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Menlo Park: Back-to-back meetings for City Council

 

The Menlo Park City Council is holding back-to-back meetings this week, with one held yesterday, July 15, and one scheduled for tonight, July 16, to tackle some of its ongoing challenges.

On Monday, the council met to discuss next steps following its dramatic discussion of a possible development moratorium on June 11. It began the process to change the way it does business and take a more critical eye toward commercial growth citywide and large-scale development in District 1, on the city's Bay side of U.S. 101.

The council ultimately voted unanimously to approve a new procedure making it easier for it to make the final decision on whether to approve development projects, rather than leaving final approval authority to the Planning Commission.

Starting now, the council will get a public email memo the day after major Planning Commission development decisions. These decisions would include projects that add 10,000 square feet or more of net new commercial space anywhere in the city, or a nonresidential project that involves bonus-level development.

For mixed-use development, a project that meets either of those criteria and has less than two-thirds of its square footage dedicated to housing would also be subject to these notifications.

At that point, any City Council member would be able to take up the decision for council consideration without an appeal from the public.

The initiative will be reviewed in six months to see if it's effective, by request of Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor.

Menlo Uptown

The council also voted 4-1, with Taylor opposed, to approve a contract with LSA Associates, Inc., a consulting firm, to conduct the environmental analysis for "Menlo Uptown," a proposed 483-unit housing development at 141 Jefferson Drive and 180-186 Constitution Drive.

The vote does not represent an endorsement of the proposal, but is instead a legal requirement – and would remain so even if the council had implemented a development moratorium, City Attorney Bill McClure explained.

The city is legally required to process development applications it receives, so not approving the contract could leave the city exposed to potential litigation, he added.

Several council members encouraged the developer to evaluate more community-serving square-footage in its environmental analysis, since it's not near any of the services the development's residents would otherwise need to access by car, such as a grocery store, a pharmacy, or restaurants. Taylor also urged the developer to allocate more units for ownership rather than rent, and to provide residents air filters or other aids to protect them from air pollution from the development's proximity to the highway.

Tonight

The council will meet again tonight, July 16, starting at 7 p.m. in its chambers at 701 Laurel St. for a regular meeting.

Among its agenda items are to:

● Host a public hearing on a proposal to create eight condominiums by building two new units and converting six existing housing units at 975 Florence Lane and potentially adopt the Planning Commission's recommendation to approve the proposal.

● Move toward authorizing a consulting firm contract to conduct an environmental impact analysis of Facebook's Willow Village "master plan" proposal.

● Review recommendations from the Heritage Tree Task Force, which has been reviewing the city's heritage tree ordinance.

● Consider requiring new buildings to be electrically heated and require solar production on new nonresidential buildings, and request a $10,000 grant from Peninsula Clean Energy to explore these and other "reach codes," or more stringent local environmental standards for buildings than are mandated by the state.

● Approve the terms of a successor agreement with the city's Police Sergeants Association, expected to cost the city $173,800 between now and June 30, 2022.

Watch the meeting online here or access the agenda here.

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