A proposal to demolish the 28-room Red Cottage Inn & Suites at 1704 El Camino Real and replace it with a 68-room Hampton Inn is scheduled for review by the Menlo Park Planning Commission tonight (Monday, Oct. 8).
It's not the first time the Planning Commission has looked at the project, nor will it be the last. In March, the Planning Commission held a study session on the proposal, and favored some changes preferred by neighbors, like changing the architectural style to "Spanish Eclectic" from a "farmhouse" style, and lowering floor heights from 15 feet to 13 feet to make the three-story building less imposing.
Since then, however, construction costs have risen to the point where the builder says it's no longer financially feasible to build an underground parking garage. The proposal has been redesigned to have on-grade parking on the east side of the ground floor, and an entry with a lounge, lobby and a dining area (intended only for hotel guests to eat breakfast) on the ground floor on the side facing El Camino Real. There would be 68 guest rooms on the second and third floors.
The building as proposed would be 37,787 square feet, 42 feet tall at its highest point, and built at a density requiring some form of additional contribution to the public. The developer also proposes to remove all 15 trees on the site, six of which are considered "heritage" trees, and install 52 parking spaces, with room on site to fit a total of 68 cars using valet parking. The developer would also have to provide $256,480 in fees toward the city's below-market-rate housing fund.
The project is expected to generate about $661,000 in hotel taxes per year. In several recent hotel developments in the city's downtown area, hotel taxes have been considered to be a sufficient "public benefit" to justify the additional density being sought.
Despite previous conversations with nearby residents, a number of complaints about the project have recently come into the City Council's email inbox. In addition, an online petition on change.org had, as of the morning of Oct. 8, 84 supporters, who demanded that the developer create a 38-foot setback boundary from Forest Lane, replace the third-floor rooms facing Forest Lane with a trellis, and add second-story landscaping.