Conceding inevitable traffic impacts, the Menlo Park Planning Commission has approved environmental review and a package of public benefits for the enlarged “Station 1300” project which may go to the City Council in May.
“Mitigation? I don’t know that that’s really going to happen,” Commission Chairman John Onken said in April. Noting that traffic impacts are the biggest part of the 1,367-page Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) approved March 21, he added, “From being an empty lot, there are going to be traffic impacts, and we’re going to have to live with them.”
The 6.4-acre site is vacant land that was formerly a Cadillac dealership along with a number of commercial buildings on Derry Lane and Oak Grove Avenue slated for demolition.
The proposal by Palo Alto-based Greenheart Land Co. was approved at a smaller scale in 2012 as part of the city’s El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan. Once the developer proposed adding 97,835 square feet to it in 2014, city staff determined that an Infill EIR was needed to meet California Environmental Quality Act requirements.
The project at 1300 El Camino Real is now some 420,000 square feet of office, retail and apartments, with about 190,000 square feet of that being two three-story office buildings. Four floors of up to 202 apartments would encompass about 205,000 square feet, with Greenheart projecting a mix of 60 percent studio and one-bedrooms, 38 percent two-bedrooms, and the remainder with three. All apartments will have decks or balconies, and the project also includes up to 29,000 square feet of ground-level retail on Oak Grove.
It was postponed briefly last year as the city debated changes in policy for requiring public benefits in a project. Benefits recommended by staff and approved by the commission for Station 1300 include a “linear” public park on Garwood Way, courtyards in front of both the office buildings and the apartments, and a plaza at the corner of Garwood and Oak Grove.
“I think it’s a good balance,” said Onken. “I think it’s going to be a bonus for El Camino Real.”
The mandatory six-week period for public comment regarding the draft EIR ended April 4. Because the area-specific plan already has certified environmental review partly covering the project, the Infill EIR only addressed the project’s impacts for transportation, noise, air quality and hazardous materials.
The report details “significant and unavoidable” traffic impacts on streets and at intersections all around the project, with most possible mitigations deemed “unfeasible.” The mitigations determined to be feasible include adding a signal at Santa Cruz Avenue and University Drive, bike lanes on Oak Grove and Garwood, turning lanes on Oak Grove and Laurel Street, and widening eastbound Willow Road and southbound Middlefield Road near where the two roads intersect.
Parking will be primarily underground, accessed from Garwood or El Camino Real, with 50 of the approximately 1,100 spaces at street-level toward the rear of the site.
Greenheart spokesman have said they hope to break ground in mid-2017 with construction expected to take two years.
“It’s a fairly comprehensive project. I don’t know that it’s my taste, but it works well for the community,” said Onken, an architect with offices in town. Alluding to the Spanish Eclectic design style, he explained, “It’s very Mediterranean, not necessarily what I would do.”
The Draft EIR must be certified by the City Council. The City has yet to schedule a certification vote on the council agenda for its upcoming May meetings.