Menlo Park's Planning Commission has approved the first mixed-use housing and commercial project under the downtown-El Camino Real specific plan since the plan's 2012 adoption. Pinnacle Group plans 15 corporate apartments and about 2,000 square feet of commercial space on the west side of El Camino between Valparaiso and Oak Grove avenues.
If the project's approval is appealed during the 15-day appeal period, it will go to the City Council; otherwise the developers can apply for a building permit. The three-story project, located at 1283-1295 El Camino, will replace two existing one-story retail and office buildings.
Mohammad Mortazavi, owner of Pinnancle Group Corp., said he plans to fully furnish the two- and three-bedroom units and lease them for about $10,000 a month as corporate rentals. Because there are only 8 parking spots for the commercial space, the space can be used for retail or non-medical offices, but not for a restaurant or cafe. Mr. Mortazavi said Pinnacle may move into the building as may the project's architects, Dahlin Group.
Because the units will be rentals, not condominiums, the project does not have to provide below market rate units according to the staff report.
Most of the commissioners were enthusiastic about the plan, and the vote for approval was 6-1, with only Commissioner Katie Ferrick voting no.
"I'm not a big fan of the architecture," Ms. Ferrick said. "It doesn't stop me from supporting the project as a whole," she said. "Overall, I think it's a really great project."
Her vote, she said, was partially in protest of the commission's open-ended approval, which allows some architectural changes that commissioners had mentioned. According to the wording approved by the commissioners, those changes will not come back to the commission unless a commissioner objects after they seeing the revised plans.
Commissioner Susan Goodhue said the project will "greatly enhance the feel of El Camino in Menlo Park." When a large mixed-use proposal on the opposite side of El Camino is built, "I think there will be some there, there," she said.
Menlo Park Senior Planner Thomas Rogers says only a few other projects have been approved in the plan area, including renovations and expansions at the Marriott Residence Inn at 555 Glenwood, and the Mermaid Inn at 727 El Camino Real. The only other new building to have won approval is a four-unit residential project at 612 College Ave., approved in September 2014 and now undergoing building permit review, Mr. Rogers said.