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Menlo Park: figuring out how to add housing

Original post made on Jul 11, 2012

When your city is only 19 square miles big and largely built out, where do you find room to build more housing units? Menlo Park city officials have started the very first steps in updating the housing element of the town's general plan and complying with the terms of a lawsuit settlement.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 10:19 AM

Comments (16)

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Posted by downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm

No, no, no! The streets are already overcrowded. El Camino is in gridlock most of the day. Someone should challenge the legality of requiring any town to add housing units beyond its capacity to provide services for the residences already in place.

Low income housing is absurd. Is it Hillsborough or Woodside's problem that I'd like to live there & can't afford it? Maybe I'd like to put my 3 kids into their schools & have my home purchased subsidized? Aren't we supposed to live within our means & buy housing we can afford without a handout from the neighbors, town, developer?

Menlo Park is all over this because the City wants to collect the developer fees.

A major attraction of our community has always been the lower density and small town feeling we have. Now that's to be ruined & nobody has sued yet.

Show me the below-market housing in Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Saratoga, Hillsborough, Ross, Atherton, or Tiburon.


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Posted by Las Lomitas District parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Thank you downtowner. I too, would like to see more coverage around how those cities comply with the law. I would also like to see more history on the law and a "check-in" on how communities are doing in general. This topic is very timely as Portola Valley is going through a similar exercise. Perhaps an in-depth assignment for an Almanac journalist?


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Enough! We don't need to increase housing. Instead of the council committee looking for ways to comply maybe it should channel its effort to modifying the law.

The roads are congested, the schools are at capacity, etc., etc.


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Posted by Some Guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm

With the facebook expansion and now the new housing, Menlo Park roads will be clogged even more than they already are. As it is, I avoid El Camino Real like a plague when it SHOULD be the goto road to get from one end of the city to the other.
If they really add all that housing, they better make El Camino 3 lanes all through downtown, and expand Middlefield, Santa Cruz, and WIllow to be 2 lanes both directions, the entire length.
But of course, the city councils eyes are filled with developers fees and not the fact that the infrastructure is at capacity all across the board.


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Posted by Betty Meissner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Is this something Menlo Park could consider?
Land Trust: a non-profit that purchases/renovates housing and sells only the units at a reduced, affordable price while retaining ownership of the land.
"As more people struggle with housing throughout the country, the number of land trusts is exploding...Once we start putting public money into housing for low-income individuals, the land trust comes up as a way to protect that investment," says Rick Jacobus, Oakland-based land trust consultant/advisor.
San Francisco, Berkeley, Vallejo, and Sonoma and Marin counties have land trusts.
Here's an example of how San Francisco's Land Trust has helped:
Web Link


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Posted by Betty Meissner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Here's one way Vienna, Austria approached affordable housing: Web Link


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Posted by state law
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm

State law recognizes the vital role local governments play in the supply and affordability of housing. Each governing body (City Council or Board of Supervisors) of a local government in California is required to adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for the physical development of the city, city and county, or county. The housing element is one of the seven mandated elements of the local general plan. Housing element law, enacted in 1969, mandates that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community. Web Link


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm

"Housing element law, enacted in 1969,".....really 1969?!

Do you think it's time we revisit the law. Maybe,just maybe, a few things have changed since then.


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 12, 2012 at 7:33 am

simple. just plan for a 100 story highrise right on caltrain.
(this will take 5 years to plan, and a year or 2 to build and get poor people in)

in 5 years, HSR will have to aquire and tear down for the choo choo train.
(poor people moved out on CA dime - probably to the central valley where the new development will be due to the choo choo train)

problem solved for the next 20 years!


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Posted by stop the cycle
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 8:27 am

Menlo Park is being asked to keep adding more and more housing because it keeps approving huge projects that bring workers but not housing (e.g., Bohannon towers, El Camino plan, Facebook. The jobs/housing imbalance was bad before but keeps getting worse as such project approvals aggravate the problem.
With the excess of office building space, these projects are simply bringing to Menlo Park lots of commuters who otherwise have been commuting someplace else. Unless and until the City wakes up and stops this cycle, Menlo Park will suffer the consequences.


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Posted by Gene Lentz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm

........Hindsight is always 20/20, maybe it's even 20/10 most of the time. Menlo Park has had many opportunities to improve their housing stock, and one faction or another seems to have always hijacked it. There is no one solution, the Derry Project would not have solved it by itself, I cannot think of any one project that would have solved it by itself. We have a Planning Dept., when the Planning Dept approves something and the City Council signs off on it, the developer should be allowed to proceed, the process should not ever again be allowed to be de-railed by a splinter citizen's group. If you don't like the job the Planners are doing, get them replaced......if you are unhappy with the Council, vote 'em out, or, better yet, YOU run for the Council. But the second-guessing that the Menlo Park City Council has been subjected to is simply appalling.


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Posted by stop the cycle
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 13, 2012 at 9:44 am

No one can make property owners build housing. But the city can require funding or even land (e.g., in development rights swap)for housing. It failed to do so with the massive projects approved in the last several years.
Hindsight can by quite inaccurate when not all facts are considered. For example, the revised Derry project didn't proceed, after Planning Commission approval, because the property owner and developer had a feud. Oh, yeah, and the economy had tanked.
Who's to say what would have happened in the down economy? There are plenty of approved projects that aren't being built.


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Posted by chris cooper
a resident of Woodside High School
on Jul 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Why not rezone the area on Haven in Menlo Park into live/work lofts? It can provide living space for Facebook employees who can bike to work. Lofts are inexpensive to build. There is lots of available land, and empty warehouses that could be reworked. It would not impact El Camino and could revitalize the whole area.


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Posted by Sir Topham Hatt
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm

East Palo Alto and Redwood City are full of affordable housing. This nonsense is really about busybodies wanting "affordable" housing located right next door to "unaffordable", so that a random lucky few will be gifted housing at an artificially low price.

I have found the Tesla Roadster to be unaffordable. Can we have a lottery so that I have a chance to buy an electric sportscar for $25,000? The car company can pass along the difference to those paying full price.

I would like a red one please.


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Posted by Sandra Pugh
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

What about annexing the county North Fair Oaks area from 7th Avenue to Marsh Road bordered by Middlefield and Bay/Edison? It is surrounded by Menlo Park and Atherton and one of these towns should snap it up! The housing is already more affordable and there is some commercial space. Either town could slowly acquire property to redevelop or convert to affordable units.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Ms Pugh:

If either city wuss interested in annexing north fair oaks they would have done so long ago. Not going to happen. Not enough tax income to cover the cost of services that are required from a low income community. Belle Haven is enough.


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