Atherton claims Greenheart environmental study has flaws

Town wants developers to help pay for bicycle and pedestrian improvements

The environmental report on the proposed Greenheart Land Co. mixed-use project on El Camino Real in Menlo Park has some major flaws, especially in the way the impacts of increased traffic are calculated, a March 31 letter from Atherton says.

The letter also asks to have the developers of the 420,000-square-foot project at 1300 El Camino Real help pay for improvements to make Atherton's roadways safer and more convenient for bicyclists and pedestrians as a way to take cars off the road and reduce the project's traffic impacts.

The letter, signed by Mayor Elizabeth Lewis on behalf of the town, says that flaws in the process of making predictions about the amount of traffic the project will generate and where that traffic will go "lead to false conclusions and underestimating project impacts" on Atherton.

Assumptions based on 16- to 18-year-old information about where traffic will go need to be updated, the letter says. Assumptions that traffic will grow about 1 percent a year for the next 24 years are also low, it says, basing that conclusion on recent traffic counts done by Atherton showing growth of about 3 percent or more each year between 2002 and 2015 on several Atherton streets.

The letter lists a number of suggested bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects to help take cars off the streets. Those projects are on Middlefield Road and El Camino Real and come from Atherton's Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan.

City Manager George Rodericks said Atherton thinks Greenheart Land Co. "should pay their fair share based on the project impacts."

Atherton also wants the report to look at reducing the amount of parking planned for the project. Plans show more than 1,000 onsite spots plus more new parking spaces on Garwood Way.

The town "believes parking reduction alternatives were not adequately studied," especially given that the proposed project is near the Caltrain station and other public transit, the letter says.

The letter also asks for approval by neighboring Atherton residents before making a number of suggested improvements to local streets to offset the impact of additional traffic that will come with the project.

One proposed change, to the intersection of El Camino Real at Valparaiso and Glenwood avenues, is opposed by Atherton because it might not leave room for a future bike lane on El Camino, the letter says. Any changes "that preclude bicyclists and pedestrians on El Camino Real will not be supported" by Atherton, the letter says.

Atherton comments, and all other comments made during the review period for the environmental report, will have to be addressed in the final environmental report for the project. The final report must be approved by the Menlo Park City Council.

Public comment

The public comment period on the draft environmental impact report ends on April 4. Comments can be emailed to Thomas Rogers, principal planner, at: or sent by mail to: Thomas Rogers, City of Menlo Park Community Development Department, Planning Division, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park CA 94025.

Related story: Does Greenheart development have enough housing?

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9 people like this
Posted by George Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2016 at 1:19 pm

The Atherton letter (Web Link) is right on! No residential street cut-through traffic study has been done, even in Menlo Park,. Approximately 800 of every 1,000 daily automobile office trips from the Greenheart project need to access 280, 101 and 84. There are no direct routes to any of these highway gateways and many indirect routes become congested.

Menlo Park City circulation and transportation impact requirements mandate that auto trip route studies be based on fastest routes available “preferably based on a travel-time study . . . [and] potential cut-through traffic through residential neighborhoods should also be identified in the travel time study.” No travel time study appears to have been done and there have been no cut through traffic routes through residential neighborhoods identified in the DEIR or otherwise.

Waze and Google travel time studies show Greenheart autoroutes will not only cut through many Menlo park neighborhood streets, increasing safety and quality of life issues, but also include routes through Atherton and Palo Alto. Many cut-through traffic trips also come to and from Menlo Park from adjacent cities, mainly Palo Alto.

Cut through traffic is a significant Menlo Park problem.

8 people like this
Posted by Samia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Thank you, Atherton! Glad someone is stepping up for the surrounding neighborhoods.

12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The City of Menlo Park has no regard for its responsibilities as a Lead Agency.

4 people like this
Posted by property owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2016 at 4:07 pm

You're right and you only have until April 4th to make a comment to Menlo Park Planning Commission/City before this goes up for planning commission approval. Suggest everyone read Atherton Mayor's letter in this online Town Square before it's too late. Looks like a slam dunk unless they get a lot of comments quick.

4 people like this
Posted by Last Chance
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Apr 2, 2016 at 10:54 am

The city needs to conduct an accumulative cut through traffic study based on this greenheart development and the Stanford development. When the employees of these two developments start driving through neighborhood streets in both Menlo Park and Atherton trying to get to the major highways and the Dumbarton Bridge, we will see the a deterioration of what used to be quiet safe suburban streets.
The Willows neighborhood is already getting downtown Palo Alto and Stanford commute traffic, thanks to WAZE, an app that Google owns. To reach 101 and the Dumbarton Bridge, WAZE advised drivers to get off Willow or University Ave. in Palo Alto and use neighborhood streets. The complaints posted on NextDoor describe a high volume of cars and speeds that are not appropriate for neighborhood streets.
Every time Palo Alto and Menlo Park approve office building developments, the commute traffic gets worse. This greenheart development is asking our council to let them build an extra 55,000 sq ft of office over what the community wanted when it attended community meetings in 2008. It's always more and more that developers want.
What can we do? reach out to the two council members Catherine Carlton and Ray Mueller who have already announced they are running for re-election in November of this year. They can turn this developer down. It doesn't take much to push the red button. Menlo Park does not need an office building of 200,000 sq. ft. SHould Menlo Park residents sacrifice their quality of life and property values so that the investors in greenheart can make a huge profit. $64 to $71 million a year is the range this developer will make but where is the housing for these employees? Better move fast. This development is on a fast track for approval.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 2, 2016 at 10:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"This development is on a fast track for approval."

Hardly a fast track - this development is fully consistent with the Downtown Specific Plan which took five years to complete and which was then delayed by and but reaffirmed by the voters in a Referendum.

7 people like this
Posted by Last Chance
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 2, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Peter it was an initiative. And yes, that's the point. In the 5 years of community meetings, it was decided that the north east district in which greenheart development sits would have an emphasis on residential. That's why the district is ECR-NE-R. What we now are seeing is a development request to go over the base for office by 55,000 sq ft. So much has happened since 2008. The economy has recovered and both the office and residential market is healthy. The development in downtown Palo Alto and the build out of Stanford's General Use Plan has generated an increase in office workers driving. Come on over to Palo Alto and see the block after block of cars parked in residential neighborhoods stretching from downtown Palo Alto all the way to Crescent Park.
One would think that our council could be nimble enough to see that the traffic numbers and real estate market has changed and there needs to be a more moderate approach to approvals of office complexes. As your town Atherton has pointed out, there needs to be a study as to which routes commuters will take to reach highways 280, 101, 84 and the Dumbarton Bridge. Part of the traffic findings in the DEIR rely on interviews of a handful of people in 1999. That was before Sandhill Rd was opened to ECR. Back then there was no Facebook, Survey Monkey, the Town & Country Remodel, Stanford Shopping Center expansion, the Rosewood Hotel and the 5 million sq ft of Stanford expansion. The City needs to look at current commute routes based on today's situation and the advice WAZE gives drivers so as to avoid Willow Rd. Marsh Rd, University Ave.
A 140,000 sq ft office building in the greenheart development would be big enough. Lindenwood is a lovely gated community but most Menlo Park and Atherton residents live on streets accessible by drivers heading home. This is a time for both Atherton and Menlo Park residents to pull together and help the Planning Commission and the Council get this greenheart development right.

9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 2, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The development in downtown Palo Alto and the build out of Stanford's General Use Plan has generated an increase in office workers driving. Come on over to Palo Alto and see..."

Sadly Palo Alto and Menlo Park do not coordinate their development plans. One example is the Oak Creek/ECR/Alma intersection which Palo Alto carefully designed to dump Palo Alto traffic into Menlo Park.

And now that Palo Alto has almost maxed out they certainly don't have any grounds to object to Menlo Park building out as it sees fit.

Like this comment
Posted by Lynnsegal
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2016 at 6:53 pm

Lynnsegal is a registered user.

Well for starters how about an ordinance which only permits residents to day park on the street with a permit
and a car sticker showing it is legal to park on the street. No sticker, big fine! Next close streets to non residential
parking at key commute hours like they do at Oakdell and Santa Cruz.

2 people like this
Posted by Too much
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 4, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Draw a circle for 1/2 mile around Greenheart and that will be where the developments users will be parking.

Go any direction all the way to 280, 101, and Woodside road and that's will be where they will be driving.

Suggest Menlo Park homeowners start thinking about where their going to be parking. You'll be competing for the space you now enjoy in front of your house unless as Lynn says you use permit only. It worked on Haravard and Cambridge. If they expand that where will Greenheart users and residents park.

Somehow they declare Garwood as their's, not sure how they pulled that off, Now picture Mills and Mills Ct.

Atherton can't stop Greeheart, but they can keep them from parking on their streets.

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

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