Draft revisions to rules and policies affecting the future of the eastern portion of Menlo Park will be reviewed by the Planning Commission later this month, but residents have one more chance before then to come together at a public meeting for an update on the project and to offer their views.
A community workshop is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the Menlo Park Senior Center (located at 110 Terminal Ave.) to review proposed changes to the general plan -- considered the city's "constitution" governing development. The changes affect the city's M-2-zoned industrial area, roughly bordered by Marsh Road, U.S. 101, University Avenue and the bay -- an area being transformed as Facebook acquires and develops more land and the Bohannon Development Company prepares to break ground on a major office and hotel project.
The general plan update project, dubbed ConnectMenlo, has involved a number of public meetings over the past year, and was the focus of the city's General Plan Advisory Group, which came up with recommendations for changes in the plan. In March, the City Council and the Planning Commission held a joint study session to review the recommendations, but the council wanted more time to gather additional information and clarification on development plans for the area already in the pipeline.
Among the advisory group's recommendations were provisions to allow up to 2.5 million square feet of nonresidential buildings beyond what is now allowed in the general plan, about 4,500 new housing units, about 5,300 new jobs, and about 600 new hotel rooms.
An outdoor workshop on the grounds of the downtown "paseo" on Sept. 2 drew a small group of residents, and a couple of pooches, to view images of possible developments and roadway features envisioned for a revamped M-2 area. City staff members, consultants and two Facebook staff members answered questions, and later Charlie Knox of the consulting firm PlaceWorks spoke and took general questions from the public. The workshop's format will be repeated at the Sept. 9 event at the Senior Center.
A Belle Haven resident asked how the city would ensure that current area residents and businesses would benefit from the new developments planned for the M-2 district. She urged city leaders to strike deals with the developers that would give first preference for hiring and job training for local residents.
One resident of west Menlo Park said she was "profoundly concerned" about the displacement of residents across the city because of skyrocketing housing costs. She noted that the changes ahead in the east of town could put lower-income residents in that area at even greater risk, and made an impassioned plea for the city to consider enacting rent stabilization rules and mechanisms that would ban evictions without just cause -- words that drew applause from others in attendance.
Mr. Knox said after the meeting that similar concern about the displacement of residents "has been expressed by many community members" during the ConnectMenlo events. Affordable housing advocates agreed at a May 28 Housing Commission meeting that reviewed the ConnectMenlo project "that rent stabilization and just cause of eviction are the two tools available to stem displacement," he said in an email to the Almanac.
Following the Sept. 9 workshop at the Senior Center, the general plan update project will go before the Planning Commission for an environmental impact report (EIR) scoping session on Sept. 21, then back to the council on Sept. 29. The draft EIR is expected to be completed in February, and the final document should be ready by June. The estimated completion for the overall project is July, according to a timeline from the city.
Click here for more information.