Combine Menlo Park's downtown/El Camino Real plan, the city's recent rezoning of major swaths of eastern Menlo Park (which both have limits on the maximum amount of allowed development) and general good times for the economy, and it's understandable that the city's planning and building departments are, anecdotally, working through a deluge of development proposals, with more on the way.
Several expected and proposed development projects, described below, have recently gone through review, or been made public, by the city's planning and housing commissions.
Feldman's Books, SafeSpace
Two old buildings at 1162 and 1170 El Camino Real in Menlo Park, which are currently occupied by Feldman's Books and SafeSpace, a mental health services organization for teens, may become a housing development.
The two buildings are old, but according to city Housing Manager Jim Cogan, the future applicant has reportedly conducted assessments that indicate neither qualifies for historical designation.
"We obviously need to review that," he said.
1162 El Camino Real was built in 1910 and for many years housed Doughty's Meat Market and Gentry Magazine; 1170 El Camino Real was built in 1905 and occupied by Martin J. McCarthy Groceries and Menlo French Laundry.
The Almanac first reported that the buildings were up for sale and redevelopment in February 2016.
Developer Chasen Rapp, partner at Palo Alto-based Rapp Development, said the owner of the El Camino properties is 1162 El Camino Investors LLC, and is not the same as that of the Santa Cruz Avenue and Merrill Street sites that he is redeveloping, which themselves have different owners.
Mr. Rapp has proposed constructing three new buildings there: a four-story structure with offices and housing at 1125 Merrill St.; a four-story building with a cafe, offices and housing at 506 Santa Cruz Ave.; and a three-story building with retail, offices and housing at 556 Santa Cruz Ave.
Mr. Rapp offered to provide two below-market-rate units as part of the Santa Cruz Avenue/Merrill Street and El Camino Real developments, at the El Camino Real property, if and when that project is completed, a proposal that the Housing Commission supported on April 13, as staff had recommended.
Given zoning regulations and the property size, the parcels at 1162 and 1170 El Camino Real could accommodate nine housing units, or 11 if the developer opts to provide public benefits, according to city staff.
Mr. Cogan confirmed that no plans have been submitted yet for the El Camino Real project. Mr. Rapp said his firm intends to submit those in the next three to four weeks.
The ultimate decision on whether to permit the developer to provide the below-market-rate housing along El Camino Real instead of with the Santa Cruz Ave/Merrill Street development will be made by the City Council.
New life sciences building
This proposed development at 1350 Adams Court, near Pacific Biosciences and the UPS Customer Center, would serve as a 260,400-square-foot, five-story research and development building, with a maximum height of 91 feet. Parking would be partly connected to the building and partly underground, with a total of 966 parking spots that would be shared by the proposed building and its existing neighbor at 1305 Adams Court.
Currently, the 11-acre site is occupied by a smaller research-and-development building and a warehouse. The new building would be on an undeveloped part of the property, according to a staff report. The building would be near Facebook's proposed "Willow Village" on the University Avenue side, closest to East Palo Alto.
The Planning Commission held a study session on the proposed project April 9, giving feedback about the building's design and expressing concern about the traffic it could generate.
Just who might occupy the new building remains unclear.
Developer John Tarlton said it was "early enough in the process that it would be unusual for the tenant to have committed to the space," but added that he has some tenants "who need additional space." It would likely not be Pacific Biosciences, he said, which just moved into new headquarters at another Tarlton property nearby.
Commissioner Larry Kahle asked the now-necessary question triggered by proposals for new office buildings: Will Facebook occupy it?
No, Mr. Tarlton told the commission. "Not unless they have a new division that does life science," he said. "I'm the life science guy."
164 Jefferson Drive
The Sobrato Organization has proposed building a 320,000-square-foot, six-story office building with an adjacent 1,560-spot, five-story parking garage at 164 Jefferson Drive. The Planning Commission held a study session on the proposed building on March 26. The building would complete a trio of Sobrato Organization office buildings.
The other two, four-story office buildings there are leased by Facebook.
The proposed project was criticized in public comment by Matthew Zito, chief facilities officer at the Sequoia Union High School District. He pointed out that the district is currently building a new high school, TIDE Academy, just a few hundred feet away from the proposed development, and said the district had not received information about the project.
The proposal, he said, is "not well-conceived from an open-space perspective," and added that when the high school is complete, nearly 400 high school students will be just down the street from the proposed open spaces at the office building.
The development could also interfere with the planned pick-up and drop-off traffic flow for the new high school. "If this school were open, it wouldn't be just me here tonight. You'd have a flotilla of angry parents behind you," Mr. Zito said. "And I tell you, don't cross a Menlo Park mother and her children's education."
When Menlo Park passed its general plan update in November 2016, it established a policy that allowed developers in some parts of the city's eastern side to build bigger buildings in exchange for also completing projects that serve the public, or what's called "bonus" development. The city established a formula for how much value to the public those projects should provide: 50 percent of the fair market value of the additional "gross floor area" that was permitted beyond what the city would normally allow.
Replacing three with eight
The owner of three residences at 409 and 417 Glenwood Ave. and 1357 Laurel St. has proposed building an eight-unit residential development there.
According to Menlo Park planner Kaitie Meador, there is one historic home at 417 Glenwood Ave., which will require historical analysis.
The owner, Michal Smulski, has proposed to offer one of the eight planned housing units, a one-bedroom rental unit, to the city for below-market-rate rent, according to a staff report.
The Housing Commission voted April 11 in favor of recommending the agreement to the council, according to Mr. Cogan.