News

Menlo Park City Council wants to study impacts of hundreds more housing units on SRI campus

Developer previews what 530 units could look like on the research campus near Burgess Park

An illustration of the three-story apartment buildings on Laurel Street for SRI International's revamped campus. Developer Lane Partners proposes adding at least 400 residential units. Courtesy Lane Partners.

Responding to a previous call from planning commissioners to go bigger on housing at SRI campus, the developer Lane Partners provided a picture of what that could look like on the 63-acre facility during a City Council meeting.

No decision or vote was made on Tuesday, May 10, as it was only a study session of the campus plans. But most of the City Council members encouraged the developers to study what the impacts of up to 600 units could look like on the campus.

The initial project proposal was to add 400 new housing units near the campus' borders along Laurel Street and Ravenswood Avenue, with the addition of 25 acres of publicly accessible open space and a new network of bike and pedestrian paths. These units include two-story townhomes and apartment buildings three and five stories high. Sixty of the units would be dedicated to affordable housing.

If SRI and the City Council have an appetite to add more housing, Lane Partners had an outline for that as well.

To add 50 more units, the developer proposed adding an additional story to the apartment buildings, going four and six stories high. This would also increase the affordable housing to 68 units.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

Going bigger, the developer also provided a plan to add 130 units by adding the additional stories to the apartment buildings and dedicating a one-acre site on the corner of Ravenswood Avenue and Middlefield Road to 100% affordable housing. This would up the total number of affordable units to 148 at 28%.

City Council members were careful to reiterate that Tuesday's discussion was only a study session after hearing from a number of concerned residents from Burgess Park, a neighborhood adjacent to the campus, about traffic and safety.

Any approval of the project plans won't come until a draft environmental impact report is released which will also be subject to public review. The report will outline the potential impacts on traffic, among other areas.

Vice Mayor Jen Wolosin, whose district falls in the area of the development, responded to some of the residents' concerns at the meeting.

She said that the developer has been responsive to neighborhood concerns, particularly by removing some of the apartment buildings and instead opting for townhomes as well as creating a road access dedicated for those future residents.

She also noted that the parking garage that will be constructed would be walled off so that disruption from car lights and sounds would be reduced, a concern that was previously brought up by nearby residents.

On traffic, Wolosin, who is also the founder of Parents for Safe Routes, said that there are options to add more housing without undermining safety. Some of that included installing turn restrictions, high quality bike lanes and underparking the area. (The logic of removing parking follows some studies that have shown that adding parking puts more cars on the road.)

"I don't think more has to mean less safe," Wolosin said.

Wolosin proposed that the developer should study the impacts of 600 units. Mayor Betsy Nash and council member Cecilia Taylor were in general receptive to the idea of exploring more density.

Drew Combs said he wasn't completely on board with going beyond a study of 400 housing units, sharing concerns with some of the Burgess Park residents.

He also expressed some disappointment with the project plans overall. He said that the current plans lacked some of the innovation seen in other ongoing projects in the city that, in his view, integrate office space and housing better, most likely referring to Meta's Willow Village. Combs has recused himself from speaking on the project since Meta is his employer.

Ray Mueller, who was hesitant to make any remark on how much housing should be on the site before viewing the draft environmental impact report, said that housing at every level should be studied.

Mary Murray, a principal at Lane Partners and a Menlo Park resident, who presented at Tuesday's meeting, said that the developer is not pushing for any particular number of housing units, but the 600 number is a good ceiling to work off of so that the developer can present several scenarios to the council.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Lloyd Lee joined The Almanac in 2022 as the Menlo Park reporter. Previously, he was the editorial assistant for the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com. Read more >>

Follow AlmanacNews.com and The Almanac on Twitter @almanacnews, Facebook and on Instagram @almanacnews for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Your support is vital to us continuing to bring you city government news. Become a member today.

Menlo Park City Council wants to study impacts of hundreds more housing units on SRI campus

Developer previews what 530 units could look like on the research campus near Burgess Park

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, May 12, 2022, 10:33 am

Responding to a previous call from planning commissioners to go bigger on housing at SRI campus, the developer Lane Partners provided a picture of what that could look like on the 63-acre facility during a City Council meeting.

No decision or vote was made on Tuesday, May 10, as it was only a study session of the campus plans. But most of the City Council members encouraged the developers to study what the impacts of up to 600 units could look like on the campus.

The initial project proposal was to add 400 new housing units near the campus' borders along Laurel Street and Ravenswood Avenue, with the addition of 25 acres of publicly accessible open space and a new network of bike and pedestrian paths. These units include two-story townhomes and apartment buildings three and five stories high. Sixty of the units would be dedicated to affordable housing.

If SRI and the City Council have an appetite to add more housing, Lane Partners had an outline for that as well.

To add 50 more units, the developer proposed adding an additional story to the apartment buildings, going four and six stories high. This would also increase the affordable housing to 68 units.

Going bigger, the developer also provided a plan to add 130 units by adding the additional stories to the apartment buildings and dedicating a one-acre site on the corner of Ravenswood Avenue and Middlefield Road to 100% affordable housing. This would up the total number of affordable units to 148 at 28%.

City Council members were careful to reiterate that Tuesday's discussion was only a study session after hearing from a number of concerned residents from Burgess Park, a neighborhood adjacent to the campus, about traffic and safety.

Any approval of the project plans won't come until a draft environmental impact report is released which will also be subject to public review. The report will outline the potential impacts on traffic, among other areas.

Vice Mayor Jen Wolosin, whose district falls in the area of the development, responded to some of the residents' concerns at the meeting.

She said that the developer has been responsive to neighborhood concerns, particularly by removing some of the apartment buildings and instead opting for townhomes as well as creating a road access dedicated for those future residents.

She also noted that the parking garage that will be constructed would be walled off so that disruption from car lights and sounds would be reduced, a concern that was previously brought up by nearby residents.

On traffic, Wolosin, who is also the founder of Parents for Safe Routes, said that there are options to add more housing without undermining safety. Some of that included installing turn restrictions, high quality bike lanes and underparking the area. (The logic of removing parking follows some studies that have shown that adding parking puts more cars on the road.)

"I don't think more has to mean less safe," Wolosin said.

Wolosin proposed that the developer should study the impacts of 600 units. Mayor Betsy Nash and council member Cecilia Taylor were in general receptive to the idea of exploring more density.

Drew Combs said he wasn't completely on board with going beyond a study of 400 housing units, sharing concerns with some of the Burgess Park residents.

He also expressed some disappointment with the project plans overall. He said that the current plans lacked some of the innovation seen in other ongoing projects in the city that, in his view, integrate office space and housing better, most likely referring to Meta's Willow Village. Combs has recused himself from speaking on the project since Meta is his employer.

Ray Mueller, who was hesitant to make any remark on how much housing should be on the site before viewing the draft environmental impact report, said that housing at every level should be studied.

Mary Murray, a principal at Lane Partners and a Menlo Park resident, who presented at Tuesday's meeting, said that the developer is not pushing for any particular number of housing units, but the 600 number is a good ceiling to work off of so that the developer can present several scenarios to the council.

Comments

Bob McGrew
Registered user
Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 14, 2022 at 2:31 pm
Bob McGrew, Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 2:31 pm

More housing at the SRI site is a great opportunity. Menlo Park has to plan for thousands of additional units by state law, particularly units affordable for low and moderate incomes. Here we have a commercial site blocks from Caltrain and a willing developer.

Because it is so close to Caltrain, it’s a great location for individuals who want to give up a car and use the train or bike, or for families who want just one car instead of two. If the Council is concerned about traffic impacts, they could set a parking maximum for the development. Since Menlo Park has no overnight street parking, this would reduce traffic without causing overflow into neighborhood streets. This might mean the developer can’t charge as much for an apartment, but I doubt it would be hard to find people who would trade a car-light existence for a chance to live in a new building by the train and downtown in Menlo Park.


Westbrook
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 14, 2022 at 10:18 pm
Westbrook, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 10:18 pm

"To our City Leaders"

The 63-acre site at SRI creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our City Leaders to be creative and develop housing for low-income, middle-income, and upper-income residents across the board and for future generations to enjoy. Include Rentals, Condos, Townhomes and Single Family Homes. This is the largest undeveloped site West of the Freeway. Don't let this pass you by. Show leadership and that you are forward-thinking about your City, and its Employees, Teachers, Firefighters, Police, and residents not just the developers. There are plenty of developers that would take on this project even with certain guidelines you develop.
Either way, you will be judged by having done the right thing or wasting this opportunity.
My question to you is "Why Not?" set up a committee designed to explore options for development. What Is the downside to taking a break and seeing different options? Is there some kind of hurry or deadline we are not aware of to move this site forward? Bring in some experts that have been involved in other creative developments. If it doesn't pan out the options on the table now won't go away. Of that I'm quite sure.
Look at a Bond Measure that would allow the City to purchase part of the property and sell the above-ground improvements while retaining ownership of the land with long term leases, al a the Stanford model. Thus making homeownership affordable for those otherwise priced out. Create a lottery system to qualify. I'm not an expert these are just ideas, but others are.

My guess is the majority of residents in "Our City" would be willing to take a short pause to see what can be done with this huge opportunity.

The question to you is, where do each of you Stand? Make your positions Public.
I've given you plenty of reasons Why, if you don't agree to a pause, Give us some reasons Why Not?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.