Menlo Park: Critics of Greenheart development weigh in


Last-minute emails and letters flooded City Hall right before the April 4 deadline for comment on the draft environmental impact report on the proposed Greenheart mixed-use project at 1300 El Camino Real at Oak Grove Avenue in Menlo Park. Greenheart Land Co. proposes to build 420,000 square feet of residential, office and retail space.

The deadline stuck to the standard 45-day window for public comment, although a representative of the Sierra Club had asked city planners for a two-week extension to further analyze the draft report.

Thomas Rogers, principal planner for the city, responded to the request, saying: "We (including the City Manager's Office) have reviewed the Sierra Club's request for additional time, but we don't believe there are unique circumstances that warrant an extension."


One concern, raised by Menlo Park resident and former planning commissioner Patti Fry, was that the numbers on the actual project's breakdown of different uses has not been consistent.

The most recent designs for the project, according to the project website at, show an intended 181 housing units covering 202,100 square feet, office space ranging from 188,900 to 199,300 square feet, and retail or "community serving" business space ranging from 18,600 to 29,000 square feet.

Built into the ranges for the development proposed uses is a window of about 11,000 square feet, said Ms. Fry, which could become either more office space or "community serving" business space. That window of uncertainty widens when one considers the vagueness of "community serving business.

The list of what those could be, she said, vary in their potential impact on the city. "That list includes uses such as banks and real estate offices, personal and business services, retail and restaurants, each of which use has distinctly different contributions to evening and weekend vibrancy and distinctly different impacts on City sales tax revenue, not to mention convenience and benefits in a mixed-use environment," she said in an email to the city.

More housing

Another inconsistency was that in the draft environmental report that was available for public comment, the project reported it could build up to 202 housing units, yet current plans are for only 181 units covering the same number of square feet. Most documents say 182 are planned, but at the city's March 21 Planning Commission meeting, developer Bob Burke said that the number had been further reduced due to a stairwell.

Creating fewer, larger units with the proposed residential square footage could mean that families, rather than seniors, young singles or couples, would move in, adding pressure for local schools to accommodate new children.

The amount of proposed housing is not the maximum amount that could be built on the lot, she said. The city's El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan zones for up to 50 housing units per acre, Ms. Fry said, so the 6.4 acre lot could accommodate 320 housing units.

An email from the Sierra Club confirmed its representatives also want to see more than the proposed number of housing units built on the site. Seventy percent of the proposed office space, they said, could still be built if housing were maximized on the site. Public benefits Greenheart would owe to the city should go toward making at least 15 to 20 percent of the housing units below market rate, they said.

Traffic and parking

Representatives from Atherton say they think the projections for increased traffic are conservative: projected increases of 1 percent per year are lower than what's been seen in recent years, said Mayor Elizabeth Lewis. Recent traffic counts done by Atherton show growth of about 3 percent or more each year between 2002 and 2015 on several Atherton streets, their letter claimed.

Menlo Park resident George Fisher agreed that the projected 1 percent annual increase in traffic seemed conservative and said the study should have further analyzed the potential impact the development would have on cut-through traffic. Representatives of the Sierra Club said the project also had too much parking, at 1,000 spots planned to go underground. The club said it would rather see fewer parking spaces and a paid permit program for the occupants of the development.

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7 people like this
Posted by Edward Syrett
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Edward Syrett is a registered user.

I find the term "conservative" strange when it's applied to underestimates of annual traffic increase. "Wildly optimistic" would be more accurate. A conservative estimate would err on the safe side by overestimating the future volume of traffic. Of course, that's not what developers want, so it's not what most councilmembers want either.

Never mind. It's unlikely this juggernaut can be stopped. There's too much money at stake.

7 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardi�a
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardi�a is a registered user.

My goodness, Patti Fry just CAN NOT give it up. Most of the negative comments are from people who were part of the YES on M campaign. Measure M was SOUNDLY defeated by the citizens of Menlo Park.

Patti is beating a dead horse [portion removed; keep it respectful].
Enough already Patti, let them build the project.

3 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 15, 2016 at 8:43 pm

This has been discussed to death. Measure M lost in a landslide. The new building is attractive and a balanced use between retail, office, and housing. It's much better than the vacant lot that's been there for years and it's frankly the best we are going to get.

City Council - just approve it already!

7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 19, 2016 at 6:08 am

been to downtown Pali Alto lately? It's overrun with traffic. Why would you want more development in an increasingly crowded area?

I'd rather see this area empty than contributing to more sprawl and traffic.

How about a park?

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 19, 2016 at 7:23 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


a park is a great idea. You going to buy the property and build the park? I think the property is worth about $5 million an acre.

2 people like this
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 19, 2016 at 8:15 pm

So Anon, all that extra traffic is from Redwood City and Palo Alto (or those going to those places). So since they are building out, MP CANNOT? I just do not understand the logic anymore. All those vacant lots in MP,,, is MP supposed to turn into the shanty town in between.

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

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