Last week, Menlo Park City Council voted to approve* a new General Plan allowing 5500 units of housing (4500 newly allowed) near Facebook. The new General Plan guides the evolution of an area originally built as light manufacturing into “live work play” neighborhoods that including jobs, housing, and services.
By adding housing near jobs, vehicle miles travelled are expected to be reduced well below the level expected under the current plan, and below today’s level, according to the Environmental impact report.
The plan requires developments to reduce their car trips to 20% below the standard level; with the possibility to increase those requirements when future transit improvements are in place.
In response to community concerns about housing affordability and displacement, the plan encourages up to 20% below market rate housing for developments at a bonus zoning level.
In order to update the transportation system to handle the influx of residents and workers, the plan calls for an 18-month Transportation Master Plan process to plan out the transportation improvements that will be needed, with priorities and costs. Important input into this plan will be the SamTrans study of Dumbarton Corridor transit improvements, which is expected to provide recommendations this spring, including options for high occupancy managed lanes for buses and carpools, and future rail connections.
Some Council members are also interested in turning 84 (Bayfront Expressway) from the Dumbarton Bridge to the 101 connection into a full freeway, with grade separated interchanges at University in East Palo Alto, and Willow Road by Facebook and the Belle Haven neighborhood, and an elevated connection to 101 near Marsh Road. The hope is that this would speed traffic and reduce “cut-through” driving in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto neighborhoods.
These freeway ideas were last published in the Peninsula 2020 study. The earlier studies did not consider “induced demand” – whether relieving bottlenecks at the traffic lights would encourage even more drivers to use this route instead of other routes or transit options. Updated studies should consider these factors to evaluate whether a “Bayfront Bypass” freeway would have the desired results.
Also, the earlier study assumed then-current light industrial uses. An updated study would look at the affect of these freeway designs on the live/work/plan neighborhoods contemplated in new plans for Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.
*The plan passed on First Reading. A Second Reading is legally required but these are usually a formality.