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.