Vision – Plans – Progress

Development Planning For Menlo Park Central Business Districts


planning process graphic

Menlo Park Vision

Menlo Park central business districts are defined by the Specific Plan to include the Downtown (Santa Cruz Avenue), the train station, and the 2+ mile stretch of El Camino Real (ECR) that runs between Palo Alto and Atherton.

In July 2008 the Menlo Park City Council unanimously accepted the El Camino Real / Downtown Vision Plan. “This document  reflects the vision of the Menlo Park community for its Downtown and the El Camino Real corridor and was developed through intensive outreach and discussion. The Vision Plan is intended to serve as a starting point for further discussion and community planning”.

Vision Plan Goals

  1. Vision Plan Area Character: Maintain a village character unique to Menlo Park.
  2. East-West Connectivity: Provide greater east-west, town-wide connectivity.
  3. El Camino Real Circulation: Improve circulation and streetscape conditions on El Camino Real.
  4. Neighborhood Context: Ensure that El Camino Real development is sensitive to and compatible with adjacent neighborhoods.
  5. Vacant and Underutilized Parcels on El Camino Real: Revitalize underutilized parcels and buildings.
  6. Train Station Area: Activate the train station area.
  7. Santa Cruz Avenue Pedestrian Character: Protect and enhance pedestrian amenities on Santa Cruz Avenue.
  8. Downtown Vibrancy: Expand shopping, dining and neighborhood services to ensure a vibrant downtown.
  9. Housing: Provide residential opportunities in the Vision Plan Area.
  10. Open Space: Provide plaza and park spaces.
  11. Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation: Provide an integrated, safe and well-designed pedestrian and bicycle network.
  12. Parking: Develop parking strategies and facilities that meet the commercial and residential needs of the community.

View the actual Vision Plan

General Plan

The following is from the existing 1994 General Plan.

The central purpose of the General Plan is to main Menlo Park’s special character as a residential community that includes a broad range of residential, business and employment opportunities and to provide for the change necessary to maintain a vital community. The overall philosophy of this General Plan is to provide guidelines for the development of the city’s vacant land, for the revitalization of existing development, and the development of a transportation system and other public facilities in a manner that:

  • Maintains and enhances the residential quality of life in the city by emphasizing development which has a human scale and is pedestrian friendly, and
  • Protects the city’s open space and natural resources.

Menlo Park is currently updating its 1994 General plan and expects to complete this process in 2016. In December 2014 the city council approved a set of guiding principles for this update.

View the actual General Plan

Specific Plan

In November 2013 the City Council approved the Specific Plan which governs public and private investments in the downtown, train station and El Camino business districts. (See drawing below)

In November 2014 the ballot Measure M was soundly defeated by a 2 to 1 margin. This measure would have sharply limited the amount of office development on El Camino Real and establish other restrictions.

View more information and the actual Specific Plan

Progress Scorecard

Although the city continues to study many of the possible improvements identified during its formal planning processes no substantial PHYSICAL progress has been made.

  1. Vision Plan Area Character: During the divisive Measure M campaign the goal of “maintain(ing) a village character” was highly controversial. There was little agreement on what village character means and whether this goal should be applied to both downtown and El Camino. The Vision Plan was accepted over six years ago during the depths of an economic depression. Should this goal be updated and refined to reflect changing demographics?
  2. East-West Connectivity: No improvements and traffic problems have worsened
  3. El Camino Real Circulation: No improvements and traffic problems have worsened.
  4. Neighborhood Context: Consistent with the Specific Plan both large developments planned for El Camino are preparing environmental impact reports (EIRs).
  5. Vacant and Underutilized Parcels on El Camino Real: There are now MORE vacant parcels and buildings.
  6. Train Station Area: No significant improvements.
  7. Santa Cruz Avenue Pedestrian Character: No significant improvements.
  8. Downtown Vibrancy: No significant improvements.
  9. Housing: One new development completed in 2014; several hundred apartments in the planning stages
  10. Open Space: Assuming this refers to public infrastructure, no significant improvements have been made.
  11. Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation: No significant improvements.
  12. Parking: No significant improvements.

City Planning Calendar

  • October 2007 – City Kicks-off Vision Plan(ning) process
  • June 2008 – Vision Plan approved
  • June 2013 – Specific Plan approved by City Council
  • November 2013 – First Annual Review of the Specific Plan
  • October 2014 – The City Council sets new limits on medical office space, requests a formal review of existing public benefit thresholds, and requires Stanford to scale down its development concept and prepare a project-level, environmental impact report.
  • November 2014 – Ballot Measure M is defeated by a 2:1 margin

Specific Plan District Boundaries