Menlo Park: Planning Commission hits pause on controversial office building

A rendering of the proposed new office building near Willows Market, at the intersection of Middlefield Road and Woodland Avenue near Willow Road. (Image courtesy Hayes Group Architects.)

Plans for a proposed single-story office building expected to house little more than 10 professionals were halted Monday, May 14, when the Menlo Park Planning Commission voted 6-0 to continue its review of the project to a time when the developer has more thoroughly addressed neighborhood concerns about the office's expected traffic and parking impacts.

The office building, proposed by an LLC called "NMSBPCLSDHB," affiliated with Los Gatos-based real estate company Granum Partners, would be built on the site of a former gas station near Middlefield Road and Woodland Avenue next to the Willows Market at the corner of Middlefield Road and Willow Road; it would be 3,584 square feet – a paltry fraction of the commercial square footage planned and under construction throughout the city.

The developer and project architect, Ken Hayes of Hayes Group Architects, said that the firm did hold a public meeting to provide information about the project, but only three people attended.

The project, vehemently opposed by a number of locals, was criticized for a request by the developer to build only 12 parking spots – 10 fewer than the required 22 spots.

Hayes said that the office would likely be used as a private family foundation or venture capital office, both of which tend to have fewer people-to-square-foot ratios than standard offices.

Louise Selchau-Hansen sent a lengthy letter to city staff and the City Council, expressing conviction that venture capitalists would be unlikely to adhere to transportation demand management policies.

"If you have been around any of them, I hate to say it, but there's a type," Selchau-Hansen wrote. "It's a hyper-masculine industry and having a car and coming and going when one pleases – and not feeling the least bit like it falls upon their successful rear-ends to save Mother Earth – is the culture of that and other high flying industries. I don't believe for a second that they will manage with the parking spots laid out in Hayes' plan."

Loretta Lum, the owner of the adjacent property, The Willows Market, told the commission in public comment, "We believe that approval of this variance will have unintended consequences that will affect the entire neighborhood regarding parking and further pedestrian, bike and vehicular congestion at the site."

Commissioners directed the developer to come back with more parking and more outreach to the market, and to the nearby Applebee Preschool, which uses the Willows Market parking lot.


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10 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 17, 2018 at 2:40 pm

"The developer and project architect, Ken Hayes of Hayes Group Architects, said that the firm did hold a public meeting to provide information about the project, but only three people attended."

This statement is a little misleading. I personally communicated directly with the developer regarding my concerns long before that meeting. Others neighbors, Including I believe the owners of the market, the pre-school and the closest homes, met in person with the developers prior to their meeting. When in both cases the developers dismissed the concerns and were not open to any changes it was evident that the community meeting was not going to be to discuss the neighborhood concerns, it was going to be a meeting for the developers and designers to tell everyone that their concerns were unfounded and that they would go ahead with their original plans. Many people, myself included, had better ways to spend our time than listening to a sales pitch we had already heard.

Like this comment
Posted by Development Pondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 25, 2018 at 7:43 pm

Be glad it's one/single story and not 6 story like the trend on the Peninsula is lately! . . .

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

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