Menlo Park: Planning Commission OKs Middlefield office building | News | Almanac Online |


Menlo Park: Planning Commission OKs Middlefield office building

A rendering of the proposed office building at 40 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park. (Image courtesy Hayes Group Architects/City of Menlo Park.)

The Menlo Park Planning Commission voted 4-1 Monday, Dec. 3, to approve a use permit for a proposed office building at 40 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park.

Commissioner Katherine Strehl cast the dissenting vote, and commissioners Drew Combs and Susan Goodhue were absent.

"I will have a difficult time supporting this," Strehl said before voting against the project. The uses of the different buildings surrounding the vacant lot – a market and a preschool – were not compatible with the proposed new office building, she said.

The development is surrounded by the Willows Market, Applebee Preschool, Woodland Avenue – which is one of the key entrances to the Willows neighborhood - and the former Sunset magazine offices across Middlefield Road.

The lot, now vacant, was the site of a Union 76 gas station from 1967 to 1997. The planned single-story office building, designed by Hayes Group Architects, would be 3,681 square feet.

At a previous Planning Commission hearing on the project held in May, the developer was instructed to increase the amount of parking and avoid putting in anything that could be a barrier for people making deliveries to the Willows Market, according to a staff report.

To address those concerns, Hayes proposed to install a parking "puzzler" at the rear of the building. The machine essentially lowers a platform onto which a driver can park a vehicle. The machine then elevates the car for storage, and can quickly retrieve the vehicle when its driver needs to leave.

The commissioners Monday agreed on further conditions for the project: specifically, that the sidewalk along Middlefield Road should be maintained at the proper width to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will include relocating a fire hydrant in the way; that the final tenant improvement plan will be submitted to the commission for review; and that the developer should be permitted to resubmit plans for different garage doors for aesthetic reasons.


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2 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 4, 2018 at 12:27 pm

How does any structure approaching the apparent size of the rendering, above, fit on the sliver of lot that is 40 Middlefield Road!? And the above doesn't even illustrate how parking will be wedged into this project, never mind the "puzzler." So much for "planning" in this city....

10 people like this
Posted by Lynn
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 4, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Does anyone on the planning commission live in the Willows and/or use Woodland Ave at this intersection? Most likely not, or you never would have approved this project. Do you really think visitors/employees will use a parking lift? No. They will just park on the street. This building and its tenants and visitors will just create further congestion at the Willow/Middlefield intersection. This was a terrible decision for the Willows neighborhood, the Willows Market and the Applebee Preschool. This commission needs to think more about the current residents and quit adding more structures.

6 people like this
Posted by online
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 4, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Did the Council answer these questions:
1. Does this building have sufficient parking for people who work or visit? If not, will those vehicles be allowed to park in adjacent neighborhoods? Who will monitor the parking demand?
2. How many additional daily trips will this building add to an already congested intersection?

There needs to be follow-up and repercussions if new commercial buildings worsen traffic and parking issues.

4 people like this
Posted by Tony
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:50 pm

So happy to have that eye sore chain linked fence/dirt lot gone. What a gorgeous building to be able to walk by. Really excited to see this new building!

10 people like this
Posted by Edward Syrett
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 4, 2018 at 7:51 pm

Edward Syrett is a registered user.

To answer Lynn's question, I know Drew Combs lives in the Willows; he's our newly elected City Council representative. Too bad he had to miss the Planning Commission meeting. Perhaps he will bring the matter up next year in the Council. I believe the Council can at least send this back to the P.C. for reconsideration.

After all, office space is the WORST use of ANY land in Menlo Park right now, and especially in The Willows. More traffic congestion is the inevitable result. The outgoing Council never saw an office development they didn't love, and we are now paying the price for that attitude in hours (and gasoline) wasted sitting in traffic. I hope the incoming Council thinks differently. I know Drew does.

2 people like this
Posted by Edward Syrett
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Edward Syrett is a registered user.

Let me suggest to Tony that, while the dirt lot and chain-link fence are indeed an eyesore, a better replacement for them would be a pop-up mini-park like one that recently appeared in East Palo Alto, near where Donohoe branches off of West Bayshore Road. The Willows needs more places people who live there could walk to with their kids.

7 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 4, 2018 at 9:31 pm

Sounds like a lot of pie-in-the-sky thinking. A park? yeah right, if someone stumps up $3M for a corner nobody's bothered with. Parking in the neighborhood- give them a ticket! Traffic impact? Willows market creates the traffic impact if you haven't noticed, but all of this is a drop in the ocean.

This site should have been a restaurant to replace Mike's, which shouldn't have been lost to greedy dentists. But with the planning and parking code as it stands, that's impossible.

Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 4, 2018 at 9:38 pm

My dad got in the worst car crash of his life exiting that 76 as someone raced around the corner, like 20 years ago. I hope they make that turn safer if a building will be in the way.

Seems ridiculous to add the expense of this parking lift.

7 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 4, 2018 at 9:48 pm

I love reading these naive comments. This is Silicon Valley, aren’t there smart people here? Living in Menlo Park, I would love a park by my house or maybe even a community pool or a little putting green or maybe even a wave pool where I could surf but that isn’t reality because I didn’t step up and by the property!!! If people are complaining why didn’t they step up and by the property themselves instead of simply complaining? The developer that stepped up is building an asset that is truly the least impact for all of us residents - maybe all of you complainers should study up on the various asset types as well as parking ratios vs. taking things out of context.

Like this comment
Posted by Tony
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 4, 2018 at 9:57 pm


Your comment is ridiculous.

5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Don
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 5, 2018 at 8:19 am

Did this planning comission read the latest of many traffic surveys?

Cris, Have you been in the Willows around 5PM? It has taken me 1 hour to travel the 6 blocks from my house to get to 101. You'd be a fool to want to move here - unless you enjoy being trapped by traffic about 6 hours a day.

I have been living in the Willows for 45 years and it has just gone from bad to worse.
The unfortunate thing is that thnere is no solution to the traffic problem. Projects like this only adds to the problem.
Does this comission and the city government actually represent us? I think not.

8 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 5, 2018 at 9:00 am

So glad this small office project got approved! This is by far the best use for this site and will have the least impact to all of us that actually use these roads for our commute. Imagine more retail and the traffic congestion. I believe they also can only have certain type of office tenants. Really feel bad for whoever is doing this development as the office looks amazing and to have people complain for no reason is just absurd.

Menlo Don, if you lived there 45 years ago, you were there when this was a gas station! Do you think that has less impact than a miniature office building? Also, would you rather live by a gas station or a beautiful building :)

This small office building won’t even impact anyone’s commute - everyone needs to relax.

3 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 5, 2018 at 10:59 am

I frequent the market a few days a week with my kids and I can’t wait for my kids to walk by a building vs. a vacant lot with a fence around it! I just wish we could do something regarding the cleanliness around the market and can someone really park a trailer behind their house visible for all to see? This area is not a trailer park! Love The Willows

1 person likes this
Posted by Appeal....
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 5, 2018 at 1:10 pm

you can appeal this Planning Commission decision to the entire City Council

5 people like this
Posted by MenloDon
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 5, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Yes I do remember the gas station and the ability to actually get there.
What I would like is to be able to get to and from my house without having to confine my travel to a couple of hours when the traffic permits it.
If you dont live here you cant possibly understand.
Willow doesnt work and neither does University. We end up trapped.

Since I moved here traffic has been an issue. there have been numerous studies done all having the same end result...nothing. Other than making money disappear.

16 people like this
Posted by mkk
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:04 am

We've been looking at a empty lot surrounded by a chain link fence for 20 years. It's a commercial lot and it was inevitable that something would be built there sooner or later. The proposed building is single story and, at under 4000 square feet (smaller than many homes that are built in the area), probably doesn't have room for more than 8 or 10 offices, a couple meeting rooms, some bathrooms and hallways. I have trouble imagining what type of commercial property would generate less traffic than this will. I am optimistic that this might be OK for the Willows. I do agree that the employees should somehow be restricted from parking on the nearby residential streets.

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