Letters to the Council: Strengthening the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan

March 11, 2019

Re: El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan Review

Honorable Council Members,

Menlo Together is a group of Menlo Park and Peninsula residents who envision a city that is integrated and diverse, multi-generational, and environmentally sustainable.

We are glad to see the review of the downtown plan come forward, since the downtown area can help further these goals for Menlo Park:

  • Adding more housing at a variety of income levels to address the housing crisis
  • Improving jobs/housing balance and fit for Menlo Park
  • Reducing solo driving while making downtown easier to access
  • Eliminating carbon emissions from new buildings
  • Making zero displacement a priority in new development

Following are recommendations for the Downtown Plan review to achieve these goals:

More housing. Allow and encourage more housing in the downtown plan area, by identifying and reducing barriers including height limits, parking requirements, density and other zoning parameters.

Affordable housing.  Prioritize public land to be used for affordable housing – including current parking plazas.  Consider examples in San Mateo and Burlingame where parking lots have been redeveloped with affordable housing and public parking.

Improve jobs/housing balance and fit.  Publish data on the jobs housing ratio (in total and net new development) in the Downtown Plan area and Citywide, considering availability of housing for workers at all income levels, and use the information to make decisions about developments and policies to improve and not worsen the imbalance.

Parking and access. Improve management of current parking, advance transportation demand management including for low-income workers, and improve safety and comfort for people walking and bicycling downtown.   Set a goal to reduce solo driving rate to 50%.

Shared parking. Reduce parking requirements for new buildings, and make use of shared parking to facilitate development of smaller parcels that don’t have enough room for full onsite parking. Council has already decided to pursue ways to improve access and make parking more efficient; that assessment should help determine whether new garage space would be needed.

Reduce carbon emissions.  Adopt ConnectMenlo building standards and require all-electric buildings.

Eliminating displacement.  In prior Downtown Plan reviews, some Council Members suggested enabling more housing by adding blocks with existing housing into the plan area and increasing allowable zoning. Implement policies that would prevent displacement of residents.

Community character.  Support diversity in age, income, ethnicity.  Work collaboratively with school district to address school system needs.

Menlo Together is eager to retain and improve a vibrant downtown where people continue to live, work, and play, with a comfortable environment for people to walk, socialize and shop.

Since the Downtown Specific Plan was approved in 2012 based on community input from 2007 and earlier,  and since ConnectMenlo was approved in 2016, the housing affordability crisis around the region has worsened, displacement has increased, commute traffic has increased and Menlo Park has contributed to the crisis by adding more jobs than homes.

Since the Downtown Plan was finalized we believe that more residents are concerned about housing affordability, maintaining the diversity of the community and protecting our neighbors from displacement, and will be willing to make changes to achieve those goals.

During the ConnectMenlo process, the city recognized the value of housing near jobs and enabled taller housing/mixed-use buildings in the Bayfront area near Belle Haven. There is also great value for housing near existing regional transit and services, so the height and density in the Downtown Plan and ConnectMenlo areas should be applied with equity.

Thank you very much for your consideration,

Adina Levin
Angela Evans
Diane Bailey
Jen Wolosin
Karen Grove
Pamela Jones
Rachel Horst


Menlo Together https://menlotogether.org

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