Tonight: What 'public benefits' should developers provide in Menlo Park?


The Menlo Park community is invited tonight to weigh in on this question: In exchange for permission to build higher and larger structures than permitted by the city's base zoning rules, what should developers give back to the city?

The community discussion on this topic will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24, at the Menlo Park Senior Center, 110 Terminal Ave.

The meeting is part of the city's ConnectMenlo process for revising the general plan and zoning for the M-2 light industrial area, roughly bordered by the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, U.S. 101 and Marsh Road.

No actions or decisions will be made at the meeting. There will be Spanish translation and childcare for children ages 3 and older available.

Whether the perks developers provide are called "public benefits" or "community amenities" – the new term used for the ConnectMenlo project – there's little consensus on what and how those benefits should be determined.

Among related questions to be addressed, according to the meeting agenda are: When are community amenities required? What is the formula for determining how much is required? How are community amenities implemented? What are the identified community amenities?

An option proposed by ConnectMenlo consultants is this formula: developers would provide amenities valued at 50 percent of the appraised value of the added allowable square feet of development. Construction or installation of the amenities would have to be completed before the development could be occupied. The amenities could be built or paid for but must be located in Menlo Park between U.S. 101 and the Bay.

Some of the amenities that developers could provide or help fund are sidewalk and landscape lighting; bike trails, lanes or paths; a bike-pedestrian path along the Dumbarton Rail corridor; a trolley system on the Dumbarton corridor from Redwood City to near Willow Road; a full-service grocery store, pharmacy, or bank with an ATM; job training or internship programs with local students and young adults; a medical center; investments in energy technology or utilities infrastructure; and open space or park improvements.

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18 people like this
Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 24, 2016 at 12:54 pm

The benefit I'd like to see from developers is to refrain from inflicting high-density urban office parks and multi-story housing projects on our lovely, safe, tranquil suburban community.
No so-called "public benefit" can ever make up for the permanent public detriment of foisting these out-of-scale, unsightly buildings on our city--huge projects of 400,000 sq ft or more, that so clearly do not belong in a small residential community of some 30,000 people.
A City Council worthy of the name would not permit such projects in downtown Menlo Park.

14 people like this
Posted by Samia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 24, 2016 at 1:24 pm

Totally agree with Enuff. Please scale down projects, plant more trees, and leave more open space.

7 people like this
Posted by Bette
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 24, 2016 at 1:28 pm

More low income housing. Believe there are gifted developers in area that could create artistic living spaces with their special architectural acumen.
Suggest work of Architect Christopher Alexander who has planned communities in Mexcio and other areas that meet the needs of human psyches.

Also consider closing off downtown to traffic. This was prevalent in German cities and creates a wonderful means of connection. Would be a phenomenal respite for those spending time stuck in traffic jams.

Downtown Menlo Park is exquisite with the trees. Caution needed not to lose
precious space.

Like this comment
Posted by Belle Havener
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 24, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Low income housing is a great idea! Let's put all of it on the west side though to balance it out. We need a grocery store and other retail and entertainment on the east side, not more low income housing. I'm tired of planning my grocery shopping trips around rush hour.

2 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 24, 2016 at 2:49 pm

how about making them 1) build a parking ramp 2) fix the sidewalks 3) have public access to open space with the development.

Doing nothing is why MP has a dilapidated but very expensive downtown in the first place. People want a vibrant downtown with more restaurants and bars, maybe less thrift stores. Let make developers pay for it!

2 people like this
Posted by menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 24, 2016 at 3:37 pm

What developers can do is have some respect for Menlo Park residents by not making a larger mess of our city by breaking our zoning laws...which are there for this very reason. And no, I'm not anti-development.

I sure hope our council and government haven't already promised developers that they can go bigger and higher.

Here's my prediction: more impact on the east side, more perks on the west side.

2 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2016 at 10:24 am

Public Benefits Developers can provide: Keep it simple! Stick with the existing building rules and make sure you provide adequate parking.

4 people like this
Posted by No to Ohtaki
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Much of the building we see in existing transportation corridors is the work of regional groups most citizens know nothing about (such as Plan Bay Area and the Grand Boulevard Initiative task force). Councilmember (and now Assembly candidate) Peter Ohtaki knows about those unelected groups. He is one of regionalists working to advance special interests against existing residents. I say No to Ohtaki.

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

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