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Environmental review process launches for new Sobrato office building

 
A rendering of the proposed office building by the Sobrato Organization and public access park that could be used by the new TIDE Academy for PE classes at 162-164 Jefferson Drive in Menlo Park. (Image courtesy of Arc Tec/The Sobrato Organization/city of Menlo Park.)

A proposal to construct a third office building on a 13-acre property owned by the Sobrato Organization at 162-164 Jefferson Drive in Menlo Park is moving into its environmental review phase. A public hearing on the proposal, which would include a four-story office building, a four-story parking structure and a public park to serve TIDE Academy, the neighboring high school under construction, was held Monday, June 3, at the Menlo Park Planning Commission meeting.

The proposed office building would be 249,500 square feet, and while the developer hasn't found a tenant, it noted that the building would be marketed to Facebook, the largest employer in Menlo Park and by far the largest along the Bay side of the city. The office building could accommodate one employee per 125 square feet, meaning there could be nearly 2,000 workers in the new building, according to staff. The parking structure would have about 1,280 parking spots.

The discussion also included a "scoping session," in which the public and commission asked consultants to evaluate certain environmental elements to see if the development would have an impact on them. Among the areas identified for environmental impact analysis are air quality, cultural resources, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, population and housing, transportation and traffic, tribal cultural resources and utilities.

For instance, Belle Haven resident Pam Jones asked that the environmental review process consider how the development could impact the air quality in her neighborhood.

In addition, the developer has asked for a waiver on two of a number of requirements for bird-level design after consulting with a biologist, and staff asked the commission to weigh in. Commissioners asked several questions about the waiver, but seemed fine with deferring to the consultants' opinion that a waiver would be OK for bird safety.

They also discussed how many parking spaces should be required for the development; whether two and a half parking spaces per 1,000 square feet would be enough or if three per 1,000 square feet should be allowed. Commission Chair Andrew Barnes said he preferred to see a lower parking ratio, as it would encourage employees to find alternatives to driving to work solo. The development proposal has been scaled back from previous study sessions, said Richard Truempler, vice president of the Sobrato Organization. The previous proposal called for a six-story office building with a five-story parking garage.

People have until 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 28, to weigh in on what other environmental factors consultants should consider in the project's environmental review. Comments should be submitted to Tom Smith, senior planner, by email at tasmith@menlopark.org or by mail to the Community Development Department, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Access more information about the project here.

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