The company, which was founded in 2013, bills itself as a "startup ecosystem co-working and event space." It advertises co-working spaces, a business accelerator, corporate workshops and event venues for rent at prices ranging from $80 to $500 per hour.
Residents of Palo Alto's Downtown North neighborhood, which lies just across the San Francisquito Creek from BootUp, said the events create unwanted noise from people shouting, laughing and talking loudly and from amplified music. The problem has gone unabated for about three years, they said, despite their complaints to Menlo Park staff and elected officials.
"All afternoon, it was just blasting out from there, all over our neighborhood," resident Anne Meyer said of a Sept. 15 foundation fundraiser that was attended by about 300 people. The event had amplified music and took place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m, according to the application.
Andres Mediavilla, a Palo Alto Avenue resident whose home is immediately across the creek from BootUp, told the Weekly that the problem has become so persistent that he has considered filing a lawsuit. On Oct. 4, he wrote to Menlo Park city officials regarding an event.
"We could still hear people being loud and screaming at 9 p.m.," Mediavilla wrote. "BootUp has been organizing events without the proper permits on average of twice per week for the last three years in complete violation of their C-1 zoning rules."
Neighbors have called Menlo Park police numerous times, Mediavilla said, and he and his attorney have communicated several times with Menlo Park City Attorney Bill McClure. (McClure is currently out of the office and could not be reached for comment.)
Mediavilla and his partner presented concerns at a Menlo Park City Council meeting last December, and he said he communicated several times with the city's code-enforcement officer. A police commander who was said to be in charge of the matter didn't reply to Mediavilla's inquiries, the resident said.
"All our efforts have been utterly fruitless. The city of Menlo Park's apathy and inactivity to resolve this situation makes it appear as if the city of Menlo Park condones BootUp's violations and that it is biased on enforcing their zoning rules," he wrote in his letter.
"These constant events are negatively impacting our quality of life by preventing the peaceful enjoyment of our home and surroundings," he wrote.
But now, the city is finally taking action. In its letter to BootUp, Menlo Park staff said the business is allowing unpermitted activities. The property is zoned C-1, which is limited to professional, executive and administrative offices; research facilities; public utilities and some special uses in accordance with applicable laws, according to city ordinance.
"The property at 68 Willow Road cannot be used for hosting, conducting or renting (e.g., conference room or the patio) for special events, receptions, workshops, and/or other gatherings. These uses are not permitted under the current use permit for general-office uses. All such activities and advertisement as an event venue on the BootUp website will need to cease immediately," wrote Deanna Chow, assistant director of Community Development-Planning.
She cited the business's 2007 application to the city's Planning Commission for new landscaping and outdoor improvements.
"The patio was described as a passive area with reading benches and a water fountain that would connect via a path to a new passive seating area adjacent to the creek. There was no mention of any active use of the patio for events, receptions or other gatherings in either the application or discussion at the Planning Commission meeting," Chow's letter noted.
BootUp will need to seek a revision of its use permit if it wants to conduct outdoor gatherings and social events associated with office use, she noted. A new permit application would require a full accounting of the types of activities, their frequency, times and locations, use of amplified sound and the number of attendees, among other data.
But in no case can the site be used as an event center for patrons who are unaffiliated with the business, the letter noted.
Such a restriction would appear to dampen BootUps' current practices.
"Event space for any occasion," the website offered, as recently as Oct. 17.
The choices include business networking to conference rooms; professional catering; outdoor events; corporate off-site presentations and "formal evening," which offers indoor dining for up to 48 people. Its Startup Cafe for professional networking events accommodates up to 130 people at a rate of $500 per hour; the outdoor patio can be rented for $200 an hour, according to the website.
The change can't come fast enough for the neighbors.
BootUp's location is not appropriate for "a nightclub kind of thing," LaNell Mimmack said.
Mimmack went to BootUp when it first opened to find out what was going on.
"I think they offered me a beer," she recalled.
BootUp has not responded to requests for comment. Mark Muenzer, Menlo Park's community development director, said the company has not replied to the Oct. 5 letter.
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