Menlo Park is closer to getting a new boutique hotel on El Camino Real.
The Menlo Park Planning Commission unanimously approved Monday night a 61-room hotel proposed by the Portola Valley-based Pollock Financial Group. The hotel will be built at 1400 El Camino Real at Glenwood Avenue in Menlo Park, the former site of a Shell gas station.
The commission decided to accept the hotel's transient occupancy tax, estimated to generate about $604,000 a year in revenue for the city, as a sufficient public benefit for the community in exchange for the right to build at a higher density than would otherwise be allowed.
The hotel could be 48 feet high, instead of the 38 feet that would otherwise be allowed, and would have a floor-area ratio (total square feet of building space divided by the lot's square footage) of 1.49, rather than the 1.1 that would be allowed without a public benefit.
The plan is to build a four-story L-shaped hotel with a restaurant and bar with indoor and outdoor seating, and an event room.
There would be 75 underground parking spots one spot less than the required amount but because the garage would be run by valets, more cars could be fit into the space, representatives of Pollock Financial said. Additional parking could be available in the parking lot of Language Pacifica, on the other side of Glenwood Avenue, yielding a total of 115 potential available spots, the representatives said.
To reduce traffic, the hotel will provide Caltrain GO passes for all employees and guests, and additional transit subsidies for employees, the representatives said. There would be an e-bike sharing program, whereby hotel guests could check out pedal-assisted bikes to travel around town, with free helmets and locks. Hotel employees would also have bike parking, showers and lockers.
Under current plans, the hotel would meet the building sustainability guidelines to get LEED Silver certification. It could meet the next, more stringent level, LEED Gold, but representatives from Pollock Financial Group said the plans can't yet guarantee anything beyond the "Silver" status.
The building would have solar panels to produce hot water, and technology in guest rooms to reduce energy use while the rooms not in use. Landscaping, the representatives said, would incorporate native and drought-resistant plants.
Still, there were some lingering concerns. Commissioner Drew Combs said he didn't think it created a good precedent for the Planning Commission to accept the promise of hotel tax revenue in exchange for building at the additional "bonus" level size. The hotel would have had to pay the hotel tax to the city anyway, he said.
Commissioners John Kadvany and Katherine Strehl said that they wanted the hotel tax revenue to go toward funding improvements in the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan area. Currently, hotel tax revenues go to the city's general fund.