Atherton resident donates 65 percent of Save Menlo funding | July 16, 2014 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - July 16, 2014

Atherton resident donates 65 percent of Save Menlo funding

by Sandy Brundage

One Atherton resident donated 65 percent of the funding during the first half of this year for grassroots coalition Save Menlo, the group backing an initiative to change Menlo Park's downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, according to its most recent finance report.

The report, filed July 9 with the county elections office, covers the period from January through June. Venture capitalist Gary Lauder, who lives in Atherton, donated $20,000 of the total $30,736 in cash contributions received during the first six months of the year.

Mr. Lauder said the specific plan had already passed by the time he got involved. "I always thought that the government would look out for our interests and only allow incremental development that the system can handle," Mr. Lauder said.

"Having driven through downtown Sunnyvale a few years ago, I was shocked to see that the town had allowed tall office buildings to be built right to the property line, thereby creating urban canyons in the middle of this suburb ... in some cases right across the street from single-family dwellings," he said. "This is proof that perhaps government does not always get it right and prevent inappropriate development ... at least from this outsider's perspective."

He serves on the Atherton transportation committee and takes a regional view of the congestion he expects developments on vacant lots along El Camino Real — such as the Stanford-Arrillaga mixed-use project — to deliver. The initiative would cut the amount of office space allowed in that proposal by 50 percent, as well as impose other restrictions on overall nonresidential development within the specific plan's boundaries.

Mr. Lauder said that "development isn't the problem," but "congestion, urban canyons and related unintended consequences of it are."

He suggests upgrading the road capacity first, then build. Until the government increases road capacity and uses existing techniques to improve traffic flow, then all major development should be opposed, he said. "This is partly to prevent further erosion of quality of life due to traffic congestion, and partly to get real estate developers to advocate for the proper road upgrades to enable further development," he said.

Other donors, expenses

A "Committee for Referendum," based out of a Mountain View apartment, came in second with a $2,000 donation. Menlo Park downtown property owner Nancy Couperus chipped in $1,000, as did attorney Chip Lutton.

Twenty-nine people are listed as donating money; another contributed an estimated $107 in non-cash services related to display supplies.

The largest expenditure went to environmental and initiative specialist attorney Keith Wagner, based in Davis, for $14,232 in legal fees related to the petition drive. An additional $1,840 was spent on hired signature gatherers. The remainder of Save Menlo's $24,397 in expenses went for miscellaneous supplies such as signs and printing costs.

According to the city's summary, Save Menlo's initiative would restrict the amount of office space in any individual development to 100,000 square feet; limit total new office space to 240,820 square feet; and cap overall new, nonresidential development to 474,000 square feet within the specific plan's boundaries.

It would also redefine open space to mean only areas no higher than 4 feet off the ground, thereby preventing balconies from counting as open space.

Voters would have to approve any revisions to the ordinance as well as any projects that would exceed the nonresidential development caps.


There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields