News

Menlo Park council OKs Stanford's El Camino complex

Vote is 5-0 in favor of 429,000-square-foot development

After nearly five years of Menlo Park scrutiny, Stanford University received preliminary approval Tuesday from the Menlo Park City Council for its project to build a 429,000-square-foot office, housing and retail development between Big 5 Sporting Goods and the Stanford Park Hotel along El Camino Real.

The council voted 5-0 in favor of a package of resolutions and ordinances that would allow the university to move forward with its project.

Final approval is expected to be given at the council's Oct. 10 meeting.

The university, which first submitted its plans for the site in November 2012, proposes to build 142,800 square feet of office space, 215 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail space. It also proposes a publicly accessible plaza.

Studies estimated that an additional 2,600 vehicle trips per day would be generated at the development, a lower amount than what was originally planned for in the city's El Camino Real/downtown specific plan.

The university made several last-minute concessions, agreeing to purchase 100 percent renewable energy, to design the development to meet LEED Gold requirements – a more stringent sustainability standard than the university had previously committed to providing – and, following a request by Mayor Kirsten Keith, to use natural, rather than fake turf at the on-site dog park planned at the development.

Development agreement

Stanford University had offered to pay $6.5 million under a development agreement that included provisions to pay half the cost up to $5 million to build a "grade separation" at Middle Avenue that would allow bikes and pedestrians to travel over or under the Caltrain tracks. The university also committed to donate $1.5 million to the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation in a lump sum for the foundation's endowment.

The university also said that, should the bike and pedestrian grade separation come in under $10 million, the university would pay the difference between $5 million and its half of the costs to the education foundation.

Council members agreed to decide later if those funds should be distributed so that Stanford would commit $4 million toward the bike and pedestrian grade separation and $2.5 million to the education foundation. Stanford official Jean McCown said the university could also add its name to city grant applications to help raise funds for the project from other sources.

Earlier story: Menlo Park, Stanford strike deal for schools

__

Sign up for Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

31 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 27, 2017 at 8:19 am

This is a good outcome. We will have more desperately needed housing and more people to brighten up downtown. It's tricky, of course, because Stanford is a non-profit and doesn't pay property taxes on their residential properties. But we will have the property taxes from their commercial properties and $6.5 million in additional money that can go towards schools and improving transportation in Menlo Park.

It's challenging to live in a city next to a large non-profit. But we should remember that Menlo Park is one of the richest cities in America precisely because of it. On balance, we all do much, much better with Stanford as our neighbor.


29 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 27, 2017 at 8:59 am

Stanford has been soiling their own nest with overdevelopment. Now the Menlo Park City Council has allowed Stanford to soil my nest. Shame on those 5 people who allowed this.


18 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Sep 27, 2017 at 10:28 am

So funny to see the haters here... Would you prefer the present vacant lot? More tumbleweeds? That will take us back to our "rural roots".


12 people like this
Posted by Brooke
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 10:37 am

Thanks to the city council for being 'brave' enough to vote positively for this in the face of a few virulent 'keep Menlo Park in the dark ages' residents.


32 people like this
Posted by long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 11:53 am

How any MP resident, who cares at all about the quality of life in our city, can praise this hopeless council and their decision here is really hard to believe.

Stanford cares not a twitch about MP and never has. Look at the diversion of traffic our way, by closing off Alma from thru traffic from Sand Hill Road. All Stanford cares about is keeping the peace with Palo Alto.

With the vast land holdings Stanford has, such development could easily be accommodated on their main campus. No no. Although promised years ago by the provost in public meetings, that this land was not ever to be used for academic uses, now a complete change of position and development to send more traffic and students into our world.

The whole MP council should be recalled. If ever there was needed a referendum to save our City from the horrible project, this is it.


28 people like this
Posted by No Extremes
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 27, 2017 at 12:07 pm

No Extremes is a registered user.

Hmm...but this is part of the problem. You either want massive developments that don't pay property taxes or you want it to remain a vacant lot. I hated the vacant lots on ECR. I hate the fact that it's been vacant for so long--it's unacceptable. But how come our only option is a huge flawed development by Stanford? I don't like the lack of options we've been given here.


25 people like this
Posted by No net new benefit
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 12:29 pm

This project adds more housing demand than it would satisfy wirh new housing that is because of the offices and workers in them. Stanfird intends to use the housing for its staff and faculty. That means that the project adds a lot more new demand for housing the new workers but ZERO housing fir them. How is that good for Menlo Park?

With no limits to vehicle trips and new offices filled wirh commuters (traffic), how is tgat ghos for Menlo Park?

No property taxes, no sales taxes. Hiw us that good?

Oh the lots that Stsnford left vacant years ago will now have buildings. Whoopee.


3 people like this
Posted by Nobody in Particular
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 1:55 pm

regarding Long Time Resident's comment:

"Stanford cares not a twitch about MP and never has. Look at the diversion of traffic our way, by closing off Alma from thru traffic from Sand Hill Road. All Stanford cares about is keeping the peace with Palo Alto."

If I remember correctly, when the Sand Hill road route was realigned at El Camino, it was Palo Alto that insisted that there be no through cross traffic from Sand Hill road to Alma.

And by the way, I'm pretty sure Menlo Park has resisted any proposed connections from El Camino to Willow Road since the 1950's..


7 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 2:03 pm

I want to appreciate the efforts of both Stanford and our city's that were made to reach this point and approve the Middle Plaza. I think it is a great project that will on net hugely benefit our city. And I love the new design!

That said, I want to apologize to BOTH parties for my misunderstanding the development agreement process and therefore strongly advocating for a better deal. I like many residents did not understand the agreement was not required but rather arose because both sides wanted to document "promises" Stanford had made to Menlo Park but not required by our Downtown Specific Plan. Again, congratulations. Let's move forward as quickly as possible.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 27, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Stanford - Thank you for your patience. I estimate that the delays caused by the city will end up costing you millions in additional construction costs and lost revenues.

Menlo Park - Shame on you for not doing a better job in the DSP and CEQA process to protect the interests of the school districts and the Fire District. Serving as the LeadAgency confers legal and ethical responsibilities - which you ignored.


27 people like this
Posted by Not black and white
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Everyone wants the vacant lots to go away.The hundreds of residents protesting this development aren't Luddites or against progress but rather people who want to see SOME benefit for Menlo Park.

There is none. Just more El Camino congestion and more cut-through neighborhood traffic.

Our council demonstrated a lack of ability to negotiate and a lack of integrity in their failure to serve the residents of this city.


9 people like this
Posted by Henry Wong
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Good job Menlo Park City Council. That area has been in neglect for over a decade. For a short period, Tesla opened a dealership there and then they moved south to PA. The City should allocate some office spaces for startups since Palo Alto is so impacted.


6 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Peter, your point is well taken. I do not know whether the city ever anticipated Stanford's intention to use the Middle Plaza housing exclusively for its own use thereby excluding it from the property tax roles. Or, when Stanford disclosed its plan. Do you recall any such a discussion? That said, the cow has left the barn. Could the City Council have modified the DSP once this was learned? Was this considered?


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 5, 2015 at 10:41 am
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
In my opinion Stanford has been an incredibly good community partner. Stanford properties already contribute the bulk of the city hotel taxes. I know of no other developer that has gone to the lengths that Stanford has to reach out to the community, listen to their concerns and change their plans.

Measure M failed - by a large margin.

The Downtown Specific Plan is the law regarding what can and cannot be built.

Further restricting what Stanford proposes to build could easily result in a massive law suit against the city.

And remember that Stanford could easily build the entire project as a property tax exempt development.


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I was surprised to hear the "disconnect" between the Complete Street Commissioners and Stanford last night. Why did the commissioners decide to lobby last night for a north-south bike lane behind the Middle Plaza when they ALREADY knew Stanford had explored and discussed this idea with them and determined there was no space for it? And why did the commissioners not proactively acknowledge this history when it asked the Council to consider this idea during the meeting? Seemed odd to me.


2 people like this
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 27, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Great outcome, and a long time coming. Excited to eventually see the somewhat affordable homes, the plaza, the additional retail and the bike tunnel. Stanford IS a great neighbor, much of our community is built in and around Stanford with jobs, activities, events and other investments. My only wish is that this decision was made about 5 years ago. Thanks to everyone that was involved, and their efforts!!


2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2017 at 10:50 pm

In the Tuesday City Council meeting Stanford referred to the city requirement that it must provide class 2 (bike lanes) or class 3 (bike route signage) for bicyclists who ride across Middle Plaza between El Camino and the tunnel under the train tracks but the city has NOT acknowledge that (a) Middle between University and El Camino does not have space for bike lanes on each side and (b) the lack of bike lanes would be unsafe due to the heavy vehicle traffic at the Safeway Plaza entrance. So what does the City intend to do? And the Complete Streets commissioners totally ignored this issue.


2 people like this
Posted by Jenna
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 28, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Every time the City Council approves a large development whether it's the Stanford El Camino development or other large developments (on El Camino Real or in other parts of Menlo Park), I wonder why the Council hasn't requested that these developments contribute to a 'quiet zone' fund. All these developments are dependent on a significant number of their employees using Caltrain. Caltrain over the past 10 yrs. has increased service considerably and it will continue to add more service as the need arises. Whenever the topic of 'quiet zones' is discussed by the City Council one of the issues that arises is the cost of it. It seems to me that if these large developments are depending on Caltrain for their employees, the Council should be asking for financial assistance to create 'quiet zones' in Menlo Park for the benefit of the residents, visitors and their employees.


5 people like this
Posted by No net new benefit
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 29, 2017 at 8:05 am

For those new to city processes:
Because the environmental impacts were deemed Significant and Unavoidable, the council had to make the finding that the project benefits outweigh its new, major, adverse impacts. THAT is the basis for negotiation; the council had the discretion to say the benefits were not sufficient to allow the extra adverse impacts.

The council can modify the Specific Plan when it wants. It has reviewed the plan a couple times already and made a few nominal changes. I am fairly confident that the council was warned several times of the prospect of Stanford choosing to design the project so property taxes would be avoided. The council ignored the issue.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 29, 2017 at 8:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If a proposed development conforms to a zoning ordinance that was itself evaluated by a CEQA review then there is no new , major adverse impact from that project.

A zoning ordinance can be changed at any time but it can only be changed by a very clear and well defined process and the change cannot be confined to one specific project.


2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2017 at 8:21 am

Thanks, Peter. I appreciate your frequent contribution of important facts others including me are often missing.


15 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 29, 2017 at 8:28 am

So we're about to fill a large site with a population who is most likely to leave their traffic-generating cars at home and walk/bike/buss to campus instead. Aside from secure mental hospital, I can't think of a less traffic-intensive population for a site. Quit the carping and move on.


9 people like this
Posted by Scoreboard
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2017 at 8:41 am

There's always a lot of unintentional comedy in the Almanac comments, but the idea that the Council isn't representing the bulk of residents is the funniest here. Every one of them has been elected AND re-elected on a platform of encouraging development exactly like this on El Camino Real. The people complaining should either get some better candidates, or get used to continued irrelevance.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Redwood City gets new brewery
By Elena Kadvany | 11 comments | 5,966 views

Learning Disabilities and the Struggle to Be Known
By Aldis Petriceks | 0 comments | 1,265 views

Couples: A Relationship Test . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 983 views

Food Party! SOS
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 788 views

Enjoy every configuration of your family
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 510 views