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Time to End Bonus Level Development Abuses

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2019 09:25:05 -0700

Dear Planning Commission,



At your June 24, 2019 meeting, you will hear topic G1 regarding a developer’s
plan to demolish the Red Cottage Inn
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/22008/G1---1704-ECR-report?bidId=>
at
1704 El Camino Real and replace it with a larger Hampton Inn Hotel. I’ve
been following this project since January 2018 when I wrote Staff on the
topic (page 2).



Your meeting is an opportunity to stand up for the rights of residents over
developers. As a recap, the Developer is claiming as a public benefit the
additional hotel taxes that he’s legally required to pay. This is
outrageous. It shows an urgent need for Council to clarify the priorities
of Staff (i.e. a resident focus over a developer focus) along with ending
the Bonus Level Develpoment "wiggle room" that allowed the request to move
so far along.


You would also be doing residents a tremendous service if you took the
opportunity to request needed process changes in the City’s Bonus Level
Development and Public Benefits Policy, and possibly zoning codes. Our
Staff priorities also represent a reasonable request for clarification.
Have Staff been told to maximize development whenever possible? If so, who
gave this directive and does the City Council agree with this directive?
It's time to have transparency on the general matter of Staff priorities
when it comes to development. The largest share of the City's annual
budget, as you likely know, goes to paying Staff salaries and benefits.
Thus increased development could be said to represent a general Staff
conflict of interest as more development mostly goes to paying for the
Staff organization. I would prefer a smaller staff organization, with a cut
in services that residents do not want or value, rather than a Staff focus
on more development that mostly supports the Staff organization.


Some comments:

· Inaccurate G1 Topic – Staff Report topics should convey a concise
and clear summary of the key matter being reviewed. A more descriptive
topic would be: “Plan to Demolish Red Cottage Inn and Replace it with a
larger Hampton Inn Hotel.” The current topic reduces transparency, and
public notice. Will you ask Staff to write topics in such a way that would
most alert the public?

· Project abuses Concept of Public Benefits –Staff should have
denied the developer's request for Bonus Level Development for such
spurious reasons as listed in the Staff Report.
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/22008/G1---1704-ECR-report?bidId=>Staff
should also have recognized that the City lacked an actual Public Benefits
Policy and taken the initiative to prepare a draft of one for Council’s
approval -- well before now. Please see page 2 of the attached letter.

· City lacks a Public Benefit Policy. A root cause of the
Developer’s brazen request for bonus-level development, citing as a public
benefit the hotel taxes that he’s legally required to pay, is the lack of
an actual Public Benefits Policy. Developing one is urgently needed, and I
suggest that a working group be formed from suitable residents. I wrote
Staff on this topic on January 27, 2019, but I’ve yet to hear back. (Please
see attached letter, page 2.) This Public Benefit Bonus Policy Brief
<http://www.greenbelt.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/public-benefits-bonus-policy-brief.pdf>
might be helpful in a resident-led working group tasked with developing
one.

· Zoning Ordinances
<https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/MenloPark/html/MenloPark16/MenloPark16.html>need
to be more easily found at the City's website. There should be a direct
link to these from the Planning Department's website, in a visible spot.

   - SP-ECR/D (El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan) Zoning District
   <https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/MenloPark/html/MenloPark16/MenloPark1658.html#16.58.010>.
   This doesn’t include direct links to Bonus Level Development. I had to
   search other ordinances for Bonus Level wording. Even then, what I found
   contained too much wiggle room. I see a community amenities list
   <https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/MenloPark/html/MenloPark16/MenloPark1645.html#16.45>
in
   the R-MU zoning but that is poited at Belle Haven. You also likely know
   that the amenities lacked enforcement and that the Belle Haven residents
   are still waiting for their grocery store, pharmacy and ATM let alone a
   bank.

It's time for a resident-led working group to review the City's ordinances
and to make recommendations to Council. We also need to tighten up the
development-focused loopholes that Staff has not yet fixed (for whatever
reason). We cannot wait for Staff to come up with proposed solutions and
recommendations to Council. I hope that the Planning Commission can help to
drive needed change.

Lynne Bramlett


Received on Thu Jun 20 2019 - 09:19:50 PDT

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