Representatives of SRI said they are willing to consider building up to 800 units of housing at its Parkline development as the Menlo Park Planning Commission wraps up a third round of reviewing the project's master plan.
The commission has stretched review of the SRI project over three meetings starting on Jan. 12. Parkline developer Lane Partners unveiled its plans for building a massive mixed-use project with office, residential and recreational space on SRI's 63-acre research campus. Lane Partners plans to demolish all but three of the existing buildings currently on the site.
Under the original plans, the development would have been split between a 53-acre office district and a 10-acre residential district containing 450 units and a separately zoned area designated to be leased to an affordable housing developer for up to 100 units. Lane Partners also planned to exceed the 25% minimum required amount of open space by making 38% of the site publicly accessible open space.
At the continuation of its Jan. 22 meeting, the Planning Commission and several residents asked Lane Partners to look into developing much more than the proposed total of 550 housing units, comparing the project to the similarly immense Willow Village development in the Bayfront neighborhood. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, plans to build 1,730 units of housing on a mixed-use development four acres smaller than SRI.
Some people who spoke at the meeting asked Lane Partners to consider doubling the amount of housing offered at the Parkline development or even increasing the units to match Willow Village's.
At the Planning Commission’s final continuation of the meeting on Feb. 6, SRI responded to the feedback on its master plan. A representative from Lane Partners compared the proposed projects for Parkline and Willow Village, saying that Parkline may be providing less housing, but that the project is also bringing fewer new employees to Menlo Park and a higher percentage of the units being built are affordable.
The representative from Lane Partners said that they could agree to study a maximum of 800 units at the site and move the designated land for affordable housing to be in the same area as the other residential units.
"Transit-rich spaces like this reduce the need for driving and allow for better employment opportunities for your community members who rely on public transit,” said Ken Chan, senior organizer with the Housing Leadership Council.
Commissioner Henry Riggs requested an aggressive traffic demand management (TDM) plan for the project, asking for up to a 50% traffic reduction requirement.
“My neighbor doesn't bother to say anything because he feels it would fall on deaf ears after 20 years,” Commissioner Riggs said. “But his cross-town effort in the morning simply to cross Menlo Park ... takes him 10 minutes longer than if he simply drove to San Francisco.”
The number of units was also called into question, as planning commissioners said they believe SRI’s campus is located in a good spot for high-density development. The campus is 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.
Riggs asked that Lane Partners consider looking at a density closer to 1,700 units when analyzing the EIR, even though that density is likely not possible, but the alternative could not be requested until impacts are known. Alternatives are often used to study issues presented in an original project.
“We also want Parkline to be innovative in its approach to helping to solve some of the community’s challenges,” SRI CEO David E. Parekh wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission. “...It will preserve heritage trees and transform an urban heat island into a park-like setting for the community and our employees to enjoy together.”
Commissioners asked if Lane Partners would consider including less parking, at a ratio of 1 to 1.75 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet. The project is currently planning for a ratio of 2 spaces per 1,000 square feet. Lane Partners were receptive to several requests from the commissioners, such as including pickleball courts and a regulation sports field.
The project will return to the Menlo Park City Council in late February or early March.