News

Tonight: Menlo Park council studies boutique hotel

Councilman Ohtaki says developer is a friend, but has no financial ties

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."

Meeting

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.

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 9:30 am

"good friends" since childhood - sounds like a conflict of interest. Ohtaki should recuse himself.


Like this comment
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 9:52 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

No, he should not have to recuse himself. There is a reason pecuniary interest is the standard, because it is objective and can be independently established. Friends since childhood is far too subjective. If we made it a rule that being friends with someone meant that a council member would have to recuse themselves, we'd be dooming ourselves either to meetings without a full and vigorous debate because members were absent, or to only electing to council people so utterly lacking in social skills that they have no friends. That doesn't sound like a good outcome to me.


3 people like this
Posted by Menloshopper
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:03 am

It would be useful to get a lot more detail on the cost-sharing proposal. Like what kind of hotel would be built by this developer without that, and what would the expected ToT revenue stream be? Would there be a floor on ToT to the city, and how would that be guaranteed? The exact trade-off proposed needs to be made clear.
It's also unclear why the developer cannot get that extra $1M with other investors, really peanuts in Silicon Valley. Most investors would also take an equity share in the building, but that sounds like a bag of trouble for the city. Much of this looks like a bad precedent to be setting for future development through the Specific Plan or otherwise.


1 person likes this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:48 am

Tunbridge, I totally agree with your position.

The entire review and evaluation process for this hotel concept will be publicly reviewed so there will be plenty of opportunity to unemotionally discuss it. Pay attention and participate.

No one will be impressed with uncivil discourse and conspiracy theories. They ALWAYS weakens one's arguments. Peace.


Like this comment
Posted by DanaHendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

Please note the general comment in my prior message about civility was NOT directed at Turnbridge. I simply like to participate in healthy and productive discussions.


Like this comment
Posted by frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Would it be asking too much of the Almanac to report campaign contributions (if any) that Mr. Pollack might have given to other council members?

Editor's note: From the story:
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.


2 people like this
Posted by Susanne Chang
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Boutique hotel? What we need more is housing!


Like this comment
Posted by old guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 24, 2015 at 4:43 pm

63 rooms where the Shell station was. Amazing. This is a fine location for a hotel, not so good for housing. And we need the revenue that a room tax will bring. Sounds like a winner.


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 24, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Good project that we want, but nobody gets a free pass! I say if the developer needs a year waiver of his taxes, then he either didn't do his math properly or he's seeing what he can get away with.

Planning in this town is hamstrung by uncertainty. Developers don't know what need to go to Planning commission or how much ransom money the need to pay in 'public benefit.' This uncertainty is what creates empty lots, and our changing the rules or giving certain guys a break does not help the situation.

Stick to the Plan! Torpedos be Dammed!


2 people like this
Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 4:21 pm

If Menlo Park has extra taxpayer's cash lying around, inclluding the revenue that would be lost in a tax waiver, it should be used for improving our woefully deficient infrastructure and not for subsidizing private profit from the development of a luxury hotel.


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

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