By Ray Mueller, Katherine Strehl and Henry Riggs
At the outset, let us say collectively that we believe there are many positive attributes contained in the proposed general plan currently under consideration by the City Council.
The general plan, which outlines development in the city of Menlo Park over the next 30 years, will implement cutting-edge policies related to affordable housing, multimodal transportation, water management and environmental sustainability. Its zoning embraces the creation of vibrant live, work, and play environments. It will provide valuable amenities to the Belle Haven neighborhood. And the community outreach and work conducted by staff over the last three years has been outstanding.
However, despite all of these positive attributes, we believe the general plan is incomplete, and should not be approved at this time absent more work. Why?
The general plan currently does not contain an adequate framework for the creation of infrastructure necessary to support the plan -- ie., the roads, grade separations, water recycling plants, alternative transit, etc.
First, the general plan's fiscal impact report does not estimate the cost of capital improvement infrastructure necessary to support the growth outlined in the plan.
How many millions of dollars will be required to build the infrastructure?
Second, the general plan does not set forth a framework detailing who will pay for the capital improvement infrastructure. Will it be the developers or Menlo Park taxpayers? Will new taxes be required? Will the county, region, state or federal government commit to participating in paying for the infrastructure?
Third, the general plan and its supporting documents do not detail when the infrastructure will be built. Five years? Fifteen years? Thirty years?
To understand the relevance of this information, it is important to put the growth expected in the general plan in context. The general plan now before the City Council proposes zoning changes in the M-2 light industrial area east of U.S. 101 that would allow the building of up to 2.3 million additional square feet of nonresidential development, 400 hotel rooms and 4,500 residential units. With full development, an estimated 11,570 more residents and 5,500 more employees would be added to the area. The increase in density allowed by the change in zoning would be compounded by 1.8 million square feet of nonresidential zoning that currently exists, unbuilt in M-2.
Simply put, we do not believe it to be prudent to approve the zoning changes contained in the general plan, and allow an additional 4.1 million square feet of growth along the Dumbarton Corridor, without the outline of an infrastructure plan to support such growth.
We concede the argument that it would be unreasonable to require all of the infrastructure funding to be available at the outset of the implementation of the general plan. For that reason, we advocate for the phased implementation of growth in the plan, to run parallel to the funding and building of infrastructure milestones.
Infrastructure is one of the core responsibilities of government. We must use this moment to work together with our regional, state and federal agencies to fix the regional Dumbarton Corridor infrastructure that has been neglected for far too long. The need is clear and the path is in front of us. We must not only zone for the future, we must plan and build our infrastructure for the future, financed with a fiscally prudent plan that ensures the financial health of our city and protects the quality of life of our residents.
City Councilman Ray Mueller co-chairs the General Plan Advisory Committee. Planning Commission Chairwoman Katherine Strehl is a member of the General Plan Advisory Committee. Henry Riggs is on the Planning Commission.