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Timeline for New Guild project

From: domainremoved <Skip>
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 03:35:06 -0800

Dear City Council Members:

First of all, THANK YOU for making the New Guild project one of your top 5
priorities for 2018. I know that was a big deal to put a project like this
to the front of the line, and I agree with you that this project is unique
and deserves special consideration and focus for our City. However, based
on the outcome of the study session last Tuesday, despite unanimous and
overflowing support for the project, I am concerned about the timeline for
approving this project, and I fear that one of your Top 5 priorities may be
at risk of evaporating as a result.

It was clear from the City Council study session last Tuesday that the
Council is in agreement on the following:


   the New Guild project is really great and something that would be a boon
   to downtown Menlo Park, to other downtown businesses, and for our residents

   the FAR variance required to build the basement has unanimous support,
   it enhances the project significantly without increasing the people
   using the facility or creating additional traffic, and that this
   variance should be granted for this project

   the FAR allowance in the current DSP is not sufficient to encourage
   projects like this and requires review and potential expansion in the
   upcoming DSP review.

My concern is that this last bullet, while well-intentioned, was tied to
the Guild project in such a way that the timelines for approval are likely
to elongate, putting the entire project at risk.

As I understand it, Council gave staff the following direction to evaluate
3 options:

1. Approving the new Guild project as is under the current DSP

2. Approving the new Guild subject to expanding the FAR allowance in the
DSP for a small section of the downtown corridor that includes the Guild

3. Approving the new Guild subject to expanding the FAR allowance in the
DSP for the entire downtown plan area.

Since both #2 and #3 make changes the DSP, either one may trigger a CEQA
review that will add months to the process. If this happens, the Peninsula
Arts Guild (PAG) will abandon the project in Menlo Park. In fact, I have
heard that just the potential for the delay that these 2 options could pose
is forcing the PAG to restart discussions with owners of alternative
locations in case the timeline is elongated. Worse yet, by tying the New
Guild to required changes in the DSP, this could unintentionally ignite
opposition to the project from factions in the city that actually support
the New Guild as proposed, but do not support making wholesale changes to
DSP for some unknown projects in the future. Finally, asking the PAG to
pay thousands more dollars for consultants to evaluate changing the DSP in
order to approve their project seems like an overreach, and is reminiscent
of the old (bad) Menlo Park that was unfriendly to any type of development.

The sponsors of the PAG stated that they only have an option to purchase
the Guild property through June, 2018. I know from personal conversations
that If the PAG is unable to secure the Guild by this time they will
consider the other multiple offers they are receiving to build this
world-class performance space in some other location. If we lose this
game-changing project in our downtown area because of unnecessary time
delays, no matter how well-intentioned, it will be a HUGE loss for our city
and to all the other downtown businesses that will benefit from a magnet to
draw more patrons to our downtown core.

So here is my ask, as a humble resident of 25 years that desperately wants
to see this project built in our downtown corridor:


   Consider leaving any changes to the DSP to a separate effort AFTER the
   New Guild has been approved, and do not tie them to this project at this
   time. PAG has already propose a way to do this to City Staff.

   If the consultants believe that options #2 or #3 have any chance of
   triggering CEQA, please abandon these options and pursue option #1 to
   approve the New Guild project on its merits under existing DSP.

   Take EVERY MEASURE and make EVERY EFFORT to fast-track the approval
   processes for this project so that the applicant can exercise their option
   before it expires in June 2018.

This is a chance to make your mark as City Council members and
representatives of our residents to bring something TRULY GREAT to our
downtown that will impact our town for years to come. I will toast you all
when this project is completed, and I appreciate your diligence, focus and
support for this unique opportunity for our city.

Thank you for taking my views into consideration in a timely manner.


Skip Hilton
25 year resident of Menlo Park
Received on Mon Feb 19 2018 - 03:37:55 PST

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