A 94-unit, eight-story apartment building at 111 Independence Drive in eastern Menlo Park, near the Marsh Road-U.S. 101 interchange, has been proposed by SP Menlo LLC. Fourteen units would be designated for below-market-rate rent, according to owner and developer Sateez Kadivar.
The site is currently a 15,000-square-foot office building that would be demolished and replaced with the proposed 87,182-square-foot, 99-foot-tall structure, according to Menlo Park city staff. The developer proposes to build 32 studio apartments, 36 one-bedroom apartments, 22 two-bedroom apartments and 4 three-bedroom apartments. The ground-floor would have public open space, a fitness area, bike parking and some parking space, according to building drawings provided by city staff.
The matter is scheduled for a study session at the Planning Commission's next meeting on Monday, June 18, according to a city notice.
According to Thomas Rogers, principal planner with Menlo Park, the project hasn't received any feedback yet, as it's in an early stage.
Kadivar said that so far, he's "very excited to play a small role in addressing the housing crisis and the severe jobs-housing imbalance in Menlo Park."
In addition to the 14 below-market-rate units, he said, the proposed development offers publicly accessible open space, landscaping, lighting, sidewalks and would put power lines underground. "The project is ideally situated to create much-needed housing within walking and biking distance of jobs," he said.
One of the problems, he noted, is that "getting a project entitled in Menlo Park is no small feat and seems to get more difficult by the day."
He said he's hoping the project, which will require an environmental impact review focused on analyzing traffic impacts, will receive entitlements within a year.
"Affordable" housing requirements shifting
One major question this development will face is how to meet the city's below-market-rate housing policy, which is currently shifting.
Because of recent state legislation, Menlo Park is now permitted to require that below-market-rate housing be installed or paid for as part of new multi-family housing projects. The proposed development is on territory that the city of Menlo Park upzoned in November 2016, before that state legislation was passed.
One of the conditions the city had imposed then was that if a developer wanted to build over a certain density or height limit, it would have to give something back to the community. The city expressed preference that the community benefit be that 15 percent of a new residential development's housing would be dedicated for rent at rates affordable to lower-income tenants.
Now that it is legally permitted to do so, the city has made it a standard requirement for multi-family housing developers to provide 15 percent of the total number of the units for rent at below-market-rate fees, or to pay an equivalent fee. For the Independence Drive project, the city could express preference for the community amenity to be an additional 5 percent of below-market-rate housing – for a total of 20 percent – or the developer could propose something else, Rogers said.
Principal Planner Deanna Chow added that the City Council is scheduled to consider on June 19 changes to the city's below-market-rate policy that would require affordable units to be provided on the development site.