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Fwd: Review of the ECR/Downtown Specific Plan

From: domainremoved <Patti>
Date: Mon, 3 Aug 2015 12:53:46 -0700

Dear honorable mayor and city council -
Please find below some comments regarding the biennial review of the
ECR/Downtown Specific Plan.
The attachment to this note is an updated version, with references from the
prior 1300 El Camino Real project's EIR. These show that the prior
project's EIR assumed that the Derry Lane project was built and that the
car dealership was re-occupied. Thus, both of these must be netted against
the gross square footage and residential units for the project that was
approved at that time. The Table to the Planning Commission's 8/3/15 staff
report shows only the gross, not the net, of what was studied in either the
Specific Plan's EIR or the prior project's EIR.

The corrected square footage would take the Specific Plan's cumulative
approved and proposed non-residential square feet up to approximately 92%
of the Plan's Maximum Allowable Development, and reduce the residential
units to about 48% of the Plan's Maximum Allowable Development.

This information provides a more accurate backdrop for discussion of how
the Specific Plan is working, and for future discussions about the 1300 El
Camino Real project that will be coming forward very soon for discretionary

Patti Fry

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Patti L Fry <pattilfry_at_(domainremoved)
Date: Sun, Aug 2, 2015 at 8:55 PM
Subject: Review of the ECR/Downtown Specific Plan
To: "planning.commission_at_(domainremoved)

Dear Planning Commission,

The Menlo Park Planning Commissioners need more information to be provided
to you in order to determine whether the Plan is "working as intended".

*Important questions* to ask, and some additional information to seek:

   - Is the Plan improving the* jobs/housing balance*? A ratio of 1.56 new
   population to new jobs was expected, compared to the then-current ratio of
   1.78. Many in the community supported the Plan with the assumption that it
   would ease the housing crunch with more transit-oriented housing. Housing
   demand is at an all-time high right now.

*What is the ratio for the approved and pending projects? What is the
   city's current ratio? *
   - Is the Plan maintaining or improving a *balance of uses *to serve our
   community, according to the Vision and community process that created the
   Plan? The Plan was approved, based on an expectation that the benefits of
   the following development would outweigh the negative impacts: 91,800
   square feet ("SF") of retail, 240,820 square feet of commercial uses, 380
   hotel rooms (a total 474,000 square feet of non-residential development)
   and 680 residential units.

*What is the ratio for the approved and pending projects relative to each
   of the above? *
   - Has Menlo Park lost* retail *uses in the Specific Plan area? What is
   the amount of firmly committed net new retail? The 1300 El Camino Real
   project developer has not committed to providing retail. The Plan expected
   that net new retail would be about 20% of the total non-residential square
   feet. Palo Alto is considering severe development limits because of
   retail/restaurants that are being displaced by offices. Is Menlo Park
   developing office space at the expense of retail and new residential
   development that would support existing and new retail/restaurants.
   *What is the amount of net new retail and the retail percentage of total
   non-residential development for the approved and pending projects?*

This information is essential before moving forward with the review. With
answers to such questions, the Commission and Council can identify whether
it is necessary to modify the Plan to better encourage the desired mix of
development, and remedy any deterioration (e.g., lost retail). If these
decisions are left to market forces in this current office boom time,
retail opportunities will be shut out. Offices could consume more of the
developable space in the city.

*Revisions in the staff report *- none address community concerns regarding

   - *Open Space* - True, at-grade, open space is important to encourage
   ground level public plazas, gardens and walkways. Our community accepted
   taller buildings with the expectation that this would allow ground-level
   space that would separate and provide greater visual relief from the mass
   of adjacent structures. They accept the importance of private decks and
   balconies, but not to the exclusion of true open space.
   The Specific Plan should be modified to better encourage true open
   space, at grade level, in addition to balconies for upper level residential
   units. Example ways: establish maximum lot coverage (by structures or
   hardscape), minimum landscaping, and/or specify that a minimum of the
   required open space be at grade.

   - *Trigger for Public Benefit * - The threshold is too high. Major
   projects are likely over the next 20-30 years on both the Stanford and Big
   5 shopping center sites at the Base zoning level. At the Base level, the
   city has no ability to negotiate public benefits such as infrastructure
   improvement funding and support for bike/pedestrian passageways and
   undercrossing. Lowering the Public Benefit threshold would provide needed
   additional leverage to secure public improvements.

   - *Amount of Office *at public benefit level - The calculation for
   Office uses at the public benefit level needs to be corrected so it is not
   possible to create an all-office project at the Public Benefit size. Best
   would be to retain the Base level absolute limit to ensure that larger
   projects would be true mixed use. An alternative would be to limit office
   in a Public Benefit level project to a percentage of the project (e.g.,
   30%), again encouraging mixed use projects.

   - *Funding for Public Improvements* - The Specific Plan described
   alternatives for obtaining funds for public improvements. Here it is, 3
   years into the Plan, and there still is no defined plan for funding.
   Already, more than 86% of the commercial development is in the pipeline.
   The opportunity is slipping by extremely quickly.
   As Jeff Tumlin of Nelson Nygaard advised "development in Menlo Park
   should be a privilege, and pay its fair share."

*Additional comments* regarding information in the staff report:

   - *Public Benefit considerations* - the proposal by commissioners
   Kadvany and Onken is a creative way to help decisionmakers and applicants
   identify the ballpark of value expected at the Public Benefit development

   - *Transportation Demand Management* - it is good to include city goals
   and objectives. Equally, if not more, important is to include monitoring
   and enforcement mechanisms. Without measurable objectives and a tracking
   and enforcement mechanism,TDM can be a loophole for developers - putting
   residents at risk as they suffer the traffic. It is not enough, for
   example, for a building to have bike racks and showers if the expected
   reduction in traffic does not result. Furthermore, TDM programs need
   ongoing monitoring and enforcement to ensure compliance.

   - *Variances/Maximum Setbacks* - rather than modify what constitutes a
   variance, which could end up resulting in unintended consequences, just
   remove the maximums for setbacks, especially on the sides.

   - *Net New Development* in Table of Projects July 2015 - The net new
   residential units and non-residential square feet for the 1300 El Camino
   Real project is not consistent with past information about net development
   provided in the Specific Plan's EIR or in the prior 1300 El Camino Real
   project's EIR. This causes the Table to overstate substantially that
   project's net new residential units (by 108 units) and substantially
   understate the net new non-residential square feet (by nearly 29,000 SF).
   See attached for more detail.

Thank you for your consideration.
Patti Fry
former Menlo Park Planning Commissioner

Received on Tue Aug 04 2015 - 12:07:54 PDT

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