News

Menlo Park: Council approves terms for Greenheart development

A project to build 420,000 square feet of residential, office and retail space on the large vacant lot along El Camino Real (between Glenwood and Oak Grove avenues) in Menlo Park cleared a major milestone on Tuesday, Sept. 13. The Menlo Park City Council unanimously approved the terms of an agreement between the city and the developer, Greenheart Land Co.

The terms were negotiated by City Council members Peter Ohtaki and Catherine Carlton, plus several members of city staff including Assistant City Manager Chip Taylor and Senior Planner Thomas Rogers.

Under terms of the agreement, the developer would be required to provide 14 below-market-rate housing units, pay $2.1 million in cash to a public amenity fund, guarantee $83,700 in sales tax payment per year, and build a dog park.

The proposed development at 1300 El Camion Real is at a "public benefit bonus" level, which allows additional development in exchange for public benefits.

Greenheart proposes to build two office buildings of up to 199,300 square feet of floor space; one residential building for 183 dwelling units; up to 29,000 square feet for "community-serving" uses, such as retail and personal service; and an underground parking garage and small surface lot for 1,000 parking spaces.

Specific terms of the agreement indicate that Greenheart will:

● Give the city a $2.1 million cash contribution, which would be earmarked to be spent on a public amenity in the El Camino Real/downtown specific plan area, which includes El Camino from Watkins Avenue to the San Francisquito Creek and the city's downtown area and Civic Center.

● Designate 14 of the apartments for low-income tenants (three two-bedroom units, three large one-bedroom units, and eight small one-bedroom units). In addition, six small one-bedroom apartments would be designated for tenants whose income falls between the median and "moderate" income levels. Under the city's below-market-rate ordinance, the developer would be required to fund only 10 units for low-income tenants. In San Mateo County, the income threshold for low-income is no more than $98,500 for a family of four. A family of four qualifies for median or moderate-income housing if the income is between $107,700 and $129,250.

● Build a publicly accessible, fenced dog park where Greenheart had previously planned to put a bocce court. The council has had ongoing debates about where a dog park could or should operate at city parks.

● Guarantee that the retail space in the development would generate at least $83,700 in sales tax revenue per year for the city, or about $4.50 per square foot, beginning two years after the project is built. Each of the project's three buildings will have retail space that the owners will try to get occupied as soon as possible, said Bob Burke, principal at Greenheart. He said it can be difficult to get retail tenants to occupy a space right away when the site is still under construction. The developer, he said, has an interest in getting retail up and running as quickly as possible, even though retail doesn't bring in as much revenue as office space, because it helps attract office tenants.

● Market the office space for startup-friendly uses, such as incubators, accelerators and co-working locations, unless the space is rented to just one tenant.

In exchange, the city will:

● Not make Greenheart pay new impact fees or in-kind requirements, such as the housing impact fees the city is considering, for three years, with the chance of two annual extensions. The city can still increase the impact fees already in place, however.

● Allow the conditions in the first building permit to apply to other permits planned for different phases of the project's construction.

The terms of the agreement will last for 10 years, while the below-market-rate apartments would be held to a 55-year agreement with the city.

Next, city staff will finalize the project's environmental impact report and bring it before the Planning Commission and then the entire package to the City Council for possible approval. Mr. Burke said Greenheart plans to submit drawings to begin building the underground garage in advance of formal approval of the project.

When asked when groundbreaking could occur, Mr. Burke responded, "As fast as you can process it, we can build. ... If everything went right, we would hope to break ground in March or April."

Occupancy would be planned for some time in 2019, he said.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 14, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Oy vey.


5 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 14, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Great start. I like the Mission style, reminds of Santa Barbara. We'd do well to continue this type of architecture through downtown. The boxy, plain, rundown single story retail spaces of the 1950s have got to go!


7 people like this
Posted by Betty T
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 14, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Great news. One more weed filled lot gone.


9 people like this
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 14, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Fantastic news! Hopefully, the start of approving many projects that will help our city renew a bit of the old. Continued efforts should be shown with the remaining lots on El Camino, and perhaps a very real discussion about the small, low lying, parking garages. Investing in our commercial district, and public spaces, does NOT mean that we want another Palo Alto or RWC. I think many of us just want to see up-to-date improvements. This day has been needed for a very LONG time.


7 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2016 at 12:23 am

Was there ever any doubt at all that our City Council would approve this development? They approve every single thing every single developer requests, ignoring unpleasant realities that should make them say a polite but firm "No" to all such requests. These realities are:
1. We don't have enough water.
2. Traffic is h9orrible.
3. The cost of living is far too high.

None of these 3 things shows any signs of changing for the better. But they would have to if any developments were ever to be worth doing,

So -- Greenheart development supporters:
Practically and realistically, will this Greenheart development do anything at all that will help to solve any of those 3 huge problems? And if it won't and can't, why should it be allowed to be built?


15 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2016 at 7:07 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"And if it won't and can't, why should it be allowed to be built?"

Because we are all tired of looking at empty lots.

The three things you mention are regional problems and they won't solved by stopping all development in Menlo Park. People need to stop fighting growth in our community and start putting that energy into demanding regional efforts to address those problems.


10 people like this
Posted by not just a regional problem
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 15, 2016 at 10:47 am

@ Louise68 - let's add to your list There isn't enough housing, and this adds more need for ever more housing. Its housing isn't enough for the new workers let alone ease the existing shortage.

These are regional problems, but how does Menlo Park get off by not helping with solutions. Instead this makes them worse. The Council should be ashamed of itself.


9 people like this
Posted by Judy Horst
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 17, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Sad news that the story didn't mention the many trees to be sacrificed because they are just in the way of this messianic development. The Menlo Park City Council once again traded away old-growth trees and other mature trees on the property for the promise of future tax revenues and housing and office space that will be unaffordable by the time the project is completed. The development's parking garages and buildings leave very little room for trees and other living things? The developer and the City Council could have, and should have done better.

There are many other business/residential building projects planned for El Camino. This is just the first, and so goes the character of Menlo Park.


12 people like this
Posted by not just a regional problem
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 18, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Why is there no mention that the project worsens the housing shortage?
Some below market housing units are great, but they don't make up for worsening the existing problems.


17 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 19, 2016 at 1:07 am

The Menlo Park City Council never met a development it didn't like, and our City has a proven history of rolling over and showing its soft underbelly to Bohannon, Stanford, Arrillaga, and Facebook.

Of course no one wants the vacant lots on El Camino to remain, but the massive Greenheart project is not a reasonable solution. It will bring minimal amounts of retail, restaurant, and other enterprises that would benefit the residents of Menlo Park, and what it will bring — office space and the associated influx of transient workers — will worsen two of Menlo Park's most pressing problems: traffic, and the housing shortage.

At the rate office space is being thrown up in this town, we might as well change our name to Menlo Office Park. Our quality of life is being steadily degraded by poorly planned, office-centric development, and it's going to get so much worse once Greenheart and the Facebook expansion are complete.

We have all this office space coming on line, but nowhere for the people who will work in these offices to live — and if we could somehow build affordable housing for even a fraction of those workers, a population increase of that magnitude would bring a whole host of other challenges.

Further, what will become of all that office space during the next downturn? It's not a question of if the economy will stumble again; it's a question of when — and what then? Will Menlo Office Park become Menlo Ghost Town?

Our City leaders have let us down, badly.


4 people like this
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2016 at 8:14 am

As crazy as this sounds: I'm thinking "vacant ghost town office parks" look much better than trash strewn, empty '60's style abandon buildings. Finally, this corridor will be pleasing to the eye, regardless of the vacancy rates.


10 people like this
Posted by not just a regional problem
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 8:51 am

@ Scott L - "Finally, this corridor will be pleasing to the eye, regardless of the vacancy rates."
Be careful what you wish for.

It is a very sad day when aesthetics outweigh the sort of common sense outlined by HelloHanalei's posting above. Weeds and debris easily could be controlled by caring and responsible property owners (NOT Greenheart and the Park Theater property owners who let the weeds grow and die in place). If property owners do not show respect for our community, then there should be a diligent code enforcement effort by the City. Obviously that wasn't done. Wonder why.


6 people like this
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2016 at 9:26 am

I think the ones being Irresponsible, are the councils of of old and some of our citizens that allowed this fiasco to fester for years and years. I'm not sure of the number of years, but we should have "fixed" this issue years ago. How can anyone force a property owner to tear down buildings, break up concrete slabs, lay sod, plant trees........if they aren't generating any income for the commercial site, that let's not forget, they own. Greenheart did an admirable job, for what they had to work with, and what they were up against. Not perfect, but again, certainly better than what we currently have on that site.


4 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 10:23 am

for the folks that at decrying the lack of housing

1) there are 183 units ti be built. that is 183 more that we have now
2) this is most telling. When developers want to build HOUSING on the Stanford ECR car lots in 2001/2002. The same folk that are criticizing this development, were stead fast against have HOUSING built on ECR.

Please stop the hypocrisy.


18 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 19, 2016 at 11:04 am

Scott, this isn't a zero sum game where the only alternatives are the Greenheart development as proposed, or trash-strewn empty lots. How about Option C, in which the lots are developed in a way that benefits the citizens of Menlo Park, helps solve pressing problems like easing the housing crisis and reviving the downtown corridor, and doesn't hugely exacerbate our already severe traffic issues?

I haven't heard anyone advocate not developing the empty lots, but I have heard a lot of people say that they should be developed in a way that makes sense, and this massive office complex isn't the answer.

Tangentially, faux Mission Style, a la every strip mall up and down California, isn't exactly groundbreaking or aesthetically pleasing architecture.


7 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2016 at 11:16 am

@helloHanalie

The development is with in the scope of the DSP. It will have retail (for residents), housing (new residents) and office space (jobs for some residents and use/property taxes!) . It is all near the public transit.

The DSP was approved by the citizens of MP and the attempt to derail it (measure M) was defeated soundly by voters.

Yet, you ignore all of this and make the silly statement that no one has ever looked at another option. WE DID. This project and other have been in the works for years and years.

Sorry it isn't perfect for you, I doubt that there is a project that would work for you.

And the proposed buildings look nicer than anything else on ECR in Menlo Park except for the BBC.

But, I guess you are a fan of plain, outdated mid century single story retail buildings that could be any decaying downtown built in the 1950s.

Downtown MP has no architectural character, as all the building were mostly built in the 1950-60s.

What exactly are you comparing the project too?


5 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2016 at 3:13 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Her minds eye


2 people like this
Posted by JustSaying
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 21, 2016 at 8:03 am

Don't know if anyone cares/knows/appreciates/considers the impact of building homes and schools near high traffic roads and railroad tracks.
Web Link
Will the new construction have air filters Ie.g., HEPA air cleaners, noise reduction insulation (trains cause neurologic stress for those who live near railroad tracks), etc.
"Air pollutants from cars, trucks and other motor vehicles are found in higher concentrations near major roads. People who live, work or attend school near major roads appear to have an increased incidence and severity of health problems associated with air pollution exposures related to roadway traffic including higher rates of asthma onset and aggravation, cardiovascular disease, impaired lung development in children, pre-term and low-birthweight infants, childhood leukemia, and premature death."


2 people like this
Posted by Need more info
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm

MP'er. Can you share any info about the 2000-2001 Stanford offer to build housing on its property at 500 ECR? I cannot find anything on the internet about this and I lived in MP at the time. I cannot recall any plan, application or offer by Stanford to build housing. I do recall that at that time the Council was undergoing the process of updating the housing element of the General Plan by identifying sites for housing.
Any factual information would be appreciated (any other than just your recollection). I want to read about this.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 21, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Her is all the detail you asked for:

Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by not just a regional problem
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 22, 2016 at 7:50 am

@MPer you mention 183 housing units.
The problem is that the office space for the project adds more new housing demand than 183 units. So the project worsens the housing shortage. Our Council cannot keep its head in the sand and ignore that they have some responsibilities for solving the problem.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Yes, Menlo Park has a housing shortage problem as do ALL Peninsula cities, and this regional problem is largely due to the lack of available undeveloped space and the persistent popular desire to limit housing densities. There are NO simple solutions and incremental ones will NOT materially change the economics of housing supply and demand including the affordability and prices.

Greenheart will add 183 units and about 625 on-site office workers. If 30% commute by train or bike and 50% would normally drive => total of 500 workers. The shortfall of 125 is extremely small compared the perceived total "City shortfall". (Note: many workers will likely take advantage of the increase in new housing being constructed in Redwood City.)

Even if Greenheart doubled its housing the local and regional housing shortage and affordability would remain unchanged. Allow them to increase site density and Greenheart would likely be happy to add more housing.


15 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 23, 2016 at 1:22 pm

I remember when Gail Slocum and Jack Morris tried to block the beautiful building, where Keplers and Café Barrane are located, from being developed. You will always have myopic people in Menlo Park who will do everything they can to block thoughtful development that makes Menlo Park a better place to live. Yes Gail, Jack, and their ilk will proffer pejorative and specious arguments to thwart progress but at the end of the day they just don't know what they are talking about and should just be ignored. They just want to draw attention to themselves, which wouldn't be bad if they had something constructive to offer.


Like this comment
Posted by not just a regional problem
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 23, 2016 at 4:41 pm

@ Dana "Allow them to increase site density and Greenheart would likely be happy to add more housing."
Greenheart CAN already add more housing. In fact, they are allowed to build more than 320 housing units at the Bonus level. They are not, though.

Why do they need 1,000 parking spaces if everyone is taking the train or living nearby?

This development will bring a lot more cars into the heart of our town. Our Council COULD ensure there is more benefit than harm from this development. They COULD push for more housing, and not accept so much office.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Why do they need 1,000 parking spaces if everyone is taking the train or living nearby? "

Because it's what the city requires. I'm sure they'd be happy to build less parking. Underground parking is expensive.


2 people like this
Posted by Need More Info
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2016 at 9:19 pm

Peter and MP'er, I am interested in what MP'er says was an offer by Stanford in 2000-2001 to build all housing on its ECR parcel. I cannot find any press on such an offer. Does anyone have a city document or article about such an offer?


2 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2016 at 9:17 am

WHY ARE WE ALLOWING SOMETHING SO DENSE TO BE BUILT?
WHY ARE WE ALLOWING IT TO BE FOUR STORIES TALL?


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2016 at 7:10 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"WHY ARE WE ALLOWING SOMETHING SO DENSE TO BE BUILT?
WHY ARE WE ALLOWING IT TO BE FOUR STORIES TALL?"

BECAUSE IT COMPLIES WITH THE DSP. YOU KNOW, THAT THING THAT TOOK FIVE YEARS OF WORK TO BE APPROVED? THAT'S WHY. And stop yelling.


1 person likes this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2016 at 3:54 pm

not just a regional problem, from a developer perspective the central issue is economic. If housing were more profitable than offices Greenheart would build them. Menlo Park could have easily asked Greenheart what it would take to add a few stories of additional housing to its CURRENT plans. Then the city could have evaluated the trade-off of more housing versus building height. This is a decision that would not penalize the developer for a community problem. At this point, I doubt Greenheart would be willing to accept additional delays. And I doubt many residents would find this desirable. An opportunity lost?


2 people like this
Posted by Lost opportunity?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm

If the DSP rules allow more office than housing where it is supposed to be "residential", then this project's term sheet is a way to leverage the opportunity for a better balance. - plenty of housing is allowed. The developer appears to be making unusually high profit while worsening the imbalance. The council shoukd come to its senses.

The general plan update remains an opportunity to get the balance right.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dana is absolutely correct - the ONLY way to get increased residential density that is economical for both the developer and tenants is to allow greater building heights.

This will eventually happen but, sadly, much too late.


Like this comment
Posted by Lost opportunity
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Menlo park consultants in 2012 said housing was economical. It may never be more profitable than office. If more height were allowed wouldnt that just mean taller offices?
Discretionary approvals or limits on office (at least at bonus level) would do more. The council missed the opportunity. .


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Apr 11, 2017 at 11:18 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Tokyo ramen shop to open first U.S. outpost in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 22 comments | 4,112 views

It’s Not Someone Else’s Responsibility to Honor My Marriage . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 781 views

Babywearing
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 764 views

 

Meet the winners!

The results are in. Check out The Almanac readers' favorite foods, services and fun stuff in the area.

View Winners