News: Save Menlo Seeks Signatures to “Keep Menlo Park Walkable and Liveable”
A development the size of three Costcos could replace the empty car dealerships on 300-550 El Camino Real if the Menlo Park El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan goes through unchecked. Save Menlo Park, a group of Menlo Park residents hoping to amend the plan, contends that the proposed offices, housing, and retail will significantly increase traffic and adversely affect the area.
With Stanford and Greenheart Land Company planning major, separate projects near Middle Ave and Oak Grove, Save Menlo’s initiative aims to encourage “the original public vision for the El Camino Real/Downtown area, which was developed through a 6 year community engagement process” and to “emphasize mixed-use development at a human scale and neighborhood retail, while protecting residents from harmful effects of excessive development.”
Each of the projects would fill up around seven to eight acres of land with mixed-use housing, office, and retail space. Save Menlo’s petition limits office space to “no more than 100,000 square feet per individual proposed project, or 240,820 feet in total” and requires voter approval “to allow all combined new non-residential development in the Specific Plan area to exceed 470,000 square feet.”
Mike Lanza, one of the residents behind Save Menlo, explains that “the main part of the initiative is taking numbers from the plan and making them hard numbers that the city council can’t legislate around.” The limit of 240,082 square feet comes from building restrictions in the Specific Plan, which is for a 20- to 30- year time frame. Since Stanford and Greenheart each plan to construct around 200,000 square feet of office space, “they’re about to exceed that 30-year number in 2 years.” Restricting each individual project to 100,000 square feet of office space also leaves room for developers besides Stanford and Greenheart.
Mr. Lanza adds that office and retail generate about the same amount of traffic. However, while retail at least provides residents with services like shops and restaurants, offices offer little benefit.
“The city justified this development financially based on the assumption that there would be a hotel, which would bring in lots of sale taxes. Instead, we may not even get property tax revenues,” as taxpayers could end up subsidizing the public services used by Stanford’s offices since they may fall under “public benefits” requirements.
In order to validate the petition for approval by the city council or, if rejected, the November 4th ballot, Save Menlo needs 1,780 signatures from registered Menlo Park voters by mid-July. It anticipates hard work ahead as it tries to reach that number by the end of April. Menlo Park voters can sign the initiative on Sundays at the Menlo Park Farmer’s Market and Wednesdays at the food trucks by the CalTrain station.