see that the new developments are short on affordable - ie, Below Market Housing units. The changes are going to hit them hard.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Are there *really* new techies buying places in Belle Haven and East Menlo? If so, how many places have been purchased?

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Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:06 pm

The endless plan to make more room and housing for more people is the way to destroy the California way of life. Having come to the state in 1940, the changes and the throttling traffic are a poor excuse for "growth". Growth is the objective of all business, they need more customers and more cheap labor.
As it is, we are running out of land near the centers, running short of water, and increasing the commute for most people. Housing costs are gong up with increasing demand and immigration into the state. What does it all get us with respect to quality of life? For most it is a negative. Even the wealthy do suffer a bit,when their $100,000 + cars creep along with all the old jalopies on the road, unless they no longer need to or want to work.
As El Camino is lined by 4and 5 story apartment blocks, the area changes for good and not for the better.

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Posted by New Schools
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm

To Hmmm, I suggest you read the editorial in this week's Almanac: "Some Facebook housing off the beaten path". The places may not have all been purchased, but they are being built specifically for the employees.

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Posted by Shelly
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm

The concerns over schools becoming even more overcrowded are valid. The east side of Menlo Park needs a high school to replace the one that closed many years back. Hopefully Zuckerberg's generosity will be used to help students K-12, and a hew high school will be built. Students deserve to attend schools that are in their neighborhood anytime possible. Let's hope for the best.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

New Schools - thanks for the info! Yes, I did read that. I didn't think that the area where the new housing was being built, referenced in that article, was Belle Haven. That's part of why I'm confused. It's not that I don't think gentrification can/will/is happen/ing, but I've been trying to actually identify it in reality rather than just read about it. I do run into newer techies sometimes in the area, but many of the ones I know have lived here for a long time.

On another note, I thought this was a bit ironic:

"But will these workers enjoy living in such a remote area, which has no retail or other residential development? Residents will find a few stores in Belle Haven, but will have to drive to Menlo Park, Palo Alto or Redwood City to do any serious shopping.'
What, all of a sudden there might be concern about folks closer to the bay having access to services? What about the many thousands of people who already live "east" of 101 who haven't had access to good shopping for MANY MANY YEARS? What, they don't matter because they don't have the techie privileges of those who'll be moving into the new developments?

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Another question: Does anyone have any informative pov on why developers have not been required to deal w/the water problems everyone is now grappling with? I am not referring to the drought, but to the capacity and old pipes. Is this solely a civic responsibility?

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Posted by Richard Vaughan
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2014 at 8:12 am

To address Hmmmmmm's question
re: water issues
Everyone on the peninsula & SF gets their water from Hetch Hetchy via the SF Water District. I have never heard of them commenting on development concerns however I do know that in order for some large projects to go forward, there have been schemes for water "trading", such as was proposed for the Saltworks but as the project has been shelved, the discussions went away.
Now whether there is enough water to sustain all of the new housing is a different question. That is one of the reasons so many have opposed the Saltworks project in RWC (besides the fact that it will fill the bay and completely screw everyone with traffic (you can probably guess how I feel about that one...))
When it was one large project, such as Saltworks, one could identify specific usage amounts. With all of the "smaller" developments of high density housing up and down the peninsula, I'm not sure anyone is really connecting the dots.....
It is my understanding (and anyone please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) that the SF Water district is currently undergoing both an expansion and an earthquake retrofit to ensure greater supply and capacity, I think that they added a third pipe coming out of Fremont. The yellow gantry you can see out next to the Dumbarton is where they have the tunnel machine drilling a bore under the bay. The dam in San Mateo is being raised a bit and lots of new work is being done throughout the system.
So, capacity and old pipes is probably not an issue.

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