Arrillaga's Menlo project grows by adding housing | January 25, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 25, 2013

Arrillaga's Menlo project grows by adding housing

Joint Stanford development increases by 5,000 square feet

by Sandy Brundage

The latest revision of a proposed development in Menlo Park by Stanford University and philanthropist John Arrillaga added some housing, which may mollify city officials. But there's a catch: The addition comes without sacrificing office and retail space — meaning that the already massive 8-acre project along El Camino Real would grow by about 5,000 square feet.

"Stanford/Arrillaga project leaders did not listen to the objections of Menlo Park neighborhoods — Instead of reducing the traffic and safety concerns — they have increased it," Perla Ni, a spokesperson for the group Save Menlo, wrote in an email. "This is the largest medical office complex that has ever been proposed for Menlo Park, and now they are proposing to add more housing on top of it."

Save Menlo, a grassroots effort to oppose the proposed plan, met with Stanford University representatives on Jan. 18. During the meeting, the group reviewed the revised plans the university submitted to Menlo Park last week.

The project will replace car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino with a mixed-use complex of 96,000 square feet of medical offices, 133,500 square feet of offices, 10,000 square feet of retail, and housing.

The latest changes propose adding 15 to 30 apartments for a maximum of 150 units. Architects also modified the public plaza on Middle Avenue with what Stanford described as "bicycle and pedestrian friendly improvements."

The proposal remains consistent with the city's specific plan for the area, according to city staff, and won't trigger discussions about the developer providing the city public benefits. That leaves Menlo Park without much control over the project since it won't require approvals for anything beyond the Planning Commission signing off on architectural details.

Some city officials, including planning commissioners and council members, have not been shy about expressing disappointment with the project. They said that throughout creation of the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, Stanford appeared to support developing the empty car lots as senior housing. Instead, the university is now forging ahead with a project composed primarily of office space, which is expected to increase traffic along the city's main corridor.

On Monday, Jan. 28, the Planning Commission will hold a study session for the project. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St.

The latest version is expected to be posted by Friday, Jan. 25, on

Sandy Brundage is a staff writer with the Almanac, the Weekly's sister paper. She can be reached at


Like this comment
Posted by Stefan P.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2013 at 9:06 am

Thank you for the article. I'd like to suggest one correction regarding the expansion of the project. Stanford's original plan submission from November 2012 showed a total project size of 357,000 sq.ft. The revised submission from last week shows 443,200 sq.ft. of built-out area. That is an expansion of over 80,000 sq.ft. For reference, the average Walmart is 102,000 sq.ft. (Web Link). We are looking at the equivalent of 4+ Walmarts in one location on El Camino right at the border between PA and MP. Who thinks that is smart?

Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of Southgate
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

@ Stefan P who asked
Q: "Who thinks that is smart?"

A: Stanford and Arrillaga

Like this comment
Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts comes to mind, having recently seen Les Troyens

Like this comment
Posted by Think About It
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Let's see. Menlo Park officials and planners heard from Stanford that they INTENDED to build senior housing in that long, drawn out space between El Camino and the tracks. So they designed a baseline plan that allowed Stanford and Arrillaga to do pretty much whatever they wanted. And they're disappointed that what's coming through now is a very large, very lucrative project that will pay off for both Stanford and Arrillage for years, while impacting everyone else?

There are times when both Menlo Park and Palo Alto sound like Podunk USA as they deal with these slick developers.

Like this comment
Posted by Ronald L.
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Similar to a monster out of science fiction, the more you attack it,
the bigger it gets.

Like this comment
Posted by Yes Podunk USA
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Think about it,

"There are times when both Menlo Park and Palo Alto sound like Podunk USA as they deal with these slick developers."

"Podunk USA" often comes to mind about Palo Alto City Hall. Definitely not New York City. Stanford was FAIL there.

Hennessy shared his surprise at the demands from NYC (SDaily).

"JH (on failed NYC campus bid): Well, the straw that broke the camel’s back I suppose, in the end, it was just there were too many conditions imposed on the project and I think it just got to the point where the University was being asked to carry the lion’s share of risk. The city was dumping risk on the University and wasn’t giving us anything in return. It’s not like they were saying, “Okay, we’re going to give you more land or we’re going to give you more money. No, you take all the risk and if it fails, even if it’s our fault, you pay us.” I mean … that was just crazy."

Web Link

That's big boy terms.

Like this comment
Posted by Think About It
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm

C'mon, Yes Podunk USA, Stanford could have stayed in the game with the big boys. But it just realized that it would be throwing good money after bad. Anyone who's lived in New York knows the politics and corruption there. That doesn't excuse the way our local cities give away the store on these developments.

Why didn't MP make a better plan? Is anyone asking their officials that question?

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm

>> equivalent of 4+ Walmarts in one location. . .

Walmarts tend to be one-story. Need to visualize four Walmarts standing up on their edges.

Like this comment
Posted by Yes Podunk USA
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Think about it,

Would you say there is absolutely no corruption in Podunk USA?

Maybe it's just plain stupidity then to allow a developer to plunk four Walmarts on that site, in exchange for nothing.

Like this comment
Posted by Think About It
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Yes Podunk,

I can't guarantee there's no corruption here. There's that record of cozy behavior with Arrillaga and the PA staffers. Let's hope that it just looks so good that they lose sight of the viewpoint of the average resident.

On the face of it, looks pretty stupid to me. At least.

Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2013 at 8:56 pm

San Antonio Road apartments:
- Prices range from $2,195 for 540 sq ft to $4,090 for 1,459 sq ft.

- Prediction is that 33 students might enter the Los Altos School district.

- Zach Dahl, senior planner for Los Altos, said the city anticipated that 10-15 percent of the new trips stemming from housing at the center would travel down San Antonio Road into town. “School traffic is one of our primary concerns, because we know that it will be coming into Los Altos.”

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by StanfordArillaga bullies
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2013 at 9:47 pm

The Stanford-Arrillaga alliance is a threat to local communities. We need to get together and fight off those voracious bullies. Palo Alto pushed back on 27 University but they will be back with another monster soon.
Big money Bullies don't give up.
We need either a legal battle if possible, or carefully watch which council members vote for these disasters and remind them Before they vote that they will suffer at election time.
It would be helpful to know who is being bribed, this could not happen on its merits. Any guesses?

Like this comment
Posted by Think About It
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2013 at 7:40 am

I'd say the chances are way better that Stanford and Arrillaga are very effective at working with city staff than that there's actual bribery going on. As a general rule, stupidity is a better explanation for decisions like this than conspiracy.

Let's don't start libeling people--these threads have too many extreme ideas as it is.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

We are talking about El Camino, right? That busy street that has lots of retail, offices, etc.??? It's not a residential neighborhood and I don't think Stanford needs any addional permission from Menlo Park.

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