News


Menlo College wants to buy, preserve Sunset campus

College needs room for more students

Menlo College is exploring buying the Sunset Magazine property in Menlo Park and using the existing buildings as an additional campus for the school, according to college President Rich Moran.

Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller, who met with Mr. Moran on Wednesday, Nov. 19, said the plan could be a win for the city and the college, which is located in Atherton off El Camino Real and Valparaiso Avenue right next door to Menlo Park. "I think it's a promising idea," he said.

President Moran said the college, which this year reached an enrollment cap set by the town of Atherton, is interested in expanding. When he read that Time Inc. wanted to sell the Sunset magazine Willow Road property, "I thought it might be an opportunity for the college to expand on that beautiful campus," he said.

The property is attractive to the college not only because it is only 2 miles away from the existing campus. The Sunset buildings are also architecturally similar to Menlo College's buildings, Mr. Moran noted. Not only would Menlo College want to use the existing buildings on the 7-acre property, "we would be interested in keeping the actual Sunset magazine in there," he said. The college is also interested in preserving the annual Sunset festival, he added.

"It's a compelling idea right now and a way to preserve iconic architecture, and to let a small college that's bursting, expand," President Moran said.

Mayor Mueller said that a number of details remain to be worked out. "If this works, I couldn't be more happy," he said. "I think Sunset magazine is one of those legacy businesses in town that our residents identify with."

Vice Mayor Catherine Carlton, who was also at the meeting with President Moran, said he promised that if the site were used for any housing, it would be for faculty and not students. "They also seemed extremely sensitive to the fact that it was a neighborhood," she said, and had promised they "would make an effort to be part of the neighborhood."

President Moran said on Friday, Nov. 21, that he had been in some preliminary talks with Time Inc.'s broker.

President Moran said he realizes the property will be expensive. "It would require creative financing or giving in order to make this happen," he said. However, he added, "it's an idea with enough merit that if smart people get in the room together, it might happen."

Mayor Mueller acknowledged that Menlo Park might be able to get more revenue from some other use of the property. "Our job as public servants is not to maximize tax revenues," he said. "I think it's a trade-off that people are willing to take."

The existing Sunset magazine campus is, Mayor Mueller said, "a vital part of our spirit and ecosystem."

However, the mayor acknowledged, there are other possible acceptable uses for the property. "I want this to work out with Menlo College, but if it doesn't that isn't the end of the line," he said.

Jim Irizarry of the San Mateo County assessor's office said nonprofit educational institutions can apply for an exemption from property taxes and that Menlo College current has such an exemption for its Atherton property.

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Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Wilows resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

That would be AWESOME!


7 people like this
Posted by lselkins
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Wonderful idea! Anything that contemplates preserving the buildings and gardens is worth exploring.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This would be a great outcome.

Key issue is that it would require rezoning the Sunset parcels. Are the neighbors smart enough and organized enough to support such a rezoning?


5 people like this
Posted by Ned
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm

We don't need another institution that doesn't pay taxes.

What if some investor would keep the same buildings and turn them into a hotel. THe gardens would be wonderful for meetings and weddings.


3 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Nov 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Ned is correct. Assuming Menlo college is considered a nonprofit college (which it likely does...technically) Menlo Park would get zippo in property taxes from the Sunset campus.


4 people like this
Posted by Patricia Arthur
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Nov 20, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Sunset Magazine and all that goes with it should be part of our history forever. Because of Larry Lane and all the wonderful Sunset Books my house was built in 1955 with all their wonderful designs and ideas. He came to my home with Cliff May to complement me when it was completed. . I still live in the same house and Joan Lane lives down the street in our wonderful neighborhood. Hurray for Menlo College for trying to put this together and for valuing the GOOD things from our past!!!!


5 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

It's bad enough having entitled Menlo College students zooming down El Camino and Encinal now they can have a road race two miles through MP every day.

Is the Sunset land to be used for student housing? There goes the neighborhood.

How much more policing would be needed and at what cost since there would be no property tax revenue? What percentage of Atherton PD's time and money is spent on policing and responding to Menlo College. Didn't we just read something about drug sales there?

MP should explore buying the south property for community use, perhaps with the help of Facebook.


9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 9:17 pm

As a Sunset insider, I think the community should know that Time Inc has every intention of selling the property in the next 4-6 weeks (by the end of 2014). If the community wants to save the iconic 1952 Cliff May buildings and Thomas Church gardens, we need to act immediately to establish historical status. I strongly urge anyone with any experience protecting historical buildings or culturally significant buildings to spear-head this effort.
The news that Menlo College was interested in buying the property and preserving it is very hopeful. However, there is not enough time. As of Wednesday (11/19/14) when the article was published, Menlo College had not yet been in touch with TIme Inc. TIme Inc has already been showing potential buyers the property and marketing it as a prime investment in Silicon Valley. As someone who cares deeply about the property, I think the sale and potential redevelopment would be a devastating loss to the community and the history of the West.


3 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm

pearl is a registered user.

To: Anonymous (Sunset Insider):

I was a Lane Book Company/Sunset Magazine employee way back in the 1960s, and had the privilege and pleasure of working at the beautiful Menlo Park campus. I, too,"think the sale and potential redevelopment would be a devastating loss to the community and the history of the West." I hope someone or some group will step forward before it's too late.


3 people like this
Posted by music lover
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 21, 2014 at 9:52 am

The Sunset campus would be the ideal venue for Music at Menlo, the world-class summer festival that has outgrown the Menlo College campus auditoriums and is now using the fine but small Menlo-Atherton High School theater as another space for its superb summer (and now winter) chamber music series. The festival has proven its artistic and educational value, and its patrons are a source of revenue for local restaurants and hotels, as well as for their tax bases. With support from Google or Facebook, the property could be saved as a resource for generations to come, and become a Tanglewood West. Tanglewood, in Massachusetts, revitalized the Berkshires and gave the Boston Symphony a summer home. It’s now 75 years old. Why couldn’t Menlo College and Music at Menlo strike a similar partnership with the San Francisco Symphony and make Silicon Valley truly a world-class home for the arts? There would also be room, as the Menlo Park mayor has suggested, for Sunset and its gardens to continue as a core entity and valued member of the artistic, educational and publishing community. It would be a feather in Time Inc.’s cap.


4 people like this
Posted by into the sunset
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 21, 2014 at 10:36 am

I love the idea of saving the gardens and preserving as much of the historic parts, too. How about some leadership on this, City Council?

If Menlo College puts students there and rents housing to them, then this is a commercial use and the college couldn't dodge property taxes on that part anyway.

They could provide shuttles to/from campus to minimize car trips. Why couldn't students bike? I sure biked farther than that to school!

If the property is rezoned, the city could ensure that it can negotiate a development agreement so such arrangements would be possible.


1 person likes this
Posted by into the sunset
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 21, 2014 at 10:36 am

I love the idea of saving the gardens and preserving as much of the historic parts, too. How about some leadership on this, City Council?

If Menlo College puts students there and rents housing to them, then this is a commercial use and the college couldn't dodge property taxes on that part anyway.

They could provide shuttles to/from campus to minimize car trips. Why couldn't students bike? I sure biked farther than that to school!

If the property is rezoned, the city could ensure that it can negotiate a development agreement so such arrangements would be possible.


Like this comment
Posted by Read the Article
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 21, 2014 at 10:45 am

Menlo College has met with the Mayor and Vice Mayor and is working with the City.


2 people like this
Posted by Don't muck about
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm

I'll take Menlo College over a developer any day. I love the idea of historic preservation, etc., but it sounds like a pipe dream given the time line. Menlo College over a developer - absolutely - Bird in the hand over two in the bush and all of that…..


Like this comment
Posted by Max
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Nov 21, 2014 at 9:11 pm

What does Menlo College intend to do with this location long term?

On a separate issue. I have tried 7 times to register with this site. Each time there is a problem. I do not understand why my valid g-mail address is considered invalid. As for the verification code, no matter how careful I am, it is all too often wrong. I give up on registering!


1 person likes this
Posted by Favebook Effect
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 21, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Facebook hasn't purchased it yet? Offices, open space, keep it the same and call it community outreach... Yea, this will go the way of the deep pockets at the other end of willow...


4 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Nov 22, 2014 at 10:42 am

1: if you think that Menlo college would buy the sunset buildings and leave them untouched, you people are dreaming. To make those buildings functional for any academic use, even music, would require significant remodel.

2: I'm puzzled why folks seem to think that a Menlo college purchase would be in the best interest of the neighborhood and town. You'll get NO property taxes (it doesn't matter how they use it and it doesn't matter if they make boatloads of money from the property, Menlo college is a nonprofit and exempt from property taxes.). Also, Menlo college is just as likely to increase traffic to the campus as some of the other options for the properties use.

3: why would Facebook be interested in the property? You're dreaming, and even if they did, I see no reason that wouldnt create just as much traffic as any other business buying it. And they'd need to remodel, too.

Keep the land zoned as-is. Special treatment is when things go awry.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

peninsula resident - well stated.

And everyone should realize what the current C-1 ADMINISTRATIVE AND PROFESSIONAL DISTRICT, RESTRICTIVE zoning permits:

16.30.010 Permitted uses.
There are no permitted uses in the C-1 district. (Prior code § 30.412(A)).

16.30.020 Conditional uses.
Conditional uses allowed in the C-1 district, subject to obtaining a use permit are as follows:

(1) Professional, executive and administrative offices;

(2) Research facilities;

(3) Public utilities in accordance with Chapter 16.76;

(4) Special uses in accordance with Chapter 16.78. (Ord. 850 § 4, 1993; Prior code § 30.412(B)).

16.30.030 Development regulations.
Development regulations in the C-1 district are as follows:

(1) Minimum lot area: two acres;

(2) Minimum lot dimensions: one hundred fifty feet width and depth;

(3) Required minimum yards: thirty feet front; twenty feet rear; twenty feet side;

(4) Land cover by all structures shall not exceed forty percent of building site;

(5) Height of structures shall not exceed thirty-five feet;

(6) In the case of conditional uses, additional regulations may be required by the planning commission;

(7) The floor area ratio shall not exceed thirty percent (30%). (Ord. 863 § 4, 1994; Ord. 739 § 2 (part), 1986; Prior code § 30.412(C)).

***************
And remember that Sunset has two parcels - one on each side of the street. The south parcel has very little parking and the north parcel has more than is required for that site. It will be a big challenge to get a conforming building on the south parcel without more parking.


Like this comment
Posted by into the sunset
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:06 pm

@peninsula resident - even nonprofits pay taxes when they use their property for commercial purposes.

The gardens are a treasure for Menlo Park. Demolition of a landmark site to "just" more houses or "just" more offices is a lost opportunity. Our city needs more park space, not more traffic, so the city itself ought to get a little creative.

@ Carpenter - Since when did Menlo Park care about existing zoning?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"even nonprofits pay taxes when they use their property for commercial purposes. "

The use of a property by a tax exempt organization for its tax exempt purposes is tax exempt, including Menlo College's proposed use.


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

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