Tonight: Atherton weighs Menlo School expansion plans

Planning Commission considers height variance, conditional use permit

Whether the town should give Menlo School a height variance for a third-floor addition at the rear of the school's most historic building will be considered by the Atherton Planning Commission when it meets Wednesday night, Aug. 26, starting at 6 p.m. in the town's council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

The private middle and high school, located at 50 Valparaiso Ave. in Atherton, plans to build several major projects on the campus, but only one requires a variance.

The school would like to exceed the 34-foot height limit in the "Public Facilities and School" zone by 8 feet to make an addition to the rear of Stent Hall, the original part of which is a more than 100-year-old building once known as Douglass Hall.

Planning Commission approval of a conditional use permit is also needed for the projects to move forward.

The staff report by Town Planner Lisa Costa-Sanders and planning consultant Neal Martin recommends the Planning Commission deny the variance due to "the precedent that could be set should a variance be granted." However, the report says, the planners agree with the applicant that the proposal would produce less "impact on neighbors and the public," than adding the space elsewhere on campus.

A historic report says the addition "would have no effect on the historic nature of the structure."

Menlo School plans three additions to two existing buildings. A new dining hall, student center and library addition, totaling 15,200 square feet, would connect to or renovate space in Stent Hall. A 5,400-square-foot one-story structure with a basement would be added to the Creative Arts & Design Center and used for a technology and business office. Business, development and communication offices totaling 4,200 square feet would be added to the third floor of the 1998 addition to Stent Hall.

The school plans to use 10 portable buildings during construction, putting them on the oval lawn area of the main entry loop, where it put portables during 2004 construction.

Also on the agenda at the meeting are the annual updates of the school's master plan and transportation plan. In 2011 the town allowed the school to increase its maximum number of students from 750 to 795, on the condition it develop a "Transportation Demand Management" plan to control auto trips to and from the school. The town's staff report says the school is complying with all the conditions of its existing use permits and auto trips are below the required levels.

Civic center

The Planning Commission is also scheduled to make a recommendation to the City Council on approval of the final environmental impact report on the town's Civic Center Master Plan. The town is currently designing a new civic center, and those plans will need further environmental review only on aspects that differ from the master plan.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Long time Atherton resident
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 26, 2015 at 3:08 pm

In my opinion, this one place where a variance would be appropriate because it would not have a negative visual impact on any of the surrounding residents and it would be an efficient use of the space for Menlo School.

1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo neighbor
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm

As a neighbor of the school, I would much rather have them go 8 feet higher on a central building than to build something else closer to neighbors. Good idea, and I hope people can see the big picture at tonight's meeting. The school did a great job compromising with us on their gym project...

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

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