Menlo Park plans strict rules on energy, water use for new development

The city is updating its building regulations for eastern Menlo Park.

Live, work, play. That's been the mantra for the city of Menlo Park as it updates its plan for future development of the "M-2" area, located roughly between U.S. 101, and the Bay.

New development in that area should enable and encourage people to do all three – live, work and play – without further clogging the already jammed roadways.

On Jan. 7, the city released draft proposals for three new zoning districts in the M-2 area: "office," "life sciences" and "residential mixed-use." The drafts include requirements that developers would have to meet to build there. On Jan. 14, the city held a community meeting to hear public comment on plans for the area.

Those drafts by city staff and consultants from PlaceWorks show they got the message from the City Council: new buildings should be as sustainable as possible and provide public benefits (what the city is now calling "community amenities") if developers want to build structures in excess of certain limitations.

Energy, water use

The draft proposals for the three new zoning districts show that all new buildings would be required to be LEED Gold, a stringent rating given to buildings that meet certain sustainability standards.

At least 80 percent of energy expenditures during construction would have to be offset by onsite solar power or other on-site energy production.

After construction, the city would receive reports on energy use, and users that exceed certain limits would be required to offset the excess through energy efficiency, reduced consumption, increase energy production, or, failing that, pay a fee.

Water use would be subject to similarly stringent restrictions. Construction activities would not be allowed to use well water, and would have to abide by a strict water budget. Recycled water would be the preferred use for most of the building's operations.

New buildings would need a "Hazard Mitigation and Sea Level Rise Resiliency Plan" to prepare for the effects of climate change, as well as a trash management plan to ensure no litter reaches the city's water sources.

Outdoor lighting would be designed to minimize light pollution, windows would have to be bird-safe, and long- and short-term bike parking facilities would be required, along with pedestrian facilities. Pavement more than 500 square feet would have to be permeable.

Public benefits

If developers want to build beyond the baseline size allowed by the city, they would have to provide "public benefits" and abide by a formula for calculating the value of those benefits.

There will be a pre-determined number, called the "floor area-foot" value, or the value per square foot of a new development, that will be decided in an appraisal by the city's community development director.

Fifty percent of that number, multiplied by the number of square feet that will be added beyond the baseline (or the number of square feet in bonus development mode), will be the formula for determining the value of the public benefit.

What public benefits developers would provide are so far an eclectic wish list, and lack clarity on cost. Of the city's drafted list of potential public benefits or "amenities," all must be delivered east of U.S. 101.

A few items are:

● Implementing a trolley system on existing Dumbarton rails from Redwood City to a station near Willow Road.

● Building a full-service grocery store and pharmacy.

● Getting a bank or credit union branch in place that offers ATM access.

● Helping Menlo Park students and young adults receive job training via educational programs and paid internships, and improving the quality of student education.


The city's General Plan Advisory Committee will meet to discuss public comments on the draft proposals for the three new zoning districts in the M-2 area on Thursday, Jan. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m., in the Oak Room of the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center at 700 Alma St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center.

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4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 20, 2016 at 8:27 am

This is good. This is a place that has historically been neglected. Turning the office parks into a downtown-style neighborhood with retail and restaurants will make it much more pleasant to live in.

But let's make sure we are getting the right kind of stuff from the developers - environmental sustainability, public benefits, and low traffic. Transit on the Dumbarton rail would really help people get into and out of that area without getting stuck in the rush of commuters from the Dumbarton bridge into Palo Alto.

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

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