News

Guest opinion: More work needed on Menlo Park general plan before approval

 

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.

Comments

21 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Neilson Buchanan is a registered user.

WOW! Candid honesty! This is a foundation to solve problems.

Menlo Park's horse is, indeed, ahead of its cart. And Menlo Park's city government has opportunity and duty to become a role model.

How many other city governments are in the same boat without a paddle?


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Posted by gridlock ahead
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 28, 2016 at 12:49 pm

editor - why two threads about the same editorial? Please combine them


9 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 28, 2016 at 1:16 pm

How about this fact: THERE IS NOT A FIX TO THE TRAFFIC PROBLEMS. We don't have roads to widen, bypasses to install, or the ability to ban traffic on Willow, or magic ski gondolas to transport people from nowhere to nowhere. It will only get better when people (regionally) stop driving.

So in the mean time do we let our land and communities fester while we collectively fall on our sword for the sake of a unfixable problem that's not really of our making? Go ahead, spend another $600K on yet another traffic study only to find out we can't really change anything, and adding the housing and commercial space won't make any difference because it's getting worse anyway.


13 people like this
Posted by Moratorium
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 28, 2016 at 3:03 pm

M-O-R-A-T-O-R-I-U-M is the operative word. Moratorium on office development. It's already too late but why add one more sq ft of office? Only housing should be approved. duplexes, multifamily units, 40% of them affordable.
That's the solution. Question is: why are these three authors of this op-ed piece just now waking up? All of them have eagerly invited developers of every stripe to come to Menlo Park where the council almost tripled the size developers can build on El Camino Rea.l Next these three joined hands with Facebook supporting its first campus expansion and just recently its second campus expansion. How about their letting Sobrato go above the zoning for its office building in Belle Haven? For what? Bike lanes? Bike lanes that the City, itself should have installed years ago. And let's talk about Bohannon? Henry Riggs was on the support team for that project, which has not one housing unit.
Nice that these folks are waking up but they need to add moratorium on office to their cry for transportation infrastructure.


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Posted by gridlock ahead
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 28, 2016 at 3:04 pm

@ Really? Yes, really. Some of this IS of Menlo Park's making. The more aligned the number of jobs to the amount of housing. the fewer traffic impacts because fewer must commute to get to work. So our Council could decide NOT to approve more jobs until there is more housing, or even NOT as much new jobs. Do we really need to grow jobs by 70%?
Our community will not fester if jobs growth slows. There is a lot of development and redevelopment going on.


4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm

maybe the study we really need is an actually traffic survey, identifying which cars are going to and coming from where. It would clarify the situation and my best guess is that there's a stream of cars going up Marsh and Willow from Menlo Park businesses which is down to us, but the vast majority stuck in Belle Haven is cut through from the wider region which Menlo Park jobs have nothing to do with.

The model that most people work with is that traffic is reduced by brings jobs closer to home. The huge jobs/housing gap resulted in decades of MP being a bedroom community for SF and SJ, filling up roads with commuters. So better dispersed density across the Peninsula would be the answer (until the next recession hits).


4 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 28, 2016 at 4:09 pm

I applaud your positions and the arguments for them and hope the entire City Council will agree. I am confident that this approach can make a huge difference - naysayers aside - and look forward to helping you make REAL progress. Our problems will not go way but impacts can be mitigated by sound decisions.


2 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 29, 2016 at 12:47 pm

The City Council needs to approve this plan as it is! We need more housing options. We can't wait! Menlo Park has many of the traffic issues it has because of itself!

Willow Road should have been made into an expressway as planned in 1959. 25 years ago Menlo Park rejected the project and now look at the mess they have. They did it to themselves! Sand Hill Road should have been extended to run east of ECR and connect with 101 but again Menlo Park rejected that.

it's not fair to stifle development because of "infrastructure" concerns when it's Menlo Park who caused the issue by rejecting plans to strengthen the infrastructure in the first place.

Mueller: you can't even fix the gridlock on El Camino Real! Why can't you get the lights timed on ECR????


3 people like this
Posted by members only
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 29, 2016 at 12:58 pm

@member: maybe Mueller can't get ECR fixed be there was no viable funding mechanism for infrastructure built into the Specific Plan and the large scale fixes are CalTrans responsibility because ECR is is a state highway.




8 people like this
Posted by members only
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 29, 2016 at 1:03 pm

How is creating an infrastructure plan with milestones before upzoning in the General Plan "stifling" development? There is no project applicant nor project pending in a General Plan process.


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm

@members only:

So what is the infrastructure plan? Can you give us a hint? Facebook may succeed in pushing forward Dumbarton Rail (thank you Facebook), but what it this infrastructure plan going to do? Road widening? nope. Closing off neighborhoods with gates to cut-through traffic? yeah, right. Reducing parking requirements to zero on new developments to stop cars coming in? dream on. Light rail up Willow?

Somebody please enlighten me as to what is feasible, because if there are no specific solutions, then these problems should be considered in a different light.


4 people like this
Posted by members only
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm

In the General Plan meetings there were many infrastructure solutions discuss related to transportation. One is creating a connection with grade separations eliminating stops between highway 101, Bayfront Expressway and the Dumbarton Bridge. These are physical construction projects. Another massive infrastructure project that is REQUIRED in the General Plan is a water recycling plant. Those are just two examples. You should read the plan.


2 people like this
Posted by What a great idea!
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Nov 29, 2016 at 2:59 pm

I really need a quick way I-280 to/from Facebook and I-80 to/from Facebook.

See Willow Expressway Plans at Web Link


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Posted by members only
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 29, 2016 at 3:18 pm

No one has proposed the Willow Expressway in the General Plan process - except maybe @member.


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Posted by 11th Hour
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 29, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Was Ray not aware traffic was a problem when he approved the work plan and budget, or when he co-chaired every GPAC meeting? If an outsider was proposing this delay I'd understand it, but Ray's fingerprints are all over the draft proposal. Hopefully the other Council members have stiffer backbones...


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 29, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The auto dealer lots will remain untouched for years as the General Plan continues to be revised, devised and delayed.


3 people like this
Posted by Bully tactics
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 29, 2016 at 6:47 pm

mueller has continually raised concerns over infrastructure. The op-Ed cites many positives about the plan. It's pathetic you feel the need to insult him. The Menlo Park way. If all else fails, then bully.


3 people like this
Posted by Bully tactics
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 29, 2016 at 6:49 pm

Carpenter, the auto lots are in the Specifc Plan area. The General Plan is focused on the M2 Bell Haven area.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 29, 2016 at 8:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Do not be deceived by the fact that Menlo Park is attempting to, questionably, update its General Plan under the guise of an M2 plan.

By law a General Plan MUST include the entire city and as such it takes priority over the Specific Plan.

Stanford is well aware of this fact and will, in my opinion, delay any development of its Menlo Park properties until the rules are both clear and legally binding.


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Posted by gridlock ahead
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 9:37 am

@ member - "The City Council needs to approve this plan as it is! We need more housing options. We can't wait!"
Be very careful what you wish for. This plan allows greatly more non-housing development that will add greatly to demand for housing. Only one of the three new zoning areas will allow housing and even there, the amount of office allowed could add more new need for housing than the area can supply.


4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:25 am

The'Jobs/Housing' balance is a total red herring. What percentage of Menlo park's population actually work in Menlo Park? I'll bet it's less than 10%. The jobs we create and the housing we build are almost totally unrelated, like most of the region, which is why there's all this damn traffic!

The only jobs/housing linkage is Facebook's plans for employee housing. More opportunities for people to work where they already live is one way of reducing congestion.


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Posted by gridlock ahead
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 1, 2016 at 10:03 am

@really? Jobs/housing balance is not a red herring. The city's expert consultants show in their reports that there is improved traffic and less environmental impacts when there is more housing near jobs. The EIR concludes that adding this much growth worsens traffic. Those are facts.

@ 11th hour. "Was Ray not aware traffic was a problem ..?" The details and impacts of the draft plan were not available until late in the game. Mueller, to his credit, likened the community process to filling up a shopping cart with desirables and then finding out at checkout what the cost is. Too bad he isn't strong enough to be able to persuade even one of his colleagues to modify the plan.

Menlo Park is doomed. Gridlock is ahead


Like this comment
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:48 am

Peter,
Are you sure about a General Plan OVERRIDING a Specific Plan? It's my understanding that Specific Plans must be CONSISTENT with a General Plan, focusing on a specific area of the city.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

History -we are saying the same thing. If there is something in a Specific Plan that is inconsistent with the General Plan then the General Plan prevails.


2 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@membersonly.

The West Bay Sanitary District is in discussions with the City of Menlo Park to build a waste water recycling plant on our Bayfront Property (behind Bayfront Park)

The cost of building it and delivering water non-potable water is not excessive, and we have support from some of the M2 developers to assist.

Your call for it to be a requirement is good. Unfortunately the city of Menlo Park currently wants to require an onsite recycling plant per property (a REALLY bad and COSTLY idea) we will continue to work with them to find an effective solution.

Just to give you an idea of scale. the current waste water treatment plant in Belmont (SVCW) that most of the Peninsula uses, pours over 18,000,000 gallons of fresh water (treated to be cleaner than hetch hetchy) into the bay every day. that is LOTS of wasted water. To be able to use that water to recharge the aquifer we need a county wide recycled water plan which will take years.....in the meantime we throw the water away.

Roy Thiele-Sardina
Director, West Bay Sanitary District


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