A proposal put forward by Menlo Park City Council member Ray Mueller in an op-ed July 5 aims to craft a compromise on the contested housing development at the former James Flood Magnet School, but major players aren't on board yet.
The Ravenswood City School District is proposing to redevelop the vacant 2.6-acre site with up to 90 units of affordable workforce housing. The former school property is zoned for single-family housing.
Mueller's proposal, published in op-ed InMenlo, states that he and council member Drew Combs — who is not a co-signer of the proposal — have been speaking with stakeholders to discuss a way to work out a deal that all parties can agree on.
Mueller's proposal would essentially split the development on school property into two sections of 45 units, each with its own access road: one via Suburban Park and another through Van Buren Road.
The parcel would be halved with a physical barrier that could be removed for emergency vehicle access, upon the agreement of the Ravenswood City School District and the city of Menlo Park.
"I think if this isn't it, this is close," Mueller said. "All of the sides have to come to the table and finish this so we don't have the community locked in a battle that I think has a reasonable solution."
This proposal would require the participation of Caltrans and LifeMoves to create an access road to the Flood School site from Van Buren Road. LifeMoves has not responded to a request for comment.
"The 90 proposed units would have 33% less traffic than a 275-student elementary school," said Will Eger, chief business officer of the Ravenswood school district, citing a report by the city of Menlo Park. "The morning peak of a residential development is nearly a tenth of that of a school."
Another interested party is Menlo Balance, a grassroots organization created by two Menlo Park residents with the goal of preventing the City Council from rezoning single-family lots for multi-unit development. If the initiative passes in November, any rezoning would have to be put to a public vote.
"I've been engaging some of the key stakeholders in this issue for months now, in an effort to try to reach a resolution ... even before there was an initiative on the table," Combs said.
While Mueller framed the compromise as a way to get Menlo Balance to withdraw its initiative by early August, in time to pull it from the November election ballot, Menlo Balance co-founder Nicole Chessari said she believes this compromise to be a good start, but doesn't cover everything necessary to come to an agreement. She says that the initiative by Menlo Balance covers more than just the Flood School housing proposal.
"Our initiative is a citywide initiative, it's not just this site," Chessari said. "(Many residents) feel that protecting residential communities throughout Menlo Park is important. So nothing in this plan takes anything off the table for the development of residential parcels in the future."
She also said that the compromise deal isn't a valid option until the secondary access point is guaranteed, and the necessary parties have not yet made that commitment.
Mueller's proposal would only impact the site of the Flood School development and relies on all stakeholders agreeing to a compromise that he himself describes as "not an ideal compromise," but said that it's the most rational way to proceed.
"You're looking at 40-something cars that would be driving through the neighborhood," Chessari said. "Even that is too much, frankly, considering that there's only 45 houses on that one road right now. So you want to double it ... you want to increase it from 45 to 90, basically, with Ray's proposal."
For the proposal to go through, it would require agreement from the Menlo Park City Council, Caltrans, LifeMoves and the Ravenswood City School District, Mueller said.
"I'm hopeful that we could reach a compromise position, but there's still many challenges ahead," Combs said.