News

Sunset campus sold to real estate investment firm

 

A little more than a month after employees were first told that the landmark Sunset campus was up for sale, the property has been sold to Embarcadero Capital Partners, a real estate investment and management firm based in Belmont, multiple sources told the Almanac.

The seven-acre campus, located at 80 Willow Road, reportedly sold for $78 million, less than the rumored asking price of $84 million, according to those sources.

During informal discussions with staff about the sale on Wednesday, Dec. 10, management was said to confirm that there was pressure from shareholders of Time Inc., which owns the Sunset brand, to meet fourth quarter earning expectations. A plan to build high-density condominium type housing on the site "was alluded to."

Representatives from Embarcadero Capital Partners were not immediately available for comment. The firm's website lists primarily office space in its portfolio, although it does include one residential project, located in Sacramento.

Jill Davison of Time Inc. said she could not confirm the sales price or future plans for the site.

Building housing on the site would require a zoning change, as the code currently permits administrative and professional offices.

"I can say with all confidence that it would be an uphill battle and not something I would support," said Menlo Park Economic Development Manager Jim Cogan. "A project like that would require a general plan amendment and zoning change. Neither of which are likely."

There's also the potential historic nature of the site, according to Mr. Cogan, who said that any project would have to provide the city with an analysis of existing historic resources on the property.

"While it's premature to speculate on what a report might deem historic, I assume there will be some amount of preservation required of any project," he said.

Residential architect Cliff May designed his first commercial building to resemble an early Spanish ranch home. Set on seven acres adjacent to San Francisquito Creek, the adobe building with the patios and test kitchens was surrounded by spacious gardens designed by Thomas Church.

The sale to Embarcadero Capital Partners puts an end to Menlo College's exploration of buying the property to both expand its school and preserve the unique features of the Sunset campus.

The magazine will remain at the Willow Road property through 2015, and the annual "Sunset Celebration Weekend" event is still planned for next summer, sources said.

The publication is said to be looking for alternate sites for its test garden and kitchen.

In 1951, Sunset moved from San Francisco to its iconic campus in Menlo Park. The following year Bill and Mel Lane took over company operations from their father, Laurence W. Lane, who had bought the publication for $65,000 in 1928 when it was a fledgling travel magazine. The Lane brothers sold the company to Time Warner in 1990 for $225 million.

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Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 11, 2014 at 11:31 am

Gern is a registered user.

"A plan to build high-density condominium type housing on the site 'was alluded to.'"

And what an unmitigated travesty this would be were it come to pass. Between this and the Stanford and Greenheart projects, should they move forward as currently proposed, Menlo Park will have pretty much sold its soul to development interests, though I'm hopeful Jim Cogan is correct in that Embarcadero Partners has a steeply uphill battle ahead if they do wish to foist condos on the Sunset location.

Gern


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 11, 2014 at 11:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Everyone acknowledges the need for housing in Menlo Park but, as predicted, Not in My Back Yard.

Perhaps the Linfield Oak folks will offer to buy the property so that they can preserve it in its current condition.


9 people like this
Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Gern is a registered user.

The "Not in My Back Yard" accusations outgassing from Lindenwood couldn't ring more hollow, honestly. The property isn't zoned for housing, in any case, and the best we (I) can likely hope for is that it will remain low-density office, though the bulk or the whole of the Thomas Church gardens and Cliff May architecture are not long for this world, clearly.

Gern


4 people like this
Posted by ever watchful
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Looks like Cogan speaks for the council. Has our council become so passive that they would allow this guy to get out front and make such strong statements about the likelihood of a general Plan amendment? This decision is up to our elected council members.

Stand down, Cogan. You are getting too big for your britches.

I understand that the Council and the voters made their wishes known by rejecting Measure M, but I didn't know that the Council has given Cogan a carte blanche to speak for them before the ink has even dried on the Sunset sale documents.

Council, rein this guy in before you look just plain silly.


7 people like this
Posted by Former MP resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm

This just makes me sad. My family lived in Menlo Park for a long time. Sunset, its gardens and publications are an emblem of the city at large, proud of its tree heritage. The site should be immortalized in just such gardens that provide public access and could complement continuation of the annual fair.


7 people like this
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Whether Cogan is right or not I applaud his open and forthright views. Council members can weigh in as needed. The road to good civic decisions is good public dialogue. Anyway, who thinks general plan and zoning mods would be or should be easy in this situation?


2 people like this
Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Mr. Cogan's comment regarding the "potential historic nature of the site", is ludicrous. Anything historic about the Sunset Magazine and the Menlo Park campus went out the window when the property was first developed in 1951. And that window was nailed shut when Lane Family sold to Time Warner. Other than the necessity to protect heritage trees and vital creek habitat, the new owners will only need to follow City guidelines for development of the campus.
Heck, I was born in 1951, and thankfully, all my "historic resources" are still working just fine. heh.


4 people like this
Posted by housing needed in my backyard
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 11, 2014 at 3:23 pm

No doubt the investors already had some talks about rezoning to allow for the developments they are "alluding" to - as if they would have shelled out $78 million dollars without some assurance from our very developer friendly City council. Housing is needed in Menlo Park, and I trust that these investors will break ground swiftly and smartly - likely offering to preserve the Sunset gardens in exchange for rezoning deal.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Downtown/ECR Specific Plan allows up to 60 dwelling units per acre in conjunction with a Public Benefit.

It would be a win-win to get these 7 acres rezoned to permit 60 dwelling units per acre in conjunction with the Public Benefit of preserving the core of the main building and part of the gardens.


3 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Dec 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

If the developers want this land rezoned, THAT is the hammer Menlo Park can use to ensure the gardens are preserved. If they refuse to save the gardens, then no rezone.

I think the buildings, regardless of owner, are gone (or substantially remodeled) in virtually every likely scenario.

My main concern is that the addition of housing can further stress the capacity of MPCSD. However, IMHO that can be mitigated by mandating that an above-average percentage of housing be 1-bedroom. This can be a win-win: this helps bring more single people to the town (and their willingness to dine out at night and spend money), while limiting the increase in district schools (couples with children usually don't find a 1br feasible).


3 people like this
Posted by Max
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 11, 2014 at 7:14 pm

More high density housing. How awful that sounds. One bedroom apartments--60 units to an acre = chicken coops. My guess is that they won't even be truly affordable chicken coops; at least not affordable to the low-income service workers that keep our community ticking over. I wonder if some of our wealthy locals, such as those in Atherton, have any idea what it is like to live in tiny apartments surrounded by so many neighbors. This is barely a cut above student dorm life, which was fun at twenty years old, but grows old after graduation.

Further, it sure sounds as if this deal was worked out well in advance of the closure. Also, since I'm lucky enough to live in Ladera, this is not NIMBYism on my part.


3 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Dec 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm

> I wonder if some of our wealthy
> locals, such as those in Atherton,
> have any idea what it is like to
> live in tiny apartments surrounded
> by so many neighbors.

I can answer that, as I live in Atherton, and I've lived in tiny apartments in the past. It was GREAT for that time in my life when I was single.

Menlo Park's proximity to jobs and good public transit make it potentially a good option for singles and people without kids to live. It just needs the housing. And with 1br housing comes property taxes, which help fund the town's finances and the schools, without adding to the school population the way 2-3br housing would.


Like this comment
Posted by LCB
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

It is my understanding that only the building across from the main Sunset building and gardens has been sold, but not the main homestead. It would be reassuring to get confirmation.


Like this comment
Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

The entire campus has been sold. The buildings will be vacated at different times.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

7 acres is 304920 sq ft..

With a FAR of 1.0 that would allow 304920 sq ft of building.

Take away 20% for common areas and that still leaves about 240,000 sq ft.

The national average size of an apartment is 1000 sq ft.

Therefore these 7 acres could easily provide 240 residences - within walking distance of the train station and the Stanford and Greenheart properties.

Why not???


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Why not???"

Because the neighbors would have a cow.


4 people like this
Posted by Joseph Baloney
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Peter Carpenter writes "With a FAR of 1.0 that would allow 304920 sq ft of building."

Menlo Park currently shows the Sunset property zoned as C1 (I believe, correct me if I am wrong).
Quoting the zoning ordinance (since you are so fond of quoting) states:

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

Great plan. Let's more than triple the allowed FAR as a starting point. Then council can do "tough negotiations" and get some sweet, sweet clawback.

Why not, indeed.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

You really think that an FAR of 30% is worth $10 million per acre?


11 people like this
Posted by Our town
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 13, 2014 at 6:25 am

Thank you, Peter, for your singleminded dedication to ensuring that Menlo Park becomes the most unlivable town on the peninsula. You realize this will not help YOUR housing values or quality of life either?

No one forced Embarcadero CP to pay the price it did. If the firm has already met with council members and gotten their assurances that the property will be rezoned to meet their demands -- without any messy public process -- well, I think that will be a problem for many of us, and the council needs to be replaced.

Anyone who believes that you can add hundreds of housing units to the area with no impact on schools is delusional. There are plenty of MP residents right now raising families in tiny apartments.

In any case, the city of Menlo Park does not owe ECP the right to rezone so that they can earn a healthy ROI. If ECP loses money on their investment, that's the way it goes.


3 people like this
Posted by rumors
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 13, 2014 at 7:50 am

Why not ask the Councilmembers if any of them met with the developer before speculating about it?


3 people like this
Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2014 at 7:55 am

[Parts removed. Please state your position without negative characterizations of other posters and accusations of misconduct by an individual.]

It is not only [part removed] who desires to " ensure that Menlo Park becomes the most unlivable town on the peninsula" it is truly the whole City Council and City Staff who have this same attitude. Does anyone with any sense of how things work, not believe that these investors have NOT met behind closed doors with the City Staff and some members of Council?! [part removed. Accusation of illegal conduct.] Are Menlo Park citizens going to have to go to court to make the City government obey the laws?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Would you invest $78 million in a community that you had not carefully researched?

There is nothing illegal about becoming informed on a city's zoning ordinances and attitudes towards a proposed development.

What would be illegal would for three or more members of the City Council to discuss this privately either amongst themselves or via a serial meeting - there is ZERO evidence that either has occurred.


2 people like this
Posted by silly rules
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 13, 2014 at 9:45 am

What is galling to many of us is that the city has held community meetings to establish the vision that residents want, and the city has rules and then disregards both when developers show up and want to make a profit by building something that conflicts with the vision or conflicts with the rules.
The vision stated in community meetings for the downtown plan and for the general plan update highlighted "small town (or village) character". Current zoning for the Sunset site should be honored. If not, then new zoning should be determined as part of the General Plan update process, not more of the one-off zoning that Menlo Park does all the time.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 13, 2014 at 9:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The vision stated in community meetings for the general plan update highlighted "small town (or village) character"

No such meetings have occurred regarding the General Plan update. There have been meetings on updating the M 2 portion of the General Plan and NOTHING was stated regarding a 'small town (or village) character' for M 2.

I think the staff and council have learned from the Measure M fiasco that words are very important and care in now being taken not to include warm fuzzy imprecise language in future planning documents.


2 people like this
Posted by silly rules
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Vision statements and principles are by their very nature imprecise. It is the next steps of the plan that take them into reality with goals, strategies and rules.

Attendees at workshops for the GP update stated they heard the same words "small town character", "village character" as during the downtown plan workshops. The staff report for this week's PC/CC study session shows survey input with those same words (page 23) "Maintain Menlo Park's village-like character; preserve small town atmosphere."


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"village" character? "small town" atmosphere? Seriously? How many small towns do you know that are surrounded by millions of people and are trisected by two state highways? This is just more people that wish to live in delusion. We live in a CITY! NOT a "village." NOT a "small town." A CITY. A city surrounded by millions of people. A city within close proximity to three international airports. The sooner we stop with this collective delusion of living in the countryside, the sooner we'll be able to get something done in this CITY.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The last time that the area now know at the City of Menlo Park was a village was in the 1870's when the village "consisted of a few general merchandise stores, some livery stables, saloons, and three hotels."

When Menlo Park was incorporated in 1927 it was as a city - not as a village or a town.


9 people like this
Posted by Our town
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 13, 2014 at 3:48 pm

We are a town of 30,000 led by a few people who have delusions of transforming this place into San Francisco or maybe Manhattan. Except without the infrastructure.

Laugh all you want, Peter I and Peter II, but the residents have said time and again that we want to retain our small town character. Residents: the people who actually live here and pay taxes. Who moved here to partake of the small town ambiance. Who are raising families in homes with yards and safe walkable streets. The people whose preferences should count a whole lot more than any developer's desire to make a profit.

The fact that we're near some big airports and big cities is irrelevant! We, the people who live here, don't want our town to be San Francisco 2.0!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 13, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the residents have said time and again that we want to retain our small town character. "

Wrong - Measure M was a vote on the silly village notion and it Failed by a 2 to 1 margin.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:27 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

our town:

I'm a resident also and please give me a definition of "village" or "small town" character. I'd love to hear it as none of the definitions I've been able to find come close to a city of 33,000 people. We're a CITY. No one is trying to turn our city in to "San Francisco 2". But most of us are tired of the blight and tired of the dead downtown. The voters indicated that with their vote on M. Don't forget those "awful developers" trying to make a profit are probably the same folks that built your home.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:41 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As posted elsewhere, my English family lives in a village. They have one church, one gas station, one pub, no schools, no fire station, no police station, no post office, no sewage system and more cows and sheep than people. That is a village.

Using the false village description for Menlo Park is simply using a nice code word for "I've got mine and don't let anybody else into the boat".


1 person likes this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:51 am

Peter from Atherton says:

"I think the staff and council have learned from the Measure M fiasco that words are very important and care in now being taken not to include warm fuzzy imprecise language in future planning documents."

Peter, who does not live here,is reminding us that it will be as the developers, council members, city execs and investors want it, even if it means revising the documents to ensure the intended outcome.

When we reelected the same officials, we voted for more of the same. The developers, city execs, city council and other investors either do not live in MP now, or plan to retire to Tahoe by the time things get truely untenable for the residents...particularly residents from ECR to 101.

~40% voter disenchantment is actually a lot of disenchantment for one very small City.

We'll just have to wait and see what's in store for us regarding Sunset.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 11:15 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter is reminding us that it will be as the council members want it, even if it means revising the documents to ensure the intended outcome.

When we reelected the same officials, we voted for more of the same."

Correct, elections have consequences and the defeat of Measure M and the reelection of Kline, Ohtaki and Keith signaled very clearly that the voters do not want to be stuck in an 19th century village mentality.


2 people like this
Posted by silly rules
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

No one knows why people voted exactly the way they did in this election. Not everyone exercised all 3 votes for councilmembers. It is inappropriate to conclude much more than M lost and the incumbents got re-elected, at least one won by not much.

Whether or not some of these posters like it or agree, residents of Menlo Park have consistently said that they like the small town character. It was the top goal of the downtown plan, and was stated in general plan workshops. This concept does not mean at all "I've got mine and don't let anybody else into the boat". For many of us, it means "I want to raise my family in a nice residential community, not in a regional office park."


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

silly:

no one is talking about building office buildings in our residential neighborhoods. Are they? It is disingenuous to suggest office buildings on ECR are a "regional office park" in our residential neighborhoods.

I'll ask you the same thing. Please provide a definition of "small town" that fits a city of 33,000. I sure can't find one.


7 people like this
Posted by our town
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 14, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Spend five minutes walking down Santa Cruz, end to end, and tell me that's not a small town downtown.

It's impressive that measure m garnered 40% of votes considering the level of misinformation disseminated by developers and our own city staff. Many residents believed that they were opposing developers by voting no!


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"Many residents believed that they were opposing developers by voting no!"

Those same people would probably believe the sun will rise in the west if someone told them so.

A walk down Santa Cruz Ave. is not a definition. Please try and come up with a definition. We live in a small CITY.


3 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Dec 14, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Regarding the Sunset land: it really comes down to 2 options:

1) the new owners build offices not much different than what recently went up at that same intersection (the former gas station). I doubt the town will have much say on that since (if I recall correctly) the Sunset land is already zoned for it.

2) hope the new owners want to rezone. That gives the town leverage to keep some of the history in place, and influence what gets built there.

Regarding the changes to Menlo Park: while I agree that developers shouldn't be allowed to change lots carte blanche, there is a non-trivial amount of blight in this town, and it NEEDS housing that both reflects the needs of people in the area and protects the town from overwhelming the school district.



5 people like this
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I work not far from here, in MP, and observe that the intersection of Middlefield and Willow is among the most congested on the mid-Peninsula most hours of the day, and among the very worst after 3 pm weekdays. Let's put another 60 housing units per acre at this intersection, as an experiment in urban planning!

Seriously, the city should condemn this campus as an historical community asset and turn it into a full time tourist attraction, complete with year-round fairs and other artsy events.

imho


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Seriously, the city should condemn this campus as an historical community asset and turn it into a full time tourist attraction"

Easy to do - the fair market price is $78 million plus interest. And just exactly where do you propose the City of Menlo Park will fund $78 million plus?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 14, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It's impressive that measure m garnered 40% of votes "

The"villagers" opposed three council candidates - all of then were elected.

The "villagers" supported Measure M - it failed by a 2 to 1 margin.

It is time to move on from 1900 to 2015.


2 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 14, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Peter,

I thought you were against more housing on the Stanford and Greenheart properties for the reason that it would strain both fire and school services.

How does housing on the (former) Sunset property change that equation?

Mike


2 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm

"Building housing on the site would require a zoning change, as the code currently permits administrative and professional offices.

"I can say with all confidence that it would be an uphill battle and not something I would support," said Menlo Park Economic Development Manager Jim Cogan. "A project like that would require a general plan amendment and zoning change. Neither of which are likely.""

That about sums it up.

So, Mr.Carpenter et al, will it be Tahoe, Carmel, Monterey....?


3 people like this
Posted by Rumors
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 15, 2014 at 4:16 am

This forum is a lesson in the hysteria of fear. All that has happened is that a property was purchased. Everything on this forum, the debate, the conjecture, all of it is based on hypothetical scenarios built upon fictional accusations and fear. It's disturbing how vitriolic the comments are becoming without scan evidence of anything. The posters are making up scenarios to be angry about.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 7:21 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This forum is intended to be " a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion."

It is quite appropriate to consider alternative scenarios for the Sunset property and to explore the pros and cons of each prior to proposals being submitted and decisions made.

Of course if you prefer to play ostrich then that is your choice.


Like this comment
Posted by silly rules
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 15, 2014 at 9:01 am

Having a "small town character" is not the same as being a small town. That means having development support a residential quality of life. That was not the issue up for a vote in this election.

The existing rules allow office at the Sunset site. With the General Plan update underway, the site's development could be guided by existing rules or revised rules created through the update process. So far, the conversations about the general plan are not helpful because they focus solely on individual neighborhoods. What does the Linfield Oaks neighborhood need or want? This particular intersection ow Willow and Middlefield affects more than just one neighborhood. So what will it be? More rush hour office traffic from buildings more intense than Sunset? The loss of gardens open to the public year-round? More housing? Then think about what our community needs and whether those are the same as what that neighborhood "needs"...there are approved projects with a million square ft of office already in pipeline. Unless Stanford and greenhart projects change, there's another 400,000 square ft of office and a loss of retail, and more pressure for more housing.


4 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 15, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Gern and silly rules and easong are right. I am beyond disgusted at what will happen to the former Sunset Magazine campus. And all this is to make even more money for some people who are already ridiculously wealthy and who do not care at all that they are destroying an important part of the character that has made Menlo Park a nice place to live.

Our City Council -- none of whom, by the way, I voted for -- has sold what little is left of its soul to greedy developers. And, yes, I'm upset at the Lane family for selling this treasure to Time, Inc., in the first place, instead of donating the campus to some organization so that the campus would be kept intact in perpetuity.

easong has the best idea:
"Seriously, the city should condemn this campus as an historical community asset and turn it into a full time tourist attraction, complete with year-round fairs and other artsy events."
That would be the best use of this unique city asset -- not as a place to build yet more unneeded and ugly office buildings.


5 people like this
Posted by What's the rush
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 15, 2014 at 3:00 pm

It may well be that I'm naive to the complexities of development, but as an engaged and increasingly concerned citizen, I have have never heard a rational, factual based explanation by Menlo Park or other cities in a similar situation, as to exactly why more new housing needs to be built or or what specific harm will come if this housing isn't added. The arguments for and against growth are usually very general and never address specifics. My worry is that without a clear and factual explanation of the issue, it is very difficult to know what the impacts will be and how to form a mindful position on it.

I see Menlo Park as something special. And, yes, as a resident I'm biased. But the reality is, that the city does has a quaint and "small town" nature and feel to it compared to the other peninsula communities around us. For many decades Menlo Park elected officials and its residence have recognized this quality and have sought to embrace it and protect it. It is probably my favorite part of Menlo Park and one of the main reasons I bought a house here. I also feel that this quality is a very fragile and easily squandered. Once it's gone, it's gone.

So as I look upon this new pro-development trajectory we are on, my worry is that we are too focused on growth for growth's sake and that there is not enough community dialog taking place on the bigger picture -- the "small town" quality of Menlo Park -- and if it is still something we value and worth protecting. From my perspective, it seems that we are on verge of doing irreparably harm, and for what? Again, I've never heard specifics.

The citizens of Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, or Monte Sereno never complain that they don't have enough high density housing or that their city services or quality of life are lacking because of it.

With all due respect to our neighboring cities, we don't need another Redwood city, Mountain View, or Sunnyvale. If people think that we do, then at a minimum, we need to take pause and have an engaged community discussion about what we want Menlo Park to be, what we don't want it to be. Once you let a few of these "Sunset project" go by, there won't be much left worth protecting.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""Seriously, the city should condemn this campus as an historical community asset and turn it into a full time tourist attraction, complete with year-round fairs and other artsy events."
"That would be the best use of this unique city asset "

Fine - buy it. The market price including interest and transaction fees will be about $80 million.

That is about $2500 from every Menlo Park resident or about $6400 per household.


1 person likes this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

What's the rush: "I have have never heard a rational, factual based explanation by Menlo Park or other cities in a similar situation, as to exactly why more new housing needs to be built or or what specific harm will come if this housing isn't added."

The answer is the Housing Element law. " Housing element law, enacted in 1969, mandates that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community. The law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address housing needs and demand, local governments must adopt land use plans and regulatory systems which provide opportunities for, and do not unduly constrain, housing development. " (source: Web Link)

Menlo Park has been out of compliance for many years and has started to catch up after being threatened with litigation.


7 people like this
Posted by Arthur
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

As a Menlo Park resident, I'm increasingly irritated by those who enjoy living on, for example, spacious Atherton housing lots, yet are more than eager to tell others that living in a small apartment with, at the best, a balcony or patio is a wonderful idea. If those who have large lots would step up and build second units, we could ease some of our alleged housing shortage. But, alas, I doubt that many owners of large lots want to have less space for themselves.


1 person likes this
Posted by Catherine McMillan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2014 at 6:59 pm

This town is very developer-friendly indeed: Why is it that the powers-that-be in Menlo Park never seem to land real public benefits, "lifestyle" benefits. Developers want in - In this land of wheels and deals, why can't MP work out traffic mitigations (bridges, tunnels, bike-friendly areas, broad sidewalks), public art mitigations, green spaces, that benefit the public? Anyone who adds more residents (developers, realtors) will bring in more tax revenue, true, but do developers also chip in to make up for the huge traffic impacts, strains on public schools (more bond measures), and all other resources.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 15, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed. Please make your points without negative characterizations of other posters. For example, you could say why the suggestion that large landowners build more second units is not a good idea.]


2 people like this
Posted by silly rules
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 16, 2014 at 11:38 am

All concerns about what Menlo Park ought to be in the future, including this site, should be brought up with the City Council tonight when they discuss the general plan update's guiding principles and economic plan principles. Both are aimed at growth of offices, on top of at least 1.4 million square feet already approved or pending. That's a lot of traffic, that's a lot of pressures for housing, and there's uncertain commensurate benefits for residents.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Arthur posted "As a Menlo Park resident, I'm increasingly irritated by those who enjoy living on, for example, spacious Atherton housing lots, yet are more than eager to tell others that living in a small apartment with, at the best, a balcony or patio is a wonderful idea."

The Editors seem to have a hard time with me quoting your own words back to you so I will try again.

1 - I never stated " that living in a small apartment with, at the best, a balcony or patio is a wonderful idea." Please put your own words in your own mouth, not mine.

2 - To relieve your irritation I suggest that you post some positive recommendations.


6 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Dec 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm

OK...so in summary, some of the people in this discussion believe the following is the best course of action for Menlo Park:

1) No new residential construction in Menlo Park:
a) no apartments;
b) no condos;
c) no townhouses;
d) no houses;

2) No new office buildings;

3) Keep the Sunset buildings as-is;

4) Keep the Sunset gardens as-is;

5) The town should take possession of the Sunset properties through eminent domain...

6) ...but don't pay for it. Condemn the Sunset properties and just take possession (I chuckled at this one);

7) Get rid of blight on El Camino, but not if it means adding housing or offices;

8) ...and don't pay for the blighted land, either.


You folks are very entertaining!


7 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 16, 2014 at 8:45 pm

lessons learned is a registered user.

You got it, Peninsula Resident! What morons live in this town! They don't understand that what's best for developers is good for all of us, and this town will be vastly improved by the addition of a few thousand tons of concrete. Gardens and architecturally significant buildings? Who needs them? Bring on the wrecking balls and cement mixers.

We don't need to look any farther than Redwood City to see just how glorious it can be when a city allows itself to be guided by developer self-interest. Menlo Park needs to catch up. (Just don't drag Atherton into this. It's okay for them to be opposed to change because they are richer and smarter than the stupid residents of Menlo Park.)


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 17, 2014 at 7:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Poorly done sarcasm is a sad substitute for posting constructive suggestions.


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

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