The Menlo Park City Council will continue its discussion on changes it wants to make in the city's El Camino Real/downtown specific plan, when it meets on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
The plan, which governs development in Menlo Park's downtown and El Camino Real corridor, was adopted by the city in 2012 and last reviewed in 2013.
Council members will focus on providing direction to city staff on how to move forward with policies they identified last month that would change parking rates; create a public benefits fund; and set clearer standards for sidewalks, setbacks, and the permissible number of vehicle trips new developments can add. See previous coverage for more information.
The council-recommended changes and staff responses include the following:
● Creating incentives to bring more hotels to Menlo Park. The 12 percent transient occupancy tax generates significant funds for the city, which could help fund big projects.
● Increasing public engagement. The goal is to learn more about what changes the community envisions for the future. This could include creating a "'dashboard' type web page or regular report, relaying what is happening in the Specific Plan area, and what still needs to happen," the staff report said.
● Encouraging the construction of more housing, especially affordable housing. Staff said they could change language in the specific plan to emphasize to developers that if they build affordable housing alongside market-rate residential buildings, they can get greater density allowances through a process called the "affordable housing overlay."
● Planning for the construction of a downtown parking garage. One idea that has been proposed at recent council meetings has been the construction of a parking garage that could also house some kind of entertainment venue, with recommendations to request proposals from the private sector to see what would work best. City staff said they were already in the process of launching a separate study on a downtown parking garage.
● Creating a style guide to direct downtown architecture. This recommendation, city staff said in their report, may be unnecessary. The process laid out in the downtown specific plan, they said, does enough to create visual interest without too much architectural sameness.
● Prioritizing a grade-separated crossing at Middle Avenue. Staff said that they've been coordinating with Stanford developers, who are helping with a feasibility study on a potential bike/pedestrian under-crossing at Middle Avenue beneath the Caltrain tracks and has a pending grant application that could pay for the project's engineering plans and environmental review if funding is received.
● Reducing the number of parking spaces required for nonresidential developments. The city is in the process of hiring a "transportation demand management coordinator" who could help determine if an in-lieu payment could be used as an alternative to building more parking spaces.
● Change the architectural requirements for new downtown buildings. Staff said the architectural requirements and process they go through with developers is working.
The council will also discuss and possibly reorganize each member's delegations and responsibilities to various committees and organizations within the city and county during its regular business, and address 10 items on its consent calendar.
The meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers at 701 Laurel St.