News

Why build 550 housing units instead of 1,700? Menlo Park commission seeks much higher density for Parkline project at SRI campus

Planning Commission says Linfield Oaks project's housing plan should match Meta's Willow Village megaproject

A master plan map of the proposed Parkline project to redevelop the current 63-acre SRI campus in the heart of Menlo Park. Courtesy Lane Partners.

The Menlo Park Planning Commission wants to see more housing in the proposed Parkline development plans at the SRI campus, saying at its Jan. 23 meeting that the project could match the more than 1,700 units in Meta's recent Willow Village megaproject.

Plans for the Parkline project, located on the research campus at Ravenswood Avenue between Laurel Street and Middlefield Road, call for up to 550 new rental housing units, at least 15% of which would be offered at below market rate. The project will include new bicycle and pedestrian paths and about 25 acres of publicly accessible open space.

The Parkline development at SRI’s campus is also across the street from the city's Burgess Park complex, which includes Menlo Park's recreation center, pool, gyms, police station, city hall and city council chambers, library, tennis courts and fields. There are several bus stops adjacent to the site along Middlefield Road and Ravenswood Avenue.

Parkline developer Lane Partners plans to demolish all but three of the existing buildings currently on the SRI research campus. The development will be split between a 10-acre residential district and a 53-acre office district. The residential district in its plans would have 450 units, plus a separately zoned area to be leased to an affordable housing developer for a project of up to 100 units.

The biggest questions at the meeting, which was continued from a Dec. 12 meeting, centered on the size and accessibility of the site, as many residents and commissioners said that the location is ideal for more housing than the developer is currently proposing.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

The site was compared several times to Meta's recently approved Willow Village development, located on Willow Road between Hamilton Avenue and Ivy Drive, near the social media giant's headquarters on Bayfront Expressway. They are comparable in size, as Willow Village encompasses a 59-acre lot while Parkline is proposed for a 63-acre lot. However, Parkline is proposing 550 housing units as opposed to Willow Village’s 1,730 units.

The difference in proposed homes and housing density raised equity questions among commissioners, as Willow Village is situated in the underserved Belle Haven neighborhood, where a majority of Menlo Park’s new and affordable units are built. The Parkline development is in the resource-rich Linfield Oaks neighborhood, close to downtown Menlo Park and an array of amenities, from public parks to public transit.

“If we provide less than one-third of the units in District 3 that we allow in District 1 on the same amount of acreage, it just doesn't feel equitable,” Vice Chair Cynthia Harris said. “If we aren't equitable, we do put ourselves at risk. We put ourselves at risk of lawsuits, and we put ourselves at risk of the state coming in and making some decisions for us.”

One suggestion commissioners and residents alike made was to decrease parking while increasing housing. Theoretically, this move would decrease the traffic impact as the property is close access to the Menlo Park Caltrain station and other public transit, which would draw in residents without cars or who prefer not to drive.

“It is the opportunity of a generation, perhaps multiple generations,” Commissioner Jennifer Schindler said. “This is a completely unique location, completely collaborative and invested landowner, so we really do have an opportunity to make a big impact on the community here.”

While the meeting had a heavy focus on increased housing, some neighbors had concerns about the proposed growth. Many of these worries were expressed through emails to the Planning Commission, including one from Linfield Oaks resident Nancy Hosay that lays out several recommendations, such as fewer housing units and redirecting traffic flow by relocating a proposed driveway on Laurel Street.

“At 400 units, the density of this development far outstrips anything in the adjoining neighborhoods, and jeopardizes basic quality of life issues including resultant lack of parking, crowding, school and infrastructure impacts and traffic in this area,” Hosay wrote to the Planning Commission.

Others pushed for higher density in public comments, suggesting that the project approach or match the density of Willow Village.

“We can go a long way towards achieving climate goals and affirmatively furthering fair housing in an equitable manner by increasing the density of Parkline,” resident Catherine Dumont said. “Doubling (it) would be good.”

The Planning Commission members had less than an hour to discuss the proposal after hearing public comments, so the meeting was continued a second time to Feb. 6. At the first hearing at a Dec. 12 meeting, commission members only had 30 minutes to discuss the proposal.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Cameron Rebosio
 
Cameron Rebosio joined the Almanac in 2022 as the Menlo Park reporter. She previously wrote for the Daily Californian and the Palo Alto Weekly. 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.

Why build 550 housing units instead of 1,700? Menlo Park commission seeks much higher density for Parkline project at SRI campus

Planning Commission says Linfield Oaks project's housing plan should match Meta's Willow Village megaproject

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Jan 24, 2023, 4:22 pm

The Menlo Park Planning Commission wants to see more housing in the proposed Parkline development plans at the SRI campus, saying at its Jan. 23 meeting that the project could match the more than 1,700 units in Meta's recent Willow Village megaproject.

Plans for the Parkline project, located on the research campus at Ravenswood Avenue between Laurel Street and Middlefield Road, call for up to 550 new rental housing units, at least 15% of which would be offered at below market rate. The project will include new bicycle and pedestrian paths and about 25 acres of publicly accessible open space.

The Parkline development at SRI’s campus is also across the street from the city's Burgess Park complex, which includes Menlo Park's recreation center, pool, gyms, police station, city hall and city council chambers, library, tennis courts and fields. There are several bus stops adjacent to the site along Middlefield Road and Ravenswood Avenue.

Parkline developer Lane Partners plans to demolish all but three of the existing buildings currently on the SRI research campus. The development will be split between a 10-acre residential district and a 53-acre office district. The residential district in its plans would have 450 units, plus a separately zoned area to be leased to an affordable housing developer for a project of up to 100 units.

The biggest questions at the meeting, which was continued from a Dec. 12 meeting, centered on the size and accessibility of the site, as many residents and commissioners said that the location is ideal for more housing than the developer is currently proposing.

The site was compared several times to Meta's recently approved Willow Village development, located on Willow Road between Hamilton Avenue and Ivy Drive, near the social media giant's headquarters on Bayfront Expressway. They are comparable in size, as Willow Village encompasses a 59-acre lot while Parkline is proposed for a 63-acre lot. However, Parkline is proposing 550 housing units as opposed to Willow Village’s 1,730 units.

The difference in proposed homes and housing density raised equity questions among commissioners, as Willow Village is situated in the underserved Belle Haven neighborhood, where a majority of Menlo Park’s new and affordable units are built. The Parkline development is in the resource-rich Linfield Oaks neighborhood, close to downtown Menlo Park and an array of amenities, from public parks to public transit.

“If we provide less than one-third of the units in District 3 that we allow in District 1 on the same amount of acreage, it just doesn't feel equitable,” Vice Chair Cynthia Harris said. “If we aren't equitable, we do put ourselves at risk. We put ourselves at risk of lawsuits, and we put ourselves at risk of the state coming in and making some decisions for us.”

One suggestion commissioners and residents alike made was to decrease parking while increasing housing. Theoretically, this move would decrease the traffic impact as the property is close access to the Menlo Park Caltrain station and other public transit, which would draw in residents without cars or who prefer not to drive.

“It is the opportunity of a generation, perhaps multiple generations,” Commissioner Jennifer Schindler said. “This is a completely unique location, completely collaborative and invested landowner, so we really do have an opportunity to make a big impact on the community here.”

While the meeting had a heavy focus on increased housing, some neighbors had concerns about the proposed growth. Many of these worries were expressed through emails to the Planning Commission, including one from Linfield Oaks resident Nancy Hosay that lays out several recommendations, such as fewer housing units and redirecting traffic flow by relocating a proposed driveway on Laurel Street.

“At 400 units, the density of this development far outstrips anything in the adjoining neighborhoods, and jeopardizes basic quality of life issues including resultant lack of parking, crowding, school and infrastructure impacts and traffic in this area,” Hosay wrote to the Planning Commission.

Others pushed for higher density in public comments, suggesting that the project approach or match the density of Willow Village.

“We can go a long way towards achieving climate goals and affirmatively furthering fair housing in an equitable manner by increasing the density of Parkline,” resident Catherine Dumont said. “Doubling (it) would be good.”

The Planning Commission members had less than an hour to discuss the proposal after hearing public comments, so the meeting was continued a second time to Feb. 6. At the first hearing at a Dec. 12 meeting, commission members only had 30 minutes to discuss the proposal.

Comments

MP Father
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2023 at 9:05 am
MP Father, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Jan 26, 2023 at 9:05 am

Why preserve Menlo Park's character, prioritize current homeowners, maintain the safety and quality of our schools, preserve trees and open spaces, not crowd our streets, and protect sewers and other infrastructure?

The Menlo Park Planning Commission and City Council are overwhelmingly unbalanced and are prioritizing increased density, changing the character of the city west of 101, and driving city-funded affordable housing at the expense of the city's current homeowners and taxpayers.

Menlo Park's State/ABAG new housing requirement is 2,946 or an 8% increase in the city's current population. The City Council's current Housing Element draft is targeting 7,185 units WHICH IS ALMOST 2.5x MORE THAN THE STATE AND ABAG REQUIREMENT. This amounts to a 20% increase in the population of Menlo Park. I don't believe these figures even account for the additional 1,512 units added through 2021.

The State/ABAG "affordable housing" requirement is 1,662 units (included in the 2,946 above). The Housing Element is targeting 3,518 units and aiming to place those units in the city's most valuable and expensive areas. The CITY COUNCIL'S CURRENT TARGET IS GREATER THAN 2x THE STATE/ABAG REQUIREMENT.

Moreover, NO FISCAL ANALYSIS was conducted for the Housing Element and no study to the impact to Police, Fire, traffic, or Schools.

Lastly, only moderate and above-moderate units are being considered for District 1, east of 101. Has the Planning Commission and City Council given any thought to how this will drive gentrification in District 1 that will eventually price out more low-income residents?

The Housing Element is fiscally irresponsible, does not properly consider the long-term impacts to the city, and has not been properly communicated to current homeowners. We should not be attempting to more than double the new housing requirement and increase the population by 20%.


Michael
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 26, 2023 at 5:29 pm
Michael, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jan 26, 2023 at 5:29 pm

We need to build, then build some more and then build some more. Increase density, remove R1 and require mixed use for all projects. We have 50 years of NIMBY to reverse. I applaud the Planning Commission. Let's dedicate some roads for multimodal use and remove autos while we're at it.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jan 27, 2023 at 7:32 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2023 at 7:32 am

Michael:

if you like what you describe, I suggest you move to San Francisco. Plenty of dense housing and you don't need a car. Of course, its a crap hole, but hey that's the price you pay for your kind of density right? I for one, don't want that kind of density. If I did, I'd live in SF. Increasing the housing stock is not going to do anything for lower income people. The land values are too high and the cost of construction is too high to build any kind of lower income housing in MP, which is what is supposedly needed and the idea behind the increased density. It will NEVER happen without government subsidies. I pay enough taxes already thank you. We're already the highest taxed state in the nation.


Michael
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 27, 2023 at 2:33 pm
Michael, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2023 at 2:33 pm

@menlo voter I don’t need any advice on where to live thanks. The density is coming whether you want it or not, NIMBYism is over. You most definitely don’t pay enough taxes already as our density does not cover its costs without massive subsidy. Pretty simple math really.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jan 27, 2023 at 6:35 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2023 at 6:35 pm

Michael:

Really? Care to back that up with some actual facts? Or are you just going to go on believing everything you think?


Menlo Lifestyle
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 28, 2023 at 2:58 pm
Menlo Lifestyle, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2023 at 2:58 pm

Michael is absolutely right. The days of single family neighborhoods are over in Menlo Park. Our city council has said and is moving forward with up-zoning R1 wherever they can. They’re going to fill in parks and parking lots downtown with “affordable” housing. Menlo Park will be indistinguishable from South San Francisco in short order if the people currently in power get their way. And it’s our own fault. In the last election we could have protected single family home re-zoning but very, very few homeowners took the time to vote. So to all the current homeowners, when this city you invested your life in is trashed you know who to thank. They’re right there in the mirror.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
22 hours ago
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
22 hours ago

Michael

And how do you propose to pay for this housing? Simply increasing density isn't going to do it as the land and construction costs are too high. Redwood City has hugely increased density around the transit corridor has it brought rents down and made it more "affordable"? Nope. So, instead of spouting "progressive" rhetoric how about coming up with some ideas that might actually achieve the goal you profess?


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.