Planning Commission starts another review of specific plan


If Menlo Park residents believe the specific plan governing development in Menlo Park's downtown and El Camino Real corridor is still flawed, they didn't share their views with the city's Planning Commission when it met on Aug. 3 to review the plan.

Patti Fry, the former planning commissioner who was one of the authors of 2014's Measure M, which unsuccessfully sought to have parts of the plan changed, and Greenheart developer Steve Pierce were the only members of the public to speak at the meeting, although several others sent letters.

The public will have another chance for input when the City Council continues the two-year review, tentatively scheduled for its Sept. 8 meeting.

Ms. Fry said she'd like the city to look at how the plan is working compared to what was expected by the residents, city staff and consultants who spent years developing it.

"I think you need more information to evaluate how we're doing," she said. "There's a perception that we've lost retail, for example."

She urged the council to make sure the plan contains "mechanisms where we can manage the impacts of growth -- not stop growth, but manage it."

Planning commissioners spent most of the meeting reviewing staff recommendations for refinements in the plan.

Two staff proposals they did not support had to do with reducing parking requirements one for hotels and the other for businesses that fall into the category of "personal services," such as yoga and dance studios or driving schools.

Six commissioners supported retaining the current recommendations for hotel parking, with commissioner John Kadvany abstaining, but said the staff should remind developers the requirements can be modified case by case.

On the personal services parking issue, the commissioners were divided, with four (Larry Kahle, Katherine Strehl, John Kadvany and John Onken) voting not to reduce the parking requirements for such services. Katie Ferrick, Drew Combs and Susan Goodhue voted for a change.

Commission Chair John Onken said he'd instead like to see research on building a city parking garage.

By the time the commissioners finished with the staff's proposals and began to discuss Commissioner Kadvany's ideas on how to determine the value of the additional square footage a developer requests in trade for "public benefits," it was nearly 10 p.m. They asked to talk about it more at a future meeting.

Even later in the evening, Mr. Kadvany suggested considering lowering the threshold at which a project's proposed size and scale would trigger a public benefits requirement. He received no feedback from commissioners, who may just have wanted to go home and go to sleep.

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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 11, 2015 at 1:40 pm

I agree that the City needs to track it's progress implementing the ideas in the Specific Plan. There are qualitative and quantitative measures for both recommended actions and results that could be included in a scorecard during the City's annual budgeting process. For example, describe the SP ideas/projects included in the 2015/2016 Five-Year Capital Investment Plan and rate overall progress.

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Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 11, 2015 at 3:41 pm

The lack of more public input on the Specific Plan, and indeed on the ongoing new General Plan, now in the works, is really to be expected.

Why should those opposed to these really outrageous plans, bother to turn up at public meetings. The City's use of public funds to defeat opposition to these plans (remember $165K spent on the Wise report to defeat Measure M, and the City Manager's hiring of Malcolm Smith as well as the City Manager's refusing to provide requested public records on a timely or even at all basis, leads those opposed to just give up and not waste their time.

The present Council and planning commission represent a total "developer's dream" world. No longer is Quality of Life even considered in approving of projects. No longer do restrictions in zoning mean anything -- granted will be "overriding considerations" by Council when needed. We really should start comparing Menlo Park to the City of Belle... sure sounds like corruption to me.

2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 11, 2015 at 4:01 pm

really? is a registered user.

Ask any developer if Menlo Park is a 'dreamworld' and I think you'd get a radically different response. 40% of the town thinks we're going from utopia to wasteland; 60% thinks we're going from sleepy waste-sites to something much better. Planning commission reflects that.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 11, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

looking on:

you really haven't a clue and you misstate the facts. The Wise report wasn't put up "to defeat Measure M" it was produced to provide objective review of the measure. Just because it didn't back up your skewed belief doesn't mean it was meant to "defeat measure M."

I can tell you from personal experience I am currently dealing with, developers HATE dealing with Menlo Park. They are a HUGE pain in the ass. Definitely NOT a "developer's dream." Especially in the DSP. The requirements are insanely burdensome.

Like this comment
Posted by scorecard
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 12, 2015 at 8:43 am

@ Dana - Scorecards are great, but how about using a scorecard right now, during the Specific Plan's review process? Why wait?

Where are the public improvements?
Where is the funding plan to pay for them?
How is development shaping up to provide housing?
How is development shaping up to provide new retail (I think the net is negative so far, by the way)?
How do the parking lots downtown look? I see filthy, crumbling surfaces.

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

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