The Menlo Park City Council agreed Tuesday night to Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller's request to have the city schedule a time to study the process in which developers in the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan area are allowed extra square footage if they provide public benefits.
A joint study session with the City Council and the Planning Commission will "discuss refining the public benefit process and the public benefit thresholds" within the city's downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, Mayor Mueller said. Staff will also bring to the session information on the market value the extra square footage gives developers when public benefits are provided.
The request for a study session came after an Oct. 6 Planning Commission meeting on three amendments to the specific plan led to a discussion of what size of project should require public benefits.
Mayor Mueller said the sole topic of the study session will be public benefits, but that another study session about traffic will also be scheduled. City staff said both sessions will have to be held off until at least next January or February. The specific plan's two-year review also comes up next year.
At the October Planning Commission meeting, several commissioners, including Vince Bressler, Katie Ferrick and John Kadvany, said the topic of public benefits needed review because the council failed to recommend any changes to that aspect in its review of the specific plan. Mr. Kadvany referred to the lack of action as "the biggest mistake" the council has made in recent years.
Mr. Mueller could not take part in the the 2013 review of the specific plan because he owned property within the plan's boundaries; he no longer owns the property.
Measure M on the November ballot would modify the specific plan, but does not make any changes to the public benefit thresholds. The measure's supporters have argued, however, that public benefits should have to be provided in smaller developments.
Of the two mixed-use projects currently proposed, one would meet the threshold and require public benefits -- Greenheart's proposal at 1300 El Camino Real. The other, Stanford's proposal for 500 El Camino Real, would not meet the threshold, but the university is negotiating with the city anyway.