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Report: How Stanford project may add to Menlo Park traffic woes

Public comment sought on draft environmental impact report

A draft environmental impact report on Stanford University's proposed 459,000-square-foot mixed-use development on El Camino Real was released Feb. 28 and, not surprisingly, the report shows the complex is expected to make traffic worse in Menlo Park.

The two residential and three office buildings proposed are expected to bring 512 residents and 500 employees to the site. These new people and visitors are expected to add about 2,658 daily vehicle trips, with 336 of those occurring during the morning peak commute hour and 326 during the evening peak commute hour, according to an analysis prepared by consultants from groups ICF International and W-Trans.

While 2,658 sounds like a lot of trips to add to the already crowded and sometimes gridlocked El Camino Real, that projection is much lower than the 4,842 daily trips that the city estimated might be generated at the site when it approved its El Camino Real/downtown specific plan.

Comment period

The public is invited to comment on the draft environmental impact report when the Menlo Park Planning Commission holds a public hearing Monday, March 27. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center.

Written comments may be submitted by mail or email to Jean Lin, senior planner for Menlo Park.

The email address is jplin@menlopark.org. The mail address is: Jean Lin, City of Menlo Park, Planning Division, 701 Laurel St., Menlo Park, CA 94025.

The comment period closes April 13. Responses to the comments will be included in the final environmental impact report.

Go to the project web page for more information.

In addition, Stanford will hold an open house Thursday, March 16, for the public to learn more about the proposed development. The event will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at Little House, 800 Middle Ave. in Menlo Park. Stanford staff will answer questions and explain changes on a drop-in basis.

The project

Stanford's proposed 459,013-square-foot mixed-use development would sit on 8.4 acres that run along El Camino Real from the Stanford Park Hotel at 100 El Camino to Big 5 Sporting Goods at 500 El Camino.

The complex would have 215 one- and two-bedroom apartments occupying 305,000 square feet, 144,000 square feet of non-medical office space, and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. The buildings would be a maximum of 60 feet tall, with facades facing El Camino Real at a maximum height of 38 feet.

There would be about 960 parking places (910 would be in underground and surface-level garages, and 50 in uncovered surface areas). The number of proposed parking spots could be cut, depending on the results of a parking study that's underway.

About 3.9 acres would be "open space," defined as landscape, hardscape, terraces and balconies. Part of that would include a half-acre, publicly accessible plaza.

Because Stanford's proposal falls within the guidelines of Menlo Park's El Camino Real/downtown specific plan, the university was allowed to skip going through some analyses that were done in the environmental review for the specific plan. Out of all the potential new development in Menlo Park's downtown area that was approved in that downtown specific plan, this project is expected to claim 26 percent of the non-residential growth and 32 percent of the new housing units allowed.

Impacts

Intersections expected to be worst-hit by the added traffic are:

● El Camino Real at these intersections: Ravenswood/Menlo avenues, Middle Avenue, College Avenue, Harvard Avenue, Partridge Avenue, and Creek Drive.

● Middlefield Road at these intersections: Marsh Road, Glenwood/Linden avenues, and Willow Road.

● Middle Avenue between University Drive and El Camino.

Regional roads expected to see increased traffic are:

● Willow Road eastbound from U.S. 101 to Bayfront Expressway.

● Bayfront Expressway, both eastbound and westbound between University Avenue and Willow Road.

A number of changes in the roads, such as adding turn- and through-lanes, were suggested to reduce traffic impacts, but many of the trouble spots are outside the city's jurisdiction and could require approvals from Atherton or Caltrans.

In other cases, road changes could negatively affect pedestrian and bicycle safety, and would need additional infrastructure to protect non-drivers.

To reduce traffic, Stanford has said it plans to implement bike- and car-share programs, install showers and lockers on-site, use an online portal to help people coordinate carpooling, give preferential parking to car and van pools, offer a guaranteed ride home for employees, and install do-it-yourself bike repair stands. Many bicycle parking spots would also be built.

Other potential environmental impacts were analyzed. There are contaminants left over from when the site had car dealerships with underground storage tanks, the report says. Those have been or will be removed according to a "site management plan" approved by the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department, according to the project analysis.

The development is expected to take about 38 months to build, and could be completed as soon as August 2020, according to the document.

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