News - October 13, 2010

Beltramo townhomes get green light

by Sandy Brundage

A housing project first envisioned a decade ago evaded an equally drawn-out death as the Menlo Park Planning Commission voted 5-0 Monday, Oct. 4, to accept a revised deal with Beltramo's for construction of 16 townhomes at 1460 El Camino Real.

The city and developer had been haggling for months over the number of below-market-rate (BMR) apartments to be included. The original approved plan set aside three BMR units, but the Beltramos asked to include only one, in light of declining real estate values.

Ten to 20 percent of sales revenue on each remaining unit goes back to the city if the sales price exceeds $1 million to compensate for not including two more under the revised plan, according to the staff report.

Five planning commissioners also agreed to accept in-lieu fees on five market-rate townhomes and $207,348 in commercial linkage fees.

Commissioner Katie Ferrick abstained from the vote after stating she "was troubled by the BMR piece," but didn't want to see the project fail. Colleague Ben Eiref was absent.

One city official appeared to express regret. The Housing Commission unanimously recommended the revised proposal on Sept. 1. However, Commissioner Anne Mozer said she wished she could retract her vote.

"In retrospect I regret my vote that approved it," she told the planning commissioners. "I finally decided I needed to stand up and say I made a mistake."

Too many people are waiting for BMR housing, she said, and there aren't enough units in Menlo Park.

"I'm almost at the point of throwing a coin in the air," Chairman John O'Malley said after acknowledging that in-lieu fees are never large enough to buy a BMR unit elsewhere in the city. However, the revenue sharing and commercial linkage fees let the Beltramos win his coin toss.

The deal will now go to the City Council for final approval.


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