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Menlo Park council to weigh development moratorium this week

Original post made on Jun 6, 2019

Spurred by a proposal from two council members, the Menlo Park City Council will consider adopting a moratorium on new nonresidential development, as well as on large-scale housing development on the city's Bay side.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 5, 2019, 9:30 PM

Comments (41)

34 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 6, 2019 at 8:55 am

I applaud this move and thank council members Taylor and Nash for putting it forth, I hope it passes and that it includes projects like Willows Village. The very rapid expansion of office space in Menlo Park has had a large impact on the quality of life for many residents, especially those in Belle Haven and along the major traffic routes for commuters. I am happy to see these council members, and hopefully the whole council, put the wellbeing of the residents above those of the commercial developers.


11 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 6, 2019 at 9:13 am

Two years from now, well into a moratorium, traffic will still be worse. Unless there's a recession. This is a short-sighted small-town knee-jerk solution that needs visionary and aggressive action instead.

Maybe we should pull a 'Chris Christie' and close Willow Road for a week, just to see what happens?


17 people like this
Posted by Pot Meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 6, 2019 at 10:13 am

I hope the other three members of the City Council take this discussion seriously, and Drew Combs will be pivotal. History has shown time and again that unless there is direct effect on central or west Menlo, the City Council will basically shrug its shoulders and be like "oh well".


9 people like this
Posted by Jeremy Hoffman
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2019 at 1:32 pm

I commend Councilmember Nash for recognizing "Menlo Park’s jobs/housing imbalance seriously affects the quality of life for residents throughout the city."

Rents have skyrocketed. More than half of renters are rent-burdened. Mega-commutes and homelessness are rising. People are being displaced and communities are being disrupted.

By definition, the solution to a jobs-housing imbalance is encouraging housing growth and discouraging job growth.

So I see the logic behind a moratorium on new job centers, but I don't see the logic behind a moratorium on the kind of larger, more dense housing that could actually put a dent in the imbalance.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 6, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The more inclusive a moratorium is the more likely it is to withstand legal challenges.

The more selective a moratorium is the less likely it is to withstand legal challenges.


14 people like this
Posted by Just maybe?
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jun 6, 2019 at 5:39 pm

Jeremy, I wonder if the concern about dense housing developments on the east side of the city is more of a request to consider dense housing developments on the west side of the city. There is an city wide imbalance for both office and housing. We have asked the east side to absorb both kinds of growth. Stanford and Greenheart will add 400 apartments but that pales compared to what the east side has already absorbed and what is being proposed. Think in the thousands of units!

Had the former Council not approved so much office, we would not now be under the gun to build housing for the thousands of office workers that now work in these new buildings. Slowing down or taking a breather on office approvals will give the Council the time to sort out what's possible in the way of building more housing units on the west side of town. Also, the Menlo Park School District needs to join the discussion and identify sites for new schools for the children in the new housing developments.

This should be an interesting discussion. I'm relieved that Nash and Taylor have rung the bell.


9 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2019 at 8:43 pm

Increasing commercial development & residential density without improving the basic infrastructures has created the mess we have now. Horrible traffic, inadequate library, crowded schools, etc.
There is a huge injustice in increasing allowable housing density in R-1 zones. Lured by Chamber of Commerce blather, gentry mag promos, etc about the wonder of MP, some people came & bought homes in the last 5-10 years because they wanted to be in single family residential neighborhoods.

Changing the rules now to allow auxiliary residences in R-1 zones where the lot sizes vary up to maybe 1/4 acre, with no requirement for additional off-street parking undermines the concept of ""single family, residential use, mandated covered off-street parking" for a minimum # of cars. The extra noise & street parking, despite the no parking between 2-6 am rule, changes neighborhoods adversely. If I'd known a nearby neighbor would build in a basement apartment (with no permit) from me for a rental 20+ years ago & now an AirBnb, I wouldn't have bought my house.

Does this sound NIMBY? Maybe, but I relied on zoning regulations & expect zoning laws & ordinances to be upheld.until the immediately affected neighborhood votes for a change. I don't expect people who on the planning commission & city council, who live nowhere near me, to sit around & dream up ways to cram more people into a town which has the same 2 lanes each way on El Camino that were here in 1975. Santa Cruz flowed better with parallel parking & no corner or restaurant sidewalk bump-outs. Middle Av? Oak Grove? Valparaiso? The same except Valpo & Santa Cruz west of University eventually got bike lanes.

I completely support a moratorium.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 6, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Increasing commercial development & residential density without improving the basic infrastructures has created the mess we have now."

This was exactly why Ray Mueller was the sole dissenter to the massive M 1 rezoning.

Hopefully Nash, Taylor and Mueller will now redress this error.


2 people like this
Posted by GAIL
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2019 at 12:46 am

How Coincidental?

I was just suggesting this To the East Palo Alto Council on June 4th.

EPA is having the same exact issues next door.
A Developer has proposed in building 5, 8 Story Buildings, which would cause the presence of 5,000-8,000 more Cars into a Area less than 2.3 miles from Menlo Park's Proposed "Willow Village".

When asked of the Developer "How about the Traffic?" (paraphrasing) He stated
"We Build, you figure out the Traffic. You did figured out how not to be the Murder Capital of the USA. You can figure out the Traffic".

In Truth, I would rather See something closer to Menlo Park's "Willow Village" for that Area, rather than OFFICE Buildings.
I took our meeting to the EPA City Council and asked for a review.
Rezoning from Office Space and something that would be more conducive for the Citizens.
Something that would be better for a Higher Quality of Life!

Seeing this Menlo Park article. I feel vindicated that I was not just speaking out of turn, from my intuition.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Boomer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 7, 2019 at 9:48 am

This is GENIUS- a moratorium that allegedly is about improving the jobs/housing balance, but which blocks housing projects near jobs? We legacy homeowners get to feel like we're doing something positive, but really continue to benefit from the status quo! Bravo, Betsy and Cecilia- you are true "leaders".


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Boomer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 7, 2019 at 9:50 am

Also- hopefully no one reads the staff report (Web Link), which points out that the Nash/Taylor request would block a new Belle Haven library and the MidPen affordable housing project. Great work, you two!


4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 7, 2019 at 10:20 am

Is there something in the air since the Guild just played 'All is True', followed by 'Non-Fiction'? Any existential suggestions for the next movie?


8 people like this
Posted by West Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 7, 2019 at 2:12 pm

@GAIL
Agree. It is the job of developers to develop, businesses to build businesses and employ people, and cities to provide infrastructure for the businesses and residential housing they give permission to be developed in their cities. Places like Menlo Park and Palo Alto get to be the way they are because of short-sighted or incompetent city councils which let development get to be imbalanced. Why? Maybe because of the greed for more easy business tax dollars or stroking of egos when they can claim to be the home of Facebook or Google, etc. Asking a business to provide housing for their employees is more or less a confession from City Council that the council has failed or is incompetent. Council: do your job. Get the jobs:housing mix in a balance that is supportable for your city.


9 people like this
Posted by densely
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jun 7, 2019 at 3:32 pm

There's nothing the least bit short-sighted about keeping the creation of jobs in line with the building of housing to provide places for the workers to live. When you start out with a housing deficit it makes sense to slow down job growth while housing catches up.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 7, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

At a minimum the Council should place a moratorium on granting Bonus FARs for any project that has not already been approved.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Dagwood is a registered user.

There are other means for slowing office growth. An EIR with any unmitigatable impacts must be judged to have overriding benefits which outweigh environmental costs. So the Planning Commission and / or CC can say that’s not so. Given traffic, it’s likely such impacts will occur for projects where an EIR is to be done.


4 people like this
Posted by Soylent Green
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2019 at 6:21 am

There is a plan for the future of Menlo Park that extends beyond expanding Facebook on one side of town. California Senate Bill 50 (Wiener -SF) and like bills still moving through the State Legislature would empower developers to build high-density housing to accommodate new employees virtually anywhere in Menlo Park and other Bsy Area cities. Out with the old and in with the new. There was a flick about this back in 1973. I forget the title.


7 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2019 at 9:07 am

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

A temporary moratorium would allow for time to analyze and evaluate the situation. The Nash/Taylor memo gives topic areas. I would include evaluating the ConnectMenlo General Plan update "Givens" and its "Guiding Principles." The Givens included that the "General Plan would comply with State Law." However, an outside legal review might determine that ConnectMenlo did not comply with California General Plan requirements as it was clearly focused on maximing development in a small area next to a residential community that started as a redlined community. Chapter 2 of the 2018 California General Plan Guidelines gives relevant background details. Web Link

The Guiding Principles also lack metrics. They have never been formally evaluated and the results reported to Council and the general public. Metrics can and should be retroactively developed, and the Principles measured to establish a current-day baseline. Web Link I've written Staff with suggestions as to how to retroactively approach this topic.

The ConnectMenlo-related ordinances were passed at two Council meetings: Nov 29, 2016 and Dec 6, 2016 Council meeting. At the Nov 29, 2016 meeting, Councilmember Mueller was the only dissenting voice. Web Link the Dec 6, 2016 meeting both Councilmembers Cline and Mueller were absent. Web Link subject was also put on the Consent Calendar.


2 people like this
Posted by George Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2019 at 9:57 am

George Fisher is a registered user.

Dagwood, you state;
“There are other means for slowing office growth. An EIR with any unmitigable impacts must be judged to have overriding benefits which outweigh environmental costs.”

Unfortunately, claimed overriding benefits of development have consistently been judged by CC to override impacts found in Specific Plan, General Plan and project EIR’s to be Significant and Unavoidable even after mitigation. For Example El Camino Specific plan specific plan EIR found that its development impacts outweighed Impacts, including

“4.13-53
. . . impacts below, even after mitigation are considered significant and unavoidable

5. Oak Grove Avenue - Middlefield Road to Laurel Street
6. Oak Grove Avenue - Laurel Street to El Camino Real
7. Oak Grove Avenue - El Camino Real to Crane Street
13. Santa Cruz Avenue - Avy/Orange to Alameda de las Pulgas
14. Menlo Avenue - El Camino to Crane
16. Ravenswood Avenue - Middlefield Road to Laurel Street
17. Ravenswood Avenue - Laurel Street to Alma Street
18. Ravenswood Avenue - Alma Street to El Camino Real
28. Middlefield Road - Ringwood Avenue to Willow Road”

A moratorium would allow time for staff to gather all the Significant and Unavoidable impacts, even after mitigation, which have been previously been accepted by Planning commission and CC in the various Specific and General Plans, as well as specific projects. Those impacts must be considered.


1 person likes this
Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Wait, how does a moratorium on development including "large-scale housing development on the city's Bay side" help address the jobs/housing imbalance? One poster mentioned the MidPen affordable housing project would also be impacted.


Like this comment
Posted by 2-2-0
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 8, 2019 at 10:33 pm

Meet Kettle, unfortunately Drew Combs may need to recuse himself as his employer is the largest developer in Menlo Park.


2 people like this
Posted by The vote
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 8, 2019 at 11:03 pm

Word is Combs can vote and moratorium needs 4 votes.


Like this comment
Posted by 2-2-0
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 9, 2019 at 12:33 am

Combs told the Daily Post that he is UNABLE to vote. He won't be able to attend the meetings.

"Combs said he’s unsure what role he will play in the discussion because, as a Facebook employee, he is unable to vote on matters related to that company." (Web Link)


2 people like this
Posted by The Vote
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2019 at 6:05 am

@2-2 being uncertain isn’t saying he can’t vote. That article is a few days old now. Word on the street is he can vote. Also that a moratorium requires four votes.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2019 at 7:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Combs would not need to recuse himself from a vote on a city wide moratorium.

He would probably need to recuse himself on a vote on a District 1 moratorium.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2019 at 12:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Look at the Roger Reynolds development (133 Encina) as the best example of what residential development in the ECR-NE Low Density zone would look like.

"Project description Hunter Properties has entitled a project to construct 24 new residential units and associated site improvements at 133 Encinal Avenue. The project site is a 1.74-acre parcel that is part of the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan."

The Sagar property at 1703 ECR is1/2 the size of the 133 Encinal project (36,410 sq ft or 0.8358578 acres) and would support fewer units.

"Sagar Patel is proposing to demolish the existing 28-room hotel (Red Cottage Inn) and construct a new 70-room hotel (Hampton Inn) at 1704 El Camino Real, in the SP-ECR/D (El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan) zoning district. The development would consist of a basement parking level and three stories above ground. The proposed development would be at the Public Benefit Bonus level, which would exceed the Base level floor area ratio (FAR) on the subject site. The public benefit bonus proposal includes the contribution of transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenues to the City on an ongoing basis."

Sagar has said that he will build single family housing if he doesn’t get the OK for the hotel.

Personally I would much prefer to see 12 residences on the 1704 ECR site rather than this massive hotel.

We need more housing much more than we need more hotel rooms - and other than a cash bribe to the City there is NO public benefit from the massive new hotel being proposed on this very small lot.


5 people like this
Posted by see the staff report
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2019 at 4:41 pm

The City has posted an 8 page staff report on the moratorium issue:

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 9, 2019 at 6:22 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

The ConnectMenlo General Plan and M-2 zoning changes focused on maximizing development in a 562-acre area out of the City’s overall size of 17.39 square miles. That’s 5% out of the total. Please see 34 in the Existing Conditions Report for the source. Web Link=

The City already considered the M-2 area its financial breadbasket, but the revenue stream was drying up (for various reasons). As the August 27, 2013 Staff Report #13-150 explains on page 2, "The Council has identified the need for the City to focus on the M-2 (General Industrial Zoning District) to explore opportunities to ...increase revenue potential. The M-2 area...has historically been a strong source of revenue for the City and provides an opportunity for continued revenue if planned for appropriately." Web Link= After briefly explaining the problem with trying to maximize development in the area on a case-by-case basis, the report continues, "Therefore, updating the General Plan provides the appropriate venue to deal with this "change area" of the City in a comprehensive rather than project-by-project basis and achieve efficiencies in the review process.”

The ConnectMenlo Guiding Principles must have been reassuring to the Belle Haven residents. They stood like promises from their local government to the people. Unfortunately, they lack metrics and have yet to been measured and enforced.

It's time to half development in the M-2 area until the local government’s promises to the people of Belle Haven (aka ConnectMenlo Guiding Principles) have metrics, are measured, and enforced.


3 people like this
Posted by High-rise Atherton
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2019 at 6:35 pm

I can hardly wait for high-density housing to be imposed on Atherton thanks to Menlo Park's importing so many new high tech workers. YOYBY. Yes Over Your Back Yard!


15 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2019 at 6:43 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"high-density housing to be imposed on Atherton "

Atherton wants weekday CalTrain service restored so why not locate high density housing at the Atherton train station.

Just think of all of those domestic workers who serve Atherton residents who could reside right there!

And all of those Atherton residents who could abandon their cars for their commute to SF.


2 people like this
Posted by Subcommittee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 10, 2019 at 4:05 pm

Peter, Ray Mueller was on the subcommittee that created ConnectMenlo. If that rezoning was in error, Ray Mueller should have worked harder to produce something to vote for after the city spent over $100 thousand dollars on that whole process.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 10, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Ray Mueller was on the subcommittee that created ConnectMenlo."

Correct but that in no way means that Mueller endorsed the massive rezoning as was evidenced by his vote against adopting that zoning.


12 people like this
Posted by Liza
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 10, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Ray Mueller not only voted against the General Plan, he wrote an editorial before the vote saying the City Council shouldn't pass the General Plan yet because the transportation issues weren't fixed in the plan. The rest of the City Council ignored him.

Everyone would agree today he was 100% right. Now look at this mess.


2 people like this
Posted by Subcommittee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

Liza states, "Everyone would agree today [Mueller] was 100% right."

I don't agree that is was a mistake for council to support giving Belle Haven residents the amenities that were demanding. I believe that residents of Belle Haven should get amenities in return for future development. We should respect long time Belle Haven residents like Harry Bims (a former planning commissioner) who asked council to support ConnectMenlo. If you go back and watch the meeting, you will see that many Belle Haven residents asked council to move forward with ConnectMenlo.

It is revisionist history to suggest that Belle Haven residents didn't want ConnectMenlo.


6 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 11, 2019 at 10:10 am

So much rhetoric here. For example on the matter of Combs recusing himself, I believe that is determined by the City Attorney and not by the people on this discussion. Let's see what McClure has to say about the matter, shall we.

I believe that the Eastern part of Menlo Park has borne the brunt of the massive office development in the past decade, they have also had to bear the brunt of all the massive housing developments and the addition of low cost housing. This has resulted in massive additions of traffic and impacts on Quality of Life that the west side of Menlo Park has had the ability ignore for the most part. Until you are stuck in traffic for 30-45 minutes just to get home you don't really know how bad it has gotten.

I hope they pass the moratorium if only to give the council and planning commission time to come to grips with the impact of all the development that has already been improved and to allow for a plan to address the problems that it has created and mitigate the problems of future office space.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 11, 2019 at 10:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"on the matter of Combs recusing himself, I believe that is determined by the City Attorney and not by the people on this discussion."

This determination can only be made by the FPPC. The City Attorney may offer an opinion on the matter but that is not determinative.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 11, 2019 at 10:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The problem is that any moratorium is a blunt instrument that needs to be crafted carefully to avoid both legal challenges and undesirable outcomes. Inevitably a defensible moratorium will stop some projects that many people wish to see proceed - that cannot be remedied without endangering the rest of the moratorium.

For example some projects in the pipeline cannot be excluded from a moratorium if other projects in the pipeline are included. Successfully moratoriums usual pick a well defined cut off point such as the issuance of a building permit.
Even approval by the Planning Commission is not a defendable endpoint since PC approved projects are both subject to appeal and, in the cases involving a Public Benefit Bonus, require Council approval.


Like this comment
Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 11, 2019 at 10:55 am

@ Brian and others

Combs has been cleared by the FPPC to vote

He could abstain in any vote, which would be the same as a no vote. Whether he votes or not, passing a moratorium(s), requires 4 yest votes.


4 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 11, 2019 at 11:04 am

I call BS.

"The proposed development would be at the Public Benefit Bonus level, which would exceed the Base level floor area ratio (FAR) on the subject site. The public benefit bonus proposal includes the contribution of transient occupancy tax (TOT) revenues to the City on an ongoing basis."

This is a misinterpretation of public benefit. The public benefit should be over and above what is required by statute.

The Transit Occupancy Tax TOT is mandated, and not a unique, exceptional benefit.

Staff and council and maybe the PC fell down.



5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 11, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dear Council,
Whatever the adverse impacts are of the current General Plan and zoning ordinances those impacts are dramatically increased when a Public Benefit Bonus is granted.

It is also not at all clear under the existing procedures that the reputed “Public Benefits” are in fact beneficial to the public. For example, the granting of a PBB for the payment of otherwise legally required Hotel Occupancy Taxes makes no logical sense and is in fact a Blight Tax imposed on the surrounding properties who bear the impact of the PBB but who receive no value from that so-called public benefit.

Moratoriums that can withstand legal challenges and are also effective without having unwanted impacts are difficult to craft however placing a moratorium on the granting of Public Benefit Bonuses is explicit, discreet and well defined.

Please place a moratorium on the granting of Public Benefit Bonuses


Like this comment
Posted by Subcommittee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 11, 2019 at 8:47 pm

@looking_on, please include a link to the letter from the FPPC confirming that Combs has been cleared to vote on this specific moratorium affecting District 1, where Facebook has proposed the largest development in the history of Menlo Park.


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