News

Menlo Park: City officials, developers react to specific plan initiative

Mayor: Why not hold a public hearing to compare the initiative to the specific plan?

Response from city officials and developers to a potential ballot initiative on the Menlo Park downtown/El Camino Real specific plan ranged from lukewarm to "let's talk about it."

Jim Cogan, the city's economic development manager, said he's worried the initiative is a step backward. "My professional opinion is that it's a bad thing for Menlo Park. It will stifle investment in the downtown improvements and likely mean that the property owners will miss out on the financing necessary to redevelop the vacant car lots."

Save Menlo, a grassroots coalition organized to protest the specific plan once a large mixed-use development was proposed along El Camino Real, has until mid-July to collect the estimated 2,500 to 3,000 signatures needed to put its initiative on the ballot for the November election.

The initiative proposes changing the specific plan's definition of open space to mean only space at ground level, and not areas such as balconies; capping office space development at 100,000 square feet per project, or 240,820 square feet total; and requiring voter approval for any project that would exceed the cap or result in total non-residential development within the specific plan area exceeding 474,000 square feet.

The changes would cut by 50 percent the amount of office space allowed in two mixed-use development proposals already in the pipeline.

Stanford University and developer John Arrillaga want to build a complex on the mostly vacant car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real. The 8.4-acre project would involve 199,500 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, and up to 170 apartments.

Jean McCown, assistant vice president of government and community relations at Stanford, said the specific plan resulted from six years of thorough public outreach, and provides significant benefits for Menlo Park, including a way to revitalize El Camino Real.

"The initiative would not only change the plan's provisions, it would make it burdensome to adapt to desired changes to the area in the future by requiring a public vote to alter any of the initiative's requirements. I question whether this sort of restrictive initiative is the best way to plan for and respond to the future needs of the community," she said.

While the university is still evaluating the proposed changes, she said the revised open space definition is inconsistent with the definition used in the rest of Menlo Park as well as almost every other city in the Bay Area.

"If the initiative qualifies and goes on the ballot, the voters will decide whether these are wise policies," Ms. McCown said.

A second project, designed by Greenheart LLC, would put 210,000 square feet of office space, 210,000 square feet of apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail on the 7-acre site located at 1300 El Camino Real and Oak Grove Avenue.

Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller has an idea: Why not hold a public hearing to compare the initiative with the current specific plan?

"What I don't want to see happen is for this to devolve into a mailer and insult war. It could. Frankly, (disagreements over development projects have) in the past."

The city could hire an independent consultant, sooner rather than later, Mr. Mueller said, to analyze the initiative and then hold a hearing to allow the public as well as staff to comment. Since the specific plan was evaluated through a public process for years, the initiative should also be studied and debated in public prior to a city-wide vote.

"I feel like my job as mayor is to make the conversation as substantive and as cerebral as possible," he said. "I do think right now there's a genuine disagreement. I'm not critical of Save Menlo at all. Their concern is understandable."

"And on the other side, I think staff and council who have supported the plan have worked very hard in years of open public process and their position is understandable as well. I also understand the frustration (of developers) who have property rights. And we will try to resolve the issues the best that we can in the interests of the city's residents, in a manner that is both dignified and intelligent."

He said that personally, he thinks there are many benefits for the upcoming projects, particularly Greenheart's proposal, that he was excited about.

Projects already in the pipeline won't be put on hold until the initiative is decided, according to City Attorney Bill McClure, since there's no certainty that the measure will qualify for the ballot, let alone pass. If Save Menlo gathers enough signatures, he explained, the council can then either adopt the measure as an ordinance or put it on the ballot.

Still, the move introduces uncertainty on the part of developers worried about securing funding. Both the Stanford and Greenheart projects wouldn't break ground before November, leaving their proposals vulnerable to changes in the specific plan regulations.

Greenheart representatives weren't available by the Almanac's deadline to comment on the ballot initiative, but had previously said that small tweaks to the specific plan would add delays of six months to a year and a half.

The last two projects approved for the parcels Greenheart now owns ran out of time as the economy nosedived; the company doesn't want to see history repeat itself.

"That's our greatest fear," Greenheart principal Steve Pierce had told the Almanac. "We have a great market right now."

Comments

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This proposed initiative will do two things:
1 - It will demonstrate just how small, or large, a population Save Menlo really represents,
2 - It will, regardless of wether the initiative qualifies for the ballot or if it qualifies and fails,
postpone the very necessary and desirable implementation of the Downtown ECR Specific
Plan.

Menlo Park citizen really need to question how high a price should be paid to meet the demands of a disgruntled minority who are simply pursuing their own narrow self interests.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm

IF the SM initiative gathers enough signatures THEN the city should hold a public hearing to ensure that ALL citizens can easily understand what it would mean if it were implemented.

If they fail to demonstrate sufficient support a public hearing becomes unnecessary.


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Posted by Another View
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm

... "capping office space development at 100,000 square feet per project, or 240,820 square feet total" is misleading.

The phrase hould have been written "capping office space development at 100,000 square feet per project, and requiring the vote of Menlo Park residents to exceed the 240,820 square feet office space studied in the Specific Plan EIR.

The reason for wanting the Menlo Park residents to have a say after the 240,280 sq ft of office is reached is because the Specific Plan was to be the planning tool the city would use for the next 30 years and the consultant and city staff did not have the foresight to include in the EIR the entire 474,000 square feet projected in the Specific Plan.

If any single developer can only construct 100,000 square feet of office, the sizes of the first two developments would be more reasonable and appropriate for a town as small as Menlo Park and there's a bit left over for a third developer. The EIR studied 240,280 sq, ft. of office and Stanford stepped up to the trough and claimed they had plans for 199,000 sq. ft. of office. Oink Oink.

If the office space in the first two projects, as proposed exceed what was studied, how does the city know how these office complexes will impact traffic on El Camino Real, or fire district's budget, or the stress on our sewer system or sources of water? Note that without a hotel and its T.O.D. tax, these two projects are a greater drain on the city's budget than a benefit. We will get property tax on an increased basis due to the value of the buildings but the State takes the lion's share and the County takes its cut, leaving approximately 10% for the City.

Why not have a stop out after developers construct 240,280 square feet of office space. This is a big number and the first two proposals will concentrate their office on a main artery that is already congested. Wait until there are 8,000 more cars entering and leaving these buildings at rush hour and from less than 8 driveways.

Ms McCown in incorrect when she states that a public vote will be required to "alter any of the initiative's requirements." FACT: Only one of the three elements of the initiative require a vote if the city wants to exceed the amount of office that was studied in the Specific Plan EIR (240,280 square feet), which strangely is the exact amount of office Stanford initially proposed in 2012!

Mayor Mueller is a nice man but too late to the table. Our council, staff, consultant and legal advisors had 6 years to get the Specific Plan completed in a manner that would protect the residents from large office complexes that bring in no sales tax, create gridlock on the main street in our town and add dark buildings at night on a street where we should have theaters, restaurants, hotels and shops.

The time to hire a consultant and talk has come and gone. Last November was the council's last chance to make this Plan right and the council listened to developers instead.

Jim Cogan has not been reading the staff reports or the newspapers. Stanford University has owned its land since the beginning of time and a local fellow John Arrillaga is paying for the construction and giving the buildings to Stanford. Insofar as Steve Pierce's development company whose name is laughable, Greenheart. Really? The investors have the right to develop their property but not at the expense of a small town where residents pay hefty property taxes on their homes and expect to live on streets that remain residential and where their children are safe as they walk and bicycle to their neighborhood schools.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The investors have the right to develop their property but not at the expense of a small town"

"Small town" - I hope the proponents of this measure keep putting statements like that on the record. Menlo Park proudly grew beyond being a "Small Town" some time well back in the last century.

Add "Small Town" to "Demands" and "Suffer the Consequences" (as in ""Once the signatures are verified, the council can adopt the initiative's three demands or they can let it be on the ballot and suffer the consequences.") - these folks have quite a vocabulary.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From the Urban Dictionary:

"Small Town
Big City: 300,000+ people within city limits
City: 100,000-300,000 citizens within limits
Small City: 20,000-100,000 citizens within limits
Big Town: 7,000-20,000 citizens within limits
Town: 800-7,000 citizens within limits
Small Town: 200-800 citizens within limits
Village: 50-200 citizens within limits
Hamlet: Community with less than 50 members.

A small town generally is community possessing a post office and not much else.. Maybe a gas station or two. If you live within 10 minutes of a Wal-Mart, chances are you don't live in a small town. Also it should not be said that there is nothing to do if there is a Wal-Mart around, because there is a high probability that there is a theater or fast food restaurant around too."

Maybe that is why it is called the CITY of Menlo Park.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm

A huge office building complex will just create more weekday traffic in an already congested section of El Camino Real. On the weekends, the office buildings will be just as dead as the existing vacant lots.

The City Council and staff have chosen to ignore a variety of resident's concerns, so now they must belatedly react to the proposed initiative.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Mike:

the office buildings might be "just as dead as the existing vacant lots" on the weekend, but they'll be one hell of a lot more attractive. Unless, of course, you're someone that likes vacant lots. I don't. That part of El Camino looks like hell and has for a long time. I hope this thing doesn't get any traction as the long term consequences for Menlo Park are terrible.

Of course, Save Menlo doesn't seem to care about anything but their own self interest so, to them I say, enjoy the view if this thing actually gets passed.


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Posted by Funding
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 4, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Stanford worried about funding? That's a laugh. And Jean McCown needs to do her homework. No one else in Menlo Park -- or any other city that I know of -- is allowed to count private balconies and rooftops as open public space. Stanford's greed is bleeding through, and it's time for us to follow Palo Alto's example and push back.

No one wants the vacant lots, but high density overbuilding is not the only alternative, even if it is the most profitable course for this billionaire institution.

P.S. Traffic on El Camino during rush hour is already gridlocked to the city limits. Shouldn't we be thinking about improving this situation rather than exacerbating it?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Finally! Mayor Ray Mueller is brilliant, and I'm so glad he is finally able to participate in this process. We are counting on you Ray and know you won't let us down.


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Posted by Sam Sinnott
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm

The specific plan was developed through a very inclusive, democratic process. It is truly the will of the people.

The initiative backers believe their view, rather than that of the majority, is the correct one.

After failing to convince the people of Menlo Park that restricting development severely is our best future, they now hope to impose their minority view on the majority through the initiative process.

It is an expensive gamble that will divide the community.

Governing by initiative is extremely inefficient and subject to massive amounts of misinformation. The backers of this initiative are gambling that they can now convince the uninformed voters to check their box by whipping up anti development sentiment and fear.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 4, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The opponents to planned development have already had three opportunities for a hearing:
1 - The Draft EIR hearings
2 - the Draft Specific Plan and Final Specific Plan hearings
3 - the first post approval review of the adopted Specific Plan.

They will not stop until they bring the City to a halt.

Everyone should realize that the continued obstruction of the democratically approved Specific Plan has a very real cost to the community - and the cost is NOT being paid for by the opponents. Save Menlo is costing the community both in terms of delay and uncertainty and for the cost, if they get that far, of an election. Perhaps they will put up a bond to pay those costs when they loose.


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Posted by Susanne Chang
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I like the second plan more. The north side of El Camino is an eyesore! How long has it been that way? One suggestion I have for the condos/ apartments is to have windows facing El Camino and maybe a cut-through? Do not copy Southern Palo Alto! Those houses are ugly and were not planned right.


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Posted by Another View
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 4, 2014 at 6:55 pm

There were tons of hearings and meetings and council study sessions and the staff reports, written to please Stanford were rubber stamped by the council. The number of times the public could speak for 3 minutes has nothing to do with the fact that the Specific Plan was created by the consultant and staff and not in the public. But, no matter, I never heard a council member ever express appreciation for what was pointed out over and over which was that the Specific Plan gave developers an increase in Floor Area Ratios that were too generous and without any triggers for any negotiation for benefits to the Menlo Park residents. New buildings are not, in themselves, benefits to residents. Benefits are moderate buildings with green space around them, open plazas with sunlight and even an undercrossing of the railroad tracks (which would also benefit the tenants of the office complexes and the housing units).

So stop with the number of meetings. Meetings are just for show, especially when there are no elected council members who are listening. I doubt many of them read the Specific Plan.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 4, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Another view:

I suspect that had the plan clamped down on development you would not be saying that the meetings were "for show." I suspect you'd singing the planning commission's, staff's and council's praises wouldn't you? The fact is this was a long drawn out VERY transparent process. The fact that some people don't like the outcome doesn't negate the process or the outcome.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 4, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Nobody likes the vacant lots, but settling for bad development that provides little benefit to Menlo Park is even worse.

If the initiative makes it to the ballot, it's then time for the residents to decide if the Stanford Plan makes sense.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2014 at 9:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Projects that conform to the long debated and carefully reviewd Soecific Plan provide benefit to the City - that was the whole object of the planning process.

It clearly is not possible to satisfy the self interests if a small number of disgruntled residents who are simply trying to protect their narrow self interests. I suspect they will take this to the Supreme Court if they keep losing. In the meantime the rest if the City is placed on hold and good investments go elsewhere.


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Posted by Another View
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 5, 2014 at 9:28 am

Menlo Voter: Can you honestly say you attended even one Council meeting where you saw even one council member (except for Kelly fergusson) who disagreed with staff's presentation of what Stanford wanted? We can all sit at meetings but if our elected council members are not engaged, knowledgeable about the Specific Plan's contents and actually discussing the benefits and impacts of each element in the plan, our "participation" (watching Staff sell Stanford's desires) then the process is just nonsense.
When Stanford wanted to merge its parcels: no argument from council although this meant very little retail required.
When Stanford wanted to put cars in the plaza and make it a driveway, Council wasn't informed.
When Stanford wanted to delete easements in 2011 because their architect designed a curved building across an existing easement, Council passively said OK and got nothing in return. Yes, Stanford's architect was designing the buildings at the same time the council was making decisions about the plan.
When Stanford revealed that they never had any intention of looking for a hotel developer, the council went dumb.

Many of us watched all this. We spoke for our tiny 3 minutes and we might as well have stayed home. Our council was in love with Stanford. Kelly Fergusson warned her council that limits needed to be put in place so that Stanford would be forced to give something back to the City. Again, silence.
My guess is that you were not present at these meetings nor have you studied the Specific Plan. Not many were there or have read the Plan. When the buildings as proposed get built, people will finally understand what our council did. By then, it will be too late.
The Specific Plan is a Stanford custom-made plan. Stanford had its own consultant on the inside directing traffic. Who hired Stanford's consultant? Council members Cline and Boyle.



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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 11:58 am

Well at least one commentator here has followed the process and clearly writes exactly what happened. I am talking about "Another View" and his / or her writings.

The best suggestion is to just ignore Peter Carpenter, who did not attend the meetings, is not a resident of Menlo Park, but fills up space with numerous long comments, which are not at all truthful in what took place here.

Good luck to Save Menlo and their petition. It will be a very tough route to take, since in the minds of so many Menlo Park voters, Stanford can "do no wrong".


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Another View:

no I did not attend every meeting. Yes, I have read the plan. No, I'm not thrilled with it, but I understand the severe implications of not allowing people to build to the rules that have been put in place. Developers are not going to put money at risk knowing that "yes" doesn't really mean yes. It means "yes" as long as a bunch of self serving whiners that didn't participate in the process or don't like the outcome of a long and very public process complain. Then it means "maybe" or "no." "Sorry you've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing plans that abide by those rules, but you know, we have to listen to the usual group of whiners that want to stop anything they don't like."

Then what we'll continue to have is the blighted ECR we have now because no one will want to take the risk that they may just be throwing their money down the Menlo Park rat hole. Enjoy the view.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Old timer - great strategy, if you don't have and facts and cannot argue your case just shoot the messenger who has facts, has read the entire EIR, has read the entire Specific Plan, attended meetings on that plan, served as a planning commissioner and served ten years as an elected official representing (among others) the citizens of Menlo Park.

Hopefully citizens will be better informed before they either commit the city to fund an ill advised vote on this deeply flawed initiative or vote for this paralyzingl initiative.


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Posted by Another View
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 5, 2014 at 2:42 pm

"self serving whiners" is both harsh and untrue. One of the signers is Patti Fry, former Planning Commissioner who not only attended all the meetings but has read the draft and final Specific Plan cover to cover several times. She addressed the council and wrote to staff and council often describing the problems that would arise if the city gave away increased density allowances. I don't think anyone has ever heard a self serving whiney word from Patti's mouth.

Can you address the elements of the initiative and continue in this dialogue so we can learn your educated opinions of what is troubling you about the efforts of savemenlo? Keep in mind that the empty lots on El Camino Real were kept empty because leases were still being paid to the property owners so there was no incentive to do anything. In some cities there are fines for leaving properties in blighted conditions. No Menlo Park.

When the council increased the density allowances for properties in the Specific Plan area, I heard developers laughing at the stupidity. Towns just don't give away densities for nothing. There's no upside in doing so. More traffic, no sales tax, loss of vibrancy in the evenings? For what? It was the height of ignorance for the council to give millions of dollars of land value to property owners and not get public benefits back. It was unwise to allow the first developer, Stanford use up almost all of the EIR's studied office projections.

Tell us what your concerns are with the elements of the initiative? Having read the Specific Plan and the initiative, you must have an opinion that you can explain. Please.


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Old Timer, Peter is an accurate, objective, and well-reasoned contributor who has done more to educate readers on the facts about the Specifc Plan and the propsed Stanford project than anyone else. By far!

Whether he is a resident or not is irrelevant; he is clearly more knowledgeable than most residents and is willing to help them understand what is true and what is not. That is a tremedous service for which I and others are grateful.
Go, Peter!


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Posted by misled
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 3:16 pm

We community members were egregiously misled in the specific plan and eir process. How could the plan's rules allow the 1st two large projects to include 400,000 sf of office space but the plan's eir only studied 240,820 (the amount the initiative sets as a limit) for the next 30 years? 400,000 vs 240,000 - not even close! And the eir said the total development that's not housing would be 474,000 - for 30 years. That was supposed to include a hotel, some stores and restaurants. Not huge office complexes instead

Something is really really wrong. We who participated in the process weren't told at the time tat the eir was just a joke. Clearly it was. The city staff who allowed this to happen should be held accountable.

Either the consultants and staff purposely misled us by only studying a fraction of what could happen under the plan, or the plan itself was severely flawed by allowing far more office development than the community was led to believe could happen over the next several decades.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Another view - Thank you for your questions. I will repost my concerns regarding the petition.

A - Process
1 - The petition was created in secret
2 - Without any opportunity for public review
3 - And hence without the opportunity to improve/clarify the initiative to reflect the concerns of those outside the small group that wrote it.
4 - Once the first signature is gathered the language cannot be changed without starting the entire filing process again.
5 - No effort has been or seems to be planned to ensure that potential signers of the petition have even read it.

B - Substance
1 - The initiative is lengthy and covers a number of different issues
2 - Therefore the opportunity for mistakes and conflict are significant
3 - The initiative is a 'forever' document which will, as intended, preclude some changes to the Specific Plan without another vote and will also, as an untended consequence, make it difficult to make any changes to the Specific Plan, particularly given the Priority Clause:
"PRIORITY.
5.1. After this measure becomes effective, its provision shall prevail over and
supersede all provisions of the municipal code, ordinances, resolutions,
and administrative policies of the City of Menlo Park which are inferior to
the Planning Policy Documents and in conflict with any provisions of this
measure."
4 - Some of the language, as noted, does not and cannot accommodate changes in commerce such as banking and medical offices.
5- The initiative would force individuals with adjacent parcels to develop them separately thereby precluding integrated design and shared amenities.

C - Impact
1 - The initiative, even if not passed, will signal to any interested party that Menlo Park's planning process and established rules cannot be relied upon and they will make their investments elsewhere.
2 - The initiative, even if not passed, will delay moving forward with the Specific Plan.
3 - The initiative, even if not passed, will send a chilling message to the Planning Commissioners, the City Council and the planning staff that their efforts to have an open and inclusive process can be thwarted by a small group of disgruntled citizens.

I am sure that others can add concerns that I have overlooked.


Here are just two specific examples of why this initiative is fundamentally flawed:

1 - Medical offices are defined as

"3.3.2. As adopted on July 12, 2012, the ECR Specific Plan's Appendix
includes the following Commercial Use Classification for "Offices,
Medical and Dental": "Offices for a physician, dentist, or
chiropractor, including medical/dental laboratories incidental to the
medical office use. This classification excludes medical marijuana
dispensing facilities, as defined in the California Health and Safety
Code." The foregoing Commercial Use Classification is hereby
adopted by the voters.

2 Financial institutions are defined as:
3.3.3. As adopted on July 12, 2012, the ECR Specific Plan's Appendix
includes the following Commercial Use Classification for "Banks
and Other Financial Institutions": "Financial institutions providing
retail banking services. This classification includes only those
institutions engaged in the on-site circulation of money, including
credit unions." The foregoing Commercial Use Classification is
hereby adopted by the voters.

And neither of those definitions can be changed except by "a majority vote of the electorate of the City of Menlo Park voting "YES" on a ballot measure proposing such repeal or amendment at a regular or special election."

Well what happens when the world changes and financial institutions no longer engage in the on-site circulation of money (we are almost there today) or when medical marijuana becomes a prescription drug (and cannot be dispensed anywhere in the Downtown Specific Plan area)?

This is why a 12 page initiative, written in secret, never presented for public comment and revision, and locked in forever is NOT the way to plan the orderly evolution of a city and why City Councils, Planning Commissions, professional staff and lots of public input are a much better way to proceed.

The irony is that Save Menlo is proposing an initiative whose language has never been presented for public comment and which they want to be binding over all other city ordinances for thirty years. They have not even posted the proposed initiative on their own web site. No public discussion, no opportunity for revisions or corrections - just take it or leave it. Correcting even a single error in the initiative ( and a 12 page document produced in secret without public input and review is likely to have a number of both errors and policy misstatements) would require another expensive ballot measure:
"the voter adopted development standards and definitions set forth in Section 3, above, may be repealed or amended only by a majority vote of the electorate of the City of Menlo Park voting "YES" on a ballot measure proposing such repeal or amendment at a regular or special election."

Save Menlo wants to substitute their judgement and their choice of words for a multi-year, deliberative, iterative process including scores of open forums, Planning Commission meetings and Council meetings, all with public input, that produced the current Downtown ECR Specific Plan. Hopefully the wiser citizens of Menlo Park will neither sign the petition to place this initiative on the ballot or vote against it if it does make the ballot.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Another view:

I was going to respond, but then read Peter's response. It echoes my sentiments exactly so rather than simply repeat what he stated so well, I'll just say, what Peter said.


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Posted by misled
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 6:33 pm

some of these commentators seem to have no clue about citizen led initiatives. These are grassroots. by definition, The initiative content is created by a group, probably by a coalition, not by a public process.

The public process begins now. This is a sanctioned and important civic process. It's disappointing that other citizens try to demean it and to find fault with individuals and their motives. don't sign it if you disagree with its intent.

Assuming adequate signatures are obtained, the council has an opportunity to simply adopt the measure. They also could adopt some measures that address the primary concerns of the initiative group. Democracy is good. Let it play out. But please don't pretend that the Specific Plan process and its eir etc are sacred. They are extraordinarily flawed as we can now see by these initial couple projects.







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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

misled:

I won't sign the petition and if by some strange circumstance it makes it to the ballot I will vote no.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am not against the initiative process but when it is done as poorly as this one is being done it demeans rather than celebrates democracy. The public process in this case does begin now - with a DEMAND to take it as is or suffer the consequences - their words, not mine. That is neither wise or democratic.


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Posted by Trafficconcern
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 8:44 am

Let me know where I can sign the petition and I will. I disagree with a comment made earlier that to Menlo Park voters "Stanford can do no wrong" In fact Stanford can't really do anything right for Menlo Park. I live in the Willows and in case anyone hasn't been down Willow road on a week night it is a mess. Traffic is horrible between Middlefield and the 101. Adding more offices in downtown Menlo will just make it worse, then Stanford and Palo Alto will renew a push to extend Willow to El Camino which will make the traffic even worse. What is next, use eminent domain to take private land and expand Willow road, that will ruin the neighborhood. Sure we need something other than vacant lots but huge office parks that the city street can not accommodate are no the answer.

I wonder what would happen in Menlo Park behaved like Palo Alto and said there were no right turns from the office park and forced traffic onto El Camino toward Palo Alto, it is similar to what Paly did with Alma when San Hill was extended to El Camino.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by Trafficconcern, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows

A perfect example of self interest at work.


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Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 11:22 am

The Specific Plan may have been adopted, but the process was not responsive to the concerns of a significant minority, if not the majority of those who actually live here and would be affected by (a) the traffic that would be generated by the amount of addtional office/retail space allowed and (b) the impact on schools and recreational facilities that would flow from the amount of additional housing allowed. Menlo Park is indeed a small city, but the key word is that geographcally we are SMALL and can only accommodate so much. Los Altos should have been the model and should be still.


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Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 11:50 am

I have no doubt that Mueller is well-intentioned and that he would be objective and fair. But remember, the other four council members have already voted on this issue repeatedly. We are still waiting for the traffic study that Keith and Carlton promised us. At this point, that promise is not only laughable, but an outright deception. If we can't even get a traffic study that was promised by Keith and Carlton, how can we expect to get a fair hearing? Mueller, it's too late. The damage is done.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm

There are no consequences to suffer if Stanford doesn't build this project, because the stated benefits, if any, are negligible for the residents and the City.

Stanford is unlikely to sell the land outright to another developer, so they'll eventually need to come back to the table with a proposal that is more appropriate.

The proposed initiative appears to be the only way to show them that the residents are serious. Based on the posts, it's clear that the project's supporters are worried about the initiative reaching the ballot and then
being approved by the voters.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Misled,

"some of these commentators seem to have no clue about citizen led initiatives."

"It's disappointing that other citizens try to demean it"

These are simply more vaque and unfounded generalities

In a democracy we should welcome opposing views - not act as either side of an issue is somehow a victim.

Since the initiative has already been submitted its supporters should be doing everything it can to accurately and completely educate our citizens so our community can make the best decision. Agree?


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Posted by Rational
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm

I agree absolutely with Jim Cogan, Menlo's economic development manager, that restricting development in the Specific Plan area is a terrible idea. Or neighboring city, Palo Alto, already has a name for itself. Redwood City to our north has made great strides towards upgrading their city by a vibrant downtown areas because the city supports improvements.

Save Menlo's supporters seem to want to leave Menlo Park as a place between two other real cities. A stretch of empty car lots does not seem to be a good way to introduce the world to our city. Just because Stanford or Arrillaga or Greenheart "has money" does not mean that they do no get a fair shake. Lots of commercial properties are owned by small businesses or partnerships of several small businesses and not by huge corporations.

I would gather most of Save Menlo's supporters are also probably exceedingly rich by anyone else's standards. If property owners in the Specific Plan should be penalized for having money then Save Menlo residents who are worth more than $2 million dollars should be disallowed from making their kitchen bigger because it makes other people with less money mad or they should be made to paid a "public benefit" fee also! Sounds crazy when put that way but not any different than what Save Menlo proposes for commercial property owners.

Did the Save Menlo folks have not even considered all the actual people who are in these dreaded "offices" that they want to restrict? The people working in these offices are our friends, our neighbors and our family. They are making a living in these "office." These "office people" are your architects, your accountants, your doctors, your dentists, your physical therapists, your therapists, and other people that help us with our lives.

Let's all not be so selfish as so say that the people that are in the offices do not have a right to be here in Menlo Park. Let's also respect the people who live here who want to have access to the folks that work in these offices.

Then Save Menlo's says that children will be run over by increased traffic on El Camino. There is already a lot of traffic of on El Camino. It has been by no means a country road for many years. Therefore, it stands to reason that small children should never be left unattended on El Camino! Moreover, I highly doubt that drivers going to offices would ever have any intention running over small children.

Let's also give Stanford a break -- Stanford is the reason why our homes are worth so much and why we never have the severe recessions that have affected every other portion of our country. In fact, the success of Stanford's influence on business and innovation is why there are so many people around here like Save Menlo who have so much free time on their hands to protest other people's livelihoods and businesses.

All of us, including Save Menlo, should spend more time bettering the world and not just complaining about everything. The zoning laws will never please anyone. 6 years is more than enough time and money to have spent on the Specific Plan. I don't want my taxpayer money going to this.


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Posted by Trafficconcern
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 6, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Peter,

You are correct, it is self interest and concern for a neighborhood I have lived in for many many years. I am sure if this would have any impact on Lindenwood you would not be happy either. Maybe connect Lindenwood to Bay Road so cars have an alternate route instead of Willow or Marsh? I am sure you and your neighbors would be thrilled with that idea.

Whose interest should we be looking out for, Stanford? I would say that this do a pretty good job of looking out for their own and not really caring about anyone else. Menlo Park? I genuinely feel this is a bad plan for the city. What do they get from it? If Stanford decides on Medical offices then there goes the property tax revenue? which they are already collecting even if the lots are not being used. Something better than vacant lots? If that is all, how about a big park? Why not use that property to build below market housing that the city seems to need so desperately?

So before jumping on the band wagon to build a huge new set of office buildings the entire infrastructure needs to be considered and as far as I can tell no one is really doing that.


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Posted by Rational
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2014 at 9:55 am

Seems like folks have a thing about medical offices. Where are your doctors and dentists? Where would you want to drive to when you are sick? Where is your therapist or your physical therapist? Would you want to drive far to go to the physical therapist after a surgery? I think what people might not want are huge clinics but I certainly want to have my health care providers nearby.

Medical does not mean there will not be property taxes. Property taxes are certainly paid regardless of what goes into the space. When a space is improved -- with a building for instance, the property taxes go up to account for the building's worth. This is the same if you remodel your house -- the valuation increases and so does the tax.

Also, when people go to offices, they eat lunch, shop and do a bunch of errands nearby. When I see my dentist, I drop by to have lunch a my favorite place afterwards as a treat. Also, businesses pay business license fees that are based on total revenues in Menlo Park. So businesses that do not pay sales taxes do pay other taxes -- property tax and business license taxes. So offices are not the "dead beats" like the Save Menlo folks make it out to be.


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Posted by misled
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Yes, it is important to be as factual as possible.
No one has commented on
"How could the plan's rules allow the 1st two large projects to include 400,000 sf of office space but the plan's eir only studied 240,820 (the amount the initiative sets as a limit) for the next 30 years? 400,000 vs 240,000 - not even close! And the eir said the total development that's not housing would be 474,000 - for 30 years. That was supposed to include a hotel, some stores and restaurants. Not huge office complexes instead." I still contend the citizens were misled.

According to Menlo Park's General Plan (the planning "constitution") El Camino Real is supposed to encourage "New and upgraded retail development" and "small-scale offices...in a balanced pattern with residential or retail development". What is small-scale about Stanford's office buildings? How does its proposed 10K SF of retail (2% of the total project) promote retail development? Rational should know that nearly all development generates property taxes. Medical and professional offices rarely provide sales taxes, though.

Rational - SaveMenlo isn't stopping office development. They are trying to limit it to the amount that was studied in the Specific Plan's environmental impact report. Voters can decide when it's time to surpass that amount, whether sooner or later than the 30 year life of the Plan. The initiative allows Stanford up to 40% of the allowed office, not nearly 85% as Stanford has currently proposed.


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Posted by Stop Cronyism in Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 7, 2014 at 2:28 pm

This initiative is right on the money. The City of Menlo Park does not need FIVE story office buildings along El Camino Real. If Stanford/Arrillaga want to develop the area, then there needs to be some benefit to our community. 5 Story tall buildings blocking out the skyline are not welcome here. Back to the drawing board, please. Nobody would be opposing sensible development that had a balance of office space and shops and restaurants for residents.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Those people who did take the time and interest to diligently participate in the six year DownTown ECR Specific planning Process know exactly was was permitted including by special reference the ECR SE five story buildings with tasteful setbacks of the upper floors.

The vast majority of citizens are supporting development that have a balance of office space and shops and restaurants for residents. Small individual groups are arguing for more housing, while other want less. Few residents seem to be committed to actully supporting retail in the ECR corrider. Some residents want traffic to flow under the railroad to Alma while others are oppossed. Life is a compromise and the the current DownTown ECR Specific Plan is an excellent compromise


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Posted by Cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2014 at 5:05 am

Generally, I think Rational is correct. in my opinion SaveMenlo represents the anti-growth agenda of a small handful of people following a narrow agenda. Now, it is fully their right to be for or against something but we should recognize protest vs. constructive dialogue. Hopefully residents will be thoughtful about the issue when approached to sign a petition that seems to have, at its core, a goal of zero development. Take a look at SMs website as that will provide a sense of both the organization and the goals. Just be informed.


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Posted by Rational
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm

It is good to hear that folks do not object to small offices in Menlo Park.

If you read the Specific Plan, you will see that it limits offices in buildings of any size. It does not just limit offices in huge buildings.
If there is a very small commercial building of 2000 sq ft, it is under same limitations as the 100,000 sq ft building.

For example, one would only be able to use 1000 sq ft of a 2000sq ft bldg for non-medical office or use 750 sq ft for medical office with 250 sq ft non-medical office. The residual 1000 sq ft would need to be used for other things like restaurant, café. It is actually hard to find a professional office that wants to share a small building with a restaurant. When you see you dentist or doctor, do you expect to have a bakery or bar next door?

The proposed ballot initiative limits small offices by limiting overall total office space for Menlo. In fact, the huge projects would likely take up the "office space" allotment and push out the small offices.

If the target is to limit huge office complexes, the ballot initiative should be changed to only do what it means to do and not mistakenly target smaller offices.

Drive around and look. Look at Town & Country in Palo Alto which is mixed use with retail and restaurants that Save Menlo seems to want -- the parking lot is jammed all hours. Look at the nice office building at El Camino and Encinal with its peaceful trees and lightly parked lot which is empty weekends and evenings. Look at the medical building on Middlefield and Linfield that contains Menlo Clinic and other medical offices. The parking lot is never full and again, it is empty on weekends and nights.

I personally would rather drive to University Ave to have my night life and return home to my house near a quiet office building.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A proposed law written in secret without public review and comment will inevitably contain fatal flaws. This 12 page initiative is a perfect example of why we have representative government with plenty of opportunity for public review and comment.


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Posted by Pls note
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 7:21 am

Pls note that the 5-6 Save Menlo advocates have even stopped posting with any reasonable arguments. Classic


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Mike Lanza, who submitted the ballot initiative along with former city planning commission chairwoman Patti Fry. "Basically, the voters are saying they're not doing the right thing.""

Wrong - the VOTERS haven't said anything. The presumptions of these people are preposterous.


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Peter Carpenter should quote all of what Mike Lanza said. The quote is from:

Web Link

and reads:

"Instead of 30 years, they're going to bust it in two years," said resident Mike Lanza, who submitted the ballot initiative along with former city planning commission chairwoman Patti Fry. "Basically, the voters are saying they're not doing the right thing."

Now Mr. Lanza is a Menlo Park voter, and this group is voicing the opinion that "they're not doing the right thing."

Regardless of what Peter Carpenter says, (who as an Atherton resident, is not a qualified voter on this Menlo Park issue), Mr. Lanza and others who are Menlo Park residents and qualified as voters, certainly have the right to their opinions, and the statement, "they're not doing the right thing." is their opinion, and whether or not it is preposterous or not is yet to be determined.

I find Carpenter's position on this issue, trying to beat down this initiative with his statement that "drawn up in secret" is somehow wrong and not ethical is preposterous; it shows a complete lack of understanding of what the initiative process is all about. (For Mr. Carpenter, who champions the Brown act, his position here is really UN-believalbe).

This is the process. The group has submitted an initiative, which has now been approved for circulation by the City. It is at this time that Menlo Park Voters can examine, decide whether they support or don't the effort, and sign or not. If enough signatures are obtained, the City City can accept (very unlikely, since the Council previously heard these complaints and refused to take any action), or the petition goes to the ballot for a full vote of the residents.



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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm

@ Traffic Concerns: If MP had built the Willow Expressway as planned back in the 60s, which would have connected to Sand Hill Road, the traffic issues of which you speak would not be so.


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Posted by cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 9, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Mr. Lanza is not a random taxpayer, of course. I believe he has a fairly direct connection to SaveMenlo. Not a bad thing, obviously, but on some level it is relevant to the dialogue. It is fine to follow the process at this stage but what is worrisome for Menlo Park is that there was a well communicated process of public comment over an extended period of time. Not being able to influence that process (largely because of lackluster representation), SaveMenlo's protest is essentially looking to go outside the established process in order to strike fear into the broader populace. There is no prohibition of this but the onus will be on voters to separate the facts and to make a quick decision on an issue that was well vetted for a very long time. Unfortunate for our town.

SM has a desire to push Stanford and private developers out of Menlo Park by making standards un acceptable to reasonable business people. Once that perception of MP's lack of interest in progress becomes fact, smart $ will go elsewhere and blight will remain. Be careful what you wish for.


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Posted by Really c'mon
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 9, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Mike Lanza is married to Perla Ni. If you don't know who he is, I believe he is the person who caught Menlo Park residents' attention when he attended the City Council meeting earlier this year and screamed at the former Mayor Ohtaki and accused him of being a "schill" for developers. Perla Ni is one of the founders of Save Menlo. They both arguably stand to benefit financially from a contrived story line where they supposedly stood up to developers to protect neighborhoods for families. This fictional account will no doubt benefit Mr. Lanza in his effort to sell and promote his "playborhood" books. In his current book, he dedicates chapter 3 to discuss his alleged past efforts in Menlo Park. I wonder how long it will take Mr. Lanza to use his participation in this initiative to sell more books?


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Posted by cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I do not think this is, or should be, a personal one for these individuals and i'd not suggest at all that this effort is to sell more books. No need to go there. My only point is that the process has not been well used and it just seems to me that the dialogue that will ensue from the ballot process is one not based on facts that allows residents to make an informed decision for the long term benefit of the city. That process has been ongoing for a long period of time and reducing it to a sound bite format is not helpful to true progress. The push-pull here is some progress vs. no progress.


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Mr Old MP who writes:

------

@ Traffic Concerns: If MP had built the Willow Expressway as planned back in the 60s, which would have connected to Sand Hill Road, the traffic issues of which you speak would not be so.

--------

The reason it was not built was because "dear old Palo Alto", wished to build it in Menlo Park; that is Menlo Park you take our traffic, you clean up our garbage. This has been PA's position since day one. Look at not allowing Sand Hill Road to connect to Alma at El Camino, thus diverting all the Palo Alto traffic to Menlo Park. Palo Alto plays dirty, always have, probably always will.


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong but the Willow Expressway was always supposed to be in MP...on Willow Road, hence the name. I believe the Palo Altans would point to the Oregon Expressway/Page Mill Road and say they did their part by providing a clear connection between 101 and 280. They can also point to Embarcadero Road as another direct route to 101.

We have to admit that we did not do our part by providing the same...Sand Hill to Willow to 101.


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Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 9, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Peter Carpenter continues his dogged campaign of misinformation against any and all opposition to the 500 ECR project:

"A proposed law written in secret without public review and comment will inevitably contain fatal flaws."

"Secret" in this instance indicates that Peter Carpenter was not asked to chair the committee tasked with drafting the initiative, apparently. Seriously, Peter, do you have any factual information to conclude that this initiative was created differently than other, similar measures in Menlo Park? The Derry Referendum comes to mind as the most recent example -- was that also drafted in secret by sworn enemies of representative democracy? Is there anything illegal or otherwise at odds with your "rule of law" about the way in which this initiative was put forth? Of course not, and Menlo Park voters will judge the merits of the initiative language by electing or declining to sign the petition, all in accord with the workings of our democracy.

"This 12 page initiative is a perfect example of why we have representative government with plenty of opportunity for public review and comment."

Included in these sinister 12 pages is a full-page map of the ECR corridor through Menlo Park, a preamble, some boilerplate, one nearly blank page, a lengthy definition of open space which excludes above-ground (private) balconies, a list of documents covered, and a number of additional definitions taken from the DSP. The meat of the measure begins with section 3.3.5, bottom of page four, and concludes with section 5.1, middle of page 9, barely five pages in total of heavily indented text. I urge Menlo Park voters to read the document and decide for themselves whether the language is succinct and the intent straightforward. I believe it to be so and plan to sign the petition.

Gern


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 9, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The initiative process is an important tool in a democracy but it is a blunt tool that needs to be used with great care.
The current Save/Stop Menlo initiative fails the standard of being done with great care due to its length, number of issues covered and its permanence.

The secrecy issue is relevant because the sponsors decry the Specific Plan process as being a vast conspiracy in spite of the many iterations and public meetings and yet the initiative sponsors never published a draft or solicited public input. Now they are stuck with a long and complicated initiative that has many preventable flaws.

The claim that the voters have decided anything before this matter is even qualified to be placed before the voters is an insult. Fry and Lanza may be voters but they cannot speak for any other voters.

I welcome debate on the specific language in the initiative and I am confident that such debate will illuminate its flaws and educate the voters. Save/Stop Menlo does not seem very interested in such an open debate- I wonder why?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Since most readers tend not to read the entire thread let me restate my concerns regarding the proposed initiative:


A - Process
1 - The petition was created in secret
2 - Without any opportunity for public review
3 - And hence without the opportunity to improve/clarify the initiative to reflect the concerns of those outside the small group that wrote it.
4 - Once the first signature is gathered the language cannot be changed without starting the entire filing process again.
5 - No effort has been or seems to be planned to ensure that potential signers of the petition have even read it.

B - Substance
1 - The initiative is lengthy and covers a number of different issues
2 - Therefore the opportunity for mistakes and conflict are significant
3 - The initiative is a 'forever' document which will, as intended, preclude some changes to the Specific Plan without another vote and will also, as an untended consequence, make it difficult to make any changes to the Specific Plan, particularly given the Priority Clause:
"PRIORITY.
5.1. After this measure becomes effective, its provision shall prevail over and
supersede all provisions of the municipal code, ordinances, resolutions,
and administrative policies of the City of Menlo Park which are inferior to
the Planning Policy Documents and in conflict with any provisions of this
measure."
4 - Some of the language, as noted, does not and cannot accommodate changes in commerce such as banking and medical offices.
5- The initiative would force individuals with adjacent parcels to develop them separately thereby precluding integrated design and shared amenities.

C - Impact
1 - The initiative, even if not passed, will signal to any interested party that Menlo Park's planning process and established rules cannot be relied upon and they will make their investments elsewhere.
2 - The initiative, even if not passed, will delay moving forward with the Specific Plan.
3 - The initiative, even if not passed, will send a chilling message to the Planning Commissioners, the City Council and the planning staff that their efforts to have an open and inclusive process can be thwarted by a small group of disgruntled citizens.

I am sure that others can add concerns that I have overlooked.


Here are just two specific examples of why this initiative is fundamentally flawed:

1 - Medical offices are defined as

"3.3.2. As adopted on July 12, 2012, the ECR Specific Plan's Appendix
includes the following Commercial Use Classification for "Offices,
Medical and Dental": "Offices for a physician, dentist, or
chiropractor, including medical/dental laboratories incidental to the
medical office use. This classification excludes medical marijuana
dispensing facilities, as defined in the California Health and Safety
Code." The foregoing Commercial Use Classification is hereby
adopted by the voters.

2 Financial institutions are defined as:
3.3.3. As adopted on July 12, 2012, the ECR Specific Plan's Appendix
includes the following Commercial Use Classification for "Banks
and Other Financial Institutions": "Financial institutions providing
retail banking services. This classification includes only those
institutions engaged in the on-site circulation of money, including
credit unions." The foregoing Commercial Use Classification is
hereby adopted by the voters.

And neither of those definitions can be changed except by "a majority vote of the electorate of the City of Menlo Park voting "YES" on a ballot measure proposing such repeal or amendment at a regular or special election."

Well what happens when the world changes and financial institutions no longer engage in the on-site circulation of money (we are almost there today) or when medical marijuana becomes a prescription drug (and cannot be dispensed anywhere in the Downtown Specific Plan area)?

This is why a 12 page initiative, written in secret, never presented for public comment and revision, and locked in forever is NOT the way to plan the orderly evolution of a city and why City Councils, Planning Commissions, professional staff and lots of public input are a much better way to proceed.

The irony is that Save Menlo is proposing an initiative whose language has never been presented for public comment and which they want to be binding over all other city ordinances for thirty years. They have not even posted the proposed initiative on their own web site. No public discussion, no opportunity for revisions or corrections - just take it or leave it. Correcting even a single error in the initiative ( and a 12 page document produced in secret without public input and review is likely to have a number of both errors and policy misstatements) would require another expensive ballot measure:
"the voter adopted development standards and definitions set forth in Section 3, above, may be repealed or amended only by a majority vote of the electorate of the City of Menlo Park voting "YES" on a ballot measure proposing such repeal or amendment at a regular or special election."

Save Menlo wants to substitute their judgement and their choice of words for a multi-year, deliberative, iterative process including scores of open forums, Planning Commission meetings and Council meetings, all with public input, that produced the current Downtown ECR Specific Plan. Hopefully the wiser citizens of Menlo Park will not sign the petition to place this initiative on the ballot and they will vote against it if it does make the ballot.


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Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:03 am

Peter Carpenter continues his dogged campaign of misinformation against any and all opposition to the 500 ECR project:

"A proposed law written in secret without public review and comment will inevitably contain fatal flaws."

"Secret" in this instance indicates that Peter Carpenter was not asked to chair the committee tasked with drafting the initiative, apparently. Seriously, Peter, do you have any factual information to conclude that this initiative was created differently than other, similar measures in Menlo Park? The Derry Referendum comes to mind as the most recent example -- was that also drafted in secret by sworn enemies of representative democracy? Is there anything illegal or otherwise at odds with your "rule of law" about the way in which this initiative was put forth? Of course not, and Menlo Park voters will judge the merits of the initiative language by electing or declining to sign the petition, all in accord with the workings of our democracy.

"This 12 page initiative is a perfect example of why we have representative government with plenty of opportunity for public review and comment."

Included in these sinister 12 pages is a full-page map of the ECR corridor through Menlo Park, a preamble, some boilerplate, one nearly blank page, a lengthy definition of open space which excludes above-ground (private) balconies, a list of documents covered, and a number of additional definitions taken from the DSP. The meat of the measure begins with section 3.3.5, bottom of page four, and concludes with section 5.1, middle of page 9, barely five pages in total of heavily indented text. I urge Menlo Park voters to read the document and decide for themselves whether the language is succinct and the intent straightforward. I believe it to be so and plan to sign the petition.

Gern


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:14 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I urge Menlo Park voters to read the document and decide for themselves whether the language is succinct and the intent straightforward. "

I agree. And if they do that then I believe that they will realize that this initiative is fatally flawed.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Gern states -""Secret" in this instance indicates that Peter Carpenter was not asked to chair the committee tasked with drafting the initiative, apparently."

No, as clearly stated above the secrecy issue is relevant because the sponsors decry the Specific Plan process as being a vast conspiracy in spite of the many iterations and public meetings and yet the initiative sponsors never published a draft or solicited public input. Now they are stuck with a long and complicated initiative that has many preventable flaws. It is rank hypocrisy to claim the Specific Plan process was flawed because is was somehow done behind closed doors and then to produce a final, unchangeable alternative that was never exposed to public review and comment.


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Posted by misled
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:06 am

The Vision was created through public workshops. The details of the Plan were created by consultants and staff and then discussed in public meetings. Details weren't created in public, either. But that's not the point.

A flaw of the Plan are that it allows more office development than the public was told would be "reasonably foreseeable". Office reasonably foresseable was 240,820 SF for the entire Specific Plan area for 30 years. A few months later stanford shows up with an initial proposal for 229,500 SF all concentrated in one part of the plan area, with the only outlets spilling onto El Camino. Its latest proposal is closer to 200K sf but now greenheart is talking about another 210K sf of office, combined about 400K sf. Again, compare that with the 30 year amount. The initiative addresses this.


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Posted by Alex
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm

If overpaid and still-for-sale city employees are against the initiative, it is worth considering. City staff is like Putin's Russia. They do whatever they like and then, when challenged, spin stories and insist that challengers are the unreasonable ones.


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Posted by menloshopper
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:22 pm

The initiative, as I understand it, has no new limits on building size, residential units or retail (the open space/balcony change is a sideshow). It just limits the amount of office space, with lots still possible , just much less than now without voter approval. Seems simple enough and a good choice for City Council and/or the voters to consider.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The authors' proposed title of this initiative was:

"This initiative measure shall be known and cited as the "El Camino Real!
Downtown Specific Plan Area Livable, Walkable Community
Development Standards Act.""

Here is the City approved impartial Title for this initiative:

""An initiative measure proposing amendments to the City of Menlo Park General Plan and Menlo Park 2012 El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan limiting office development, modifying open space requirements, and requiring voter approval for new non-residential projects that exceed specified development limits."


It is interesting to see what an impartial analysis does to claims like 'livable,walkable'.

Why isn't Save/Stop Menlo doing anything to promote public awareness of the specific language in the now approved, but not qualified, initiative?


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Posted by old timers
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Of the 66 comments now made on this thread, Peter Carpenter, not even a resident of Menlo Park, has made 17. Apparently he thinks by just trying to monopolize the content, most readers will believe his nonsense.

Mr Carpenter, the voters of Menlo Park (not you) will now have ample opportunity to examine the initiative, decide for themselves whether to sign or not and if the group is successful at gaining the needed signatures, they can vote on whether it will become part of Menlo Park's planning code. Your arguments just have no substance. Amazing how a person, who didn't attend the public meetings, claims to know so much!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Old timer - I have posted more facts than all other posters combined. I understand if you prefer a fact less world in which to make your decisions but I do not see that as wise or sensible.

Please post your response showing that any of my arguments make no sense - it is called a debate my friend and we have yet to hear your counter arguments or a single fact posted by you.

I welcome debate on the specific language in the initiative and I am confident that such debate will illuminate its flaws and educate the voters.


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Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 10, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Peter Carpender worked for Stanford - he may still. Of course, the political insiders attack initiatives. They like the current path and powerbrokers. An initiative cannot be superseded or amended by the council ( or staff) unless it says so. If an initiative did authorizes changes by this council, it would be rendered useless in no time flat.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This initiative locks in stone definitions of things like "financial institution". The financial institution of 5 or 10 years from now will not meet that definition and it would require an election to change that definition - -which is foolish.

With regards to Stanford I have NO affiliation with or financial interest from Stanford - as has been posted many times.

I am the only poster on this forum who has file Form 700s for 12 of the last 14 years.

John - your thoughts on the details of the initiative would be appreciated - as well as details regarding your financial interests.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 6:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the language from the initiative:

Financial institutions providing retail banking services. This classification includes only those institutions engaged in the on-site circulation of money, including credit unions." The foregoing Commercial Use Classification is hereby adopted by the voters."

What happens when, like now, banks are totally electronic and no longer engaged in the on-site circulation of money?

Oops - have to have an election to bring Menlo Park into the modern age!. You can bet that Stop Menlo would insist upon such an election.


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Posted by There's still time
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Having read the initiative, I find myself agreeing with the general premise (too much office footage being allocated too quickly, open space needing to be at ground level, etc.) but concerned that technicalities, such as Peter's banking observation, could undermine the entire effort, leaving us with an overbuilt ECR. I hope that Mike Lanza's group will consider modifying language in the initiative to address some of these potential minefields and give their proposal a better chance of passing at the voting booth, even if it means less time to collect signatures.


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Posted by Rational
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:39 pm

The question is -- what do most Menlo residents want on El Camino? What do the Save Menlo folks want? Save Menlo wants something that does not include any traffic. Obviously, not happening since everything brings more traffic!

After reading the threads, it seems like these are the options brought up:

A park -- sounds great but has some traffic. Save Menlo should buy it from Stanford at a price they can't refuse if that is what they want. Sounds like most supporters are well-healed and could fund something if they really believe in it. It is not right to make Stanford turn it into a park because that would amount to taking private property.

Housing -- sounds good but Save Menlo folks don't seem to realize that housing brings traffic. People drive in and out to work, to pick up kids, to shop...So it isn't a traffic-free option. In fact, more housing means more permanent traffic especially on weekends.

Retail -- everyone says "yes, sales tax" but good shops have a lot of traffic. Look at Stanford Shopping Center! More people on weekends and holidays. Do we actually need many more shops? Reuse, recycle...

Restaurants/bars -- sounds tasty and convenient but Save Menlo could minimize traffic by cooking at home. Also, restaurants bring a lot of traffic at peak times. There easily could be 30 cars for even a medium sized restaurant at dinner. Packed on weekends and nights.
Drunk patrons could be problematic as well.

Cafes -- again sounds good but huge amount of in-out traffic. Packed on weekends and nights.

Offices -- good because residents need jobs and need help with taxes, etc. Employees traffic at beginning and end of day. Clients of offices are not usually high turnover. Most meetings last at least 30-60 minutes. Empty on weekends and nights.

Large medical clinics -- good because everyone needs an ER or urgent care. Huge clinics with labs, urgent cares like Palo Alto clinic have moderate amount of traffic since labs are in and out. Doctors visits are 15 min to 40 min.

Small medical/dental/therapists offices -- good since people want choices of medical care who don't want to go to a huge clinic. Offices are much lower volume. Doctor and dental visits are usually 30-60 minutes. Therapists are one hour visits. So low volume traffic.

So...everything on the list brings traffic. Some options bring more traffic than others. Only way not bring more traffic is to have nothing except for the deserted buildings.

Menlo Park residents should be reasonable. A Menlo Park that says "NO" to everything will soon be overlooked as a place to be.

I already know a number of businesses of assorted types that have left Menlo to go to Los Altos and to Redwood City because Menlo Park is a place that does not appear to support business of any type.


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Hmm.... Peter worked for Stanford....not even a MP resident...submitted lots of posts.

SO WHAT?

The attacks on Peter keep coming... but little fact or logic from those who dislike reality.

Quite amusing but a very disappointing.

Peter is simply educating everyone on the plan and process and this makes SM supporters shudder.

Thanks, Peter.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 11, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Rational: good, thoughtful post. Totally agree.

Dana: SM keeps attacking the messenger because they have nothing to attack the message with. Peter posts facts while the SM folks post hyperbole, histrionics and vitriol. Nothing factual.


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Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Peter Carpenter ignores the claim that he has worked for Stanford and then states that he has no current financial interest in Stanford. Retirement? Carpenter also complains that the initiative could not be superseded or amended by his buddies on the City Council. That is the point of an initiative.It may be changed by voters only. And a proposed change may be placed on the ballot, repeatedly, by the City Council.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"he has no current financial interest in Stanford. Retirement"

The last time that I was paid by Stanford was in Aug 1976.

" Carpenter also complains that the initiative could not be superseded or amended by his buddies on the City Council. "

A city wide election is a very expensive way to correct deficiencies in the numerous definitions included in this first draft, never publicly reviewed, cannot otherwise be changed document, i.e. "The foregoing Commercial Use Classification is hereby adopted by the voters."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 11, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

John - your thoughts on the details of the initiative would be appreciated - as well as details regarding your financial interests.


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Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2014 at 5:19 am

It is great that Peter Carpenter is loyal to Stanford - his former emplyer - regardless of whether he is still being paid by Dtanford. And his grave concernabout the future of Menlo Park is especially touching because he does not live in Menlo Park but, instead, lives on the most expensive real estate in the county (Atherton) - not counting high rises in New York City. Developers want to build rise rises on the Peninsula, but not in Atherton with Peter Carpenter. Atherton residents will not allow it. They are not gullible.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 12, 2014 at 5:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My loyalties are to democracy, representative government, good public policy and facts.

John - your thoughts on the details of the initiative would be appreciated - as well as details regarding your financial interests.


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Posted by Rational
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 12, 2014 at 9:12 am

Oddly, a number of residents think that they have absolutely no affiliation to Stanford at all and are blaming Peter Carpenter for having worked for Stanford many years ago.

Are you really sure that you have no Stanford contact? Did you or any of your family go to school there? Did you or any of your family work there? Have you or any of your family or friends been saved by the Emergency Room or Stanford Hospital? Have you or your family benefitted from the fact that Stanford indirectly makes your house worth so much money? Do you work in an industry that started because of Stanford's influence?

Stanford is not evil any more than each resident of Menlo is. We have all benefitted from Stanford's proximity and therefore, would all have disclosures of a Stanford effect. Yes, there are always things that one can disagree about but really, Stanford (and Peter Carpenter) is not to blame for everything that ails Menlo Park. In fact, I doubt most people would even know Menlo Park if it weren't for the proximity to Stanford.

Blaming Stanford, or others, is not the answer. We are a community and should behave as such. Otherwise, we should move to the wilderness and be completely self-sufficient. Look for answers, not blame.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 15, 2014 at 8:14 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Well now the first traffic study has been done:

Web Link

Web Link

And the very people who insisted on it don't like the results:

"George Fisher, a resident and member of a city subcommittee that's reviewing the Stanford project, said he believes the Specific Plan underestimated the amount of vehicles that development would add to the area and the new traffic analysis does so too."

Fascinating - the opponents of the project insisted upon a study and now they don't believe the study. The fact is that these people are opposed to ANY development and hence they will never accept any study that suggest otherwise.


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