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Menlo Park council leaning toward cutting housing in District 1 and zoning USGS property for a school

Original post made on Dec 10, 2021

Property owners in Menlo Park's former industrial area near the Bay and the federal government should take note: The Menlo Park City Council is considering some zoning changes that could seriously affect the values of those properties.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 10, 2021, 10:30 AM

Comments (10)

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 10, 2021 at 2:00 pm

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Another day, another situation where Drew Combs and Ray Mueller are surprised by council actions, while the other three steam ahead.

Guessing that Menlo Together wasn't surprised.

Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 10, 2021 at 2:17 pm

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Since I was quoted, I thought it important to explain the context of my comment: I do believe that it's both sensible and fair to consider balancing the allowable levels of residential density between downtown (where we have a transit hub and desire increased vibrancy) and the M2 (where we've had extraordinary recent commercial and residential growth).

It is important to recognize that the M2 abuts Belle Haven, affecting their traffic patterns, property values, etc., while being out of sight for the rest of the city. In any number of dimensions, residents of the Belle Haven neighborhood have had a radically divergent experience from the rest of the city of Menlo Park, including (in recent times) higher COVID rates, higher poverty rates, higher foreclosure rates, increased rent-burden, etc. Any policy that might further change Belle Haven deserves extra scrutiny, lest we exacerbate those divergent outcomes and experiences. Council should also consider correcting any historical choices that could improve the quality of life for current Belle Haven residents.

That said, I'm not sure that downzoning housing anywhere is the right choice for Menlo Park and I didn't hear a lot of enthusiasm for that idea from council last night. What I did hear was a willingness to study the idea and its ramifications, both because our last general plan update was wildly imbalanced AND out of respect for our District 1 council member and her constituents, who, as Mayor Combs mentioned, have made this request repeatedly. My personal concern is that downzoning market-rate housing in the M2 could further imbalance the jobs:housing ratio in the Bayfront area or accelerate the gentrification of the Belle Haven neighborhood. My hope is that any study session on the issue will go beyond what's legal and dig into these and other potential unintended consequences.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 10, 2021 at 5:38 pm

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Perhaps MP on the east side of 101 should cede from the rest of MP and merge with EPA to form a new city. Might make everyone happier.

Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 10, 2021 at 10:30 pm

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"Council should also consider correcting any historical choices that could improve the quality of life for current Belle Haven residents."

The historical choice that really started this was when the state had a choice to build 101 along the bay or build it straighter and cut through Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Following the bay would have cost $1 Million more (at least that is what I have been told) and so they took the cheaper route and divided the cities. Maybe we can get Caltrans to change the route of 101 to fix the poor historical choice. Since I think that will not happen what other changes are you suggesting?

Would Belle Haven be better off joining EPA? What would they gain and what would they lose?

Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2021 at 10:38 am

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Mayor Combs did an admirable job to manage the meeting to make sure that Council Member Taylor's request was heard. This is something that Taylor has raised in numerous meetings and so was not a surprise that it was raised as part of the Housing Element discussion. Even though at the end Combs voted against studying the option, he made clear that this had been a consistent request from Council Member Taylor, and kept the discussion alive long enough for a thoughtful discussion that will allow the Council to consider the discussion in the future.

Posted by Ronen
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 12, 2021 at 9:43 am

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Down zoning anywhere in the city (or state, for that matter) is a terrible idea. There is an immense shortage of housing and we need to build aggressively.

The USGS campus is a huge opportunity for building a mixed use development that would make the neighborhoods east of Middlefield more walkable. I hate to see that rare opportunity missed.

Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 12, 2021 at 12:14 pm

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We need another middle school in Menlo Park. Hillview is great but it is very far away from Belle Haven, the Willows, Suburban Park and many other Menlo Park neighborhoods. This makes it difficult for kids to get to school without taking a bus or having their parents drive them. A school closer to these neighborhoods is a good idea. If the number of students actually grows Hillview will burst at the seams. The push to add more housing in the future will add to that need. Given that it will likely take years to acquire the property, plan and build a new school it make sense to start that process now.

I guess another option for be for MPCSD to acquire the Willow School campus currently being leased to the International School and Kipp Charter School. The buildings are very old, built in the later 40's I believe. They would probably need to be torn down and replaces which would be quite expensive.

Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 14, 2021 at 10:20 am

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Watched the replay. To summarize:

Staff and consultants (doing their job, probably even more so than can be expected)

Certain council members appeared overly flustered. My opinion of this is that "they" wanted to have more say, more control, and be able to "go bigger" somehow. "once in a lifetime" talk again, ugg.

One could not even craft the motion she was so adamant on. Had consultants state it for her?

Well played by Combs and especially Mueller. Mueller understand that the council is basically 3 against 2 on many things. Downzoning 1 was not on the agenda.

As to the site report (if you ever go through it, you will see that most of the sites are parking lots) meaning, there is no more space to build here.

USGS site convo was interesting, and amazing to see a council member looking for the best interests of the community by recommending zoning for a school site as will be needed as there is no available land left.

Posted by local teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 14, 2021 at 12:53 pm

local teacher is a registered user.

Is anyone considering that we already have Menlo Atherton High School right near the USGS? Recall that pre-pandemic, neighbors in The Willows could not even get out of their driveways due to the traffic during different times of day. Adding a middle school (as enrollment declines at schools in the area) and putting it right in the heart of all of the congestion with only Middlefield and Ravenswood and Oak Grove seems like insanity. Facebook's campus will reopen one day, and this corridor will again be dangerously congested.

Posted by Iris
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 14, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Iris is a registered user.

District 1 development must be rebalanced. The City is just worsening the housing and jobs imbalance problems citywide if it doesn't put a halt to rampant office growth there. The whole city is being forced to add housing because the last city plan allows imbalanced growth in District 1.

Plans should be made to promote transportation services and community serving businesses instead of offices. However, as long as offices are allowed, that is what will be built, not what residential neighborhoods need.

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