News

Menlo Park: Three new downtown buildings get Planning Commission nod

 
A rendering of the buildings approved for downtown Menlo Park near the Caltrain station at 1124 Merrill St., 506 and 556 Santa Cruz Ave. (Image courtesy Chase Rapp/Field Architecture/Hayes Group Architects.)

Three new buildings planned for the site now occupied by the Mid-Peninsula Animal Hospital and its neighboring businesses near the Caltrain station were cleared for approval by the Menlo Park Planning Commission on Monday, May 14.

The commission granted architectural control and approved the terms of a below-market-rate agreement, among other actions taken, enabling proposed mixed-use projects at 506 and 556 Santa Cruz Ave. and 1125 Merrill St. in downtown Menlo Park, near the Caltrain station, to move forward.

Owners at Mid-Peninsula Animal Hospital and the adjacent animal rehabilitation center, Scout's House, told The Almanac that they plan to relocate to North Fair Oaks.

The new developments are buildings:

● 1125 Merrill St.: 8,732 square feet and 53 feet tall, with office space on the first and second floors, and one residential unit on each of the third and fourth floors. Four heritage trees would be removed.

● 506 Santa Cruz Ave.: 19,388 square feet and 54 feet tall, with a cafe on the first floor, office space on the second and third floors and three residential units on the fourth floor. Three heritage trees would be removed.

● 556 Santa Cruz Ave.: 14,210 square feet and 46 feet tall, with retail space on the first floor, office space on the second floor and four residential units on the third floor. One heritage tree would be removed.

Parking at the new buildings would be accommodated by what are called "puzzlers" – mechanical parking systems, with some ground-level parking. Bike parking would also be included and the sidewalks would be widened.

To meet the city's requirements for below-market-rate housing, the developer has offered to build two units of affordable housing, though only one is required, if it is permitted to build them at the 1162-1170 El Camino Real property it also owns.

However, the Housing Commission was worried that that project may not get built quickly. So the developer agreed to provide those units in two years.

Other options are to pay the fee equivalent of those two units, or dedicate one of the units at the Santa Cruz Avenue and Merrill Street buildings to be below-market-rate housing.

If that project doesn't meet a two-year deadline, the developer will provide two units there as affordable housing. Otherwise the developer can pay a fee equivalent to two below-market-rate units or dedicate one unit of the Santa Cruz Avenue and Merrill Street buildings to below-market-rate housing.

"I think it's fantastic," said new commissioner Camille Kennedy, in response to the trio of building proposals. "This is something that I'd love to see more of in Menlo Park."

Project developer Chase Rapp later commented in a written statement: "My partner, Brady Fuerst, and I are very excited to take this project to the next step in actually bringing it to fruition. We have been working on this for [more than 2.5 years and are ready to bring life and improvement to this important part of the Menlo Park downtown and station area."

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Comments

6 people like this
Posted by Happy Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 16, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Happy Resident is a registered user.

This says it Perfectly: "I think it's fantastic," said new commissioner Camille Kennedy, in response to the trio of building proposals. "This is something that I'd love to see more of in Menlo Park."


15 people like this
Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 16, 2018 at 2:16 pm

I could have guessed these projects would be rubber-stamped right through. Typical of our inept Planning Einsteins.
8 heritage trees will be removed...well, so much for "Tree City U.S.A. Just try to remove a heritage tree on a MP residential property one has owned for 30 years — virtually impossible!
And parking? Where is the "some ground-level parking" in the rendering? I count one space, which is a City space. As for the "Puzzler" mechanical parking systems, I am puzzled! How many auto spaces are projected? There are 7 residential units declared for the Santa Cruz Ave. buildings, but no number given for the two floors of residential units housed in the Merrill Street building. Do the residential units each have 2 spaces allotted to them? And how much parking is allotted for the cafe, retail shops and offices? I certainly hope the Planning Commission asked these questions and got definitive answers. The pay parking along Merrill Street was created for Caltrain commuters, not residents, not nearby office workers.
And as for Commissioner Camille Kennedy's comment, "I think it's fantastic...This is something that I'd love to see more of in Menlo Park." This is so typical of a relatively new (10-year) Menlo Park resident with an Urban Planning degree — lets tear down what has made MP different than every other El Camino Corridor city and build more office spaces and high-priced condos. I'm sure she'll also love the next proposed, multi-use building on the corner of Cambridge & El Camino Real...or will she, since it's only 2 blocks from her home!


15 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 16, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Shame on the city council for trying to make MP nicer and a bit more dense next to the train station. Terrible.

So tired of the "I Got Mine" club arguing that the ugly expanses of ERC and downtown (run down buildings out of date, abandoned lots, etc...) should be status quo in the village of MP. They've benefited from affordable housing, low property taxes and high appreciation. Now they don't want the consequences of their actions (more traffic, higher prices, development) nor do they care if younger generations can affordably live here (they can't).

It really is shameful.

These developments will go a long way to actually realizing the DSP and a vibrant downtown.


13 people like this
Posted by Put it to a vote
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 16, 2018 at 4:03 pm

I very well may be wrong, but I suspect the majority of Menlo Park residence oppose unabated expansion and growth of housing and office stock. The City Council has never communicated their vision of this new pro-growth plan. What are the trying to emulate. Where/when does it stop?

MP residence need to opportunity to weigh in and to provide some check-and-balance. Right now, we have nothing.

I would like to see "growth" portioned into tranches and give the people the right to vote -- want to add another 250,000 sq. ft. of office space, sure, put it on the ballot. Think the city is short 2,000 unit of housing -- put it on the ballot.

The MP City Council needs to decide what kind of city we want to be and get public buy in.

I also think we need to be mindful that redevelopment is not necessarily the same as growth.


13 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 16, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"I very well may be wrong, but I suspect the majority of Menlo Park residence oppose unabated expansion and growth of housing and office stock."

You are wrong. We had a referendum in which 75% voted for keeping the DSP and associated development. Most of us are sick and tired of those that "got theirs" and figure to hell with everyone else and the others that think blocks of abandoned car dealerships and buildings built in the fifties, sixties and seventies are just fine. No matter how crummy they look. Again, most of us disagree and look forward to seeing the old run down crap replaced a new, hopefully vibrant downtown.


14 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 16, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Menlo Voter and MPer: quit trying to lump people into your self-satisfying definitions, such as "I got mine." Live now and give up a quarrel that you don't understand., nor do you have any right to demand. For many of those elders, and I am one, this is MY HOME, and I'll leave when I'm ready and able.

If you're so smart, find a way to deal with it and stop whining.


8 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 16, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Three cheers for smart land use, mixed-use development, and applying the exotic technology of building buildings with more than two stories.

Much as the "I got mine" types will object, we need more sensible, dense development WITH HOUSING.


12 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 16, 2018 at 7:43 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Beth:

the only ones I see whining are the "I got mine" crowd. In case you missed it, 75% OF THE VOTERS DISAGREE WITH YOU! I've been living here 24 years. Maybe not as long as you, but I'd say I'm allowed an opinion given my longevity here. I and most of Memlo Park citizens like me are sick of the status quo. The ridiculous attempt to maintain a "village character" by folks like you is just that, a ridiculous attempt. Menlo Park hasn't been a village since the turn of the century. We are a city of 35,000 people. That's not a "village" by any stretch of the imagination. It's time for us to start acting like a city.

Keep living in your tax subsidized house while the rest of Menlo Park supports you and get out of the way of progress and the desires of the majority of your fellow citizens.


2 people like this
Posted by acedia
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 16, 2018 at 8:22 pm

Ol' Homeboy: below is a link to the Staff report about this development (280 pages in total). The questions you posed were addressed on page 4 and 5. They plan to build parking spaces totaling...

Web Link


Put it to a vote:
The City of Menlo Park (with substantial community involvement) developed the Specific Plan in 2012. It's quite comprehensive. The overview (link below) contains the guiding principles. There are also clearly set caps and limitations to guide future decisions on re-development in and around downtown.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 17, 2018 at 6:22 am

Wow. What venomous name-calling, labeling, and total misunderstanding of those who want Menlo Park to remain a residenti-oriented community. For those of us who feel that way, redevelopment is great as long as our community can retain businesses that serve us residents. From what I can tell, no one is no-growth or stuck in the past. We just don't want to live in what looks and feels like an office park that draws thousands of additional traffic from new office commuters or where local businesses are displaced and have to move to another communty, causing us to have to commute to patronize them. That doesn’t mean retaining “crappy” buildings or vacant lots. Time to see each other as neighbors.


2 people like this
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 17, 2018 at 11:49 am

Menlo Voter, here are the results of the 2014 Measure M election. 3,893 voters for Measure M and 6,179 voted against Measure M. That was 61.3% against Measure M.

Not 75%

Hyperbole is annoying.


12 people like this
Posted by hometown
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 17, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Very few people who live in Menlo Park now bought their homes before Prop 13. That was forty years ago! Homes, at least in my lifetime, were never "affordable," and many homeowners, like me, saved for years for a downpayment, and continue to work hard to pay the mortgage. And, whether we bought in 2017 or in 1957, we've seen our homes appreciate in value. What "actions" did we take that deserve the consequences of more traffic and dense development? All that most of us want is a safe place to live and raise our kids, and I don't think anyone is happy that when our kids grow up, they probably won't be able to afford a home here.

As Neighbor noted, we're not anti-progress but rather, opposed to living in the middle of an office park. Maybe 20-year-olds don't mind tiny units over stores, but in ten years they too will want the 3/2 and pocket-sized yard for the kids. The development that's approved today will have far-reaching consequences for this community.

And why is Menlo Park always expected to bear the brunt of this development? I notice that no one is asking the residents of Atherton, Portola Valley, or Woodside to accommodate higher density on their 1+ acre lots.


4 people like this
Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 17, 2018 at 3:59 pm

The concept of the proposed buildings works, but the height is tragic. The buildings should be only four stories tall. The added height will look out of place, looming over and shadowing the train station like a bull elephant over a newborn calf and making the adjacent McDonalds appear squeezed in.


3 people like this
Posted by @hometown
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2018 at 7:30 pm

"What "actions" did we take that deserve the consequences of more traffic and dense development?"

"And why is Menlo Park always expected to bear the brunt of this development? I notice that no one is asking the residents of Atherton, Portola Valley, or Woodside to accommodate higher density on their 1+ acre lots."


Your Menlo Park leaders passed the downtown specific plan that allowed zoning for higher density buildings. Then, your fellow citizens affirmed that plan by approving Measure M.

Atherton, PV, and Woodside have not zoned for high density development. They have chosen to accept lower tax revenue and offer fewer services to their residents. The consequence of that decision is less traffic in those cities.


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 17, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Steve Schmidt:

sorry my numbers were off a little. 61.3% is still a clear mandate. Especially in this town. The fact is the MAJORITY of voters think the DSP is fine whether you like it or not. And that's not hyperbole. It's a fact. Most of us are sick and tired of the " we got ours" crowd, the "no birds", fighting any kind of change or improvement in this town. I'm sorry you don't like that, but the majority of us have spoken. Keep moving forward and get rid of the GD empty lots and run down, crappy looking downtown.

You lost. Get over it.


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

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