Development Guide

This page provides information about the requirements and procedures for projects in the El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan area.

Standard application requirements

Projects in the Specific Plan are subject to all applicable requirements listed in the standard Development Permit Application Submittal Guidelines(PDF, 460KB) . Many items in that document reference additional forms available on the Planning Division page.

Standards/guidelines compliance worksheet

The Specific Plan includes a detailed set of design standards and guidelines, and compliance with these is a key part of the discretionary approval process. A full submittal shall include a filled-out Standards/Guidelines Compliance Worksheet, adding responses to each requirement to relay:

  • Strict compliance with Standards (“shall” statements- must be met)
  • General compliance with Guidelines (“should” statements- there can be some flexibility with these, based on specific site attributes or other unique constraints)
  • With either of the above, an applicant may relay if a requirement may not be applicable.

The compliance worksheet is available in Microsoft Word and PDF format: 

The applicant's response is subject to detailed review and verification by City staff, and subject to public consideration and action by the Planning Commission and/or City Council. Some responses may require additional documents/information.

LEED checklist

Standard E.3.8.03 requires that most developments achieve LEED Silver level, which requires submittal of the applicable LEED checklist with the project application. The checklist must be prepared by a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP).The LEED AP should submit a cover letter stating their qualifications, and confirm that they have prepared the LEED checklist and that the information presented is accurate. In addition, if the project is approved, the development will need to receive full LEED Silver certification prior to final inspection of the building permit.

Mitigation monitoring and reporting program

Because the Specific Plan was developed in conjunction with a Program EIR (Environmental Impact Report), all subsequent projects are required to comply with all applicable elements of the Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP)(PDF, 208KB) .
Three Mitigation Measures conditionally apply with the initial project application submittal. Please see the MMRP for full details on the requirements:

  1. CUL-1: Applicable to projects that are proposed at or adjacent to buildings that are at least 50 years old. For such projects, a qualified architectural historian shall complete a site-specific historic resources study
  2. CUL-2: Applicable to projects involving ground-disturbing activity. For such projects, a qualified archeologist shall complete a site-specific cultural resources study.
  3. GHG-2a: Applicable to projects with a residential component. For such projects, the Specific Plan EIR requires the installation of a minimum of one dedicated electric vehicle/plug-in hybrid electric vehicle recharging station for every 20 residential parking spaces provided. However, please note that Green Building Standards Code Amendments that have since been adopted by the City require more charging stations in most/all cases.

Additional mitigations apply at the building permit stage, and don’t necessarily need to be fully verified at the Planning stage. However, applicants are advised to consider them all in detail, as they could ultimately affect development proposals. For example, for residential projects within 1,095 feet of the edge of the Caltrain tracks, Mitigation Measure AIR-7 applies, requiring a health risk analysis and, potentially, air filtration units. As a result, applicants should know whether filtration units would work from a cost/design perspective, since that could affect the site/building layout. Similarly, Mitigation Measure BIO-3a limits upward exterior lighting, so projects should be designed with cutoff shields or similar mechanisms. In addition, preparation of a TDM (Transportation Demand Management) plan is required by Mitigation Measure TR-2, which may be affected by building design (inclusion of showers and changing rooms for bicycle commuters, e.g.) and which is generally good to consider early on. 

Additional requirements

In addition to items listed in the Application Submittal Guidelines, the following may apply to many larger and/or mixed-use proposals:

  • Utility Plan: including locations of elements such as transformers, fire department connections, and backflow preventers
  • Signage Plan: proposed locations and sizes of signs
  • Garbage/Recycling Plan Approval: sign-off from the City's refuse agency (Recology) regarding the placement and sizing of the proposed refuse areas
  • Postal Service Approval: sign-off from the USPS regarding the placement and type of mailboxes
  • Construction Phasing Plan: diagram(s) showing how construction would proceed, including information on construction worker parking


The following are some of the key fees that may apply to new development in the Specific Plan area. Please see the Master Fee Schedule(PDF, 706KB)  for a current and full listing of City fees.

  • Specific Plan Preparation Fee: $1.13/sf of net new gross floor area
  • BMR Housing Fee and/or Agreement
  • Transportation Impact Fee (TIF) 
  • Specific Plan Transportation Infrastructure Proportionate Cost-Sharing Fee 
  • Building Construction Street Impact Fee 
  • Recreation In-Lieu Fee

Review process

In advance of a formal project application, staff requires a Development Review Team (DRT) meeting, which allows applicants to discuss the initial proposal with applicable City staff, as well as representatives of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. The initial DRT meeting is typically followed by a design-focused meeting, to review the Specific Plan's design standards and guidelines (referenced above). Following the DRT(s), a full project application may be submitted, by appointment only. Both DRT meetings and application submittal appointments may be scheduled by contacting the Planning Division. The initial DRT is a complimentary service, but the design-focused meeting requires submittal of a fee for pre-application review.

All proposals for new development require Architectural Control review by the Planning Commission. Certain proposals may also require additional actions (e.g., Use Permit), which are considered concurrently with the Architectural Control request. City Council action is required if a Planning Commission action is appealed, or if certain statutory requirements are met (e.g., a project includes a Major Subdivision, Development Agreement, or changes to the public right-of-way). Planning Commission and City Council meetings include public notice of all properties within a minimum of 300 feet of the subject property. In addition, projects that are subject to the City's Below Market Rate Housing (BMR) program require review/recommendation by the Housing Commission, and certain projects proposing Heritage Tree removals are reviewed by the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC).

Projects proposed at the Public Benefit Bonus level require at least one initial study session on the project and benefit proposal, including fiscal/economic analysis overseen by City staff. More information on the Public Benefit Bonus process is available on page E17 of Specific Plan Chapter E(PDF, 9MB) .