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Small turnout for project with huge impact

Original post made on Aug 17, 2012

About 50 people attended the Aug. 16 workshop on a project that will affect all 32,513 Menlo Park residents: figuring out where to add high-density and affordable housing in a community that would prefer not to.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 17, 2012, 10:03 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I see a school bond and a parcel tax in the future for MPCSD if any of this comes to fruition -- the elementary schools are already at or above capacity.


Posted by Jim Adams, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm

What a ridiculous law. We paid good money to buy our houses here and pay hefty property taxes annually to live in a safe neighborhood. We can all pretend that low income housing does not bring more crime, more graffiti and more petty vandalism, but the facts speak for themselves on that. People who state otherwise are simply in denial of the reality of the situation or trying to be politically correct.

What ever happened to letting the market decided through supply and demand? If you can't afford to live here because your income is too low, move to somewhere you can afford to live.

I'm happy to be charitable and help those less well off, but not when it impacts my neighborhood, my property value and my safety.


Posted by Frugal, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Why attend? No one listens anyway. Remember the Downtown Specific Plan? It only add the need for a few hundred more living units.

We deserve what we get!


Posted by we the people?, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Jim, thank you for having the courage to speak out, and use your real name. We are the people you are referring to, not just when you write "We paid good money..." or "We can all pretend..." but always. We appreciate that you speak for us, and we want to be heard. We don't even mind that you are not a real person, we don't exist either.


Posted by closed minds, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm

City officials continue to make decisions that add office space, moving more jobs from other places to Menlo Park, while also adding to perceived need for more housing in our city. This is an absurd cycle that puts more pressure on putting more density into Menlo Park.
Minds are closed, as officials seem to only want to talk about the housing but not the demand for it that they keep aggravating.
While sympathetic with the low availability of affordable housing in Menlo Park, there is plenty in EPA and Redwood City.
Our city can be in compliance with state laws by making it possible for housing to be put on some properties even if the property owner isn't interested. So why in the world take those properties off the list? This is a ridiculous game. City officials can play it as a game but also modify their own bad behavior that makes the stakes worse. They ignore their own role when they approve projects that add to the need for housing without doing a thing to provide not only that extra demand but also to reduce the pent up demand.


Posted by closed minds, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm

City officials continue to make decisions that add office space, moving more jobs from other places to Menlo Park, while also adding to perceived need for more housing in our city. This is an absurd cycle that puts more pressure on putting more density into Menlo Park.
Minds are closed, as officials seem to only want to talk about the housing but not the demand for it that they keep aggravating.
While sympathetic with the low availability of affordable housing in Menlo Park, there is plenty in EPA and Redwood City.
Our city can be in compliance with state laws by making it possible for housing to be put on some properties even if the property owner isn't interested. So why in the world take those properties off the list? This is a ridiculous game. City officials can play it as a game but also modify their own bad behavior that makes the stakes worse. They ignore their own role when they approve projects that add to the need for housing without doing a thing to provide not only that extra demand but also to reduce the pent up demand.
If the city were sincere about involving the community, they wouldn't schedule meetings in the middle of dinner hour.


Posted by Jimmy Nimby, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm

The turnout is a reflection that the public has for the current council. How much micro management is needed here? Diversity doesn't include exclusivity.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Jimmy:

"low cost" or "below market rate housing" isn't about "diversity." It's about socialism. It's about providing housing in town to people that couldn't normally afford it. It's socialism pure and simple. A free market operates based on supply and demand. That is never more obvious than in real estate. There's a reason they say "location, location, location." Desirable locations will demand higher real estate prices. That's just the way it is. Requiring developers to provide BMR units is socialism. You're taking from someone and giving it to someone else. And don't kid yourself; that money isn't coming out of the developers pockets. It's added into the sales price of the non-BMR units. If you can't afford to live here, tough. Do something to better your education, training or whatever it takes for you to make more money.

If you really want to make it so people that couldn't normally afford to live here so they can, I suggest you force their employers to pay them more money. Do you think that would fly? Of course not, but the bottom line is the same.


Posted by I.V Dzhugashvili, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2012 at 12:12 am

The state isn't requiring us to build 30 units per acre. That's a smokescreen for developers who stand to make a mint as long as they move quickly.

Once there's an oversupply of junk housing in Menlo Park, prices across town will edge downward and the quality of life will be diminished for all.

Why does our council put so much value on the housing needs of people who don't even live here? It's crazy! How about prioritizing the needs of people who live here already instead? We're dealing with horrendous traffic, not enough parking, and limited green space for our kids to play. Why not address those issues before adding more people?


Posted by Another Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2012 at 3:40 am

Unfortunately the new council candidates are falling into line to build all this housing (and offices). Too many council members (and candidates) from the far west side who protect their own neighborhoods from this.


Posted by closed minds, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2012 at 8:35 am

IV has it right. The state doesn't require the city to build housing. They just ask for zoning that would allow it.
It's absurd to plan for lots more housing and not also plan for additional green space (where, pray tell?), schools, retail businesses that support them. No, the city just approves offices that cause the state to think we have to add more housing, too. This is game promoted by developers who care nothing about the quality of life for those of us who live here already and make a lot of sacrifices to do so.
Again, the city does not have to provide housing so the city officials should play the game like other cities do.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

Yes, that is what Menlo Park needs to make it better for all concerned, more high density housing. At 8:00 a.m. it takes 30 minutes to make it from El Camino Real to 101 and the same occurs at 5:00 pm. Even the noon day traffic is horrible. Even our new mega Safeway seems to be too small at times too. The little town of Menlo Park is full to the brim of all members of society. Maybe we need to focus more on improving the structures we have and stop the notion of constantly providing room for expansion. Let us not develop Menlo Park for the quantity of life and forget about working on the quality of life for all.


Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2012 at 11:00 am

Even educated people are getting priced out, crazy homes prices in high demand area aren't just a Menlo Park problem. Look at building styles, types and blends instead of zoning. Most cities get by with 3 to 4 story with expect of well planned mixed use well planned high density buildings with big transit infrastructure. Menlo Park can only support a very tiny fraction, East MP, by railroad tracks neat or on Facebook.


Posted by I.V Dzhugashvili, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Market forces have resulted in a city that's overpriced and overcrowded. Many residents couldn't afford to buy houses here today. But does that mean we should keep packing them in until it becomes a city that people avoid?

If those educated professionals can't live here, they will buy houses in communities that are currently undervalued. Those communities will develop amenities, including good schools and (if they're not greedy) parks along with retail and a service-oriented government.

Make no mistake: the people pushing this propaganda understand what the game is, and they know how to sugarcoat it so that it sells as pc "because we care about the less fortunate." No. What they are really saying is :We care about making ourselves richer, and we don't care what happens to the residents. Our gutless, guileless council succumbs every time.


Posted by Frugal, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Council.. Are you listening?

Kelly, maybe you can negotiate some landscaping like you did for Bohannan?


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 19, 2012 at 8:45 am

I really do not believe the city council is listening to these postings. There is too much money to be had by continued building that support the cities coffers.

Menlo Park has reached its human capacity. Do not destroy the living conditions for all by packing it with more humanity.

How about working on problems that face the current dwellers of the city population before adding more turmoil? The Willow, Marsh Road, El Camino Real corridors of gridlock could be a start.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

I would like to suggest (encourage) all of the posters to this thread thus far to go to the CIty website and read the settlement agreement (now a court order) that the City signed with the housing advocacy groups who filed the original law suit that forced the City to update the Housing Element. Those who have said the State doesn't require City's to build high density housing, only to zone for it are correct. However, the court order (settlement) contains specific language intended to insure that rezoned land parcels identified in the Housing Element truly have a high potential to have housing projects built. If a parcel does not have that potential (eg. the owner has no interest or intent to sell or develop), then the court will reject it. The City's failure to update its Housing Element for two consecutive 5 year terms is what got it to this point, not the current council nor any of the candidates for council had a part in those previous decisions, nor can they do anything other than conform to the terms of the settlement agreement. While the posters here may be accurate in their assumptions about the motivations of the advocacy groups (they are made up of lawyers not developers), the reality is citizens should get involved in these focus groups if they are concerned about where within the City high density housing should be built.


Posted by Gov't out of control, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

What are the bases for the current population number of 32,513 and the current median sales price of between $897,500 to $1 million?

For one street in MP, zillow.com showed all the homes valued over $1.5 million while realtor.com had all the same homes valued between $1.1 million and $1.2 million.

Additionally, one of the realtor specific sites said MP had well over 15,000 housing units while the 2010 housing units data was 13,085 according to the U.S. 2010 census data.

Whose figures are we using?


Posted by I.V Dzhugashvili, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I drove by a tiny shack in unincorporated west Menlo yesterday. Wow. Just out of curiosity looked it up on Zillow. 600 square feet and valued at not much less than a million. Crazy market around here! Tract houses in my neighborhood go for a cool $2 million. If you want a median under $1 million, you need to go east of 101 (where the median is well below that amount.)

Just because our city attorney has a JD does not exclude him from being aligned with development interests. He has indicated, time and again, that he is in their camp. So let's get that on the table right now.

I read the original lawsuit (but not the settlement.) That lawsuit was provoked by the city snubbing the organizations that were concerned about the Facebook impact on housing. The city had plenty of warning this was coming and they, I guess, hoped the complainers would just go away. Maybe should have considered the consequences before handing Facebook the key to the city?

Strike one against our current city council and management.

The actionable issue in the lawsuit was the lack of a current housing element. The city was in a tough situation where it had to update the element. But...agree to high density? No. That was just a giveaway.

Strike two against our current council and management.

Maybe it's time for residents to bring our own lawsuit?


Posted by Cassandra, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm

There are about 50 people at tonight's session. This plan will have a negative impact on menlo park that cannot be mitigated. Your housing values will drop. The time to act is now.


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Act in what way, Cassandra? It's the law to have this type of housing. Are you planning on changing the current law?


Posted by Cassandra, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Nope. The law says you need a current housing element. There is no requirement to plan for 30 units an acre.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

Cassandra, you are right about state law, but the settlement agreement the City signed and now must comply with goes further. Again, I urge you read it. You can find it as attachment C to the staff report contained in the minutes of the City Council meeting of May 22. Of particular importance is section 6.1 which requires the adopted housing element contain parcels zoned to accomodate affordable housing for low and very low incomes--which by definition means high density, and section 13.1 which describes the Court's jurisdiction over the matter and the fact that it can suspend the City's authority to issue ANY new building permits if it does not comply. This horse is out of the barn, the important thing now is to make sure the selected locations for high density housing are the right ones, thus the importance to attend these workshops and subsequent council meetings on the subject.


Posted by I.V Dzhugashvili, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2012 at 10:32 am

WhoRU, since you know more than the council purports to know, can you tell me who negotiated this agreement? (I assume it was done in private!) Did the council approve it? (I assume so, also behind closed doors.)

My observations:

* According to the consultant's graphs and data, the majority of MP households earn less than the median. Okay, let's accept that as a given. Let's also accept that we need to build more housing for more low income households. They aren't living in 30 unit/acre homes now, and it's not clear that they want to live in 30 unit/acre homes. Why build that kind of housing for them? (In fact, many of the "low income households" are seniors who own their homes and pay low taxes and have no incentive to move to a high density unit.)

* The housing organizations that brought the lawsuit are advocates for renters. Most of the renters could not afford a downpayment greater than $0. I am trying to understand why it was so important to these organizations to build high density housing.

* The general plan has many components. Anyone know where to find info about how recently those elements have been updated? I suspect we are way out of compliance on the Open Space element. Can I bring a lawsuit demanding more parks?

Looking at the sites the city has set aside as housing-appropriate (still not clear who is going to pay to tear down a church and build high density housing across from M-A, etc), the number of units that can be accommodated on each, and the participants at the meetings -- almost exclusively non-minority and west of 101 -- I expect the housing will be dumped in Belle Haven. Being a NIMBY, I'm happy it won't be in my neighborhood...but does this disturb anyone else? Social engineering strikes again!


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

IVD I only know what I see/hear at the council meetings. I would guess that the negotiation of the settlement was done in private-standard practice, but I can say that the Council did approve it in the open public meeting on May 22nd and they conducted the requisite public comment session before voting.

To the issue in your second observation-If you check the membership roles of those advocacy groups on their web sites, you'll find they are made up primarily of lawyers. I am not usually in to conspiracy theory, but I know lawyers often do pro bono work, sometimes because they're passionate about the issue, but it also might be in some instances where, being smart business people, its a cause of importance to their paying clients--like perhaps residential developers for example. Again, not in to conspiracy theory, but there could be some dots to connect.


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