BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Two Menlo Park councilwomen proposed yesterday a citywide building moratorium, saying they would like the council to solve the traffic and housing problems before allowing more development. The moratorium would also stop the approval of nearly 2,000 homes.
Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor and Councilwoman Betsy Nash sent a letter to Mayor Ray Mueller requesting council discuss the moratorium.
“What is being contemplated is a big deal,” Mueller said. “I can’t understate that, and we need to have a robust discussion because of it.”
Mueller would not say where he stands on a moratorium, saying he wants to make sure that everyone gets to provide their two cents.
The proposed moratorium is two-fold:
• Citywide, no commercial, office or hotel developments would be allowed.
• In District 1, the Belle Haven neighborhood, there would be an additional moratorium on any housing project with more than 100 homes.
That would stop two housing developments — the 1,500 homes proposed for the Facebook Willow Village and 483 apartments proposed by Greystar’s at 141 Jefferson Drive.
Taylor and Nash listed the topics they would like the council and city to analyze before allowing more development — the jobs-housing imbalance, the city’s zoning policies and the impact of development on traffic, education and emergency services.
Neither Taylor nor Nash returned the Post’s calls seeking additional information on their proposal.
Moratorium called counterproductive
Mike Ghielmetti, president of Signature Development Group of Oakland, which is working for Facebook to develop the massive Willow Village project said in a statement yesterday that Signature and Facebook oppose any blanket moratorium. Ghielmetti said the two companies have spent years working on the project and have listened to the community’s concerns. As a result, the Village project will include a grocery store, pharmacy and parks.
“We hope the council and the city will recognize that this blanket prohibition is counterproductive to achieving the very solutions that address the problems that are challenging our community,” Ghielmetti said.
But this isn’t the first time the idea of a moratorium has been broached.
At a March 26 council meeting, Nash and Councilwoman Catherine Carlton asked City Attorney Bill McClure whether council could impose a building moratorium.
“I’m not enamored by allowing more development right now,” Carlton said at the meeting.
No guarantee the city can avoid a suit
McClure said that the city can impose a moratorium on projects where building permits have not been pulled yet, but that won’t protect the city completely from getting sued. At that time, the city had 11 projects in the planning process and two have been approved so far.
At the same meeting, Belle Haven residents called for a moratorium. They said there is no plan in place to reduce traffic. They also complained that improvements the community requested in 2016 when the zoning for the east side was approved have not come to fruition yet.
Mueller said yesterday he put the moratorium on next Tuesday’s council agenda. At that meeting, council could vote on whether to direct McClure to write a moratorium ordinance that would be brought back to council for a final decision.
Councilman Drew Combs said he has an open mind on this topic and like Mueller, wants to hear from all sides on the issue. Combs said he’s unsure what role he will play in the discussion because, as a Facebook employee, he is unable to vote on matters related to that company.