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Menlo Park: Developer in Facebook partnership wants fewer affordable units

Original post made on Feb 20, 2014

Last fall, developer St. Anton announced a partnership with Facebook to build a 394-unit apartment complex on Haven Ave that would have included 38 affordable units, but may now decrease that to 22.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 5:57 PM

Comments (25)

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2014 at 8:46 am

Just the latest bait and switch move by FB a la their first west campus design that turned in to a heritage tree debacle when the design Zuck really planned to build was unveiled. Now, post counting of the low income units for the purpose of helping MP meet its numbers needed to satisfy court, they show what the really plan to build. I'm sure in money-hungry MP, this will go thru the process "expeditiously".

Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 20, 2014 at 11:29 am

What else should anyone expect under the economic system we have now, which rewards greed and only values money? This cruelty must not be allowed!

People who are not wealthy are just as worthwhile and just as deserving of decent treatment and decent, affordable places to live as wealthy people.

Under our Constitution, it is the job of the federal government to "promote the general welfare". I'd say these people who own property who are greedy must be forced to provide decent housing for people who are not wealthy, aided by government subsidies. The least our City Council should do is to require the developer to provide many truly affordable apartments in this development -- aided by government subsidies -- IF truly needed by the developer to make a fair profit -- and NOT to gouge renters for his own enrichment. It is past time for those developers to be required to open their financial books to justify the rents they are charging.

Radical? Yes! But remember -- "radical" comes from "radix", which means "root". I strongly believe in going to the root of the problem and fixing it.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Radical? No. Socialist? Yes. We live in a capitalist society. No one has to "justify" the profits they make. Do you have to justify YOUR income?

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Even if you don't like the idea of the government requiring developers to provide affordable units ... the original terms for letting them build there was contingent on providing affordable housing. This area was not originally zoned for housing. I don't mind them making money on this, I just don't like them changing on what they promised. I think the city has legal requirements for providing a minimum # of affordable units; if not here, where?

Posted by beth, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Menlo Voter,

You're cold. You ok with that?

Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

There's precedent, but with somewhat different underlying circumstances.

The relatively recent 40-unit project on Hamilton/Chilco was originally spec'd and approved for more BMR housing relative to Market Rate houses. At some point the developer came back to the city asking for relief from the agreement, saying that the project didn't 'pencil out.'

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Well - if it didn't "pencil out", they would need an explanation as to why it didn't. Did something happen - that they could not have reasonably anticipated - that threatened the whole project?

Or - are they playing a game ... that they agreed to certain terms to get their foot in the door, and when the city is counting on the project to go through, and in a corner, "whoops", they don't "know" if they can finish if they don't get a better deal from the city.

See, capitalism is all well and good if there's free flow of information, transparency, and truly competitive conditions. But if they've been any less than honest from the beginning about what they intended to agree to in the end ... it remains to be seen what their reasoning is.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 20, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


I don't know why my response was totally removed, but here it is again. No I'm not "cold." I'm a capitalist. I work hard for what I earn, not that I make a great deal, but I don't have to justify what I make to you or anyone else. Because of what I make, I pay taxes which help other people less fortunate than I. In addition, I donate to charities, so no, I'm not cold and I'm ok with that. Developers put a large amount of money at great risk. Great risk has great rewards it can also mean great losses, hence the risk. That great risk and it's potential great rewards are how our system works.

Posted by Menlo Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:05 am

There are social and environmental consequences to not having available housing for those who work in the area. Our kids don't get exposed to the full gamut of people and those who work here have significant commutes exposing us to more pollution. We really don't have a chance to know the people who provide us services.

Posted by Politically correct, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:27 am

We are creating a permanent underclass with these handouts. Where is the incentive for people to work hard and improve their economic standing? Maybe those on the BMR list should be developing messaging apps instead of demanding subsidies on everything.

Distorting the free market may achieve good results short-term, but longer term it results in massive disincentives all around.

That said, the developer did agree to build those units, and presumably did not do so at gunpoint. This is not the first time a developer has tried to back out of such an agreement, typically successfully, with a variety of tactics since "doesn't pencil out" gets old pretty fast. So my question to the city is why bother going through this charade? To appease the state? That's kind of cowardly, don't you think? Either insist on the BMRs and hold the developers to their agreement or tell Sacramento that low-income housing doesn't pencil out for our city.

Posted by Politically correct, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 9:29 am

P.S. Gotta say, I love the argument that favors developing such housing so that our children can have the opportunity to hone their bleeding-heart chops on actual neighbors.

Posted by bleeding eyes, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 10:27 am

Yes, Politically correct, all those lazy teachers who nurture our kids 8+ hours a day, and those ER nurses who help extract the nail out of your foot and who qualify for BMR housing should get real jobs developing apps so we don't have to distort the "free market" system for the likes of them.

How about our starting up a Raise Them Out of the Underclass Society for teachers, nurses, public employees and other degenerates to encourage them to join the ranks of banksters and game-developing techies for the good of Society and The World. You, PC, are brilliant.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm


it would be nice if those teachers and nurses qualified for BMR housing. they don't. They make too much money. You do realize that nurses in this area are making around $125,000 a year right?

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Nurses are well compensated in the Bay Area. But there's all sorts of people who do useful services and work hard that need local housing - even people with advanced degrees. (Teach a 2 credit course at a community college - what do you make? Something like $1400. Try to pay for your bills with a number of those.) It would be best if they could be housed affordably by people making a profit; I have no problem with people making a profit. But they need to have a supply.

Posted by Aquanarine, a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Alan is absolutely correct. I know many, many Ph.Ds, for example, who make less than 100k. There are actually many educators who make less than what Menlo Voter likes to quote. And let's not forget folks like seniors who work part time, small business owners and single moms whose career trajectory is often limited by child-rearing and therefore have a pretty darn low glass ceiling.

The developers have no shame. Hold their feet to the fire.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 21, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

No one has a "right" to live in a particular place. If you can't afford to live in one place you live in a place you CAN afford to live. It's called capitalism folks and it's our system. If you want to live somewhere that is in demand you do something that makes you the income you need to make to live there. Trying to "even it out" is Socialism, pure and simple. That's not our system. You want slums here? Then build lots of "affordable Housing." Those that actually qualify for it aren't your teachers, police officers, fire fighters, etc.. Those folks make far too much money to qualify.

Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 22, 2014 at 10:27 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

In the article last October describing the initial development plan, it was clear that the developer was able to take advantage of a change in the housing element because the additional below-market-rate units allowed the developer to qualify for higher density housing that zoning would otherwise allow. Is the developer still seeking to benefit from this provision, even though the number of BMR units is being reduced? If so, this seems more like "lemon socialism" where the gains are privatized and the losses are borne by the taxpayers. If the application depended on those BMR units to meet zoning guidelines, the developer shouldn't just get to take them out once that hurdle has been passed.

Posted by Richard Vaughan, a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2014 at 9:58 am

As a Redwood City Friendly Acres resident, I continue to be concerned with the lack of transportation oversight being given to the entire peninsula as we build more and more high density housing of this type. While it sounds great to say that most of these are near transportation hubs, such as CalTrain, developments such as this and the SaltWorks proposals (yeah, yeah, SaltWorks was defeated but I think it'll come back...) along with the new units being built in Menlo Park & southern Palo Alto on El Camino - in combination with the new proposals in Menlo Park for the Stanford Office Park and the Cadillac/Derry site - spell only more gridlock on all of our streets and 101. Who else has noticed that from 4-7PM pretty much every week day, you can expect bumper to bumper traffic on both 101 & 280. Marsh, Willow & Middlefield are impossible, especially if there is a wreck on the freeways or the Dumbarton. More houses = more cars. When this is done, I can pretty much guarantee you that Woodside Rd and Marsh Rd at 101 will be even more impossible. Call it progress but the continued building of these units without addressing a regional transportation plan will further degrade our quality of life on the peninsula. This isn't NIMBYism. This is a lack of foresight and sound planning to accommodate growth. So, how do we solve our local/regional problems? Why don't we have light rail in San Mateo County? What ever happened to the Dumbarton Bridge line that could connect the Facebook campus with the East Bay and San Francisco. I would fully support my tax $$ going to bring light rail to San Mateo County, fund a high speed rail that follows 101 straight to SF (avoiding the whole problem of burying it in residential areas), and fund local run-outs of trolleys to regional business hubs. All one has to do is look to Europe to see that they have high density growth with working, sensible transportation. ABAG and their developer friends who are pushing these housing plans down every local city's throats need to put more consideration towards these problems as well.
I realize that this takes this thread in another direction but I think it all links together.

Posted by Gatrettr, a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Anyone who graduated with 2, 4 or higher amount of education should know about student debt. Just because you make 125,000 dollars year doesn't you can afford high rent.

Remember even college grads have to deal with entry level jobs. You have to work hard to earn the higher wage.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Part 2 of comment.

Not to mention taxes, car payment, insurance, food and other expenses that one has to deal. 4,000 dollars in rent for one month, 48,000 thousand a year, yes you can move across the bay. The rents are cheaper, but if a paid a Fremont wage, and the rents cater to Facebook wages. You cannot afford Fremont, so off to Dublin you go. Guess rents are high, to many people needing housing.

So now the person who works in Menlo Park, Fremont and now joined by someone who cannot afford Dublin, have no choice to live further east. Driving up the cost in Tracey, having to get stuck in traffic clogged road, spending money on gas. Wait til gas goes above 5.00 dollars or electric bills skyrocket.

Also remember the teachers, nurses, vets, hairdressers, truck driver, deli clerk and all those who work in eastern communities that are seeing living expenses rise because the amount of high paying jobs over housing units.

Posted by Politically correct, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Richard Vaughan (the music teacher? if so, especially nice to see you weigh in) you are correct. Transit is that 900-lb gorilla. But if you mention it in conjunction with any projects, ESPECIALLY housing projects, you will be labeled a NIMBY, and thereafter, everything you say, no matter how astute, will be ignored.

Developers have to study traffic impact as part of the approval process. Every significant project that's been presented in this city during the last decade has had a negative impact on traffic. The city just shrugs its collective shoulders and approves the project. Congestion is the price we pay for "progress."

@Garrett: "So now the person who works in Menlo Park, Fremont and now joined by someone who cannot afford Dublin, have no choice to live further east." Sure they have choices. They don't have to work in Menlo Park. Tracy needs nurses, vets, teachers, drivers, clerks etc too!

Posted by Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 23, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

"They don't have to work in Menlo Park. Tracy needs nurses, vets, teachers, drivers, clerks etc too!"

Yes, but Menlo Park still needs teachers, nurses, vets, drivers and clerks etc. The choices are either 1) pay a wage that allows them to afford housing 2) make them drive from wherever they can afford to live or 3) carve out some more affordable housing locally. There are going to be people who take issue with each of those alternatives. If there is another alternative that I'm overlooking for the middle and working-class folks who work in and around Menlo Park, I'm all ears.

Posted by stats, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 24, 2014 at 1:06 am

C'mon Menlo Voter,

We all know that unrestrained capitalism can cause as many problems as it solves. That's why our system includes checks and balances like zoning, the EPA and the SEC. Communities have a right and an obligation to resolve transportation, congestion and housing/employment balance issues by adopting agreements like they did with Anton.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2014 at 6:37 am

Landlords and home owners know there is a shortage of units, demand is far greater. The prices go up knowing how many extra high income workers from Menlo Park, so prices adjust.

Further east you go, prices rise, demand is greater then supply. High income tech jobs.are created almost daily, the housing market knows this.

So teachers, other.workers suffer from heading east, along the.way homes prices rise.

Teachers in Tracey are paid differently, with all the workers coming in, they might driving up the cost. A teacher in Tracey might nit be able to afford in Tracey.

Posted by Richard Vaughan, a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2014 at 7:56 pm

HI PC - Yup, that'd be me :)
My more refined point regarding the problems with regional traffic is that each high density development is looked at within the microcosm of its own regional/zoning boundaries. When you add up everything that is being built up and down the peninsula, I truly wonder at what point we will reach maximum carrying capacity. This is truly a "death by a thousand cuts" scenario. Our supervisors and ABAG need to look more closely at transportation before mandating more housing, regardless of whether it is BMR or high density.
As to the main thrust of this article's argument, seems like a complete bait and switch to me. I would urge the MP planning department to not alter its original agreement. If the developer insists upon changing the plan,then MP should require him to reduce the number of units proportionate to the lost BMR cost and increase the amount of setback from the baylands.

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