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Speakers oppose Habitat proposal

Original post made on Nov 19, 2008

Belle Haven residents voiced their opposition to a proposed Habitat for Humanity development during a meeting at the Menlo Park Senior Center on Thursday, Nov. 13, criticizing the city for over-burdening Belle Haven in its attempt to increase the number of affordable housing units in the city.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 19, 2008, 6:33 AM

Comments (17)

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:11 am

Don't say I didn't warn you all. Too many wealthy west menlo folks making decision for a community of which they have no context. I did not agree with the insulting nature of the comments from my neighbors. But I told one council member a while ago and he said he passed it on that one road in and out creates a haven for loitering, crime and many sorts of illegal activity. I guess there are bigger forces at work here. Once Summerhill got involved this became a mandate.

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Posted by Make Sense?
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Something doesn't add up here: If we have used majority of the redevelopment funds IN Belle Haven, then why should this area not "give something" for it? If there truly IS a disproportionate amount of money being spent to upgrade the area........this very much makes sense. The rest of Menlo Park already takes a hit for this area, there ARE a disproportionate amount of city dollars being spent in Belle Haven! It's too easy to blame this on the "wealthy menlo folks", "Truth" always trys to incite the emotion of a particular issue. However, realistically Belle Haven SHOULD absorb this development. I find it amazing for this issue to be developing into a class/racial issue, and then you have "Truth" talking about "wealthy west menlo folks". Why don't we deal with the facts, and the true data, not "Truth emotional upheaval!"

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Posted by habitat fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 19, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I am familiar with Habitat projects. Usually they improve a neighborhood. The strict guidelines about who is eligible, and the sweat equity requirements help a lot. The families that inhabit this new development will have a lot at stake in keeping it safe. What's wrong with that?

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Posted by Maya Domus
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 19, 2008 at 2:38 pm

Habitat for Humanity does a great job. However, I think it's criminal that the city let Summerhill dump the required BMR units into such an undesirable tract of land in Belle Haven, instead of incorporating them into the subdivision, like Vintage Oaks did.

The biggest beneficiaries of the BMR program are children who get a chance to grow up in the security of a neighborhood and a home instead of a rented apartment. Let's face it, the Ravenswood school district is not going to be attracting families with school-age kids to these homes.

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Posted by FYI
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 19, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Wasn't it the Linfield Oaks Assoc. that sued Summerhill over Lane Woods and signed off on the settlement that reduced the # of BMR's? Thank you Mr. Brawner. Wasn't it Menlo Park tomorrow that negotiated a undisclosed settlement for the Derry Project that reduced the # of BMR's? Thank you Mr. Brown. The City has to find a place for BMR's and it would appear this is the only area that the no-growthers don't care about. Sorry Belle Haven.

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Posted by get real
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 6:17 pm

In case you BMR lovers haven't noticed, the whole BMR program is in shambles. You want units in a high end development, what you find is nobody on the BMR list can afford those units. The city had to buy BMR units some years ago in Menlo Square. Those eligible didn't want to live there or couldn't afford to even under BMR rates. They finally sold.

Duboc, Jellins and Winkler watned to push 280 units onto El Camino before the City voters finally figured out what was going on. BTW, anybody ever figure out what happened to the public benefit that was going to come from that project, but under Jellin's single handed approach suddenly disappeared? Well they are gone, only Boyle with his unendingly opposition to the other 4 council persons remains. Surely we can get rid of him in 2 more years.

Look at the election results -- the old pro-development, give away everything to speculators nuts to worrying about traffic, school impacts and our tax revenues group has been thoroughly routed. Good riddance.

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Posted by Still Crazy "Get Real"?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Still Crazy, aren't we "get real"? I hope your real job, if you have one, doesn't involve analyzing election results. The last "council seat lost opportunity" was lost at the get go, Rick Ciardella started way too late, had very bad name recognition, battled two incumbents and it was painfully obvious that MP voters did not care about local elections, and did care about national elections. Read into it all you want, but that's what happened. If you no growthers continue to leave rubbish in your path like the car dealerships, the Mattison property, the lost Derry Project opportunity, the theater, the GM site, now it looks like the Belle Haven misstep, you may lose your majority in a very short time. There's only so many ways you can spin the ineffectiveness and the unkept promises of some very poor choices in council seats. Way too much talk, very little action.

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Posted by Critical Thinking
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:20 pm

It's very important to note that SummerHill is not "dumping" below market rate units into Belle Haven. There is a very limited supply of developable land in Menlo Park, and Habitat can leverage the SummerHill in-lieu below market rate fees from what would have been 3 luxury homes (basically a lottery for those on the BMR waitlist) to many more homes available for hardworking families. How is it that this property is considered suitable for a school but not for homes? How is it that the Hamilton Park development, which is situated right next to the rail line also, not considered "undesirable" or "inhumane"? How is it that one entrance/exit creates a ghetto?? Am I missing something here? Habitat clearly has a wonderful reputation and each potential homebuyer goes through a strict selection process. As a community we need to acknowledge that growth will not decline, demand for housing will not decline, and something will be put on this piece of land, and why not put a development from a top-notch community based organization such as Habitat for Humanity.

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Posted by Excellent Critical Thinking
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:40 am

"Critical Thinking", THAT was the best post of objective feedback I have read for a very long time on the wacko crazy Almanac blog site! Thanks for the well thought out commentary!

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Posted by Maya Domus
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:21 am

Suitable for a school is not the same thing as suitable for homes.

BMRs in an excellent school district are infinitely more desirable than BMRs in a school district that is failing miserably.

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Posted by Critical Thinking
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 21, 2008 at 12:19 am

Maya Domus, I'm interested in hearing more about the state of the school district. I see that a school is not the same, but my point is how would a home in that location be "inhumane" while it's considered a quality place to educate children. Also, the sentiment that this should be in West Menlo is perplexing b/c any place it would ever be built would be adjacent to an active rail line. How is the influx of families from the Hamilton Park development not seen as a drain on the local services (i.e. education)while the potential Habitat families are? Also, it seems that there is interest in alternative uses for this site, do you have any suggestions? If so, why and how would they work on the property and sustain in the community? Thanks.

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Posted by Maya Domus
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:56 am

I don't know why the word "inhumane" is getting thrown around. I haven't used it. I think undesirable is more apt.

Most communities are zoned so that homes are not smack up against railroad tracks. There are exceptions, but if you ride Caltrain, you'll see a lot of light industrial and commercial uses backing up to the tracks, and not very many homes. If you've ever lived near the tracks, as I have, you'll understand why working or going to school near the train is preferable to living near the train.

Beechwood is the private school you're refering to. It's a great little place, with very low cost tuition, to give kids in the community an alternative to the dreadful Ravenswood district. I'm not sure anyone thinks Beechwood's location is great, but they're making do with it.

As for the Hamilton Park development, I heard that the city had trouble filling all of those BMR units. I'd guess that a lot of people on the BMR waiting list passed them by in favor of units that will be in the Menlo Park school district.

And yes, the addition of any substantial number of new housing units is a drain on the city and especially the school, and there are always objections being made on those grounds. Hamilton Park was no exception.

I think it's just common sense. The excellent school districts factor into the high home prices around here. Families short on resources (you can't say poor, because you need to make around $85K to afford a BMR) probably can't afford private school tuitions. Therefore, BMR homes in lousy school districts are less desirable to the very families that they are supposed to attract.

The whole point of the BMR ordinance is to increase the diversity of housing options throughout the city, so you can have the occasional teacher or nurse or police dispatcher living on your block or in your subdivision.

The point is not to designate one part of town as the low-income ghetto and dump all your BMRs there. Yes, thanks to Habitat, more BMRs will be built than if Summerhill had to put them on its Linfield Oaks site, but the kids living in those BMRs would have healthier, quieter homes and a rosier future because they're attending top-notch schools.

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Posted by SummerHill Blues
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 21, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Don't blame Linfield for the units getting pushed to the east side. That was all SummerHill. I'm guessing they assumed they could make more money that way, expecting that Habitat would support them (Habitat did) and were also hoping that the Habitat project would never be built, thus letting them off the hook. Along the way, they demolished an award-winning and relatively new office building, including dozens of lovely trees in a parklike environment, and got the city to ignore all existing zoning requirements.

When the council blessed this travesty, they should have insisted that the BMR units be built on site, but the prior council majority was so willing to do whatever developers asked that they acquiesced to all SummerHill's demands.

By the way, it looks as though SummerHill is having a tough time moving those homes, so maybe it's not too late for the city to decide to locate the BMRs on site after all.

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Posted by above missinformation
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 23, 2008 at 7:55 am

At least the Summerhill development is in keeping with the neighborhood. The other Linfield project, so called Morgan Lane is a true disaster and one for which Kelly Fergusson deserves to take the blame. She could have stopped this project but did not. She seems to want to take any new housing of any type. It is in keeping with her agenda to strive for higher political office. Just wait until we start to hear her support the clarion call to support SB-375 (Steinberg) and build build build.

Menlo Park citizens, wake up and learn about SB-375 -- if you want to preserve your community speak up against this abortion.

Summerhill has paid the BMR fees, so whoever SummerHill Blue is, should get some facts straight. It would seem to me to be a good trade off, to build many more really affordable homes with that fee, rather than a couple of BMR homes in the development, for which those eligible for BMR might not be able to afford.

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Posted by SummerHill Blues
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 23, 2008 at 8:44 am

I am quite familiar with the SummerHill project, Miss. I didn't say anything about fees, just about physical houses. I totally agree with the Belle Haven people who protest BMR dumping in their neighborhood. I also agree that most families do not want to buy in the Ravenswood district. More isn't better if the quality isn't there. If I were on the BMR list and were offered a unit in that district, I'd say no.

Why should SummerHill be exempt from the rules? The city should not allow developers to pay their "in lieu" fees and skate away from their obligations.

And let's not even start on the Morgan Lane housing abomination-- I don't know what is in the minds of people who spend $1.5mm for those ticky tacky units -- but at least those developers set aside BMR units, which seem to have sold even though the full-priced units have not.

Note that the current council, including the three who took office in December 2006, could have put the kibosh on SummerHill but chose not to. It wasn't just Kelly, it was Heyward and John too.

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Posted by east and west
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 24, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Setting the record straight. "Get Real" is in error: the BMR units in Menlo Commons were indeed affordable. Show us your numbers to substantiate your claim that they weren't.

The city did not have trouble filling the BMR units on Hamilton. They are all occupied.

If the Belle Haven site is not a good site because it is next to the train tracks, then that would be true for all those homes and expensive townhomes on Stone Pine Lane along Caltrain in West Menlo, Atherton, Palo Alto, Mt View, etc.

Lastly, no one is asking you, SummerHill Blue, to live in any of these homes, not Habitat, not Summer Hill, not Morgan Lane. So why are you so insulting of other people's homes? It might not be your style, but you are talking about someone else's home.

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Posted by SummerHill Blues
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 24, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Not Menlo Commons. Menlo Square. The city council voted to acquire two of the three BMR units. The problem was that no one on the BMR list who wanted to live in the units could qualify for the loans on them. The homeowner fees pushed them over the line.

My "style" is good construction that adheres to zoning. Sorry for you, e & w, if you bought one of the Morgan or SummerHill units. Bad investment. But that wasn't my point. My point was that SummerHill, after getting its way on almost everything (over the objections of hundreds of neighbors) should have bellied up to the bar with those BMRs. East Menlo shouldn't be the dumping ground for developments on the west side.

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