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Menlo Park sells Hamilton Avenue land

Original post made on Nov 14, 2012

Greenheart Land Company came away as the top bidder for the city's seven lots on Hamilton Avenue. The Menlo Park City Council will review the sale tonight.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 7:55 AM

Comments (21)

Posted by susan smith, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 14, 2012 at 6:46 am

Amazing Menlo Park did not consider this land for their low income senior housing project, rather than Sharon Heights. Why not, I wonder.

Posted by successor, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 14, 2012 at 7:42 am

Susan, the city here is the successor to the now defunct redevelopment agency that owned this property. I believe the city must sell off the assets of the RDA and give the profits to the county.

Posted by curious, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

what is the zoning of these lots? The city could ensure these are zoned to allow such housing!

Posted by dawn, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I believe that the residents of Belle Haven have already taken more than their proportional share of high density housing. That is why other locations are being considered. BH is not just where stuff goes that no one else wants. That's not a very fair solution.

Posted by Gern, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm

@dawn, why wouldn't Belle Haven want more high-density, low income housing and the "vibrancy" that comes with it? If you're strictly interested in the equitable distribution of this housing then it's time for West Menlo and Sharon Heights to buck up and start planning for it.


Posted by Justice for all, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Except for that apartment strip along Willow, I can't think of any high density development in Belle Haven. Whereas other neighborhoods in Menlo Park, like Linfield Oaks, have been burdened with more of their share. Traffic is also lighter in Belle Haven, and the schools have plenty of capacity. Seems to me that it's time for Belle Haven to step up to the plate, and the Hamilton sites would be ideal, located near public transit and city amenities.

Posted by dawn, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I'm sorry, Justice, but have you been to Belle Haven? Traffic is lighter? I drive both the ECR corridor and the Willow/Marsh mess every day and I think we've got the bad traffic award cornered. I'm pretty sure Belle Haven already has higher population density per acre than anywhere else in MP. Though to be fair, I'm making assumptions about that. I'm curious about these nearby city amenities - besides the beautifully updated Kelly Park which is used by our entire town pretty regularly, and the branch library with mostly only children's books and reduced hours, the pool with significantly fewer available hours/days, and sporadic bus service (is that the public transit you meant?). If, as you suggest, you want the new housing to be near amenities and public transit, and maybe a grocery store just for fun then West of 101 seems like the argument you're making.

Posted by curious, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Land is less expensive in Belle Haven so it's more likely that any housing built there will be more affordable. That's just arithmetic.

It's my understanding that Belle Haven wants grocery stores and other amenities that don't exist there today. One way for business owners to justify such things is for there to be a critical mass. Again, it's just arithmetic.

Around here, a lot of higher density housing could be attractive to young workers, students of local colleges, staff, etc. It doesn't have to be ghetto housing!

Posted by Justice for all, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I work in the Belle Haven area. I agree that Willow is a nightmare during commute hours, comparable to El Camino on the other side of 101. But the rest of the streets? Much less traffic, people drive at the limit, are respectful of other drivers and pedestrians. Not that it's a good idea to take away that laidback ambiance, but if the choice is between adding a little more traffic to Belle Haven and overloading an already intolerable situation, well, no contest.

My comment about the schools stands. I realize Ravenswood is a troubled district, but by building more housing and inviting young families to move in, you may get enough people who are invested in the community to make a difference. In any case, Ravenswood has room, and MPCSD and LLESD don't.

The pool and library will stay open more hours when people use them. It's up to the people who live in an area to make that happen. The main library has to kick people out when it closes at 9. If hardly anyone sets foot in the BH branch, why would the city be motivated to keep it open longer?

Finally, as already noted, Belle Haven is much more affordable than other MP neighborhoods. A developer can build a house in Belle Haven, sell it for $300,000, and make money. On the other side of the freeway, that house costs four times as much, which means that it's not affordable for a lot of people. Too many people in Belle Haven are renters, so they may not care what happens in the neighborhood. Give people homes they can afford to buy and you have more stability, and that will ultimately attract more retail too!

Posted by Enough, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Instead of bickering between neighborhoods about where the unwanted high-density housing will go, we should all be uniting against it going ANYWHERE in Menlo Park. I don't want high density housing in Linfield Oaks. I don't want it in Sharon Heights. I don't want it in Belle Haven. Or anywhere along the peninsula, for that matter. No, No, No, and NO! ABAG can shove it. Would someone please explain WHY we must cave to this bag of garbage with the acronym ABAG?

Posted by wahtever, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 15, 2012 at 1:05 am

Let's see, the city forced the previous owners to sell, most of them small businesses paying taxes, and now sells the property - and doesn't even make a profit. Menlo Park marches on and on and on...

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2012 at 8:55 am

To Enough - by way of the explanation you asked for, a real short civics lesson. Federal Law trumps State law, State law trumps Municipal/County law. This requirement is contained in State law. Menlo Park, just like every other city in CA, must abide by State law.Under State law, municipalities, such as Menlo Park, derive their power to govern land use/development issues from State law; one requirement of that law is that the municipality must have an approved (by the State) General Plan (an element of which relates to housing).

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

My understanding - which may be inaccurate - is that ABAG is not an official government entity. It is an ASSOCIATION of Bay Area Governments.

Except for voluntary enforcement by their member agencies, I didn't know their decisions had the power of law.

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:20 am

Pogo, you may very well be correct. My expanation wasn't really directed at ABAG, but rather the reason that MP, which let its Housing Element lapse over two expirations, really cannot just say we're not going to have an up to date Housing Element in its General Plan.

Posted by Heat is on, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:24 am

You are correct, POGO. ABAG is run by people who are appointed, not elected, and who have no power. You don't have to dig too far to see who is behind all this: lobbyists representing big money interests in Sacramento. It's not about planning for the future. It's about enriching certain wealthy industries. And it's time -- past time -- for communities to stand up and reclaim our cities, as Palo Alto is starting to do.

I agree with Enough, no one in Menlo Park should have this imposed on us. Our city is built out, and we simply cannot accommodate thousands more housing units. The real estate interests who stand to benefit from this building don't care about our schools or our traffic or our retail. We do. Time for Menlo Park to stop hiding behind lawsuits and step out of the pot.

Posted by Heat is on, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

Who, the housing element is a separate issue. There are even members of our council who don't understand this! The housing element requirement has been around for decades, one of many elements that are also supposed to be updated every few years. Menlo Park hasn't been very prompt about updating any of the elements(Open Space, last updated in 1973!) and for the most part, the state doesn't really care.

The current problems result from recent legislation that was passed by an ideologue-dominated California legislature. Using bogus projections, the housing industry-backed legislators insist that millions of people will be moving into this state and that we need to build to accommodate them. Google SB 375 for starters. Underneath a facade of environmental awareness, they're foisting their agenda on our cities. The people who stand to benefit from destroying our cities don't care -- they will profit and move on!

Wake up, Menlo Park!

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

Heat, I absolutely agree with everything you said. My previous post was simply an explanation as to how the current laws work and to point out that the problem can't be solved by just ignoring the law. The change has to come in Sacramento, and it will take a lot more than one small town on the Penninsula to make it happen. Those who would blame a City Council and Staff who had a gun to their head are directing their criticism in the wrong place.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 15, 2012 at 11:37 am

Here's an idea... why don't our cities and towns simply ignore mandates from ABAG about low income housing? Our federal and state governments ignore laws and propositions passed by the people ALL THE TIME.

What's the worst that will happen, we will get sued? So?

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm

"What's the worst that will happen, we will get sued? So?"

That's what just happened and our city council folded like a house of cards. It cost us plenty to make the lawyers go away. It's also probably flagged us as suckers for every two bit schiester lawyer that wants to make some money off of us for not having a low income housing element. That's the "So." It sucks, but until state law gets changed, we're screwed.

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Pogo, its my understanding, and in this instance I might be incorrect but think I have it right, if MP had not settled the suit in a way acceptable to the plantiff's, regardless of how the issue would have been judged in the courts(which could have taken a long time to resolve), in the meantime, the plantiffs could have used State law to have the State revoke MP's ability to approve land use/development projects--a moratorium prohibiting new development. That would have effectively stopped the FB deal, implementation of the downtown specific plan, and any other projects that might be planned. No growthers might think thats a good thing, but rational people knowing that the City needs new revenue sources know better.

Posted by Justice for all, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 15, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Right, because the entire state was standing by, waiting to do the bidding of a small public interest law firm. Happens all the time.

People filing lawsuits can make whatever demands they want. Doesn't mean they'll get their way. You have to get a judge to agree first. Let's take the oft-cited city of Pleasanton, which enacted an ordinance that violated state law and refused to amend it. Finally, after 10+ years, a judge threw out the ordinance and established the moratorium, after which Pleasanton quickly settled and the moratorium went away. It's not clear that the moratorium had any actual impact, and I doubt you'll find any other accounts of similar moratoria. Pleasanton was in an unusual situation.

Menlo Park's situation was different. We hadn't violated any laws. A lot of our neighboring cities have outdated housing elements. Highly unlikely a judge would have intervened in such a punitive fashion.

This isn't about "no growth," it's about whether the city should have the right to create its own destiny or whether we should accede to centralized planning of the type prevalent during the Stalinist era in the USSR. Especially when we know who is behind those dictates.

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