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Menlo Park: City already reaching downtown development limits

Original post made on Dec 29, 2017

It took five years for Menlo Park to come up with the plan to rezone downtown -- about as long as it has taken a stream of development proposals to nearly eat up the bulk of the growth allowed under that plan, according to city staff.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 29, 2017, 11:40 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by Judy Horst
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 29, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Unfortunately there seems to have been little or no planning for handling traffic in the El Camino Plan, or if there is some planning, it's not evident. Traffic is awful now, and will only get worse. The "approved" expansion in Menlo Park has spilled over into current traffic problems for the Willows, Menlo Oaks and other areas. Willow, Santa Cruz, Marsh Road, Bay Road and El Camino are already parking lots during commute hours, and it's tough to get into and out of Menlo Park from surrounding communities most times of the day. What's the plan to change Menlo Park and surrounding areas into more safe, inhabitable, enjoyable communities to live in?

Posted by neenee
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Dec 29, 2017 at 2:48 pm

neenee is a registered user.

There isn’t a plan Judy - just like what happened to Redwood City - unbridled growth with little thought for traffic patterns or parking -
It’s sad to see little Menlo Park - which was always so charming - turn into a gridlocked town - but that’s what’s gong to happen to the whole area
Greedy developers!

Posted by what is the mix of growth?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 29, 2017 at 3:45 pm

The El Camino/Downtown Plan forecast a mix of retail, housing, offices, hotel rooms. Maybe the city staff could explain what mix has been approved? If I remember correctly, the Plan would hurt the City's finances unless all the projected hotel rooms forecast and sales tax from the projected retail. We deserve a recird of accountability about what the Council has approved.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 29, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Neenee, I agree completely. Recently, I saw that yet another enormous big block development had been approved for downtown RWC, and my heart sank. That BOX store casts a huge shadow, and the new building will do just the same.

It seems that nobody can learn from the past. Menlo Park, what are you thinking?

Posted by whocares
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 30, 2017 at 7:53 am

The fact that Menlo Park would rapidly approach its development cap was pointed out during the Measure M debate. Pro-growth folks just said why not reap all of the benefits now?
Now Menlo Park City Planners are already reporting to City Council on how to exceed the cap and continue the growth ad infinitum.

Web Link

Their only concern presented is that it might take at least a year to amend the DSP and growth might stall during that period.

Heaven forbid.

Posted by ANN
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 30, 2017 at 9:37 am

All I can say is MP voters need to WATCH the council agendas for discussions on changes and exceptions to the plan. That's what made what happened in RWC even worse.
And, oh yeah, if the Almanac could keep an eye out for those discussions and announce them that would be great.

Posted by district elections
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 30, 2017 at 6:32 pm

@ANN writes, "MP voters need to WATCH the council agendas..."

Now that the city has been forced to move to district elections, only one or two council members will serve voters that care about any of the comments raised here.

Years of community outreach went into the DSP as a result of the Derry project referendum. What we have now is what the community wanted. This is a similar situation to Bohannon's Menlo Gateway project which won in a landslide, there was also a landslide defeat of 2014's Measure M.

Without the voters getting involved, previous councils have buckled to the detriment of the broader community. Look no further than the long dead Derry project, which was much smaller that what we have now, sound familiar?

"Mr. Brown said former councilmen Paul Collacchi and Jack Morris, former planning commissioner Patti Fry, and resident Elias Blawie helped him negotiate the new project with the developer."
Menlo Park's Derry condo project: Agreement at last — June 6, 2007 Web Link

Posted by Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 31, 2017 at 10:57 am

Geez I hope the next set of city officials approve high rises!!! We could be the next big thing!
Bigger is not always better- that’s what I told my second wife!

Posted by Frog in hot water
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 1, 2018 at 11:57 am

Builders want to build. Planners want to plan. Developers want to develop. It all makes for big portfolios and climbing career ladders.

Posted by What is the mix
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 2, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Who says that residents wanted what is beong built? They were sold on housing, stores, hotels and some offices not mega office buildings, loss of stores, and not enough hotel rooms to produce the revenue needed to cover costs that increased with development. They were sold on public amenities that still have no funding established. They were sold on traffic minimized by few new commuters above those new residents in the approved housing units. Wrong.
Dont blame well-suppoerted referendum about a single project for the mess. Look to this council for closing thier eyes to massive new traffic from massive new development with thousands new commuters.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 3, 2018 at 12:57 pm

I attended some of the DSP community outreach meetings and, as I recall, part of the need for the plan was to accommodate the population growth we were already experiencing as a result of job growth in the first decade of the century. ABAG projections showed 30% population growth in the greater Bay Area by 2040 and to try to intelligently plan for this growth, ABAG called on "local jurisdictions adopt a set of policies consistent with the vision of Plan Bay Area".
In already built-out communities like Menlo Park, adding 30% to our population means adding roughly another 10,000 people, if we're to take our fair share. Obviously, this can't be done if we limit housing to one- or two-story homes on a quarter acre - the land is simply not there for such traditional development. Instead, the DSP called for higher density housing to be concentrated along transportation corridors and near employment where possible. In my opinion the plan does an admirable job of this with the 4- and 5-story developments planned and currently underway along the El Camino and on Santa Cruz Avenue, all within walking distance of the Caltrain station and county bus lines.
The impacts on traffic could be grim, though I haven't really experienced much myself and I've been living & driving in Menlo Park for over 30 years, the last two including time as a Lyft driver. Hopefully self driving cars will be here soon that will allow traffic to flow faster and smoother, with better coordination of red-lights within the city limits and between Palo Alto and Atherton. Or, better yet, faster, more frequent and more used Caltrain and bus service.

Posted by what is the mix
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 4, 2018 at 10:19 am

Steve - "the DSP called for higher density housing to be concentrated along transportation corridors and near employment where possible"

So why did developers choose to build offices (nearly all of the 92% of commercial growth limit), not housing (only 72% of the growth limit)? It is because the DSP merely ALLOWED dense housing but the council did not REQUIRE commensurate housing growth relative to the office growth.

Pray tell where the remaining 188 housing units would be built now that the big players with the big properties have their projects underway. The large former Roger Reynolds site will only contain 26 units.

Posted by Mikala Kramer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 5, 2018 at 10:00 am

"what is the mix" is [Portion removed; be respectful of other posters] a classic BANANA* move to criticize whichever land use is hot at any moment and pretend you're doing that because you support a use that's not quite as popular. Then when markets change, repeat ad infinitum!

If housing was at 92% right now, we'd be seeing the same people rending their clothes about school impacts, not enough commercial tax revenue, and (my favorite) existing residents' home value appreciation possibly not being as stratospheric since there's more housing supply.

It never stops!


Posted by what is the mix
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 5, 2018 at 10:20 am

@ MK - you are making unfounded accusations. The school impacts were identified in the DSP, so no one should complain now about building up to the housing limit of the DSP. I won't complain about that.
"Popularity" with whom? Developers? Residents?
I am concerned about the mix because offices do not provide tax revenue like shops or hotels do, or support local residents the way shops do. Some are not. It would help to understand what the mix actually is. Reporter? City staff?

Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 5, 2018 at 12:28 pm

What we are overlooking is that Menlo Parkbis not an Island but just one of many cities on the Peninsula. We may choose to stay small but that will not happen if our neighboring cities decide to grow. It is really difficult to limit growth. If Menlo Park doesn’t want a development it will no doubt just be built in RC or PA, either way the traffic and resulting congestion will affect MP. We need to plan for massive growth because it is happening, if not in Menlo Park then just across the city limits in neighboring cities. When will we get smart and do more cooperative planning with our neighbors.

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