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Original post made
on May 6, 2014
The city isn't serious about expanding housing if they intend to charge $20,000 in permit fees. Only the affluent will be able to build a granny unit and average folks and seniors will be priced out of the process. It is shameful.
I would encourage the city to look to Portland, OR for guidance. Portland has waived development fees for in-law units until 2016 saving the residents $7,500-$15,000 in permit fees. As a result, many people are able to build these units and the outcome has been excellent. People love them.
I found it interesting that Councilman Peter Ohtaki made a comment about working out parking issues before revisiting the lot size limit for granny units. Setting aside the question of granny units, I would welcome revisiting Menlo Park's overnight parking limitations.
We have a small lot, as do many of our neighbors, and the ability to park one car on the street overnight would be a huge benefit. I also don't think there would be any negative impact to the neighborhood to have a few extra cars on the street. There are already quite a few parked on the street during the day, and limiting overnight parking to residents (even capping it at one per house) wouldn't add a huge number of cars on the street.
I also regularly bike to work from Menlo Park through Palo Alto, and I don't notice any problem biking on the streets in Palo Alto where there are more cars on the street.
The most immediately noticeable difference between the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto, is that Menlo Park doesn't allow overnight parking. In East Palo Alto, it's a chaotic mess, and I think it opens up opportunities for illegal activities. I wouldn't be surprised if there are more homes in EPA that are packed like sardines as a result of overnight street parking. In a neighborhood with less crime problems and fewer rental homes, maybe it would be OK, but I wouldn't be too quick about allowing this. It makes managing parking a bit more difficult, but there's value in the prohibition.
The issue discussed was that a front yard full of cars makes a neighborhood look pretty ugly. people have a right to care about this. So why don't we just prohibit more than 20' wide driveway - we already prohibit parking off the driveway but dont enforce it. Come to think, we don't enforce any quality of life ordinances in Menlo, just give parking tickets. Mr Ohtaki, do we need to spell out what's needed?
I just don't understand the enormous cost of permit fees for building a small granny unit. Where precisely does this money go and how come it is so expensive? I'd really like to see a breakdown of the fees.
These initial costs ensure that only the affluent can afford to build those units.--In other words, just a few people can afford to do so. Is that the hidden purpose of those fees? OIs it just pay lip service to the goal of affordable housing while making it impossible to actually build affordable housing?
There was a council meeting last night during which the council was to address lowering or waiving the fees for these small units. You are correct, without a reduction in fees only a few people will be able to afford them and those are not the people who need these units the most.
I am looking forward to learning what the council decides,affordable housing or lip service
There have been a few comments noted in the previous comments relating to the secondary units in residential area.
Parking- If you want to park on the street, move to Palo Alto or Redwood City. The beauty of Menlo Park is NOT allowing overnight parking on the street. This limits the number of abandoned cars left on the streets and helps our police department patrol our streets at night.
Permit costs - Agreed, the cost of the permit should be looked into. At approximately $100 / hour it would appear that our planning and building departments take 200 hours to review and inspect a set of architectural plans before issuing a permit. Either the plans are absolutely horrible, or the planning and building staffs need to find a place to charge their time. How many of these plans are outsourced to contract plan check reviewers increasing the costs for the residents? Should all residential plan checks be done by our employees and outsource all commercial developement? Would that be less expensive?
Increasing the number of secondary dwelling units in Menlo Park on paper by lowering the minimum lot square footage from 7,000 to 6,000 is only a smoke and mirror solution to a bigger problem. We are increasing the job to home ratio without addressing the fact that we are increasing the office square footage at a faster pace than the housing units.
<<Permit costs - Agreed, the cost of the permit should be looked into. At approximately $100 / hour it would appear that our planning and building departments take 200 hours to review and inspect a set of architectural plans before issuing a permit. Either the plans are absolutely horrible, or the planning and building staffs need to find a place to charge their time. How many of these plans are outsourced to contract plan check reviewers increasing the costs for the residents? Should all residential plan checks be done by our employees and outsource all commercial developement? Would that be less expensive?>>
200 hours to approve a tiny second unit? It would seem the city is profiting handsomely from these units. Again, only the affluent will be able to afford them. Seniors and the less affluent need not apply.
The city claims they want to encourage these units but at the May 13 City Council meeting they actually voted to INCREASE the fees. No reduction in fees or waivers. While these units would help the city meet their housing requirements, it appears to be a one-way street. The city receives the benefit while the homeowners incur huge costs with no help.
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