Menlo Park TOD near Caltrain subject of referendum campaign
- Published Wednesday, September 20, 2006, by the Menlo Park Almanac
Menlo Park: Opponents of 'Derry' project launch referendum campaign
By Rory Brown
Although a recently approved condo-commercial development in Menlo
Park has undergone about two years of review with little public
criticism, a group of residents has announced it plans to launch a
referendum campaign against the project.
If the group garners enough signatures, the fate of the project
could go before Menlo Park voters.
On September 12, the council approved the "Derry" project, which
calls for 135 condominiums and 22,525 square feet of commercial
space on a 3.5-acre site owned by the Derry family between El Camino
Real and the train station.
Leading the referendum campaign are members of a group that calls
itself Menlo Park Tomorrow. They say the project is too dense --
with too many homes per square feet -- and will increase traffic and
"This is a watershed moment in the history of Menlo Park," said
Morris Brown, a spokesperson for Menlo Park Tomorrow. "We're talking
about two-and-a-half times or so the density of what was intended
[for the site] under the general plan."
In an advertisement in last week's Almanac, the group says the
project will lead to the "Manhattanization of Menlo Park."
Members of the group include former Menlo Park mayor Jack Morris
and residents Chuck Bernstein, Don Brawner and Martin Engel.
Councilwoman Mickie Winkler, who is running for re-election in
November, said the Derry project is a "model of a walkable community
project." She labeled the referendum effort as a "political attempt
to discredit candidates [who support the project]."
The project was initially approved 4-1 by the council August 29
before receiving final approval by another 4-1 vote September 12.
Several residents spoke against the project at both meetings.
But no members of Menlo Park Tomorrow spoke against the project at
previous hearings, including when the proposal went before the
Planning Commission in July, according to city staff -- a point
emphasized by Councilwoman Lee Duboc, who said the group waited
until "the twelfth hour" to criticize the project.
The Planning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend the council approve
Mr. Brown acknowledged that residents should have "followed the
project more closely," but said he and others were "blind-sided" by
how quickly plans have progressed to build another condo-commercial
project adjacent to the Derry project at 1300 El Camino Real, the
site of the former Cadillac dealership.
He said the approval of the Derry project sets a precedent that
could lead to higher-density developments along El Camino Real a
process he says that is being done in a "piecemeal" manner instead
of by using a comprehensive plan.
The group and its supporters have until October 12 -- 30 days
after the council approved the project -- to acquire about 1,800
signatures of registered voters on referendum petitions, said City
Attorney Bill McClure.
The 1,800 number is 10 percent of the city's registered voters, the
minimum required. If that number is obtained, the council has to
either repeal its approval of the project or put the project before
the voters, Mr. McClure said.
He said it's too late to get the issue on the November 7 ballot, but
it could go to voters in a special election.
The referendum would require a simple majority vote to pass, he said.
Councilman Andy Cohen, the lone council member to oppose the project,
said he supports the referendum effort.
Council candidates Vincent Bressler and Richard Cline said they plan
on helping with the referendum campaign.
Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson, at Tuesday's meeting, said the council
is "sending a signal to other developers that [the council] give[s]
away high density for free," but she still voted to approve the
[BATN: See also:
Letters: TOD at Menlo Park Caltrain too dense; BMR units good
Menlo Park OK's 135 condos between Caltrain station, El Camino
Menlo Park panel OK's 135 condos adjacent to Caltrain station
Menlo Park considers redevelopment near Caltrain station