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Arrillaga revises plans for Menlo Park properties

Original post made on Nov 20, 2012

Developer John Arrillaga and Stanford University have submitted a revised plan for an eight-acre project in Menlo Park, but the changes don't bring the proposal closer to what the city hoped for.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 8:27 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by Some Guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I'm pretty sure these people won't be happy until El Camino Real is a Parking lot from 7am to 8pm.
What they should do is remove all the street parking between Valpariso and Robles make it 3 lanes through town.

Posted by Vince Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Not mentioned in the above article: I put forward a motion to remove he Stanford lands from the downtown / ECR rezoning action. Why? Because Stanford did not need incentives to develop the land. Because the city should have negotiated projects on the Stanford land separately in order to maximize benefit to the city.

This is old news now. Where was the almanac article about this at the time? Why isn't the Almanac covering the Housing Element process. I don't think that anyone in the city really understands what it's going to take to satisfy the state. Menlo Park school district is starting to show up at meetings for the first time in my 6 years on the PC.

Why did the city roll over and settle a lawsuit? This appears to put the city in a disadvantageous position. This is the real news now, and a much bigger deal than this one project. Where is the coverage?

Posted by SeenItComing
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm

The real question is: Why did the City Attorney instruct the City Council not to fight the lawsuit? Because they might lose? Because it would cost the city money?
Menlo Park has lost far more money going forward than any lawsuit would have cost, and what's worse, has jeopardized the quality of life for its residents for decades to come by failing to fight the lawsuit, and additionally, by failing to keep the Stanford lots out of the downtown plan.
This was more than the city shooting itself in the foot, or even in both feet. This was a deathblow. The city gave away ALL of its negotiating power BOTH vis a vis Stanford, AND vis a vis an aggressive assortment of out-of-town housing advocates who brought the lawsuit.
Now we are about to lose revenue-generating Tesla, to be replaced by non-revenue-generating Stanford medical offices, which do, however, generate traffic very effectively.
So in this double-whammy failure to maintain a strong position from which to negotiate, the city is left to look forward to: lowered revenues,overcrowded schools, strained infrastructure, horrendous traffic gridlock, and hundreds of "affordable" housing units that no one wants in their neighborhoods, and now won't be placed on Stanford land.

Posted by Lockdown
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I am just waiting for city council members to jump on this thread and defend their inaction.

Our city had opportunities to force Stanford to clean up its property for years and failed to do so. At least Stanford allowed Tesla to rent some space, bringing in, as noted already, tax revenues. But because the council willingly abdicated its responsibilities and staff didn't care, that property remained mostly vacant for the better part of a decade rather than generating sales tax.

Stanford will take what it can get, and why shouldn't they? Our council did not put any limits on Stanford when it had the chance, and now it is to late. Of the commissioners and council members, only Bressler warned everyone what was coming. But most of the people who had the power to set the rules, including staff, instead acted like teens at a Justin Bieber concert. "It's Stanford! We'd better get in line and do what they ask for!"

Posted by Stefan P.
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm

There is a growing number of Menlo Park residents who are now getting worried about this and the other office projects along ECR. Further gridlock on El Camino, increased traffic through neighborhood streets, no tunnel or other benefits, no progress on traffic mitigation or flow improvements.
Any concerned citizen should sign up here
and/or join this Facebook group:
Web Link

Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I only hope that Menlo Park residents will/would/should have stood up and fought ABAG,
the housing law suit, and even Arrillaga himself. He 'gave' the recreation building so no doubt wants his just dues - his $$$ payback. And you didn't see this coming??? If you want to improve and preserve Menlo Park for the benefit of its residents, don't just sit there. Fight back. Palo Alto residents are waking up and starting to fight back - but it's getting late in the game. WAKE UP, Menlo Park.

Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

The problem is that the city decision makers simply hoped for certain outcomes but willfully allowed other outcomes without incorporating protections against less desirable results of the Specific Plan. A few of us warned of this in general and about the Stanford land in particular.

At this point, the city staff and council should provide answers for what they envision as the sources of funding for anticipated public amenities such as a bike/pedestrian underpass that they thought would come from public benefit negotiations with Stanford and other property owners.
The city also should describe how increased traffic congestion and neighborhood cut-through traffic resulting from this project can be mitigated. The EIR for the Specific Plan assumed traffic increases, but not necessarily the localized impacts that will result from this single proposed project.
Our community should be informed about how much more traffic may be in our future with the rest of the Specific Plan buildout.

Posted by Therein the problem
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:38 am

So it sounds like the council simply hoped that everything would come out okay, but after spending $$$ on consultants and many months on meetings, could not be bothered to put parameters in place that would ensure development proceeded as desired?


I'm happy to see that the residents are finally catching on, but it's about six months too late. Last spring, some of us tried to get people to realize what was happening -- thank you Patti Fry and Vincent Bressler for your leadership -- but were derided as NIMBYs and no-growthers who wanted to see El Camino remain a junkyard.

Residents who hold these projects up to a higher level of scrutiny are looking out for the best interests of the community because no one else is. Not our staff. Not our council. And certainly not Sacramento or developers, including Stanford.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I have never seen a small group of people so willing to pat each other on the back and refer to each other as courageous heroes. The hubris of you guys who did nothing to spur any development in years along our corridor, brought no ideas to the table and objected to everything, now you claim to be the visionaries?

What a joke.

Vince has cried doomsday every time controversy starts. It is his character to be pessimistic.

Until I see the council vote on this I will hold judgment. And if you think we have no control, you have not been paying attention to the subtle details.

Posted by Vince Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm


This project is not "doomsday".

Obviously we should have taken the Stanford land out of the ECR/Downtown plan. Happy to go into detail on that if you want to distort things (spur development?). You know that Stanford was not going to do a thing at this site until their leases expired.

Given what I know, the only leverage we have with Stanford on this project is if we persuade them to do the right thing because it would be embarrassing to do the wrong thing. Why do you think that I'm trying to bring this out into the open?

I'll take some credit for that it it happens.

Posted by Therein the problem
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

The best way our city could have tried to "spur development" while Stanford was still collecting rent money on those properties would have been to impose a vacancy tax. (Which Stanford would have battled, and probably won because our city would not have wanted to apply the same tax to the hapless small business property owners on Santa Cruz.) Stanford is the 900-lb gorilla around here; no individual other than a major donor, like, um Arrillaga, could have forced its hand.

Rather than smugly and anonymously attacking others for their ignorance of the "subtle details," maybe posters on this thread can enlighten us as to the options available to our city now. I expect Vince Bressler is correct: given the high percentage of alums in this town, we can try to make Stanford feel bad about its greed and absolute disregard for our city's wellbeing. Doesn't sound like much of a strategy to me, though. I'm betting Goliath wins this one.

Expect an upset on our council in 2014, as more residents start to question what the fivesome have been doing with our city. That's my prediction, and I'm being optimistic here!

Posted by Menloshopper
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 24, 2012 at 5:40 am

It would be useful to hear some alternate numbers proposed for this project in terms of number of housing units and retail space. There could be a scenario assuming the current buliding sizes and another increasing building sizes to Specific Plan maximums.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Vince should know very well the controls the city still has over any project since he is on the Planning Commission and he was such a big part of the Specific Plan process.

If he is going on record saying that the only thing we have is hope and prayer, then he is either not being forthcoming or he doesn't understand. And both are equally disappointing.

Posted by Vince Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm


The city has architectural control. Everything else, within the defined constraints of the specific plan is by right. Of course there are fees, etc that must be paid.

This specific issue was discussed with staff in some detail at one point during the series of meetings.

If the city has other options, I'd like to hear about them.

Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 26, 2012 at 11:52 am

Truth - Vince is correct. If you believe otherwise, please explain.

As I understand it, this project falls within the Base standards that were established for this portion of the Specific Plan area. That means that development is by right, with no opportunity to negotiate anything except for architectural details and adherence to the Specific Plan. At the Base level, there is no requirement for public benefit. The area of the Stanford parcels was granted higher development rights at the Base and Public Benefit Bonus levels than all other parts of the Specific Plan area.

It's also my understanding that unless the Planning Commission's Architectural Control approval is appealed, the Council would not be voting at all on this proposed project.

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