Owners of a popular Woodside restaurant and bakery are sounding off on claims made by an opponent of Measure A, that the initiative to allow for more outdoor community gathering spaces, is a money-grab by a local business.
The measure on the Nov. 2 ballot to change zoning on some parcels is an alleged "ploy by the Bacchus (Management) Group, which owns and operates The Village Bakery (and The Village Pub), to bulldoze the open space lot to expand parking to allow more seats and to make more money," according to Measure A opponent Don Pugh.
Bacchus has given a total of $3,000 in cash and $2,000 in-kind donations like banners, yard signs, design and legal work to proponents of Measure A since the beginning of the year, according to campaign finance reports, which can be viewed here and here.
George Roberts, owner of Roberts Market, contributed $3,000 to the Yes on Measure A campaign, records show.
No other campaign contributions were reported.
"Does Bacchus Management benefit if Measure A passes? Yes, of course," said Bacchus spokesperson Karey Walker, in an email. "And so does every other business in the Cañada Corners retail area. But the biggest winners of all? The residents of Woodside who get to continue meeting friends and neighbors at The Village Bakery and Buck's of Woodside to dine, laugh, and enjoy our town."
She said Bacchus is "very disappointed by Mr. Pugh's misleading statements," calling the outdoor dining rolled out during the pandemic "an overwhelming success in Woodside for The Village Bakery and Buck's of Woodside. And that success is measured by the overwhelming support of bistro dining from the residents of Woodside, who have enjoyed it during these past difficult 18 months and want to continue to enjoy it in the future, despite the grumbling of a few who would prefer not to let 'outsiders' into our town. ... The time has come for such a change and the residents clearly want to make this change."
Pugh, who wrote the argument against the ballot measure also authored a measure back in the 1980s that put limits on two residentially zoned pieces of land adjacent to the Town Center -- a town-owned complex along Woodside Road from Whiskey Hill Road to Roberts Market that includes government buildings and commercial businesses, and Cañada Corners at the Canada Road intersection (owned by Roberts Market).
Measure A would allow the property behind Cañada Corners to be outfitted with surface parking to accommodate permanent outdoor dining, trails and play structures, all of which are now prohibited. It would also allow for the possible construction of a public building — amphitheater or gazebo — for community events in the residentially zoned Town Center area.
To overturn these rules, established by ballot measures J and 1 in 1988 and 1989, respectively, residents must submit a petition to the town for a ballot measure. The current new outdoor dining is only possible because the town waived certain parking requirements, which are part of the conditional use permits, due the pandemic, Walker said. Normally a zoning issue this simple would be under the purview of the Town Council, but Measure J requires a vote of the citizens of Woodside a condition of any changes to this specific area, Walker said.
"The new outdoor dining was so wonderful and enjoyed by so many Woodside residents. … that (Woodside residents) Alex Tauber and Peter Bailey recognized there might be an opportunity to allow for both continued outdoor dining and also to alleviate the chronic lack of parking, which has existed for a long, long time before the pandemic," she said. "In fact, 40 parking spaces are required every day just for the employees of Roberts Market and the hardware store."
She added that it's possible that the new lot could be employee parking only, which would alleviate the overcrowding in the rest of the lot.
Tauber and Bailey, who proposed the measure, noted they have no ownership in The Village Bakery and have never met with the owners of Bacchus. They also noted that since Roberts Market owns the Cañada Corners plot, it should be able to decide what it wants to do with it.
Pugh said he is not opposed to outdoor dining in an email Friday, but said that the proponents of Measure A are going about it backwards. "They should have gone to the town and planning department to develop a specific plan with details of seating, parking, etc. Then determine what zoning issues need to be addressed. Instead they took a axe to eliminate a provision from Measure J that prevents residential parcels for being used for commercial purposes. This is why I do not trust them. Bacchus is spending thousands of dollars to beguile the citizens to vote (in) their favor."
He said without the protection of Measure J, "their proposal is to bulldoze the lot to create lots of parking to facilitate the expansion of (The Village) Bakery."
Lane Partners LLC, a Menlo Park-based commercial real estate services firm, donated $10,000 to the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD)'s parcel tax measure campaign. The proposed tax is also on the November ballot.
Lane Partners, which is involved in plans to redevelop SRI International's 63-acre Menlo Park headquarters at 333 Ravenswood Ave. by adding redeveloping buildings, adding housing and opening part of the campus to the public, made the donation to the "Committee to Support Menlo Park Schools, Yes on Parcel Tax Measure" on Aug. 19. Lane Partners could not immediately be reached for comment.
"Lane Partners is a Menlo Park-based company," said Mark Murray, principal at Lane Partners, of the contribution, in an email. "Our partners and employees are residents of Menlo Park and several of us have children in the district. We share the deep commitment residents have for their schools and we believe in being good partners to the communities where we live and work. We know that Measure B is vitally important to our city and our kids and we are happy to stand with parents, teachers, seniors, other business owners, and community leaders in support of our schools. We look forward to Measure B passing for a stronger and better Menlo Park."
The committee raised $40,015 from the beginning of July until mid-September to support the $598-per-parcel measure, which would provide $4.6 million annually for 12 years. Statements show a total of 40 donations were made.
Valerie Frederickson, CEO of Frederickson Partners, gave the second largest contribution of $5,000. Former MPCSD trustee Mark Box gave $1,000. Trustee Scott Saywell gave $250.
During the reporting period, the campaign spent nearly $45,000. The bulk went to pay Whitehurst/Mosher Campaign Strategy and Media, a political consulting firm hired by the district that charged $15,000 for its campaign consulting fees. The campaign organizers paid the consultants an additional $20,000 for marketing materials.
In June, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also donated $10,000 to the campaign.
Measure B, which requires two-thirds voter approval to pass, would replace the district's Measure X, which passed in 2017 with an initial annual rate of $360 per parcel for $2.83 million annually and expires in July 2022.