Plans to build 17,000-square-feet of offices and 17 for-rent housing units at 650 and 660 Live Oak Ave. in Menlo Park were approved unanimously by the Menlo Park Planning Commission on Aug. 15.
Developer Daniel Minkoff of the Minkoff Group, who has a 90-year lease on the property, plans to demolish an existing office building (formerly occupied by Spangler Mortuary) and two adjacent residences, and build two three-story buildings and two two-story residences. See staff report.
The added housing is expected to provide accommodation for about 38 people.
Starting at the side of the property nearest El Camino Real, a three-story building would have offices at the front on all three floors, with four studios and a one-bedroom apartment at the back on the ground floor, each with a private entry.
Separated by an outdoor courtyard, the next structure, the other three-story building, would contain five one-bedroom and five two-bedroom apartments. Each of those apartments would have a private roof deck.
Moving further westward down Live Oak Avenue, there would be two two-story residences, one with three bedrooms and the other with four. Each would have an outdoor patio. Those residences would be set back from Live Oak Avenue with a publicly accessible outdoor plaza in the front.
The project would have a two-story underground parking garage with 84 parking spaces, plus short- and long-term bike parking facilities.
Two of the 17 residential units are planned to be "below market rate." To qualify for such housing, tenants must earn less than 80 percent of the area median income. In San Mateo County in 2016, that is defined as individuals earning less than $68,950 a year and families of four earning less than $98,500 a year.
The developer was required to build or pay for the equivalent of only one-half of a below-market-rate housing unit, based on the amount of office space planned. The additional below-market-rate housing would be built as a "public benefit" in exchange for the city allowing the developer to build at a greater density than would otherwise be allowed.
Eight trees, not considered "heritage trees" by the city, would be removed and 12 others would be planted in the courtyard and on the street, some of which would be used to screen windows.
Menlo Park resident Steve Eisner, who lives two doors from the site, objected to the project's size. He told the Planning Commission it did not fit with the residential character of Live Oak Avenue.
Howard "Sandy" Crittenden, who owns the nearby Guild movie theater at 949 El Camino Real, said: "I can't disagree that there's a character change, but Menlo Park is changing. I think it's better to control the change rather than say no to everything."
Several planning commissioners echoed Mr. Crittenden's sentiments, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Responding to Mr. Eisner's comments, Commissioner Drew Combs said: "It's a debate we've had in the city already. ... We've in a thoughtful manner said we want greater density."
Commissioner Susan Goodhue said: "I think we got exactly what the specific plan asked for, and I think we got it in a high-quality way. ... If only we could see more development like this, Menlo Park and the specific plan would be in very good shape."
Commissioner Henry Riggs remarked, "For good and for bad, this is growth and development."
All seven commissioners voted to approve the project.