The Atherton City Council unanimously approved the construction of a new three-story student dormitory building on the Menlo College campus at its June 17 meeting.
With the intention of increasing student housing on campus, Menlo College's new residence hall will be a T-shaped building with 147 units, and span 57,267 square feet. The building will be located amidst other on-campus housing in the interior of the college campus at 1000 El Camino Real.
The proposal passed in a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Bill Widmer recused since he is a faculty member at the school.
Currently, there are approximately 875 students enrolled at the private college, and the new student dormitory will serve existing students, according to the city staff report. Nineteen of the proposed units in the building will be designated low-income student housing, a designation that will last for 55 years after it's built.
Steven Weiner, Menlo College's president, said at the meeting that the new dorms will help meet the economic needs of students. "We have over 300 students living off campus, and I don't need to tell you what the cost of living is in Silicon Valley," he said. "By forcing over 300 students to find housing in Silicon Valley we are adding to the challenge they have of getting to the commencement stage after four years."
"Our goal is to provide an opportunity for those students to come to campus, to enjoy the opportunities that a Menlo education offers, which for most of them means doors that will open here in Silicon Valley," he continued.
Weiner said that the cost to students to live in the dormitories will be below market value.
Town Planner Lisa Costa Sanders said that Menlo College sent a letter to 30 neighbors in the immediate area in October, informing them of the dormitory project. Two neighbors attended a meeting to discuss the project.
"We also conducted a traffic study, which was not required. And we found that there was no additional traffic associated with the on-site student housing," Sanders said.
Additionally, Sanders said that the study found that traffic would be reduced, not increased, because fewer students would be commuting to the campus.
Sanders said that some public comments to the council requested imposing an enrollment cap on Menlo College. However, she said city staff determined it would be difficult to track and enforce.
Other public comments addressed concerns that the new dorm project would result in greater use of the college's sports facility, Cartan Field, which sits near some residences. But Sanders said that city staff do not expect increased usage of the field due to the fact that the new dormitory is meant to house Menlo College's current students.
The council's decision follows a 4-1 vote from the Planning Commission to approve the project at its meeting on May 27.
There are currently five residence halls on the college's campus, with rooms that accomodate one, two or three students each, according to Menlo College's website. The 93-year-old college offers bachelor's degrees in a wide range of business-focused majors.