News

Menlo Park OKs downtown housing-commercial complex

First such project to win approval in specific plan area

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.

Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Ollie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Geez, just what we DON'T need, another luxury hotel type addition. Why are we only catering to the rich traveler, and not providing for the working poor? It sounds like it's only about the money.


22 people like this
Posted by Esther
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Enhance the feel of downtown will it? Make it snootier than ever, I say! When 90% of Menlo Park's workers can't afford to live in their town anymore, I don't see why humanity hasn't set in, we must build affordable housing!


12 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 2:05 pm

really? is a registered user.

Of course it's all about money! Welcome to capitalism and it's favorite love-child: property! If you nimbies want low-income housing, then change the zoning to allow only that. Restrict everyone's property right to sell only to carefully-vetted, approved needy groups and individuals at a price set by a local appointed board. BMR housing only kicks in below 20 units, this project is what the market gives us.

And who was moaning about the lack of retail? When did anyone last shop along that stretch of ECR? get real.


19 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 2:19 pm

What is a true "mixed-use" development? Is it one that has corporate rental housing that is fully furnished and rents for $10,000 a month or is it one that has housing for people who want to actually live in Menlo Park.You know, people who work in the area, shop in our town and visit our parks. I realize Susan Goodhue is new to her position as a Planning Commissioner but her colleagues need to explain to her about mixed-use developments. It should be one that has equal parts retail, office and housing. Real housing.

Menlo Park has lost it way. Our Council, Planning Commission and City Staff are catering to the whims of the rich developers. Soon we will have a town with retail businesses and restaurants unable to hire service people: waiters, chefs, dishwashers, shop clerks, house cleaners, nannies, swim coaches, teachers and don't forget the women who paint your nails before you head to your roof top eateries.

And Ferrick's only concern was related to the architectural design?

Say good bye to Menlo Park


16 people like this
Posted by OMG
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Good grief! When will MP stop catering to developers' plans and start caring about the needs of its townspeople? I'm to saddened by the direction being taken by the Planning Commission to even bother to comment fully. Obviously, there is no point since the residents' voices go unheeded.


5 people like this
Posted by OMG
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Oops. 'too' saddened. I wish we had a way to edit a comment when we spot a typo.


9 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 2:52 pm

really? is a registered user.

So did any of you complainers attend the Planning Commission meeting last night to air your views?

nope


3 people like this
Posted by yay itinerant housing?
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Just fyi, the four unit residential project at 612 College Avenue appears to be townhomes. Web Link

In other development news, does anyone know what's going into the Just Add Water abandoned swimwear shop? Its for lease sign appears to be gone now.


3 people like this
Posted by lost retail
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 3:57 pm

There were two stores on the site, now there is less to support Menlo Park.
Shouldn't "corporate apartments" be considered HOTEL rooms? The city should evaluate these closely and obtain hotel taxes when it can.

Copied from other thread "... it also REDUCES the amount of retail/personal services (from 6,471 to 1,997 of "commercial", a reduction of 4,474 square feet). There may be zero retail since it's called "commercial", which often means offices.
The city needs to pay closer attention to the ongoing loss of retail.

The design is "modern" lacking character. That won't age well. Better would be a more traditional, time-tested design like the El Camino housing near Partridge."


5 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 4:07 pm

10K monthly for corporate housing with no pools, tennis courts, or a gym. Need walking access to CalTrain? Move into the Stanford Park hotel. Stated pricing for these apartments is hardly competitive compared to Sharon Green or Oak Creek. What makes them "corporate apartments" instead of hotel rooms if the owner rents them for just a few nights at a time? Does that require a hotel use permit or business license? There's something odd about this proposed use.


14 people like this
Posted by time for change
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 4:38 pm

so much whining about progress. At least we have interest in developing our dilapidated city. Does anyone think retail along ECR on this stretch is attractive? Guy pluming is useful and all, but these buildings are showing their age and need an upgrade. This development looks pretty nice and will bring more people to our downtown which will encourage more businesses to serve those people that we can all enjoy as residents ourselves.

My only gripe is that they cannot put restaurants there due to our antiquated parking restrictions. hopefully we solve that one soon too.

To "unbelievable".. I don't paint my nails, but I look forward to dining at many roof top eateries in the future, including the new one on top of BBC. And I believe there will be plenty of people to work in these new businesses, even if they do not live in Menlo Park, thanks to the focus on development in the downtown core near Caltrain station and other public transit options.


5 people like this
Posted by lost retail
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:10 pm

@ time for change - yes things look dilapidated but there are some great local businesses that will be sorely missed. With more housing coming in and more customers, they should thrive. But if all get replaced by offices BECAUSE the city is allowing that to happen through loose zoning, then we all will have to drive to other towns to get things we need. More traffic, less activity that makes this feel like home.
We residents need stores and nail salons and shoe and car repair shops that are convenient. We can't afford to lose them. There is plenty of room for offices to be built and to keep shops, too. The city has to zone for that to happen.


3 people like this
Posted by Housing helps
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:10 pm

New construction is always "luxury", because people are willing to pay more when something is new. But if you don't build it, affluent people don't go away - instead they place a bid on your apartment.

When a rich person moves into town, it's like a game of musical chairs where the poor always lose. Since it's a free country and we can't stop rich people from moving in (would we want to?), we'd better make sure there are enough chairs for everyone.

That said, I'm disappointed the courts ruled that cities can't make developers pay for affordable housing when they build rentals. We need more housing right now for all income levels.


1 person likes this
Posted by George
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:21 pm

If people were as important as redwood trees, we would have a bidder in the real estate market that does what POST does for redwood trees. Maybe a student at the GSB or a burner seeking to build a bridge from the principles of Burning Man to our commercial culture could take the ball. Otherwise, it will be more more of the same. Sunset, Iberia, etc...replaced by office buildings. Maybe send the commissioners and developers to Burning Man?

Check menlopark.org/connectmenlo for upcoming General Plan Advisory Committee meeting dates:

8/24 is next meeting 5:30-8:30 PM in Oak Room at 700 Alma Street


13 people like this
Posted by Housing helps
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Ummm... The Sunset building _is_ offices. And weren't they talking about replacing it with housing?

Sunset is gone because the magazine business is hard and young people want to live in cities, not suburbia. Nothing the City Council could do would change that. Let's keep our eye on what Menlo Park needs for the future, not what it had in the past.


5 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2015 at 7:40 pm

15 corporate apartments, meaning furnished, complete with towels, bed linens & kitchenware. This by definition is short-term. How is this different than a hotel-by-the-month? Does MP get tax money? These aren't permanent residents moving into MP and becoming committed to & involved in the community.


9 people like this
Posted by June Curran
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 18, 2015 at 8:54 pm

The drawing depicting the new buildings looks very attractive. I agree though that there should be more housing made available for the lower income people. I would like to see this kind of development along ECR where the former car dealerships now stand forlornly empty. As long as there are double pane windows and plenty of sound proofing, I don't think people would mind living along that area, even though the trains run nearby. Burlingame has new apartment buildings along California Drive immediately adjacent to the tracks. The way ECR looks now is an embarrassment. My friends from out of town commented from my car windows the other day, saying: "Oh my goodness. What has happened here? When will they finish this area?" We were driving back from Stanford Shopping Center and passing by the blighted area of former car places. Let's hope that something useful and beneficial to all sorts of people (low income especially) can be soon built on this narrow strip of land.


1 person likes this
Posted by Voter Wisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 19, 2015 at 7:26 am

Are there any upcoming votes for Menlo Park residents concerning GPAC actions?

I would vote for:

A Kickstarter campaign that accepts votes and/or funding from residents who are registered to vote in their district, and seeks to be a forum for resident and non-resident stakeholders. The goal would be to execute the wishes of the voters.

My campaign wish would be for the forum to include the voices of Voters, Seniors, Students, Businessmen – Local small business, Educators, Politicians – Commissioners, Burners – Bridge Builders, Developers – Embarcadero Partners, Pinnacle Group, Lane Group, Outliers – EcoMagic, POST, PIE Ranch, Investors – Real Estate, Facebook Real Estate, Kickstarter, etc.

My idea campaign would be one where voters chose to fund a bidder that sought to create a 501c3 educational/community service model that provided housing to investors. Closest thing I have seen to this is EcoMagic, but their residents are all renters.


9 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 19, 2015 at 7:53 am

really? is a registered user.

All this sound and fury about corporate apartments……

Our zoming is a blunt instrument: Housing is housing. There are no subcatagories of fancy corporate 3 month apartments vs multi-family market rate apartments. (there is of course a significant different between transient occupancy and residential). The developer, as a complete distration, announced his rental plans which just gets the community blood up for good or bad reasons, but none of which makes a hoot of difference.

So housing is housing, and unless people in the Willows and West Menlo are looking to subdivide and build multi-family dense housing in place of their land-hungry bungalows, we need to stuff it in where we can, no matter what it's titled as.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

I was very excited about this project initially, now I'm less so. Something is better than nothing, I suppose, but we could do better. But when I read the staff report, it's clear that the issue is actually that the current zoning is preventing us from getting a better project here!

First off, most people on this thread (me included) are disappointed to see luxury rental housing in 1700 sq ft apartments rather than something more attainable for middle-class residents. Ideally, instead of 15 huge apartments, we'd have gotten 30 smaller units in the same space that would have rented for less and still provided room for a mix of singles, couples, and families. Unfortunately, the Downtown Specific Plan doesn't let the developer build any more units - the zoning essentially forces him to build huge, luxury units instead.

Second, we'd all prefer to see more retail space, and maybe something more lively, like a restaurant. As it is, there's a risk this turns into boring office space instead. Well, if he wanted to build more retail space, he would have had to add parking spaces onsite, which there wasn't room to do. Menlo Park doesn't have an option for offsite parking, like a parking garage, which is what we would need if we wanted more retail or restaurants at this spot.

If we want better developments, we've got to change the rules to make them possible. Otherwise, we're going to get what we zoned for. :(


2 people like this
Posted by lost retail
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 19, 2015 at 12:45 pm

There should be some options for shared parking, including garages, and the city ought to be a whole lot more proactive about that. The parking and density for housing should be revisited if those are constraints to more, affordable units. This site is close enough to transit to have 1 space/housing unit.
The whole site could be housing instead of mixed use. Housing needs less parking than offices.


4 people like this
Posted by Talia
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 19, 2015 at 12:45 pm

I'm horrified that yet another hotel is going up in Menlo Park, luxury at that. What happened to developing the ECR as affordable housing? Do you know how many people who work in Menlo Park make less than 30,000 a year, such as restaurant workers, nursing staff, and other service industry workers who can't afford to live here? What better place to build affordable housing than along the ECR corridor. Why would someone who could pay $8000 for a hotel want to stay on ECR? They would go to Rosewood or some nicer and scenic spot.


10 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 19, 2015 at 2:34 pm

really? is a registered user.

THIS IS NOT A HOTEL.

THIS IS A LOUSY PLACE FOR RETAIL.

WE NEED HOUSING (in whatever flavor it comes)

Those are the facts


8 people like this
Posted by Been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Let’s all acknowledge that the Down Town specific plan has been in effect for more than the past 3 years.
This is the 4th small project approved since then, and fewer have been issued construction permits.
The Menlo Park approval process is as slow as molasses in January.
Menlo Park likes to watch rocks grow old.
Something is wrong with the process that so little had progressed and only for little projects.
The blight continues.


Like this comment
Posted by lost retail
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm

According to the list on the city website there are 11 projects approved or in process and the staff report mentions 2 more.
Attachment A Web Link.
The big sites each needed extra environmental review because both were expected to cause more negative impacts than studied in the downtown plan's EIR. That extra study is important so the impacts can be mitigated as much as possible.
The Planning Commission just held its review of the Plan. The Council is next. If you think things need modified in the plan, NOW is the time to speak out. Very few have done so.


Like this comment
Posted by Been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 20, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Thank you Lost Retail for your insiteful comment. The link you suggested shows only 3 approved projects. The painfully slow progress continues.
Additionally, the larger projects were included not excluded from the EIR that was prepared under the Specifit Plan. The Greenhart wanted to have their own EIR which they elected to begin prior to the defeated measure last November. No approval there either.


Like this comment
Posted by lost retail
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:44 am

@been there - " the larger projects were included not excluded from the EIR that was prepared under the Specifit Plan."
The larger sites were included in the Specific Plan's EIR, but the proposed projects were not. For Greenheart, nearly all of their site was assumed to be built with previously approved/reviewed projects. The current project was not anticipated in the EIR at that site.


5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park Fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:16 am

My family has lived in MP for over 10 years and we have seen this city become more and more unobtainable for middle class families to afford. The increase in cost of living has brought up property values that the residences have benefited from however our downtown area is a shame. Businesses come to MP to die...what we need to vibrancy, family oriented business and please just one decent restaurant!!

This project should not be criticized on basis of retail offering, nobody shops on ECR. It will bring much needed housing to MP and a building that's pleasant to look at.

Any new construction would be considered for the "rich" as all new construction in MP is. It's an indication of where we live and a reality we have to deal with.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Park Fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 11:20 am

One more note...check the price per square foot on new homes in MP...house on Berkeley is $6.5M! Affordable housing in MP doesn't exist if it's new contruction.

*pls excuse typos


2 people like this
Posted by lost retail
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 21, 2015 at 5:43 pm

People do shop in Menlo Park! Developments so far are resulting in a loss of restaurants and shops. If a lot more housing comes, as is projected, then all those people will either have to drive to another city or can walk to patronize eating and retail places here. We have to think about this. Offices are displacing everything. I am not at all against offices btw, but their growth has to be accompanied by similar growth, not loss, of retail and housing.


6 people like this
Posted by Make Your Voice Heard!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 1, 2015 at 10:21 am

These comments are important and elected officials need to hear them directly! Come out Wednesday night, Sept. 2, at 7 pm at Downtown Paseo
(Chestnut Ave. at Santa Cruz Ave.) to speak out in favor of building more housing for the middle class and more affordable housing in Menlo Park. It's a community workshop about the plan for redevelopment near the Facebook campus.

Other upcoming meetings where it's important to make your voice heard about housing issues:

Sept. 9, 7 pm, Senior Center, 100 Terminal Avenue

Sept. 21, 7 pm, Planning Commission review of plan, 701 Laurel Street

Sept. 29, 7 pm, City Council review of plan, 701 Laurel Street

Don't sit quietly on the sidelines - city council and planning commission members need to hear from all of us! They should be encouraging multi-family homes for all residents instead of corporate housing.


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

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