Menlo Park council roundup: Plan to build 24 homes at former nursery site is approved


The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to build 24 townhouse-style condominiums at the former Roger Reynolds Nursery site.

The council took first steps to join the Peninsula Clean Energy program, which would enable customers to get more electricity from renewable sources at a price competitive with PG&E rates. It also approved a water conservation ordinance – though not without raising some questions.

Roger Reynolds site

The council approved a Hunter Properties plan to add 24 townhouse-style condos at 133 Encinal Ave.

Neighbors on Stone Pine Lane had had expressed concerns about the potential impact to their neighborhood. This time, though, Stone Pine Lane residents Scott Phillips and John Onken said several changes by Hunter Properties left them feeling more comfortable with the new plans.

The changes included making the building closest to Stone Pine Lane a one- and two- story structure, like the other buildings on the property, rather than three stories.

"It's probably the best compromise we can hope to achieve," said Mr. Phillips, adding: "We'll certainly miss Roger Reynolds (Nursery)."

Three of the units will be designated as "below market rate" units. One will be for low-income tenants and the other two will be for moderate-income tenants, and all will be large enough to accommodate families.

Three members of the council, Ray Mueller, Catherine Carlton and Kirsten Keith, said they had the idea to consider donating the carriage house there to the Menlo Park Historical Association for a museum, though developer Deke Hunter said it did not qualify as a "historical building." It would be removed from Hunter Properties, and perhaps relocated to Flood Park (which is controlled by San Mateo County, but undergoing renovations) or Burgess Park.

Water conservation law

What Councilwoman Catherine Carlton thought was a glitch in the new Water Efficient Landscaping Ordinance appears to be the state of California's wish: to ban new grassy turf, not only for residences and commercial properties, which can have only a small portion of their properties committed to a grassy field – but also potentially at public areas and schools that undergo new landscaping over a certain size.

She abstained from the initial vote that would approve a region-specific version of the California law, laid out by BAWSCA (Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency), but the ordinance was approved by the other four council members.

The city must either adopt the BAWSCA standards by February, or default to state standards, which would require additional, and likely expensive, water budgets and third-party landscape architect approval for new landscaping projects in the city.

Peninsula Clean Energy

The council approved on first reading an ordinance to join Peninsula Clean Energy, making Menlo Park the fourth member of the San Mateo County-led joint powers authority, following San Mateo County (which covers unincorporated county areas), the city of San Mateo and Atherton. The ordinance will return to the council for final approval.

The council also appointed the city's representatives to the Peninsula Clean Energy board. Catherine Carlton will be the voting member and Mayor Rich Cline the alternate. The direction the council agreed to pursue, using language from Mr. Mueller, was to reach "100 percent renewable or zero carbon or carbon neutral energy by 2020, or as soon as feasible, at rate parity with PG&E."

The board of Peninsula Clean Energy still has to develop the rates and renewable energy percentages that will become available to residents when the program is rolled out in October.

Other news

The council also voted 5-0 to confirm a ban on the cultivation of medical marijuana and to accept $498,783 in grant funding from OneBayArea to improve pedestrian and bicycle conditions on Valparaiso Avenue.

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