After spending years redesigning plans for a proposed Hampton Inn hotel at 1704 El Camino Real in Menlo Park in response to a chorus of unhappy residents, developer Sagar Patel says that construction costs have escalated so much that the plans had to be redesigned again.
Now the proposal is for a three-story, 68-room hotel with ground-level parking instead of an underground garage, with a larger footprint.
The original proposal, made public in December 2016, showed a "modern farmhouse" architectural style. It has since been reworked to be in the "Spanish eclectic" architectural style after a previous commission discussion.
The project has been redesigned to have at-grade parking on the east side of the ground floor, and an entry with a lounge, a lobby and a dining area (intended only for hotel guests to eat breakfast) on the ground floor on the side facing El Camino Real. The guest rooms would be 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 accommodate a total of 68 vehicles using valet parking.
Expected excavation costs put the price tag at about $80,000 per parking spot, Patel said.
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 annually.
At an Oct. 8 Planning Commission discussion about the proposal, commissioners heard from a number of people, mainly nearby residents, who had circulated a petition in opposition to the revised hotel plans.
"We've worked since the fall of 2016 with the city and developer to arrive at plans that allow for the improvement of this site while taking neighborhood concerns to heart," said nearby resident Susan Neville in a public comment. "We're here tonight with a different story."
She believes the changed plans are not well-designed, and she prefers the parking to remain underground, she said.
"We're not opposed to this property," she said, adding, "The question is whether a project this large in this location should go forward at all."
Scott Barnum objected to the scale of the building and added, "When you're there in situ, it's a different story," he said.
Others raised concerns about resident privacy, arguing that hotel visitors might be able to see into their backyards from the higher levels. They pointed out that while the address of the building is El Camino Real, the hotel will be set back far enough to be in what could be considered the middle of the neighborhood.
Commissioner Andrew Barnes asked the developer to be more transparent about the expected costs to demonstrate why it is no longer possible to put the parking underground.
Commissioner Drew Combs said that reconfiguring the third floor further, fitting in the needed number of rooms to still preserve privacy for the neighbors on two sides of the hotel, would be a tricky task.
"I do think that could put us in a Faustian bargain between neighbors to the east and the neighbors to the south," he said. "I do accept that that is a Gordian knot which I can't untie up here."
Ultimately, though, people who have problems with the new Hampton Inn proposed at 1704 El Camino Real should be prepared to compromise, commission chair Susan Goodhue indicated.
"In these situations, people don't get everything they want. There have to be compromises," and they can't all be the developer's, Goodhue said.