Grocery store planned for former Cadillac site on El Camino in Menlo Park | July 25, 2007 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - July 25, 2007

Grocery store planned for former Cadillac site on El Camino in Menlo Park

by Rory Brown

As Menlo Park city officials continue the wearisome debate on how to revamp properties along El Camino Real, one developer is going ahead with a plan to build a grocery store and office space at the former Cadillac dealership.

Sand Hill Property Co., the San Mateo-based developer that built a Whole Foods store in Los Altos last year, is planning to build a 50,850-square-foot grocery store and 58,000 square feet of office space at the former Cadillac site at 1300 El Camino Real, near Valparaiso Avenue.

Sand Hill partner Jeff Warmoth would not disclose the identity of the grocery store operator or give a timeline for when the project could be built, but said he is in talks with "a specialty grocery store tenant" to fill the space.

The grocery store would front El Camino Real with 30,000 square feet of office space on the second story; the remaining office space would be behind the store in a two-story building, according to plans filed with the city's planning department.

The plans also call for a 322-space underground parking garage, 98 at-grade parking spaces, and an 8,000-square-foot patio for outdoor dining.

The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to hold a study session on the project in August.

Second try

This is Mr. Warmoth's second attempt to develop the 3.45-acre Cadillac site, which is adjacent to the site proposed for the Derry condo-commercial project.

In February 2006 he proposed building 135 apartments and 81,000 square feet of commercial space. That project called for about 40 homes per acre, and during a March study session, councilmen Richard Cline, Andy Cohen and Heyward Robinson said the project was too dense.

The three councilmen said the city should create a new plan for El Camino Real, including how much housing, commercial space, and other development is appropriate for the area. They said the city should not consider projects greater than the maximum 18.5 units per acre permitted under current zoning until a new plan for El Camino Real is in place.

Creating a plan

Thus far, the council members have struggled getting the El Camino Real plan off the ground.

Since establishing El Camino as a top priority in January, the topic has been at the root of confusion and bickering, as council members have been unable to determine what mix of public participation and consultant input is needed to make sure the look and feel of the major thoroughfare is designed to residents' liking.

"We need a road map so there's consistency on El Camino Real," Mr. Cline said. "It's going to require a ton of hours, a ton of headaches, and a lot of patience from everybody."

Mr. Cohen agreed that planning El Camino is a daunting task, but said councilmen Cline and John Boyle, as part of a subcommittee studying the issue, are failing to get much done.

Waiting it out

Other developers are waiting in the wings for the city to establish a new vision for El Camino Real so new projects can be built.

Plans to build a condo-commercial project at the former Anderson Chevrolet truck lot at 389 El Camino Real have been put on hold as the site developer, the Matteson Companies, waits for the council to start the planning process.

John Baer, a senior vice president with the Matteson Companies, said he hopes the proposed 108-condo Derry project off Oak Grove Avenue will set a standard for El Camino Real development.

"We're being patient and letting the city establish a vision, but we view the Derry project as a very clear signal of what the community is comfortable with," he said.

Stanford University is another major player in El Camino real estate, as Stanford Real Estate owns three important sites: the former Anderson Chevrolet car lot at 300 El Camino Real; the Lincoln Mercury site at 444 El Camino Real that closed its doors June 30; and the former University Ford site at 450 El Camino Real.

"The ultimate goal is to do a redevelopment of all of our properties at once, and we want to do that in conjunction with the city's El Camino Real plan," said Steve Elliott, a spokesperson for Stanford Real Estate.


Posted by Elizabeth Lasensky, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 24, 2007 at 1:08 pm

It is regretful that Sand Hill Properties has chosen not to include housing in the mix for the former Cadillac site. After being bashed by our City Council in their first go-around, I guess they decided it wasn't worth their time and money to sit around waiting for the El Camino task force to even begin that project.

What a shame, that location is perfect for mixed use, transit oriented housing. It's a lost opportunity that won't be back.

Posted by realist, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 24, 2007 at 4:11 pm

Menlo Park can't be all things to all people.

Elizabeth, I respect your desire to live in a certain kind of community. Why don't you move to that kind of community instead of insisting that the rest of us change our vision of Menlo Park to accommodate you?

Posted by unbelievable, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 24, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Another grocery store! How many does this town need? What about some restaurants! This town is so boring. What does the new City Manager have to say about this?

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 25, 2007 at 11:50 am

Nobody can develop housing in MP at the current codes and it is unrealistic to think developers will/can wait for our City Council to complete an El Camino plan. The realty of the situation is that our City Council would rather spend their time nit-picking small developments such as the Acorn, than focus on the big picture, i.e. the larger El Camino parcels. The Acorn has been through 5 public hearings over a 13 month period. How long would a high density housing project take? 6 years? 10 years?

Posted by A Palo Alto Neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2007 at 2:57 pm

What kind of people are you in Menlo Park? Telling a resident to go live somewhere else because she believes in a more enlightened brand of city planning. Mixed-use, transit-oriented dense housing is the way of the future, especially if we are going to reproduce at the rates we have been.

To "Realist", show some tolerance; show some vision; for heaven's sake, show some respect for the opinions of others.

Elizabeth, move to Palo Alto. Residents, here drive their car with both hands on the wheel, instead of on the rear view mirror. Look forward, not backwards. Menlo Park is doomed with mean people who still think it's 1952.

Posted by Right side of the creek, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 25, 2007 at 3:54 pm

That's pretty funny, neighbor. I read the Palo Alto Town Square forums regularly, so I am well aware of how forward thinking and progressive you Palo Altans are. At least we're not shutting you out of our parks!

Menlo Park is a pretty accepting place, but we do have some people who are one trick ponies when it comes to city politics, and continually insist on placing their individual needs over the needs of the community. We would all be happier if they took their considerable talents to another community.

Posted by Your Palo Alto Neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Yes, that's what Menlo Park represents: mean people who cannot take a breath and be quiet for a minute. Think. Yes, there are differing positions in your town. The one trick pony that is starring in your community at the moment is the old, angry mob that wants no development anywhere. Boarded up auto dealerships and restaurants is the look this mob wants.
No doubt, your next council election will see another political swing back to the days when love affairs with developers will reign.
When will this town get smart and stop the ugly name-calling and extreme positions. You can't run a town on a threat of a referendum.
Try moderation. Try compromise. Try vision.
Namaste, Your Palo Alto Neighbor.

Posted by Robert, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Jul 26, 2007 at 1:54 pm

I have a vision of being able to visit Foothill Park regardless of the address on my driver license.

Posted by not old or angry, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 26, 2007 at 4:13 pm

I wish Your Palo Alto Neighbor would re-read his/her own note. Therein are derogatory labels of others who may have sincere convictions about how we want decisions to be made in Menlo Park and what we value. Frankly, I don't know anyone who doesn't want change or who opposes all development. So please refrain from using simplistic labels and try to understand where there might be commonly held concerns and desires (The Almanac should do more of this, too).
Menlo Park needs to put together a plan that the community can support. Of course, the support won't be 100% but if the process creating the plan is respected, we'd be a whole lot further ahead than where we are now. There is an existing plan and existing rules. Some people in this string of postings clearly don't like it. What is concerning is that they are not advocating creation of a common vision, but rather approval of ad hoc projects that align with their own personal vision.

Posted by no mobs in Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 26, 2007 at 11:57 pm

Thanks, not old, for injecting some reason here. I don't think anyone wants boarded up dealerships. Not only are they unattractive, they represent millions of dollars in lost sales taxes. But that doesn't mean we want to give kneejerk approval to every speculative developer who walks into the planning department or to transform El Camino into a tunnel of high-density housing.

I am disappointed that the council has yet to apply any serious brainpower to the development of a real vision for El Camino. We have talented people in our community who can put together a plan that has general public appeal (Remember the charette exercise? Some good stuff came out of that, but no one followed up on it). El Camino should also be a source of revenue for the city, and I'll bet we can figure out a way to make that happen without adding a lot of traffic. (Plenty of cars drive down El Camino every day, but not enough of those drivers stop to spend money in Menlo Park.)

Because grocery food is not taxable, building a Whole Foods (or an expanded Trader Joe's) on El Camino will not in itself have a profound effect on sales tax revenues. But such a store would serve as a magnet, attracting more upscale retail and intriguing restaurants to this part of the world. unbelievable is right: we need to add some spice to the mix if we want a first class main street. Menlo Park deserves no less.

Posted by not old or angry, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 27, 2007 at 8:34 am

I'm excited about Whole Foods coming to Menlo Park. Many of us in MP and Atherton could walk or bike to it, saving car trips to Palo Alto or Redwood City. If this store would be like the new WF in Los Altos, Menlo Park actually would get some sales tax revenue from the food bar, liquor, and clothing/non-food sections.
El Camino should support a mix of uses, not necessarily all on the same properties. If everything is housing, there wouldn't be substantial enough retail or services nearby. Again, the key is to create a plan so we know what our community wants and so we know that there's a good chance this will happen along El Camino. Otherwise, we're destined to have whatever the developers think will get them the most profit if they are cheeky enough to just ask.

Posted by MenloParker, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 27, 2007 at 11:20 pm

Palo Alto = Progressive???

You might just want to check out the beat-down that some parents just took in trying to get a small pilot Manadrain language program in place in their school system.

Don't ever move there Elizabeth - they'll chew you up and spit you out faster than you can say "liberal nightmare."

Posted by Adina Levin, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm

What happens to Menlo Park when people in their 60s and 70s pass on? What happens to the livelihood of the VCs and the lawyers when entrepreneurs can't live and can't hire in Silicon Valley? There has been great, foresighted work done to make sure that the hills and the bay are passed on to the next generation. What about preserving the social and economic strengths of the region?

Posted by Beverly Moore, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 30, 2007 at 7:33 am

Ha! Where are the people (businesses really) who were protesting BevMo?? Will this group repeat their ridiculous and embarrassing stunt again?

"(gasp) Oh no... competition!"

Whole Foods seems to fit in with the demographics and would be a welcome addition. Unfortunately, it is on the wrong side of El Camino Real. The traffic and careless driving on that street will prevent all but the brave from biking there.

On a side note, televised or webcast meetings of our government officials would be beneficial. Some of us don't have time to sit through meetings and silly procedures. It will be a good way to see how the council "works."

That's my $0.02

Posted by yes to Whole Foods, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 30, 2007 at 9:27 am

"Wrong" side of El Camino? Odd comment, given that all the groceries in Menlo Park are located on the west side of town. The proposed store would not be east of the train tracks, just on the east side of the street. Many (the majority, I believe) Menlo Park residents live on the east side of the tracks. Do you really begrudge us a grocery that's more convenient for us?

All council and planning commission meetings are webcast.

Posted by BEVerly MOore, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 30, 2007 at 12:47 pm

-yes to Whole Foods, thanks for the comment. Point well taken. I was looking it from the perspective of most of Atherton and Menlo Park from El Camino to Alameda De Las Pulgas.

It just seems natural for commercial ventures to remain on the West side because the East side is residential. You have MA school, two libraries, police station (Atherton) and a quiet and set-back corporate complex (SRI), Sunset magazine, USGS, etc...

I think any major store on El Camino is a threat and a danger (yes, even Safeway). El Camino is such a hazard for anybody: biker, driver or pedestrian.

Like I said above, Whole Foods will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I just question the location.

Posted by chris, a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Where is the report that Whole Foods is the likely tenant for this project? I would appreciate a link.

Posted by registered user, Rory Brown, a resident of Almanac staff writer
on Jul 30, 2007 at 2:55 pm


Here's a link to the Almanac story on the future of the former Cadillac site:
Web Link

Jeff Warmoth, a spokesperson for the project, hasn't confirmed that Whole Foods is the "specialty grocery store" he's in talks with to fill the space, but his firm did just build a Whole Foods store in Los Altos.