People have an additional 15 days to submit in writing what they think about the draft environmental impact report on the city's general plan update, due to a unanimous vote to extend the deadline by three members of the Menlo Park City Council at a last-minute meeting held Tuesday night.
The deadline has been postponed to Monday, Aug. 1, at 5:30 p.m., from Friday, July 15.
The general plan update, a project the city calls "ConnectMenlo," includes proposed zoning changes to the city's M-2 area east of U.S. 101. Those changes could allow construction of 2.3 million additional square feet of nonresidential buildings, 400 hotel rooms and 4,500 residential units, which are expected to add 11,570 new residents and 5,500 employees to Menlo Park.
A draft environmental report has been released, which reviews the potential impacts such a buildout of the city could have on the physical environment.
According to California law, the community gets a minimum of 45 days to read through the report (this one is about 5,000 pages) and say, in writing, whether they think the report left anything out or needs to clarify something.
Then, the city staff members and consultants who worked on the report have to respond to those comments before the final environmental impact report is presented with an application for the project's approval to the Planning Commission and City Council.
With the two-week extension, the project would likely not make it to the City Council for final approval until mid-October or early November, though the schedule was not finalized at the meeting.
Tuesday's meeting came after calls for the extension were made by the city of East Palo Alto, the Menlo Park Housing Commission and a number of Menlo Park residents. At their meeting Monday, Menlo Park planning commissioners expressed general support for the extension.
There had also been several requests to extend the comment deadline on a concurrent draft environmental impact report on Facebook's proposal to expand its campus, adding two large office buildings and a hotel.
Tameeka Bennett, executive director of Youth United for Community Action, and a proponent of an extension of the Facebook deadline, had asked for the extension partly because a letter her agency and other activists in East Palo Alto had submitted to the city was not included in the appendices of the report, where other submitted letters suggesting what the report evaluate were included.
Council members Kirsten Keith, Peter Ohtaki and Ray Mueller attended the Tuesday council meeting and said they didn't have a problem with extending the deadline.
"This process belongs to the residents," said Councilman Mueller. "This is the city of Menlo Park looking at its own general plan right now ... If at the end of the day we get to the end of this process and (a majority of) people don't support this document, that means we've failed."
Councilman Ohtaki said he also supported the extension, so long as the project stays on track for completion by the end of the year.
He said residents have brought up some important concerns about the project. "Some of those very important topics are addressed and covered in the general plan. Many are not," he said. He recommended a community workshop to answer questions about how city issues that may not be addressed by the general plan update could be addressed through other city efforts.
"This is a big deal. It's good to get it right," said Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith. "We'll have some more time to do that, get a revised schedule and keep moving forward."