The Menlo Park council will hold a study session tonight (Feb. 24) on a proposal to build a hotel at 1400 El Camino Real. Councilman Peter Ohtaki said the developer is a longtime friend, but one without financial ties to the elected official.
Mr. Ohtaki said therefore there's no need to recuse himself from discussions about the boutique hotel proposal local developer Jeff Pollock is bringing to the city.
"Jeff and I went to La Entrada and Woodside High School together, and are good friends, but I don't have a financial relationship with his firm, so there is no conflict," Mr. Ohtaki told the Almanac. "That Jeff grew up here speaks to his firm's knowledge of our community and its needs. But I will consider their project objectively based on its merits."
Attorney Jim Ewert of the California Newspaper Publishers Association confirmed that the legal standard for a conflict of interest is whether an elected official has a pecuniary interest in the outcome of a decision. "Without one it's nearly impossible to assert a conflict of interest, even though it's a campaign contributor," Mr. Ewert said.
Mr. Pollock donated $400 to Mr. Ohtaki's successful 2014 campaign for re-election to the council; the councilman took in $18,463 total from donors. The developer did not donate to the other candidates in the race.
The Pollock Financial Group's proposal to build a 63-room, four-story hotel at 1400 El Camino Real could bring Menlo Park up to $8.5 million in transient occupancy tax over 10 years, according to the developer, but the company also plans to suggest that $1 million of that go to its investors instead.
"Although we've discussed with some in the city that we're going to need some help from them in order to attract our investors and make a hotel work on this small site," Mr. Pollock said, "Tuesday night at the study session is when we will officially bring up the idea of sharing about $1 million or about 12 percent of the total TOT generated, as one of the possible ways they can help. There will be others talked about as well."
Tonight's council meeting starts with a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by the regular meeting in the council chambers at the Civic Center 701 Laurel St.
Other items on the agenda include a quarterly review of the data collected by the police department's automated license plate readers, and a look at the parameters of the environmental impact report undertaken by Greenheart Land Co. for the 420,000-square-foot mixed use complex the company wants to build at 1300 El Camino Real.
The meeting will be streamed live online via the city's website.