By Meghan Hall
Just two weeks after the City decided not to pursue a moratorium that would ultimately halt development city-wide, the Menlo Park Planning Commission has been asked by City staff to consider and review a recently submitted application to develop 320 residential units and just over 33,000 square feet of office space along Independence Drive. The proposal, submitted by Greystar in March of this year, is called Menlo Portal and is working its way through the entitlements and design review process after Menlo Park city officials kicked off its review of the project at a Planning Commission meeting on June 24th.
“We believe that the region is in dire need of more housing, especially as regional employers continue to grow rapidly and traffic worsens,” said Greystar’s Andrew Morcos, senior development director, in a May letter to the Planning Commission. “A jobs/housing imbalance is expected to continue into the future, causing further strain on housing availability, increased rents, and traffic. We look forward to working with Planning Commission to deliver this new proposed housing project to Menlo Park.”
The residential and commercial office space would be separated into two buildings, seven stories and three stories in height, respectively. The residential building would be located on the Independence and Constitution Drive parcels. Beginning on the second story of the building, the apartment units would wrap around a terrace with a pool and other private and communal open spaces for residents. A central, 12,575 square foot plaza and dog walk would run north to south between the proposed apartment building and another proposed 104-unit residential development located adjacent to the property at 111 Constitution Drive. The project also includes 1,608 square feet of neighborhood benefit space as well as above ground parking garages.
The project site, located at 104 and 110 Constitution Dr., and 115 Independence Dr., is comprised of several parcels totaling 3.20 acres. The site contains three single-story buildings, currently designated office and industrial; together, they total 64,829 square feet.
The project team also includes Heller Manus Architecture, BKF Engineers and PGAdesign.
The City’s decision to begin reviewing the project came just weeks after the Menlo Park City Council decided against putting a moratorium on commercial development city-wide and residential developments over 100 units in the Bayfront Area. Instead, the City Council decided that the ConnectMenlo General Plan, Zoning Ordinance Update and Downtown Specific Plan should be reviewed. The original moratorium request was submitted on June 5 by Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Taylor and City councilmember Betsy Nash, who stated that the city’s job-to-housing ratio was negatively impacting the Menlo Park community.
If the City determines that the plans no longer meet community values and needs, the Planning Department is still obligated to continuing processing applications that were submitted under the current General Plans and Zoning Ordinances. However, should the City Council adopt changes to the current land use policy while the project is still in the approvals pipeline, Greystar could be required to modify the project to comply with those changes.
At the June 24th Planning Commission Study Session, the Planning Commission began reviewing the project in an effort to offer feedback to Greystar. While the Commission did vote 4-0 to table part of the Study Session to a subsequent meeting, initial topics discussed included whether or not a café would be an appropriate community amenity for the building, as well as whether or not the project’s proposed bocce ball court, dog run and fitness center would be publicly accessible. Further questions were asked by the Commission about Greystar’s strategies regarding the provision of both parking and public open space, specifically the connection between the project site and the adjacent parcel at 111 Independence Drive. Finer details, such as color scheme and setbacks, were also discussed.
City staff expects that the project will require a Use Permit in order to pursue additional density at the site, as well as to modify design standards. A lot merger, to allow Greystar to develop on separate parcels but proceed through the planning process with one, single cohesive application. Once the City finishes its preliminary review, a consultant will help the project move through the environmental review process.
Greystar did not return The Registry’s request for comment.