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.