Almanac

News - September 18, 2013

Menlo Park: City examines sites for homeless shelter zoning

• City working on second housing plan update.

by Sandy Brundage

As Menlo Park starts work on a second update to the city's housing plan, staff has earmarked three goals: identify sites that could be zoned for homeless shelters; develop an amnesty program for secondary, or "granny," units built before the city legalized such units in June; and adopt policies for what home improvements someone with a disability may make.

Homeless shelters must be located within a quarter-mile of a bus stop that provides service seven days a week, according to the city.

The five areas under consideration are between Marsh Road and Haven Avenue; on the Veterans Affairs campus on Willow Road; on the St. Patrick's Seminary campus on Middlefield Road; an area bordered by El Camino Real, Menlo Avenue, University Drive and Roble Avenue; and an area bordered by El Camino Real, Glenwood Avenue, San Antonio Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue.

Go to tinyurl.com/Zone-913 to download a PDF map of potential homeless shelter zoning sites. It may take a minute to download the document.

According to city staff, a count taken in Menlo Park in January found 16 homeless people living in the city and 142 homeless residents who had found shelter through motel voucher programs and other assistance. The housing plan update, therefore, needs to identify sites that could be zoned for shelters with at least 16 beds.

Granny units

Developing a secondary unit amnesty program entails determining what criteria to use in evaluating units, such as how old the unit is and the original purpose of the building.

Menlo Park could require that all existing granny units be brought into compliance with safety and sanitation codes and then restrict units from being sold until all other building standards are met.

Approximately 30 people, including residents, business owners and homeless advocates attended a Sept. 10 workshop to examine the proposed housing plan updates.

The city's last housing plan update, finalized in May, rezoned four sites as high-density housing development: the 1200 and 1300 block of Willow Road; the 700 and 800 blocks of Hamilton Avenue; and a site in the 3600 block of Haven Avenue. A fifth site, on the Department of Veterans Affairs campus in the 700 block of Willow Road, was also included as a potential housing site, but didn't require rezoning.

The May update came as part of a lawsuit settlement over the city's failure to comply with state housing law for the past 10 years. 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.

Go to tinyurl.com/MP-heu to review the workshop materials and other documents for the city's housing plan update. Staff will present a report on community feedback to the Housing Element Steering Committee at its Oct. 17 meeting. Serving on the committee are council members Peter Ohtaki and Rich Cline; housing commissioners Carolyn Clarke and Sally Cadigan; and planning commissioners Katie Ferrick and Katherine Strehl.

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