Analysis and plan revision memos

Conceptual Art


In summer and fall 2011, the Planning Commission and City Council provided detailed recommendations and direction to improve and refine the Draft Specific Plan. The consolidated City Council direction is available for review in a summary list and an annotated matrix, the latter of which includes preliminary notes from city staff.
In preparation for the revisions to the Final Specific Plan, the consultant team and staff conducted more analysis on a number of topics. The memorandums on this page summarize these analyses and point towards aspects of the Final Specific Plan. However, the memos are broader discussions and include some recommendations that aren't necessarily mirrored exactly in the Final Specific Plan. Regardless, the memos may be of interest to community members, and reviewing them now may help focus review of the Final Specific Plan (to be released Thursday, April 19).

Task A: El Camino Real street sections revisions

Key findings and recommendations

  • Preferred sidewalk widths can be achieved through increasing building setbacks, although this would be incremental.
  • Six-lane cross-section would improve intersection operations slightly, but would create a worse retail and pedestrian environment.
  • The existing curb-to-curb width on downtown section of ECR can accommodate 6 auto travel lanes, or 4 auto travel lanes with on-street parking and bicycle lanes, with some minor curb and median adjustments.
  • The four-lane alternative with on-street parking, and bicycle lanes is the preferred alternative, subject to consideration in relation to the overall ECR bicycle route/lane analysis and future detailed design, in order to establish its physical feasibility.

Tasks B and C: Station area end El Camino Real SE facade height, building height and bulk control revisions

Task E: Building height revisions (ECR NE and ECR NE-R)

Key findings and recommendations

  • Enhance design guidelines to recommend a hierarchy of facade modulation and roof line breaks to reduce apparent building massing and increase architectural interest
  • Increase the maximum height in the ECR NE and ECR NE-R zoning districts from 38 feet to 48 feet if Public Benefit is provided.
  • Reduce the building height in SA W from 60 feet to 48 feet.
  • Reduce the facade height requirement from 45 feet maximum to 38 feet maximum in the SA E, SA W, and ECR SE zoning districts.
  • Revise bulk controls.
  • Set the location of building envelope requirements at the minimum setback line versus at the facade plane.

Task D: Stanford University site and bulk control revisions

Key findings and recommendations

  • Buildings will adhere to design guidelines and standards to further break down building massing.
  • Continue to require the 10- to 20-foot front setback to accommodate a sizable walkway along El Camino Real.
  • Rear setback should be reduced to fire lane only and as minimal as possible. This will allow for more functional floor plates.
  • Require 30% open space, consistent with the other zones along El Camino Real.
  • Three major building breaks should be required and aligned with the street grid.
  • Two major recesses should also also be required.

Task F: Downtown Parking Plaza 2 study

Key findings and recommendations

  • A parking structure can be accommodated on Parking Plaza 2 providing from 250 parking spaces to 310 parking spaces, depending on whether a pocket park is developed.
  • A parking structure would displace 95 existing parking spaces on the existing lot.
  • The overall layout of the garage does not achieve the highest efficiency given that the site creates parking on only 1 side of the ramp. This will create higher cost per space for the garage compared to garages that provide parking on both sides of the ramp.

Task G: Public benefit financial feasibility analysis

Key findings and recommendations

  • Development costs generally go up as density increases.
  • Mixed-use office projects at the proposed base and bonus FARs appear not to be feasible.
  • Mixed-use residential development with the proposed Draft Specific Plan base FARs is feasible given current land values.
  • Residential development with the proposed Draft Specific Plan bonus FARs appear to be more feasible than the base FAR scenarios, given current market values.
  • The financial performance of office development does not improve with projected growth in rents, largely due to the difficulty of building larger-scale office buildings on smaller infill sites.
  • The proposed bonus density residential development generates a higher residual land value than base density, which suggests that there is potential for the city to pursue strategies to negotiate public benefits.
  • The purpose of the analysis is to generally test how allowed intensities are likely to affect the feasibility of new development. Because market conditions and development costs fluctuate over time, and because development opportunities vary from property to property, the results of this analysis are not necessarily directly applicable to a specific project.

Task H: Sustainability revisions

Key findings and recommendations

  • Revise LEED and LEED-ND requirements.
  • Update references to state, regional, and local initiatives to reflect changes since Draft Specific Plan was released.

Task I: Restaurant study

Key findings and recommendations

  • Combine definitions for "Restaurants, Full Service" and "Restaurants, Limited Service" and permit within downtown.
  • Make small modifications to permitting process for other restaurant types.

Task J: Live/Work study

Key findings and recommendations

  • Controlling the "reversion" of live/work to live only or work only is challenging and hard to enforce.
  • Live/work is typically located in "transition areas" - on residential edges between residential and commercial/industrial areas.
  • There does not appear to be strong reasons to explicitly include live/work in the Specific Plan area; the city's existing provisions for Home Occupation seem to meet the city's needs.

Task K: Retail case study

Key findings and recommendations

  • Concentration of corridor retail and restaurants in nodes will allow for better competitive positioning while other corridor locations are freed for better-positioned uses.
  • Ground floor retail must be designed well in order to be successful.
  • Recommend requiring retail/restaurant uses at the east side of El Camino Real at Middle Avenue.
  • The Specific Plan supports a long-term economic shift away from the historic pattern of auto-oriented convenience retail along El Camino Real to a mixed-use neighborhood with pedestrian-friendly supportive retail.

Task L: Senior housing

Key findings recommendations

  • Consider structuring any community benefit / density bonus program such that the provision of senior housing is itself considered a community benefit and automatically qualifies for the bonus.
  • Reductions in residential parking requirements (as are already being implemented in the Final Specific Plan for the station area and nearby zones) can assist senior housing development.
  • Senior housing requires a certain scale of development to be most successful.
  • The perceived political climate and availability/price of land were cited as major barriers to the development of senior housing in the region and Menlo Park, specifically.

Task N: East-West connectivity

Key findings and recommendations

  • A pedestrian scramble phase would cause vehicle operations to degrade to an unacceptable level with projected traffic volumes and the existing four-lane cross section.
  • Measures that were considered and rejected include a pedestrian overcrossing/bridge, trenching (or tunneling) through lanes on El Camino Real, and a pedestrian scramble phase at the intersection of Santa Cruz Avenue and El Camino Real.
  • Other signal timing and phasing changes were tested but none resulted in improved pedestrian east-west connectivity and acceptable intersection vehicular operations.

Tasks O, P and Q: Bicycle-related comments

Key findings and recommendations

  • A separated bikeway for the segment of El Camino Real from Roble Avenue to Cambridge Avenue was analyzed and is not recommended. Instead, bicycle lanes on El Camino Real along this segment and connecting to the planned Middle Avenue grade-separated crossing are recommended.
  • Recommend establishing a new "Future Class II/Minimum Class III" category to address locations where bicycle lanes are desirable but where existing constraints, such as on-street parking and insufficient right-of-way may currently prevent the striping of bicycle lanes.