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.