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Suggestions for District 1 and Districts 2-5 Subcommittees -- alternatives to a temporary development moratorium.

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2019 18:20:14 -0700

Dear Council,

I’m writing with suggestions for Council to consider. I will copy the
Planning Commission as an FYI. This email is long and not one to read on
your phone. So I will also attach a PDF of this memo. However, email allows
me to add links. At your June 11 meeting, the public expressed grave
concerns about the cumulative negative impacts of new development, without
the corresponding infrastructure. District 1 residents suffer the most
severe impacts due to the City’s ConnectMenlo-related decisions to maximize
new development in District 1.

I applaud Council’s sincere desire to tackle these serious problems.
However, much work will be needed and I and other residents want to help.
The problems are so serious and so urgent that we cannot wait for lengthy
studies and/or Staff to have time to work on solutions. Plus, it’s
reasonable to ask if it would not be better to have a “fresh focus” via
resident-led working groups that research and propose solutions to specific
topics. Waiting to take action, especially in District 1, would perpetuate
what has become a toxic *status quo* that appears to value the revenue
stream from development, and the interests of large property owners, over
the quality of life for residents.

*District 1-Subcommittee Proposed Ideas*

1. *Discuss and Pass a Resolution to maintain the current Office Space
development caps.* As I understand it, the caps are on the bonus-level
development options in the M-2 and downtown-specific plan. The bonus levels
can more than double the overall size of a project allowed under the
base-level only. This represents a significant financial windfall to the
property owners, even after paying for a bonus-level amenity. Already,
there are multiple projects in the pipeline that will exceed the
development caps. Yet these projects are moving forward without any
apparent plans to reduce the project size. This builds too much momentum,
making it difficult later to stop or adjust the project. It also suggests
that the developers believe that Council will increase development caps or
possibly amend the General Plan to allow the projects. Have private
assurances already been given?

2. *Add a Growth Management Element to the General Plan.* Although not
a state mandated General Plan element, a Growth Management Element would
mandate that growth and development be based upon the City’s ability to
provide an adequate circulation system. A Growth Management Element
establishes policies and standards for traffic levels of service and
performance standards for police, fire, emergency vehicles, sanitary
facilities, water, road infrastructure, etc. to ensure generally that
growth takes place in a manner that will ensure protection of the health,
safety and welfare of both existing and future residents.

Other cities facing similar challenges of rapid growth, without the
necessary infrastructure, have adopted a Growth Management Element. These
cities include: Loma Linda
<http://www.lomalinda-ca.gov/UserFiles/Servers/Server_7279443/File/Our%20City/General%20Plan/Chapter%202A%20-%20Growth%20Management%20Element.pdf>,
Pleasant Hill,
<https://www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/15018/FINAL-GP-Amendment-and-Land-Use-Map?bidId=>
El
Cerrito,
<https://el-cerrito.org/DocumentCenter/View/3952/Adopted-Growth-Management-Element---02-05-13?bidId=>
and Mission Viejo
<https://cityofmissionviejo.org/sites/default/files/Growth%20Management%20Element%202004%2C%20Converted.pdf>.
Contra CostaCounty
<https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/30914/Ch4-Growth-Management-Element?bidId=>
also requires a Growth Management Element.

Effective growth management would also establish parameters for
periodically monitoring the impacts that growth has on the community, and
also define the methods by which impacts are addressed.

3. *Conduct an Analysis of the General Plan’s Land Use andCirculation
Elements
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/15014/Land-Use-Element_adopted-112916_final_figures?bidId=>Goals,
Policies and Programs. *Determine if any statements need clarifying,
revising, updating or removing. Also review the adequacy of the measurement
and reporting system for each. A parallel task would be to determine if the
ConnectMenlo Guiding Principles (values statements) have actually become
embedded into the Goals, Policies and Programs. (See next suggestion).
Develop recommendations based on municipal best practices and MP’s current
situation.

4. *Elevate the Role of the Guiding Principles
<https://www.menlopark.org/faq.aspx?qid=287> to Guide Development in Menlo
Park.* The Guiding Principles represent the public’s most current
statement of Values. The public trusted the Guiding Principles, and
Council’s assurances that they would be followed. Unfortunately, they lack
shared definitions and metrics, and some statements are overly broad. It’s
time to clarify, as necessary, the statements and to add metrics and a
quarterly reporting system for each. Right now, the Guiding Principles are
more platitudes than value-statements that actually guide land-use
decisions in Menlo Park. The Guiding Principles need to be followed and
more clout in the form of a Council Resolution that would include Council’s
expectations for metrics and a quarterly reporting system.

5. *Conduct an Analysis of the General Plan’s zoning ordinances
<https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/MenloPark/html/MenloPark16/MenloPark16.html>.
*Some topics to consider: Is the zoning equitable across all parts of Menlo
Park? Where does the zoning need changing to increase housing, especially
affordable housing? Or where does it need changing to reduce “Ghost”
ownership by corporate interests? Should the bonus-level options be
rescinded or scaled back. Is the current bonus policy too generous towards
property owners at the expense of the public’s quality of life?

6. *Conduct an Analysis of the City of Menlo Park’s General Plan
compared to the criteria included in State law*. Also evaluate the degree
to which the Menlo Park General Plan complies with the State’sGuidelines
for General Plan <http://opr.ca.gov/planning/general-plan/>s. While the
Statute of limitations has more than passed for any legal challenges, the
review would be helpful in pinpointing opportunities to improve the current
General Plan.

7. *Conduct an Analysis of the City’s Public Noticing Policy for
Development Permit Applications Reviewed by the Planning Commission and/or
City Council <goog_17787429>*. I would add notices in Spanish (not just the
one sentence that I’m seeing in the *Daily Post *notices) for all
developments in District 1. As the *Daily Post *is not widely available in
District 1, also post notices in the *Almana*c. Also use the City’s
communication methods to post notices of EIRs. For example, the Belle Haven
newsletter could include EIR notices and these also could be posted on
social media, such as NextDoor. The City’s website could include a way to
sign up for EIR-related notices, via a link at the Notify Me, page.
Developers could also play a stronger role in the process as per Ann
Arbor’s Citizen Participation Ordinance
<https://www.a2gov.org/departments/planning/development-review/Documents/Submittal%20Requirements/CPO%20guide%20major.pdf>guide
for PUDs, Planned Projects, Rezonings & Major Site Plans. Menlo Park could
adopt a similar approach that puts more of the expectations, in specific
and measurable terms, on the developers.

The EIR-related notices (and staff reports) also sometimes use names for
the projects that the public may not recognize. Instead, the projects
should be described so as to alert the maximum number of residents about
the proposed development.

Also review the City’s website for opportunities*. *The Public Notices page
has a link to a Development Notices page that contains little information.
The Notice of Application Submittals sub link contained only one link to
one project. There are other opportunities.


*Districts 2-5-Subcommittee Led Proposed Ideas*

1. *Review the General Plan’s Bonus-Level Development Process. **First*,
 the current “value analysis” for considering bonus-level development is
very focused on the amount of revenue generated for the City from the grant
of a bonus-level development. This analysis needs to be expanded to
quantify ALL the benefits and liabilities from the proposed granting of a
Public Benefit Bonus.

*Second*, it is important *early in the EIR process* to determine the
economic value that the developer receives from the Public Benefit
Bonus. The Fiscal Impact Analysis should be conducted at the beginning
stage of the EIR process. Waiting until later in the cycle gives a project
too much momentum. As you likely know, the residents in District 1 are
mostly still waiting for amenities they thought they would get years ago.
There is too much wiggle-room” in this process. Developers need to be held
accountable and the EIR documents need to more explicitly protect the
residents’ interests.

*Third*, there needs to be an explicit consideration of the negative
cumulative impacts of the proposed development on the residents’ quality of
life.

*Fourth, *the economic value (in hard numbers) to the developer should then
be tangibly tied to a concrete public amenity selected via a public process
from a pre-determined list. The public amenity should represent a concrete
and tangible public benefit that will help to ameliorate the detriment
caused by the development. The public amenity should also be located near
the residents most impacted by a particular development. A cash payment to
the City, which is apparently commonly done, should not be allowed except
for very rare circumstances.

*Finally,* *a Public Benefit Bonus should only be granted when the total
value to the City minus the negative impact on the residents’ quality of
life is comparable to the economic benefit received by the developer.*

2. *Develop a well-defined outcome for public benefits/Community
Amenities. *The lack of a well-defined outcome was detailed in Staff Report
#15-063.
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/6941/SS1---Public-Benefit?bidId=>
A list of M-2-focused community amenities is included in the zoning
ordinances, but without price tags and a process. The R-MU Residential
<https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/MenloPark/html/MenloPark16/MenloPark1645.html#16.45.070>
zoning
includes information about amenities but without enough specifics.
Separately, I've also seen a list of District 1 desired amenities but this
should be readily available in a more public spot along with price tags and
a process. The recent notice of preparation of an EIR for a project at
162-164 Jefferson noted that the “project is proposing bonus-level
development, although the proposed community amenity has not yet been
identified.” Instead, the amenity should be agreed-upon *before* a major
development project has too much momentum.

3. *Review the City’s Development-related policies*. Only three are
postedas policies <https://www.menlopark.org/144/Planning-Division> at the
Planning Division site: 1) M-2 Implementation Policy, 2) Parking Reduction
Policy and 3) Public Noticing Policy. Are more policies needed to address
current problems?

4. *Expand the City’s General Plan Annual Report to the State on the
Status of our General Plan Implementation. *Currently, ours focused on
providing a Housing Element update.
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/18925/Housing-Element-Annual-Progress-Report---2017>
While
not required, a report that included an update across all adopted elements
would give Council more information for annual planning purposes. Please
see the example from the City of Escondido
<https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/PDFs/Planning/GPAnnualReport/GeneralPlanAnnualReport2018.pdf>
and the State’s guidelines.
<http://opr.ca.gov/docs/20190426-APR_Memo_Post.pdf>

5. *Conduct an Analysis of the ConnectMenlo EIR-Related Mitigation
Monitoring and Reporting Program Measures. *The program-level EIR was
detailed in Resolution 6356. Individual major developments also have EIRs
that likely also include mitigation measures. The status of these
mitigations needs more transparency and perhaps also accountability and
oversight. Conduct annual progress reviews *to ensure that all* required
mitigation measures are implemented and completed in a satisfactory manner
before and during project construction and operation. Require *Annual
reports* to update the public on the mitigation. Identify ways to increase
accountability, oversight and transparency, as needed.

The City could also start to report yearly “Mitigation” status via using
the yearly Annual Report on the Status of the General Plan required by the
State.

*6. **Discuss Staff Priorities Pertaining to Development vs.
Residents’ Quality of Life. *The excessive Development has delivered value
to property owners and the Staff Organization, but little (if any) value to
residents. For projects to be considered successful, all main parties must
see value. Increased development supports specific Staff positions and it
provides revenue to support the overall Staff Organization. The 2019 Budget
document states that “Personnel costs…represent 65 percent of total General
Fund expenditures and total $45.30 million for fiscal year 2019-20, up 11.6
percent when compared to the amended budget for fiscal year 2018-19” (32).
The management-level Staff may be spending more time with developers and
major property owners than residents, which creates an imbalance and an
opportunity for disproportionate influence. Openly discuss this topic
towards the broader goal of establishing a more transparent and
resident-focused culture in Menlo Park. The underway Community Development
Department Review might also identify possibly solutions.

*7. **Conduct an Analysis of the EIR process and outcomes to identify
ways both could improve to better balance the needs of residents with the
goals of Staff/developers. *Some initial ideas include posting a chart
with the key EIR milestone phases. Then label each EIR with where it is in
the EIR process. The EIR documents are daunting, so ways to simplify the
language and use more graphs and charts might help. It’s difficult to catch
any flawed premises and/or serious environmental concerns that have been
brushed over or dismissed. The process also seems too weighted to agree to
a development, despite serious environmental impacts. Then the tracking of
the EIR mitigations needs a more transparent process with accountability.
Many individuals and groups have taken considerable time to write
thoughtful feedback on an EIR, but their input does not seem to have been
taken into account. Instead, the revenue stream from new development seems
more important. Having more EIR “checkpoint” stages might help along with
resident-focused priorities for the Staff.

*Projects that Council Could Delegate to City Advisory
Committees/Commissions *

*1. **Conduct an Analysis of Corporate Ownership of Housing in Menlo
Park. *Determine the extent of “Ghost” properties and properties typically
rented out for short-term rentals*. *Based on the findings, propose
recommendations to Council that could include zoning changes. The Housing
Commission could be asked to lead this effort, resulting in a report to
Council.

2. *Implement Training on the new Environmental Justice General Plan
Requirements. *Senate Bill 1000 took effect in 2018. When the City
concurrently updates 2 or more elements of its General Plan, SB 1000
requirements start. The City could start with training sessions on the
bill’s requirements with a broad invitation list. The Environmental Quality
Commission, in conjunction with the Planning Commission, could lead this
effort.

3. *Establish an annual reporting process for Development
agreements/Term Sheets to increase transparency. *For each, include the
negotiated public benefit(s), in-lieu fees, proposed housing, on-going
yearly revenue streams and anything else that was a material aspect of the
agreement. Changes to the initial agreement also need a reporting process,
so the public is able to track any changes. Status reports for each major
one could be available via the City’s website. The Finance & Audit
Committee could be asked to conduct an analysis and then make
recommendations to Council.

4. *Review the City’s Annual Report
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/19001/20181204-Staff-Report-AB1600-reports-with-attachments>
on the status of the transportation impact, storm drainage, recreation
in-lieu, below market rate housing in-lieu, and building construction road
impact fees collected yearly. *Consider ways to improve current report
format so that it makes tracking the financials easier for the public. The
Finance & Audit Committee could be asked to review the report format and
make recommendations to Council.

5. *Review current business taxes to determine if these are adequate
and fair. *The FAC could be asked to conduct an analysis and to make
recommendations for Council to Consider.

6. *Ask the Planning Commission to discuss ways its role could evolve
to include a more proactive approach to planning. *

7. *Review the City’s Parks & Recreation-related public-private
partnerships. *Determine if each arrangement represent fair value to the
public. The Parks & Recreation Commission could review each and prepare a
report on the topic with recommendations to Council.

8. *Review the Benefits of Transitioning to a two-year budget
developed in the cycle of a five-year financial plan. *A two-year budget
process allows for a more stringent approach to analyzing data, tracking
trends, and potential problems, and calling for corrective budget action
much earlier. It would give more time for community engagement, and the
Finance staff more time for other financial-transparency-related projects.
The City of Irvine
<https://www.cityofirvine.org/news-media/news-article/irvine-transitions-two-year-budget>
recently transitioned to a two-year budget cycle, and Redwood City also
plans to do so too. The FAC could prepare a report on this topic with
recommendations to Council.

*General Ways to Reduce Costs to Reduce Need for Development Money*

1. *Conduct a Staff Organization size & efficiency review*. Several
have suggested that the Staff organization is large when compared with
other cities our size. An organizational review, by an outside
organizational consultant reporting directly to Council, would likely
generate recommendations that would allow for greater efficiencies. Over
time, the Staff Organization could then be reduced via attrition – not
layoffs. The ConnectMenlo zoning changes were explicitly designed to
maximize income coming from new development. Reducing the size of the Staff
organization would reduce the need for new development as an economic
stream to pay for staff salaries, benefits and pensions. The Development
Agreements also bring in cash that goes into funds that might be used to
pay for Capital Improvement Projects that Staff values, but that are not
necessarily valued by residents. Less development money flowing into/out of
Menlo Park would help to turn the City into more of a resident-focused
City.

2. *Pay down long-term debt and adopt a pay-as-you-go approach to
large Capital projects.* Ask residents what services they don’t want and
would like to cut for more ideas. Our long-term debt payments represent a
significant amount of money. We are also still paying for facilities
developed years ago.

Lynne Bramlett


Received on Fri Jul 05 2019 - 18:15:29 PDT

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