By Clem Molony
The Station 1300 mixed-use development proposal for El Camino Real is a welcome modernization of our downtown. It is a definite positive for our wonderful city. It brings 183 new housing units, a beautiful design, two moderate-size three-story office buildings, and it is right across the street from the Caltrain station.
The addition of 180-plus housing units that are adjacent to a Caltrain station is a transit-oriented bonus for the Bay Area. Also, adding these apartments to the local housing stock will help to ease the pressure on rent increases in Menlo Park and adjacent cities. The developer, Greenheart Land Company, has agreed to include 20 below-market-rate units, which is twice the number required by regulation.
Greenheart's balanced and classy design is meant to match the goals of our Downtown/El Camino Real Specific Plan. There will be courtyards and plazas, community-serving uses (at least 18,000 square feet, and possibly up to 29,000), a dog park, bicycle improvements to the streets, retail stores and all with an attractive Spanish Revival architecture.
Greenheart also has used the downtown plan's provision for a "public-benefit bonus" to strengthen its project design. This planning feature allows our city to gain:
● A new underground garage (with three entrances and 900-plus parking spaces) whose public spaces will benefit all of downtown.
● A 47 percent open-space ratio within the six acres of the site.
● A $2.1 million payment to the city's Public Amenity Fund (which is used to support city improvements, including transportation, etc.).
● More homes, retail, public-use areas, and affordable housing units.
Given the project's Caltrain adjacency, and Greenheart's aggressive program of "transportation demand management" for the tenants and residents, the impacts on traffic and transportation will be much less than would be expected from such a project anywhere else in the city.
The state-required environmental impact report (EIR), done by the city, evaluated traffic impacts from the project. The analysis showed that there will be some increased traffic at intersections near the Caltrain station during commute hours, but because of the high percentage of workers who nowadays use Caltrain, the impacts will be very slight (under a half-minute's added delay). Also, the EIR analysis showed almost no impact on El Camino Real traffic congestion.
Regarding the high-tech tenants in today's modern offices, a huge proportion use transit. A recent study showed that almost 30 percent of Palo Alto's office workers ride Caltrain to their jobs. Also, almost 50 percent of Facebook's employees travel to work in an alternative to a single-occupant vehicle. Transit-oriented development is the solution for our future on the Peninsula.
I am glad that Greenheart took a cooperative approach as it adjusted its plans over the past two years. The company has worked with city staff and public input continually, to adjust and improve the project's design in excellent ways. Station 1300 is going to be a real enhancement for downtown Menlo Park.
Clem Molony is a 40-year Willows homeowner, a longtime environmental leader in Silicon Valley, a community volunteer, and an advocate for healthy living and youth development efforts.
Another point of view on the Greenheart project.