Sunset's gardens now closed to the public

The iconic western lifestyle publication is leaving Menlo Park for Oakland and Sonoma

Sunset Publishing Corp., which has been at 80 Willow Road in Menlo Park for 63 years, permanently closed its gardens to the public on Friday, Oct. 30.

Sunset will move its operations on Friday, Dec. 4, to two locations, according to Sunset's Racquel Dela Cueva. Editorial and business operations will move to Oakland's Jack London Square. Sunset's test garden beds and kitchen will move to Sonoma and operate there in partnership with Cornerstone Sonoma.

According to a blog post by Peggy Northrop, editor in chief of Sunset Publishing, the move mirrors readers' increasing preference for urban life, just as the magazine's move from San Francisco to Menlo Park in 1951 then mirrored readers' preference for suburban life.

"Now the trend has reversed and Westerners – young people starting careers and empty-nesters alike – are opting to live where we can walk, bike or take public transit to work and experience new restaurants, shopping and culture out our front doors," Ms. Northrop wrote.

She added that the Sunset staff is looking forward to the amenities of urban life, such as convenient public transit, and the burgeoning food scene at Jack London Square.

In addition, she said, "amidst all the shiny new stuff, we love that the location connects us to our history: Jack London was a regular contributor to Sunset back in the day, and the cabin-style bar that was his regular haunt will be at our doorstep."

Sunset's seven-acre campus was purchased by Embarcadero Capital Partners in December 2014, after Menlo College had briefly explored the option of buying the land to preserve and use for additional student housing.

Embarcadero Capital Partners has not yet submitted plans for the site. When the property was sold, Jim Cogan, the city's economic development manager, said the city would need to see some plans to preserve the historical value of the site, and, since it is zoned for commercial use, it would be very difficult to build any kind of high-density residential development.

The Sunset offices in Menlo Park were designed by Cliff May, the "father of the California ranch-style home," Sunset says. The doors opened in 1952.

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15 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:51 am

Alan is a registered user.

"...the move mirrors readers' increasing preference for urban life..." Perhaps there is a shift to urban areas, but this is a rationalization; the mother company wanted to cash in on the real estate value. We went to the Celebration Weekend a couple times; while that is not often, I prefer the idea of driving past their landmark campus instead of yet another condo or office complex.

12 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:26 pm

So are the new owners going to let the wonderful gardens go to pot and die? Perhaps using the excuse of water conservation. The city should at least keep an eye on the heritage trees to make sure they are maintained.

Perhaps a nonprofit could make an agreement to help maintain the gardens until the new owners get their act together.

BTW the Sunset editor sure has a condescending attitude towards Menlo Park.

13 people like this
Posted by Sour grapes
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm

We live near Sunset and it's a pleasant 10-minute walk to downtown Palo Alto with all sorts of restaurants and retail, a 15-minute walk to downtown Menlo Park with somewhat fewer amenities. All the urban excitement may not be outside my front door, but it's close enough, and I don't have to wait until the bars close to get to sleep.

I'm sure the East Bay millennials can't wait to visit the new Sunset gardens and test kitchens, but I'm not moving to Oakland any time soon!

14 people like this
Posted by Sour grapes
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Exactly, whatever. Can't they just say they're excited about their new location without dissing the community that's been their home for decades?

Like this comment
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm

really? is a registered user.

The offices along Middlefield are dinosaurs of the car-centric past. As pretty as Sunset is, it's part of that same genre, isolated from public transport and town centers. So I can't blame them, and let's hope the site is put to a good suburban use that doesn't encourage more traffic down Willow.

1 person likes this
Posted by Sour grapes
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Middlefield is a main bus corridor, and the Dumbarton express stops right outside Sunset's office. Sunset is an easy walk to the Menlo Park and Palo Alto train stations. Except for San Francisco, public transit in the Bay Area is a joke, as is "transit-oriented" development. So of course people use their cars; they have no other viable options.

5 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 4:23 pm

It's pretty funny that they couldn't just admit their greed.

The suburban setting offered them offices, gardens and kitchens all in the same locale. Now they're using their split campus as their excuse to spin how urbanized they'll be. Their current setting has been quite bucolic, including the creek behind them. The number of cyclists in that area is pretty high, the 2 adjacent towns have free shuttles, SamTrans makes local stops, there's a market across the street with a decent deli that hosts a FTN once a week - all told, not too bad for the 'burbs. Oth, they just dissed that large demographic betwixt and between the whiners and the blue hairs. Let's be honest - the increased foodie-ism and elitism of Sunset Mag these past few years will now be completely reflected by their environment. I may have to reflect my eye-rolling with not renewing my subscription of many years.

6 people like this
Posted by Zak
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 29, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Curses on Time Inc. for sacrificing this beautiful property to get their balance sheet back in the black so abruptly before year-end results were due! If they hadn't been in a panic sale, perhaps the community could have found a more agreeable use.

Perhaps some VC or law firm could take this on for the prestige? Easy access from 101, in the desirable 94025 zip. Please please?

Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Sunset magazine is not what it used to be. Being firmly entrenched in the 99%, what fills the magazine these days and the adventures promoted, no longer fit my budget. Even more grievously is the way Sunset sold off this lovely campus for the highest buck. There was no thought or commitment to preserve the beautiful plants and trees. How much better would it have been if they had donated it to a trust, to be maintained, opened, and enjoyed by the public. The fact that they did not do so, speaks a million about what they are about now.

Like an earlier commenter, when my subscription runs out, I will not be renewing.

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

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