Almanac

News - July 17, 2013

City starts next housing update

by Sandy Brundage

The housing update is finished! Let's get started on the housing update. Menlo Park residents may be forgiven for wondering if they're starring in a civic version of "Groundhog Day" — no sooner has the city wrapped up its first housing plan update in 10 years than it finds itself facing yet another.

The council kicked off round 2, which will plan the city's housing zones for 2014 through 2022, by re-establishing a housing steering committee, now made up o Mayor Peter Ohtaki, Councilman Rich Cline, Planning Commissioners Katie Ferrick and Katherine Strehl; and Housing Commission members Carolyn Clarke and Sally Cadigan.

They are scheduled to meet Aug. 6 to start planning an analysis of potential locations for emergency shelters and transitional and supportive housing as required by state law.

During the previous update, finalized in June, the council voted to allow secondary units, aka "granny units." Now it has to figure out how to legitimize existing secondary units that were built before they were legal. To that end the council will use part of the $70,000 set aside for implementation of the housing plan changes to hire a consultant to guide the development of an amnesty program.

The recently approved housing update led to the rezoning of four sites as potential locations for high-density housing development:

• 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).

The update was a part of a lawsuit settlement over the city's failure to comply with state housing law for the past decade. Menlo Park had to find sites where zoning changes could allow construction of about 900 new housing units, with 454 units dedicated to affordable housing. The settlement also requires the city to provide zoning incentives for developers to build affordable housing, including within the new downtown/El Camino Real specific plan.

Developers can choose to construct only market-rate housing, leaving the number of incoming affordable units in doubt. To encourage the construction of below-market-rate housing, the city plans to issue a notice to developers that at least $1 million in funding is available to help build affordable rental units. The money comes from Menlo Park's existing below-market-rate housing fund. The council was scheduled to vote on issuing the notice at its July 16 meeting.

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