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Council takes hard look at eastern Menlo Park plan

Original post made on Mar 27, 2019

Two years in, Menlo Park's plan to convert the city's former light-industrial and warehouse district into a high-density office, housing and biotech hub is hitting some snags.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 1:27 PM

Comments (9)

Posted by ineffective leadership
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:06 am

We agree with Mayor Mueller that this plan was lacking. The incompetent subcommittee members that oversaw the creation of this lacking plan should resign from office.


Posted by Blame it on the old Council
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 28, 2019 at 7:42 am

Many subcommittee members voiced opposition to the plan at the time the City Council took up the vote whether to pass it. They argued more work was needed. The Planning Commission didn't approve the General Plan either.

Still, the City Council passed the plan 4-1.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 28, 2019 at 11:42 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Councilman Drew Combs said he takes issue with the city calling the "ConnectMenlo" rezoning a "general plan update" because it applies only to one part of the city."

Combs is exactly correct and the city's subterfuge in using Connect Menlo as an "update" of its entire General Plan was illegal and should be challenged in court.


Posted by Dawn1234
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 28, 2019 at 12:48 pm

Dawn1234 is a registered user.

Hey Almanac--

I've brought this up before, but it seems it needs to be brought up again. Belle Haven is NOT eastern menlo park. Also its not east menlo park. I get why "people" use the term, but I expect more of a news organization. Belle Haven is actually the northernmost neighborhood in our fine city. If you must define it by compass, use that. It's also closest to the bay, so you could use geography. Please make this a permanent correction in your reporting. It is misleading and perpetuates old neighborhood stereotypes.


Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 28, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

The Belle Haven Community has requested a community-led master or neighborhood plan. Community leaders, stakeholders and small business owners should drive this process.

In contrast, the Connect Menlo process was staff-driven. The 15-member advisory committee included David Bohannon, a major conflict of interest. That amounted to putting a fox on a committee to redesign a hen house. I'd like to know what the courts might think of his presence on a process to increase high-density zoning that would materially benefit Bohannon's business. Maybe they would overturn the Connect Menlo zoning decisions.

I agree with Rachael Bickerstaff's online comments that "it's time for the City Council to take back control of how [MP] is run..." in clear reference to staff running Menlo Park.

I think that Staff has successfully been running MP for years, but I see hope in our new Council. My late neighbor and friend, Andy Cohen, also believed that Staff run MP. We need a new approach. However perhaps well-intended, something has gone terribly wrong in MP. The residents and small business owners seem to be the least important groups in town, while there is too much focus on serving the interests of developers and large companies.

A more holistic approach to planning, with measures and regular review, would help. Any advisory committee for such planning should be designed so that those who will be most impacted by decisions, are the ones driving the decisions.


Posted by Tech leaders need to engage on this.
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2019 at 10:02 am

Palo Alto has a similar problem. Even though PA has upzoned very large areas close to transit to include housing, the city is not getting the housing proposals in the numbers the city hoped they would with these changes. Why? Big tech is using nearly all available local developer capacity to build offices. They are using so much of local developer and development consultant resources there is little left to build housing.

Tech is not including much housing in their development proposals, but they have made office development so profitable, it is ridiculously difficult for cities to get housing built. The developers are simply NOT interested in building housing.

Tech companies say this is "not their problem to solve." Their employees need to let them know they are wrong about that. Tech companies are creating this problem. The need to play a role in solving it. Cities cannot solve it with the tools they have (zoning and code and impact fees) if the tech companies are using all of the development resources.

So...cities and citizens need to call on tech leaders to use their formidable leverage (development MONEY) to incent developers to build housing. How do they do this? I can think of lots of ways.

1). Incorporate housing in major tech projects/campus planning. Insist that these things be built simultaneously. Cities might explore some new zoning incentives that could push companies to cooperate.

2). Tech companies must acknowledge that government and market forces cannot solve this problem for you. They must find meaningful ways to let developers know that housing your employees is important to you. Ask developers how much housing they have built in proximity of your latest office project. Rank developers on their housing production performance. Use those rankings as you award office projects.

Tech is creating a gigantic mess that they seem to expect everyone else to solve for them. Their workers (and everyone else) are paying burdensome costs for housing because of the jobs /housing imbalance they are exacerbating. Tech leaders must own this problem and participate in solving it.

Or maybe consider moving parts of their businesses somewhere where their workers (including their lower paid admin and janitorial staffs) can be housed.


Posted by Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 29, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter is a registered user.

Hi Dawn1234,

Thanks for bringing this point up. I agree that it doesn't always make sense to call the Bay side of Menlo Park "eastern" or "east", geographically-speaking. On one hand, for better or worse, most people on the Peninsula use El Camino Real and U.S. 101 as their north-south axis, and we try to orient our readers to directions they understand. On the other, we want to avoid using charged and/or misleading language. I spoke with my editor and we agreed that the "Bay side" of Menlo Park is more geographically accurate, so we're going to aim to use that to describe that part of the city from here on out. But we're certainly open to other suggestions as well. You can reach me at [email protected]


Posted by BH resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 29, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Menlo Park needs a vision for itself--its history, architecture, and culture. The previous city council had zero vision and was totally reactive, and now we're stuck with all these plans that they approved. I have hope that the current leadership knows vision is vital or you'll have a city without a soul.
In addition, the residents of Belle Haven were completely misled by the previous city council and the litany of paid consultants. The amenities that were promised to Belle Haven residents never materialized and the city leadership should be ashamed of that legacy--and seek to make amends for it.


Posted by Dawn1234
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 3, 2019 at 6:45 pm

Dawn1234 is a registered user.

Thank you so much, Kate! That was great responsiveness to an issue that was first brought to my attention by Rose Bickerstaff and has made slow change since then. Seeing it in the Almanac was nice boost. Thank you for making the effort to be more accurate, while still being clear.


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