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Huge office/retail complex goes to commission

Original post made on Apr 3, 2009

A proposal to build a 110,000-square-foot office/retail project at the site of the former Cadillac dealership on El Camino Real will go before Menlo Park's Planning Commission on Monday. The project could include a grocery store, restaurant, fitness club and condominiums.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 7:19 PM

Comments (12)

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Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 8:58 am

What is the value to the community of so much office space? Will it generate sales tax revenue? How much additional housing will it require the city to provide, in addition to what is already hard to find?

Just curious.

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Posted by Willy Wonka
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Typically in California, office buildings are a losing proposition for a city. Adds traffic but generates no sales tax.

Developing the property will increase its property tax rates, but cities get to keep a far larger portion of sales tax revenue than of property tax revenue. One of the reasons you see so darn many strip malls around is because they are cash-cows for a municipal budget.

I couldn't say how much housing the city would need to accomodate the additional jobs, but the number of jobs in a city is a factor in the state housing element requirements for low- and very low-income housing development.

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Posted by 45 year resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I hope this project isn't killed by the Nimby's like the Derry Project. Compared to every comparable city our zoning ordinace is more restrictive and it still isn't enough. I am tired of El Camino looking like Flint, Michigan. It's time for us to recognize that cities are developed based on the profit motive and if that is taken away - no improvements. Let's not stop a good project in a recession.

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Posted by 46 year resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 3, 2009 at 4:33 pm

What is a NIMBY? Anyone who asks questions and doesn't automatically approve all projects? If this project meets the zoning rules, then it will be approved. If it doesn't, then I wonder why it's even being considered, given that we are in the middle of an El Camino visioning project.

A "good project in a recession" may look like a real stinker in a year or two, and once it's built, not much to be done. For the next few decades it will be taking up space, adding to our traffic woes but not our city's coffers. That's why it's prudent to make the right decision now.

Downtown Flint, Michigan is rather attractive, for a small big city. Much larger, of course, than Menlo Park, and no way will it ever have the quaint village ambiance that we prefer.

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Posted by 33 year resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm

The project doesn't appear to meet the zoning rules, just as an earlier residential development for the site shooed away by Rich Cline, Heyward Robinson and Morris Brown didn't meet the zoning. Best wait until hell freezes over or until the El Camino Visioning study leads to a new policy on development along El Camino. With this Council, it's anybody's guess as to which will happen first.

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Posted by Such a Shame.
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Maybe for the $900,000 price tag of the visioning study, we'll someday get a vision as to what might be appropriate for the Cadillac site. Which of our highly paid staff is overseeing this study? I can think of 18 different ways that money could have been spent in Menlo Park.

Oh, and to think we have 4 more years of Fergusson and Cohen and Cohen's Kitchen Cabinet.
Lord, help us all.

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Posted by Developer
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:27 am

The devil is in the details of this (and most) project. It is vague of what exactly the project and uses will provide. They are asking for a reduction in the parking reuirement by a third (600 to 400 spaces). The only entrance / egress is on El Camino. The EIR indicates that there are unmitigatable impacts.

May be a great project; I'd like to see the Whole Foods there.

It may also be the case that the owner will only sit on the permits to puff up the value of the property.

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Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:48 pm

No development will ever satisfy everyone, but this proposal looks pretty good. Office space may not add sales tax revenue, but an all-retail development would just add more traffic and pollution. The proposed mix makes sense. The analogy of El Camino wasteland to Flint is appropriate. Look at what's been happening in Palo Alto the last few years with new retail, new housing. Menlo Park will doom itself to economic stagnation and irrelevance if it makes development too difficult.

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Posted by MP Shopper
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I agree with Robert. This is an excellent project, with a mix of retail, office and possibly housing, for our El Camino corridor.

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Posted by Community Member
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:48 pm

This is a good thing. It's horrible that these spaces along the ECR cooridor have remained unoccupied and vacant for so, so long. Remember we live in Silicon Valley and there has always been people, traffic and other forms commuting options. Positive growth and vision is a good thing.

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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm

There are empty office spaces in town now.

El Camino has gridlock now. So does Valparaiso eastbound during commute hours & school traffic peaks. I've worked in downtown MP for 40 years & can walk from home to town in under 20 minutes. We all know that MP loses tax revenue now because it's become so difficult to navigate the traffic mess that it's easier to go to Andronico's or Redwood City Whole Foods than wait through 3 signal cycles to cross El Camino. Yes, we avoid El Camino by using side streetcut-throughs, to the continued displeasure of those residents. Do we really believe that traffic problems will get better & the people will use CalTrain to get to a shopping strip?

Residential use will put further stress on crowded schools with tight budgets. How do you propose getting kids to Hillview School, now that some geniuses combined middle school sites? I oppose any residential use other than senior housing (no kids, fewer car trips.)

Office & retail space (especially a 4th grocery store!) needs a lot of parking, probably underground. Will you put a traffic signal in the middle of the block between Glenwood & Oak Grove? Left turn cut-outs? Will you start ticketing the jaywalkers? Especially those who are really hard to see where the "beautify El Camino folks" have filled the medians with shrubbery so drivers can't see the jaywalkers? I'd never go east of El Camino again for anything, & would probably zig zag through town to avoid ECR entirely.

The study will cost more than the $900,000 bid. Use the $ to buy the Menlo Clock Shop, enabling 3 lanes of southbound traffic. Yes, there's an ordinance which protects street parking for businesses with no direct access to off-street parking. Or put the $ toward grade separations for Glenwood & Ravenswood. Make life easier for those of us who already live here.

Making traffic worse does not bring shoppers - it encourages them to go elsewhere. "Unsightly" empty space? Have you looked at the Park Theater & nearby store fronts? The residue of Bay Meadows? That's pretty for you.

Learn a lesson from Bay Meadows

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Posted by another view
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 3:49 pm

El Camino is practically empty many hours during the day. Why not time one's shopping to avoid the busy hours? How about exploring transit that helps us get around within our town (most is geared to north/south traffic, not east/west)?
If we can walk or bike to stores in town, more than just Safeway, wouldn't that take cars off the road?
Adding a lot of housing could make things a lot worse, with incremental traffic (peninsula's pitiful existing transit is inadequate for most needs)and zero relief from existing parking and traffic issues.

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