Almanac

News - April 10, 2013

Menlo Park housing plan update starts final round of reviews

by Sandy Brundage

With a May deadline right around the corner, Menlo Park has released the environmental and financial impact analyses for the upcoming housing plan update.

The Planning Commission and City Council scheduled a joint session to review the reports on Tuesday, April 9.

(Check AlmanacNews.com for updates. This paper went to press prior to the meeting.)

The long-overdue update is part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought last year by three nonprofits over Menlo Park's lack of compliance with state housing law.

During this update cycle, the city needed to find sites where zoning changes could allow about 900 new housing units to be built, with 454 units dedicated to affordable housing. Menlo Park held numerous community workshops and study sessions to whittle the initial list of 25 sites down to five:

• A site at the Department of Veteran's Affairs campus in the 700 block of Willow Road (60 housing units).

• Gateway Apartments at two locations: the 1200 block of Willow Road and the 1300 block of Willow Road. Both sites are owned by the Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition (78 units total).

• Hamilton Avenue East located in the 700 and 800 blocks of Hamilton Avenue (216 units).

• A site in the 3600 block of Haven Avenue (540 units).

All five sites would be zoned as high density — defined as 30 units per acre — to qualify as affordable housing. The Planning Commission is scheduled to make recommendations on the update on April 21, with council action to follow on May 22.

To get a jump on the next update cycle, Menlo Park is also considering implementing new programs to encourage construction of 300 granny units and an additional 118 units on existing housing sites with excess space for infill development, according to the staff report.

The fiscal impact analysis conducted by consultants with BAE Urban Economics concludes that if all the units considered by the housing plan update were built, without any counterbalancing commercial development, the city's revenues would dip into the negative by about $1.5 million a year because of added demands placed on the Menlo Park's administrative and community services. However, if business development occurs and revenues from projects such as Facebook and Menlo Gateway are included in the analysis, the report projects that that changes to a $4.2 million annual surplus.

Go to tinyurl.com/MP-heu to review the proposed changes, along with the environmental and financial impact reports.

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