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Joint SaveMenlo / Sierra Club Revisions Proposal for the Downtown / El Camino Real Specific Plan

From: domainremoved <Stefan>
Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2013 08:53:38 -0700

TO: Menlo Park Planning Commission, City of Menlo Park, via e-mail

RE: Revision of the Downtown / El Camino Real Specific Plan

 September 20, 2013

Dear Members of the Planning Commission

Based on the lessons learned from the 500 El Camino Real proposal, we would
like to suggest the following package of changes to the Specific Plan. We
believe that the majority of residents who have expressed concerns, as well
as SaveMenlo and the Sierra Club would all support this package of limited
changes to the Specific Plan. These changes are limited to the EL CAMINO
REAL and the STATION zoning areas (i.e. this excludes the Downtown area).

*1. Jobs-Housing Balance and Traffic Reduction: In order to achieve the
goal set by the Specific Plan of a 1.8 to 1 Jobs-Housing Balance, general
office shall not exceed 25% of the base FAR (i.e. any public benefit or
housing element bonus does not raise the allowable office space). Medical
and dental offices shall not exceed 10% of the base FAR and shall require a
use permit.** *

*Rationale*: The ratio of housing area to office area, in order to achieve
the desired jobs- housing ratio, needs to be approximately 3 to 1.
Transportation standards make clear that housing generates less traffic
than offices, with about 1/3 peak hours trips compared to office use.
Medical Office uses generate about six times the traffic that housing

We want to call attention here to the fact that, when the specific plan was
in the works, the Economic Study forecast that Housing would likely be the
preferred development because the market would not support Office.
 Therefore, there was an assumption that Housing would dominate
automatically. However the Office market has turned out to be extremely
strong and housing needs to be encouraged, in the Specific Plan area, in
order to meet Menlo Park’s acknowledged and painful shortage of housing

Transportation Demand Management: In order to achieve more effective and
accountable traffic reduction on El Camino, the Specific Plan should put in
place an ECR corridor-wide transportation-demand management (TDM) program
with trip caps, monitoring and reporting, and meaningful incentives and
penalties. The trip reduction programs would be more robust and effective
than any individual development can provide alone. This mobility management
could be organized by a nonprofit Transportation Management Association
(TMA) that would require new ECR developments, as well as enabling existing
businesses, to pool resources to provide benefits such as shuttles,
discount transit passes, carpool/vanpool, carshare and bike share.

*2. Building Height: ECR-SE maximum height to be reduced to 48' with no
increase for public benefit bonus; facade height to remain at 38'.*

*Rationale*: There are reasonable equity concerns from residential
neighbors about the 60’ heights for El Camino, in their neighborhood,
versus 38’ (or max 48’) height elsewhere along El Camino. East side
neighbors are also concerned about the extreme 60’ tall facades, without
setbacks or relief, facing their neighborhood.
In addition, residential use has a lower floor-to-floor dimension than
office space. Therefore, with residential use increased, the extreme 60’
height limit could be lowered.

*3. Infrastructure Fee: The Specific Plan to include a $/sf Development
Impact Infrastructure fee for all new developments, dedicated to the
Specific Plan area, to defray the costs of infrastructure needed to realize
the vision of a safe, pedestrian and bike-friendly, vibrant town center.*

*Rationale*: The costs for needed infrastructure in the Specific Plan area
are fixed costs, not discretionary public benefits. Therefore, it is not
possible to wait and hope for developers to go into the “public benefit”
zoning in order to achieve these. This would include costs for the
pedestrian-bike underpass at Middle Plaza, the street extension to the
train station at the Derry site and other infrastructure needed.
As an example, the 500 El Camino Real project proposal, which is 450,000sf
would generate $11.25 million in infrastructure fee, if the Development
Impact Fee were $25/sf. This would cover most of the costs of the train
underpass, a critical item of infrastructure in the Specific Plan in this
We note that the developer of the 395 Page Mill Road project in Palo Alto,
just offered $49 million as a public benefit for a police facility within
their complex. This is almost 25% of the cost of the total complex ($207
million) or, approximately $75/sf to be paid for public benefit.

*These three very reasonable enhancements to the Specific Plan are
interdependent to address the need for housing, improved traffic and new
infrastructure and they work together as a package.*

Please note that there are no changes suggested for the Downtown area.


In addition to the package of changes above, we also believe there are some
other issues that should be addressed.

   - *Open Space:* The definition of Open Space should revert back to mean
   shared or public open space on the ground rather than private balconies
   counting as Open Space. Any proposed deviation should be considered as a

*Rationale: *The definition of Open Space in the prior code (§30.249):
"Open space" means that portion of the building site open, unobstructed and
unoccupied* *from the ground upward; including walkways, landscaping,
uncovered patios and uncovered recreation facilities. In this definition,
private balconies or roof gardens do not qualify as open space.

   - *A transparent public benefit process* that includes a quantified
   comparison of public and private benefits. The granting of Public Benefit
   Bonus density/intensity should be subject to the making of findings, or at
   least subject to the explicit consideration of factors such as:

   - adherence to Specific Plan Vision Goals

   - contribution to city jobs/housing balance

   - balance of private/public benefit

   - comparison of project traffic to an all-housing project of similar

Once again, for clarification, we are not suggesting any changes to the
Downtown zoning district.

Thank you!

Respectfully submitted

Stefan Petry, Kevin Vincent-Sheehan, Perla Ni – SaveMenlo

George Fisher, Neighborhood resident

Adina Levin and Gita Dev – Sustainable Land Use Committee, Sierra Club Loma
Prieta Chapter

Received on Fri Sep 20 2013 - 08:54:45 PDT

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