By Kate Bradshaw
Residents of Stone Pine Lane in Menlo Park were none too pleased when developer Derek "Deke" Hunter presented revised plans Monday to build 24 townhouse-like residential units at 133 Encinal Ave., the former site of the Roger Reynolds Nursery.
Mr. Hunter, who presented the plans at the Oct. 19 Menlo Park Planning Commission meeting, proposes to build eight buildings. Six would be three stories high. Of the two structures closest to Stone Pine Lane, one would be two stories and the other, one story.
Among those objecting was the chairman of the commission, John Onken. Because he lives on Stone Pine Lane, he recused himself from the commission's discussion and decision, and stated his objections from the floor during public comment.
Nevertheless, the other commission members voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council approve the proposal because it fell well within the limits set in the city's El Camino Real/downtown specific plan.
Residents of Stone Pine Lane said that the project would not go far enough in preserving their privacy. Several residences have windows that would face out directly on the development.
Mr. Onken raised concerns about the narrow gap between the proposed development and the back of Stone Pine Lane in the current plans, which in some places is no wider than 31 feet, he said. The new townhouse-style residential units would be clustered more densely than the homes on Stone Pine Lane, which is OK for residents who want to live closer together, he said, but added: "What we don't see as acceptable is that condition imposed on the neighbors."
Other neighbors echoed Mr. Onken's sentiments, including Scott Phillips, Ursula Feusl, Bianca Skubniic and Jason Thrasher, who said their homes would look out directly onto the development, affecting their access to sunlight.
The commissioners said they recommended approval of the project since it is aligned with the specific plan and showed restraint compared to the maximum housing density allowed. "(It's) a way, way better project compared to other hypothetical ones that could be there," said commission member John Kadvany.
The commissioners made several suggestions, including possibly removing the eighth building, which would be a rebuilt and remodeled version of the existing carriage house on the site, to allow more flexibility to create changes and visual interest in the two-story building that face Stone Pine Lane.