UPDATE: On Dec. 29, East Palo Alto officially filed a lawsuit against Menlo Park over recently adopted changes to Menlo Park's general plan. Read the story here.
Just days before time runs out to file a lawsuit challenging Menlo Park's adoption of major changes to its general plan and zoning, East Palo Alto has notified the city that it is challenging the changes because they violate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The changes in Menlo Park's M-2 industrial zone that would allow up to 2.3 million square feet of nonresidential uses, up to 4,500 residential units, and up to 400 hotel rooms will go into effect on Jan. 6, and Menlo Park City Attorney Bill McClure said the lawsuit will not delay the changes.
In a short letter emailed to Menlo Park officials on Dec. 28, attorney Ellison Folk of the San Francisco legal firm of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger notified Menlo Park that the "City of East Palo Alto will file suit challenging the City of Menlo Park's approval of an update to the Menlo Park General Plan (MenloConnect) and the adoption of zoning ordinances in connection therewith for failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act."
Folk said the suit will be filed on Thursday or Friday in San Mateo County Superior Court, before the period allowed to challenge the adoption runs out.
She said the lawsuit will include East Palo Alto's concerns about how the general plan update will affect that city, including displacement of residents, traffic and housing.
"East Palo Alto bears a lot of burdens of this development," but does not receive its benefits, she said.
East Palo Alto has "interest in seeing that the burdens are equitably shared," she said.
Folk said the lawsuit will not jeopardize the agreements that Facebook recently announced to donate close to $20 million to East Palo Alto community organizations, mostly to help provide affordable housing. However, the terms of the agreement approved by a coalition of community groups and Facebook say that $4.5 million of the donations to community groups are contingent on any challenge to Menlo Park's general plan update being "resolved in a manner that is reasonably acceptable to Facebook."
McClure said that although the zoning and general plan changes will go into effect on schedule, they could be reversed if Menlo Park loses the lawsuit.
He said Menlo Park will probably work with East Palo Alto "to determine what their concerns and issues are and discuss how those might be addressed/resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner."
The Nov. 29 Menlo Park City Council vote to adopt the general plan update was 4-1, with Councilman Ray Mueller opposed. The plan says it could add as many as 11,570 residents and 5,500 workers between now and the year 2040.