Greenheart Land Co.'s proposal for a 420,000-square-foot office, apartment and retail complex on El Camino Real in downtown Menlo Park would have a number of significant and unavoidable impacts on traffic, according to an environmental impact report released Feb. 17.
The complex, which Greenheart is calling "Station 1300," would have about 190,000 square feet of offices, up to 202 rental apartments, and up to 29,000 square feet of retail on 7.2 acres on El Camino at Oak Grove Avenue.
A public hearing on the draft environmental impact report -- a mere 1,376 pages, including appendices -- will be held by the Menlo Park Planning Commission on Monday, March 21.
Greenheart Land Co. will host a community meeting on the project from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at the Performing Arts Center at Hillview Middle School, 1100 Elder Ave. in Menlo Park.
Some of the impacts of the project, such as on water use, were studied during the process of approving the El Camino Real/downtown specific plan, said Thomas Rogers, Menlo Park's principal planner, and are not included in this report.
The report explores ways to reduce the development's impacts, but found that most of the measures to alleviate the effects of increased traffic would only partially address the problems, have unknown results, or are outside the city's jurisdiction.
The report says five main intersections in the immediate area of the project would have significantly increased traffic delays in the short term, considered to be by the year 2020. Only at one, at Ravenswood Avenue and Laurel Street, is there a clear solution the city could require that would reduce the delays significantly.
An unacceptable impact includes an increase of 25 percent or more in the existing traffic level or an increase in delay at an intersection of more than 23 seconds.
There would also be unacceptable short-term impacts on four nearby roadway segments and four regional routes.
In addition, with planned development and the impact of the Station 1300 projects, by 2040 eight more intersections would have unacceptable impacts. The environmental report finds feasible ways to offset the impacts to less than significant levels in three of them.
The intersections affected by 2020 include:
● Ravenswood Avenue and Laurel Street. Impacts could be offset by adding a left-turn lane plus a shared through/right turn lane to southbound Laurel Street. It would require removal of on-street parking and 10-foot wide travel lanes.
● Middlefield Road and Glenwood Avenue. Impacts could be offset with a traffic signal. However, because it may require rights-of-way not currently owned by the city and modification of the Glenwood Gate at east Linden Avenue, plus Atherton approval, it is deemed not feasible.
● Oak Grove Avenue and Alma Street. Impacts could be offset if changes were made at Derry Lane. (See below.)
● Oak Grove Avenue/Derry Lane (Garwood Way would be extended to Derry). Impacts could be offset with southbound left-turn restrictions during the peak hours, but the city says such restrictions are ignored by drivers, so changes are deemed not feasible. Impacts can be partially offset by widening Garwood Way to two lanes at Oak Grove Avenue and by adding bicycle lanes on Oak Grove Avenue between El Camino Real and the east city limits.
● El Camino Real/Ravenswood Avenue and Menlo Avenue. Impacts could be offset with the addition of a third northbound through travel lane along El Camino Real, but that would likely require removal of some of the trees located at the southeast corner, affect access to the 1000 El Camino Real property, affect bicyclists and pedestrians who would have to cross additional lanes of traffic and require Caltrans approval, so it is deemed not feasible.
The roadway segments affected by 2020 include:
● Oak Grove Avenue between El Camino Real and Laurel Street. Adding a bike route would partially offset the impacts.
● Garwood Way between Glenwood Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue. A bike route on Garwood Way would partially offset the impacts.
Regional routes affected by 2020:
● Willow Road, from U.S. 101 to Bayfront Expressway, northbound and southbound.
● Bayfront Expressway, from University Avenue to Willow Road, eastbound and westbound. A Traffic Demand Management (TDM) program could offset the impact on northbound Willow Road between U.S. 101 and Bayfront Expressway if it reduces traffic by 30 percent, but since how much the TDM program would reduce traffic is unclear, it is deemed not feasible. Even a 30 percent reduction would not reduce the impact to acceptable levels on the other routes.
By 2040 an additional eight intersections would be impacted by projected development plus the impact of the Station 1300 project.
Those intersections include:
● Oak Grove Avenue/University Drive. Can be offset by reconfiguring the westbound Oak Grove Avenue approach to include one left-turn only lane and one right-turn lane only lane. Requires removing several parking spaces on the south side of Oak Grove Avenue. Adding bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue would also help to offset the impacts.
● Santa Cruz Avenue and University Drive. A signal at the intersection could offset the impacts.
● Middlefield Road and Encinal Avenue. An additional right-turn lane on the southbound Middlefield Road and eastbound Encinal Avenue approaches could offset the impacts, but requires additional rights-of-way and approval of Atherton, so deemed not feasible.
● Middlefield Road and Ravenswood Avenue. A second northbound left-turn lane and a corresponding receiving lane on the west leg would offset the impacts, but would require coordination with Atherton, so is deemed not feasible.
● Middlefield and Willow Road. Impacts can be offset by widening the eastbound Willow Road approach to provide an additional through lane and widening the westbound Willow Road approach to provide an additional left-turn lane, plus re-striping the existing shared through/left-turn lane to a through-only lane. In addition, widening the southbound Middlefield Road approach to include an exclusive through lane and re-striping the existing shared through/left-turn lane to a through-only lane would be needed. Because of effects on bicyclist and pedestrian safety, it would also need safety improvements including modified signal timing, warning signs and markings.
● Laurel Street at Glenwood Avenue. Impacts can be offset by a signal, but it needs approval by Atherton, so is deemed not feasible.
● El Camino Real and Glenwood Avenue and Valparaiso Avenue. Impacts could be offset by widening westbound Glenwood Avenue for right-turn only lane, changing the northbound and southbound right-turn lanes to shared through/right-turn lanes, and widening El Camino Real to provide additional receiving lanes in both the northbound and southbound directions. But this would conflict with the specific plan goals to provide enhanced pedestrian crossing and sidewalks along El Camino and could increase danger for pedestrians and bicyclists, so deemed not feasible. Impacts could be partially offset by widening westbound Glenwood Avenue approach to provide an exclusive right-turn lane, but would need Caltrans approval, so deemed not feasible.
● El Camino Real and Oak Grove Avenue. Impacts could be offset by reconfiguring the northbound right-turn lane into a shared through/right-turn lane and adding a corresponding receiving lane, but could increase the danger for bicyclists and pedestrians and would need Caltrans approval, so deemed not feasible.
Other environmental impacts
With proper mitigation measures, other environmental impacts could be reduced to an acceptable level, the report says.
The water that the complex would require is estimated at about 57,300 gallons per day for all uses office, residential and retail. That level was determined to produce a "less than significant" environmental impact, based on an analysis done by the city during the adoption of the downtown specific plan.
The report (page 3-110) says increased water use in that location had already been anticipated in the Bear Gulch Water District's predictions for future water needs. It was also determined that the existing waste-water treatment facilities could handle the added water.
The analysis showed that the risks posed by the presence of diesel and the particulate matter it releases into the air during construction could be reduced to acceptable levels by using machines with engines and filters approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. An analysis would have to be done on the site to ensure no volatile compounds are released into the air.
What happens next
The draft of the environmental report is open to public comment until 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 4. Written comments may go to Thomas Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or Thomas Rogers, City of Menlo Park Planning Division, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park, CA 94025.
A public hearing on this environmental impact report will be held by the Menlo Park Planning Commission on Monday, March 21. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers in the Menlo Park Civic Center.
The city staff will respond to comments and make any necessary revisions before presenting the final document to the Planning Commission for a recommendation and to the City Council for approval.
Greenheart Land Co. will host a community meeting on the project from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at the Performing Arts Center at Hillview Middle School at 1100 Elder Ave.
Go to tinyurl.com/green217 for city documents on this project, including the environmental impact report.