Middle Plaza at 500 El Camino Real Project

Project Description

Stanford University is proposing to redevelop the properties currently addressed 300 through 550 El Camino Real, which is an 8.43-acre site that is part of the El Camino Real / Downtown Specific Plan area. The project parcels are part of the Specific Plan's "ECR SE" zoning district and "El Camino Real Mixed Use" land use designation. The existing buildings (current and former auto dealerships) and site features would be replaced with a new mixed-use development consisting of offices, housing, and retail.

The proposal would adhere to the Specific Plan's "Base" level standards, which were established to achieve inherent public benefits, such as the redevelopment of underutilized properties, the creation of more vitality and activity, and the promotion of healthy living and sustainability. The proposal is required to comply with the Specific Plan's detailed standards and guidelines, which include requirements to limit building mass (in particular on upper floors), encourage articulation and architectural interest, require wider sidewalks, and mandate LEED Silver compliance. This project would also be required to provide a 120-foot-wide, publicly accessible frontage break at Middle Avenue. This "Burgess Park Linkage / Open Space Plaza" would lead to a future grade-separated pedestrian/bicycle crossing of the Caltrain tracks.

The proposal is subject to detailed review and may change before final actions occur. The most recent application submittal has the following characteristics:

 Intensity - Floor Area Ratio
Use  Square Feet (sf)
Non-Medical Office 144,000 sf
Retail 10,000 sf
Residential (215 units) 305,000 sf
Total up to 459,013 sf

Current Status

The proposal was the subject of a Planning Commission study session on Monday, January 28, 2013. No action took place at this meeting, but the study session provided an opportunity for the Planning Commission and the public to become more familiar with the proposal and to identify potential questions and concerns. Since this meeting, the applicant has been reviewing this feedback and considering revisions to the proposal.

On Tuesday, April 16, 2013, the City Council held a regular business item to review the proposal and consider options for the project review process. The Council formed a project subcommittee, comprised of Council Members Carlton and Keith, with the primary objectives of facilitating the process and providing input on the traffic analysis. On Tuesday, August 27, 2013, the City Council accepted a final report from the subcommittee and approved proposed scopes of work for the project's traffic analysis.

On Monday, September 28, 2015, the applicant submitted a Revised Project Description (updated April 7, 2016), Draft Transportation Demand Management Plan, and revised conceptual plans. The proposed project is currently under review.

Required Review

The proposed project would require the following actions:
  1. Environmental Review to analyze the potential environmental impacts of the proposal
  2. Architectural Control to review the design of the proposed buildings and site improvements
  3. Variance(s) may be required in order to provide a larger Middle Avenue plaza than contemplated in the Specific Plan
  4. Lot Line Adjustment/Lot Merger to modify existing lot lines
  5. Heritage Tree Removal Permits for the proposed removal of 11 heritage trees
  6. Below Market Rate Housing Agreement as required for the Project’s compliance with the City’s Below Market Rate Housing Program

Applicant Correspondence on Specific Plan

The subject applicant, Stanford University, participated throughout the entire planning process for the El Camino Real / Downtown Specific Plan, in particular by serving as a City Council-designated representative on the Oversight and Outreach Committee. In public correspondence and through remarks at meetings, the applicant repeatedly supported the community planning process and stated an intent to pursue a comprehensive mixed-use redevelopment proposal in compliance with the adopted Plan. At various points, the applicant provided detail-type critiques of some draft regulations and Draft EIR elements, but did not submit correspondence or make in-meeting remarks that committed to a particular type of future development proposal.

The applicant's correspondence on the Specific Plan is provided below, for reference.