Menlo Park letting ABAG dictate -- California Declares War on Suburbia Menlo Park, posted by Morris Brown, a resident of the Menlo Park: Park Forest neighborhood, on Apr 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm
This article (copied below) which just appeared in the WSJ targets exactly what is happening here in Menlo Park. Our council rather than pursuing goals, such as maintaining our quality of life, are marching in lock stop the demands of ABAG.
Mayor Keith is quoted as saying "people are tired of vacant lots on El Camino". Ignoring the obvious, that with the exception of 1300 El Camino, Stanford is in control of those vacant lots and hasn't cared to develop them. 1300 El Camino has had an approved project for sometime, but the developer with plenty of financial problems, has not chosen to go forth either. Then we have 1906 El Camino with a finished project, but the building is standing empty for some years now. 1706 El Camino, promoted by the same developer, went bust and was just purchased from the bank by another developer.
The DownTown / El Camino specific plan is a disaster. The real stakeholders, the downtown merchants and property owners to a large extent don't want it. Yet the City has spent about 5 years and $1.5 million, pushing ahead with the plan, which is now completely staff driven. Now we hear statements from council persons saying, the public is just getting in the way; lets just push it all through regardless.
We should push back strongly against ABAG and their outrageous demands and timetable.
Planners want to herd millions into densely packed urban corridors. It won't save the planet but will make traffic even worse.
By WENDELL COX
It's no secret that California's regulatory and tax climate is driving business investment to other states. California's high cost of living also is driving people away. Since 2000 more than 1.6 million people have fled, and my own research as well as that of others points to high housing prices as the principal factor.
The exodus is likely to accelerate. California has declared war on the most popular housing choice, the single family, detached home, all in the name of saving the planet.
Metropolitan area governments are adopting plans that would require most new housing to be built at 20 or more to the acre, which is at least five times the traditional quarter acre per house. State and regional planners also seek to radically restructure urban areas, forcing much of the new hyperdensity development into narrowly confined corridors.
Transportation consultant Wendell Cox on why California polls want to force people into denser urban housing.
In San Francisco and San Jose, for example, the Association of Bay Area Governments has proposed that only 3% of new housing built by 2035 would be allowed on or beyond the "urban fringe"where current housing ends and the countryside begins. Over two-thirds of the housing for the projected two million new residents in these metro areas would be multifamily that is, apartments and condo complexes and concentrated along major thoroughfares such as Telegraph Avenue in the East Bay and El Camino Real on the Peninsula.
For its part, the Southern California Association of Governments wants to require more than one-half of the new housing in Los Angeles County and five other Southern California counties to be concentrated in dense, so-called transit villages, with much of it at an even higher 30 or more units per acre.
To understand how dramatic a change this would be, consider that if the planners have their way, 68% of new housing in Southern California by 2035 would be condos and apartment complexes. This contrasts with Census Bureau data showing that single-family, detached homes represented more than 80% of the increase in the region's housing stock between 2000 and 2010.
The campaign against suburbia is the result of laws passed in 2006 (the Global Warming Solutions Act) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and in 2008 (the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act) on urban planning. The latter law, as the Los Angeles Times aptly characterized it, was intended to "control suburban sprawl, build homes closer to downtown and reduce commuter driving, thus decreasing climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions." In short, to discourage automobile use.
If the planners have their way, the state's famously unaffordable housing could become even more unaffordable.
Condos: How California planners envision the future.
Over the past 40 years, median house prices have doubled relative to household incomes in the Golden State. Why? In 1998, Dartmouth economist William Fischel found that California's housing had been nearly as affordable as the rest of the nation until the more restrictive regulations, such as development moratoria, urban growth boundaries, and overly expensive impact fees came into effect starting in the 1970s. Other economic studies, such as by Stephen Malpezzi at the University of Wisconsin, also have documented the strong relationship between more intense land-use regulations and exorbitant house prices.
The love affair urban planners have for a future ruled by mass transit will be obscenely expensive and would not reduce traffic congestion. In San Diego, for example, an expanded bus and rail transit system is planned to receive more than half of the $48.4 billion in total highway and transit spending through 2050. Yet transit would increase its share of travel to a measly 4% from its current tiny 2%, according to data in the San Diego Association of Governments regional transportation plan. This slight increase in mass transit ridership would be swamped by higher traffic volumes.
Higher population densities in the future means greater traffic congestion, because additional households in the future will continue to use their cars for most trips. In the San Diego metropolitan area, where the average one-way work trip travel time is 28 minutes, only 14% of work and higher education locations could be reached within 30 minutes by transit in 2050. But 70% or more of such locations will continue to be accessible in 30 minutes by car.
Rather than protest the extravagance, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris instead has sued San Diego because she thinks transit was not favored enough in the plan and thereby violates the legislative planning requirements enacted in 2006 and 2008. Her predecessor (Jerry Brown, who is now the governor) similarly sued San Bernardino County in 2007.
California's war on suburbia is unnecessary, even considering the state's lofty climate-change goals. For example, a 2007 report by McKinsey, co-sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, concluded that substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions could be achieved while "traveling the same mileage" and without denser urban housing. The report recommended cost-effective strategies such as improved vehicle economy, improving the carbon efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, upgrading coal-fired electricity plants, and converting more electricity production to natural gas.
Ali Modarres of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles has shown that a disproportionate share of migrating households are young. This is at least in part because it is better to raise children with backyards than on condominium balconies. A less affordable California, with less attractive housing, could disadvantage the state as much as its already destructive policies toward business.
Mr. Cox, a transportation consultant, served three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission under the late Mayor Tom Bradley.
Posted by Dues and Don'ts, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on May 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm
Now here is a three week old Almanac posting by Morris Brown (April 14th), that has received zero comments so far and was not only worthy of discussion, but should have appeared in large print copy headlines.
I would love to have PC, MV and Pogo weigh in on the general usefulness (or not) of membership in ABAG to their respective communities.
I just took a scroll through the ABAG web site and I note that at one recent executive committee meeting they accomplished ONLY the doubling our membership dues and of the representative's per diem compensation, and then gave themselves a bunch of awards. Adjourn
Anybody ever wonder about this? Cuz apparently these guys have ended up in charge-not the people we actually voted in to office to represent us.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
"I would love to have PC, MV and Pogo weigh in on the general usefulness (or not) of membership in ABAG to their respective communities."
In the past ABAG has done many useful things but the low hanging fruit of regional cooperation has been picked and what is left will not be easily or cheaply reached. Therefore, I believe that ABAG has become an expensive and ineffective bureaucracy that can no longer
justify its existence. Atherton was the last community to join ABAG and perhaps will be the first to leave.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 8:54 am
Peter couldn't have said it better. Menlo Park needs to get the hell out of ABAG. We have enough problems from excess density in a city that was not designed for it. Increased density, which is what ABAG wants, will only destroy what is left of the quality of life Menlo Park has to offer.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 11:24 am
Just how many more people are we supposed to add to Menlo Park? People already complain about lack of parking downtown, overcrowded schools, traffic congestion, and so on and so on. Mr. Carpenter said it correctly, and I agree with Mr. Lawrence's "increases", the ripple effect.
Our tax burden is already too high; all levels of government want to increase them again; adding more people would only exacerbate the situation. Enough is enough.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm Menlo Voter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Think higher. Taller buildings. The developers and ABAG's favorites? "mixed use." Ground floor retail or restaurants with at least three stories of residential above. More stories even better. Where all of these new residents are going to park is anybodies guess, but ABAG thinks everyone should be riding public transit anyway. The hell with personal vehicles. You want an idea of what ABAG thinks is great? Think density like San Francisco.
Posted by Dues and don'ts, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm
That's it exactly MV
and the real reason these guys are trying to push through the train to no where, is so that the development interests will have the excuse they need to keep feeding their hungry machines, now that they are running out space to fatten themselves on.
Speaking of weapons of mass construction, ABAG has become a favorite tool used to bypass the autonomy of any City Council or Planning Commission by letting the Kabuki of local government drone on, while the reality is they are working off stage directly with our cities planing staffs to achieve the results that developers have dictated via the ABAG vehicle.
Your are correct Mr. PC- Atherton originally rejected membership to ABAG because of the well founded fear for the loss of autonomy. We eventually took the bait and joined as the 100th City to cave when ABAG dangled the pooled liability insurance prospect in front of of us.
And how well has this feature turned for anyone but the attorneys ABAG employs to drag things out? Ever wonder why "you can't fight City Hall"? It's because there is no one there to engage with. City Hall has been outsourced to ABAG. Time to contact them directly.
Actually the whole thing reminds me of some of the ghost Healthcare District questions-and with a surprising number of names that appear on both Boards as BAGmen.
I'd still love to have some one weigh in on this from Woodside or Portola Valley so that the local press will feel free to focus in on this topic.
Posted by +1 to the above, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm
The proponents of the downtown plan will tell you that there was ample opportunity for community input. True. But they fail to mention that the consultants ignored the feedback when they created their recommendations.
No one can explain why Stanford, which has chosen to thumb its nose at us for years by keeping those lots vacant and, more recently, by planning to dump med center traffic on our streets, was given zoning entitlements that no other owner received.
As for ABAG: a thinly disguised effort by developers to cram more and more density into middle class cities until they become unlivable.
Menlo Park can grow and improve, but allowing outsiders to take ownership of our future is a mistake. We need to reclaim our destiny.
Posted by Dues and don'ts, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm
According to a recent Dave Price editorial (something about "ABAG is four letter word"), he stated that Corta Madera just did just drop out.
Also Louise Ho one of our more recent finance directors was sent in as our voting member by Danialson for one meeting only last fall, and came to report to the Council that she was "shocked" to discover the state of ABAG's accounting practices and that one North San Mateo City was "getting ready" to drop out ( Colma maybe?? Can't remember exactly)
Anyway, even if they are holding us all hostage, and their finances are as "shocking" as Ms. Ho had indicated, then maybe a ten million dollar settlement pay out will decaffinate them.
Ms. Ho mysteriously vanished a month after reporting her observations, but if the current ten million dollar law suit against Atherton is appealed and won, it comes out of ABAG's pocket-not the Town's..........
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Having now spent some time reviewing the ABAG budget and its projects I believe that there is literally nothing been done by ABAG that really needs to be done that could not be done more appropriately by each of the member governments - except ABAG's fascinating ability to attract lots of money from the Federal and State government. And we must remember that those dollars from the Federal and State government came from, guess where, us.
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on May 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm
Have any of you seen some of the newer burbs that have been built in the last 20 years. They sound nice at first, big nice homes with large yards, nice big garages.
You will move in, nice new space, brand new home. Make sure you have a car seeing that everything that you need is just a quick drive away. No need to walk or worry about public transit, we have nice wide streets.
So many miles from where you work, did I forgot to mention that when you drive to work that you must double your time. If you take our form of transit it will be double your drive time.
Your home has pretty good air con, you can leave it running on those hot days, it won't cost you much. Remmeber to keep your lawn watered, you can can grow stuff in your yard, it used to be a farm.
We have easy free parking and miles of it, just park out front, then just hop across the street, you will find lots of parking. The sidealks aren't really for walking.
You will have side yard for you boat, RV or whatever you would like to have, did I mention the other side of the house. You will have space for all you needs, so much space you wouldn't know what to do with it. If you want another car space will will add on to your 2 car garage.
You will get a new school, new park, new high school, new library, new hospital, new fire station, branch college, new commuity center with pool. Taxes will be low, you will just to have drive for a little bit. Did I forget to mention that it will be 10 to 15 years more till you see these improvements. We were told you will have freeway improvement in about 10 years, I am sorry that is not true it won't take 30 yearsto build that freeway.
Your new area will be built out at 75,000 mabye 100,000 persons. Does the burbs so nice to you.
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on May 8, 2012 at 11:17 am
Ok we will build the Willow Freeway to the coast and to the east bay, build thousands of homes, apts, shopping center right over to the coast, we pave over the foothills. We will build around Edgewood Rd. We will fill in the bay, build up on Blair Island, Salt Works, the South Bay marsh lands. Bayfront Freeway will be needed along with two more bridges, how about Hwy 1 being turned into a freeway.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community, on May 8, 2012 at 11:45 am
Peninsula communities want the prosperity that Silicon Valley and its associated businesses bring -- but they just don't want to deal with the workers and the traffic.
Sorry folks, REGIONAL planning is essential to coordinate the impacts, provide housing and transport to the workers that make your prosperity happen. You must do your share to participate in rational change. Since Peninsula towns were "built out" in previous booms, densities will increase.
And...ABAG salares, for the most part, don't even approach the level of wealth in local communities.
Find a new song and dance, or hunker down and find an acceptable way to plan for growth, it's the hand that feeds you.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm
I tend to agree with neighbor.
We need to work together - towns, cities & counties - to intelligently accommodate the growth in population that we know is coming. If we just stick to status quo approaches, we'll continue to have just create even more urban sprawl in the outlying communities that will result in even more clogged highways, more pollution & GHG, more parents who spend their family time commuting, and reduced farmland and open space, etc. etc.
"Over the next 25 years, the nine counties of the region are expected to add a total of 1,655,400 new residents, or 66,000 new residents per year. Most people will live in San Francisco, the East Bay (including eastern Contra Costa County), and the South Bay (in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties)." Web Link
How we accommodate this growth is up to us but it only makes sense to work together to come up with solutions that consider the regional impact, as well as the impact to communities. ABAG may not be perfect but it's the best example of regional cooperation that I'm aware of. Perhaps that's why the feds are willing to fund it's work.
Posted by Ethan, a resident of the Menlo Park: University Heights neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm
"Over the next 25 years, the nine counties of the region are expected to add a total of 1,655,400 new residents, or 66,000 new residents per year. "
And after that? Growth forever?
There's this big body of water to the east that nobody seems to be using very much. It's also very inconvenient for driving. Let's bring dirt down from the mountains, fill in the Bay, and build housing developments. Replace the bridges with freeways. McMansions for all. Saltworks--it's just the beginning.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm
Dues & Don'ts -
Are you going to tell the developer or landowner that they can't build?
I suspect the Supreme Court might have an opinion about that.
Building will happen as surely as the population will continue to grow. The challenge for us is to ensure that the building will be done intelligently, reducing the inevitable negative impacts wherever possible.
Posted by Dues and don'ts, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm
No actually Steve --the local zoning and building codes should be the authority managing their own development. As noted above, this is no longer happening because you guys have built up an entire top to bottom system to bypass any obstacle to your path for profits. The friendly sounding idea of "planned future development" has become entirely driven by the "business sustainability" plan for future develoPERS to build up their bank accounts and the next bubble.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm
Here's a novel concept. How about we control our population growth? Then we won't need to build more housing, nore highways etc. Yes, that means we don't let any more immigrants into the country until our death rate balances our birth and immigration rate. Then just maybe we won't sink our own lifeboat.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm
You wrote: "And after that? Growth forever?"
I don't know the answer to that.
Menlo Voter suggests controlling the population. But as long as people are free to move from state to state, the only thing keeping people from moving here is the high cost. However, I don't think we want our communities to become homes for just the wealthy. We've seen the cost to our society that inequality produces so we need to come up with regulations that make housing available for all tiers of society. I think that is what ABAG is attempting to achieve, which is why I support that kind of regional approach to the problem.
And just in case Dues & Don'ts is still operating under the assumption that I'm a developer - I'm not. The only "special interest" I have in this debate is two kids who are looking for work in the area and hoping one day to be able to afford to live here.
Posted by acomfort, a resident of the Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm
The underlying problem was mentioned above but seldom talked about in the media.
Over population . . . we have done it . . . when there are too many people in one location we can no longer emigrate to a better place . . . there are already too many people there too.
Everyone above is well intentioned and making good points but there are no good answers to earth's 7 billion population and growing at a rate of 2 Californias (70 million) a year. We cannot keep growing the products or the number of people as the earth is finite . . . if humans don't bite the bullet to lower population and consumption then nature will do it for us.
Out society, our economic system, our capitalistic (sort of) system depend on continued growth. Sooner or later it has to stop.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
"we need to come up with regulations that make housing available for all tiers of society."
That is an interesting proposal but it is neither democratic or constitutional - if you want to live in such a community then move to one which has those characteristics, don't force others to adopt your lifestyle.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm
Glad you took the bait. Inequality is a topic worth very much worth discussing. And, I would argue, it's very germane to this discussion on how we should plan for our future development at the city, county and regional level.
Given that equality was the first thing mentioned in the Declaration, you may be a bit premature in declaring it unconstitutional.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men"
And when these rights are denied for too long by the plutocracy then things can get wildly out of hand. You do remember the French Revolution don't you?
More fundamentally, inequality has grown so hugely out of proportion since Regan's rein that I think it has to be dealt with. I'm not sure what the solution is but it has become increasingly obvious that gross inequality has visited huge damage to our country and to our people.
To get clear on the extent of this damage I recommend you view the TED talk that "charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust."
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Inequality may well be an issue that A PARTICULAR local community may wish to address - if so it should be decided democratically at the local level.
I do not believe that inequality of ALL types should be addressed by a regional government that has NO accountability to the voters and on which many individual cities have no voting representation. Do you really want the inequalities of income, educational, housing, job, and number of children etc. to be decided for you by people you did not elect, if by anyone other than free choice?
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 7:23 pm
ABAG doesn't get to make the laws. It studies the issues from a regional perspective and makes recommendations. The cities are free to implement or ignore ABAG's advice.
You raise a good point however. We have forms of government that developed around the numerous small towns that characterized the Bay Area area a hundred years ago. We are now a megalopolis of over 7 million people. Perhaps it's time to move on to a form of government that can deal appropriately with these larger issues instead of being held hostage to the parochial concerns of hundreds of municipalities that range in size from hundreds to many hundreds of thousands.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 9:25 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
People living in local communities make democratic decisions that reflect their values and priorities including decisions to either consolidate with other local entities or to remain independent. There are literally no examples of where citizens have, in the last twenty years, chosen to consolidate local governments - and worldwide the only trend has been to devolution and independence.
People who do not share the values of their community can either try to change those values via the democratic process or relocate to a community which shares their values. Problems of inequality of many types exist but solving those problems of inequality by forcing consolidation will simply not work in a democratic society.
Posted by steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 8:01 am
You make a good point that there are no examples of local governments consolidating into larger entities.
Of course consolidation of local functions does happen, usually for increased efficiency. Consolidation of school districts is perhaps the moost common example. You yourself have proposed consolidating the fire districts of Menlo Park and Palo Alto. So in fact, local governments do cede limited authority to larger government bodies when they deem it to be an advantage to do so.
What I'm suggesting is that issues of a regional nature (66,000 people moving to the Bay Area each year) deserve a regional response. ABAG is an obvious response to this need. The problem, as you point out, is that ABAG is not an elected body and hence is toothless - it can only make recommendations. Perhaps it's time to give it more authority for clearly defined regional issues and make positions on ABAG elective.
Bottom line though is that we can't continue to grow the population by simply building more suburbs in outlying areas. Housing density within the urban areas needs to increase to allow these newcomers to live within the urban center - not just at its margins.
Of course that's already happening with the high density, single-family infill we see along Linnfield in Menlo Park and near Dinah's Shack in Palo Alto. Zoning changes in the new general plan in Menlo Park continues this process with 4-story multi-use buildings along El Camino.
I guess the question that's begging to be asked is what is Atherton doing to accomodate its "share" of the 66,000?
Posted by Paul Collacchi, a resident of another community, on May 9, 2012 at 8:13 am
It's important to deal with some of the land-use myths being propagated on this forum, so, in no particular order ...
1.) "Steve" asserts that planning is good or necessary and that ABAG is functional to that end, with no real influence over Menlo Park, but neglects to say that Menlo Park's General Plan land use element expired ca. 2010. It no longer contains forward-looking local land use projections. So what does Menlo Park use in its EIRs? ABAG projections for it. This was true for the Bohannon project, and I have not checked the Facebook project, but the "background" growth used in project EIR's is based on ABAG land use projections for Menlo Park. Menlo Park no longer has land use projections for itself.
2.) Menlo Park also lacks a so-called climate change-element in its General Plan. After going through an extensive community process to examine and target GHG emissions, Menlo Park did nothing. Each project that has come forward since that time, PARTICULARLY HIGH DENSITY HOUSING PROJECTS, have shown *significant* GHG impacts. Despite this fact, pseudo-environmentalists still try to argue that high-density (luxury) housing, [read: fully parked and occupied by filthy rich Americans] *reduces* local greenhouse gas emissions.
In the Bohannon hotel project, Bohannon's consultant's actually replacedthe Green Ribbon Panel's suggested Menlo Park GHG emission goal with one of its own choosing, and *star* environmentalists in Menlo Park, such as my dear friend MS, didn't even know it. Bohannon set Menlo Park emission standards.
Recently, Menlo Park was sued anonymously and surrendered land use authority on an El Camino Real office/retail, based in part on flawed GHG analysis.
No planning means that well-resourced special interests have an advantage in the land-use process through consultants and lawyers.
3.) Menlo Park does not have a valid housing element. This has been true since about 1988, I believe.
4.) Conclusion: In fact, Menlo Park is doing no planning at all. Yes, it is processing projects, but it is doing no planning.
One of the problems with ABAG then is precisely what you see "Steve" doing. He's using ABAG as a symbol for planning, when in fact no local planning is taking place.
The deeper issues are these: Menlo Park has the legal authority to plan for itself, and it may define "sustainability" as it sees fit, but it has abdicated the planning process, by default to ABAG.
Worse, once upon a time true environmentalists first talked about "ZPG", zero population growth, and then about "sustainability". Sustainability was a metaphorical concept borrowed from the natural environment applied to the built environment that acknowledged the existence of so-called "carry capacities". Any environment can only sustain a limited population, after which quality of life is degraded or impaired.
The relationship between population and sustainability is fundamentally correct, I believe, but the entire environmentalist agenda of LIMITING local population been ingeniously co-opted through regional agencies such as ABAG into now believing that MAXIMIZING local populations is environmentally optimal.
That's a really neat trick.
The deepest structural issue then is that regional bodies such as ABAG form and are maintained in part by economic special interests because ABAG and other "regional" proceedings are far removed from local visibility and accountability, and the entire chattering class of regional bureaucrats, local staff, local council members, and activists can be sequestered, surrounded, lobbied effectively, and co-opted.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 9:57 am
Thanks for setting me straight on the General Plan and for your overall historical perspective, especially concerning ABAG.
ABAG is an agency I've been aware of for years and generally admired for the work that they do. Therefore, some of your claims about the agency are a bit distressing - especially your claim about them attempting to MAXIMIZE local populations.
From what I see on their web site, ABAG is not so much about maximizing as it is about dealing with the reality that people will continue to move to the Bay Area because of jobs, weather, etc. - the same things that probably brought us or our parents to the area. ABAG does want established communities such as Menlo Park to change zoning to accommodate higher density housing. But is this necessarily bad?
Shouldn't each community in the Bay Area, including Atherton, have some responsibility for housing the influx of 66,000 people per year? They're going to keep coming and we can't put a "CLOSED" sign at the city border and tell them to find something in Tracy just so we can maintain the city as we would like it to be. That approach is not fair and it is not sustainable for the reasons we all know too well. It also means that my young adult daughters have little chance of living in the town they grew up in.
If Menlo Park has abdicated local planning, as you claim, perhaps it's because ABAG is actually doing a better job of it than the city can and it's simply saves the city money & effort to let the agency do what it does best. After all, to quote from their web site: "ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are working with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Bay Conservation Development Commission, local governments and stakeholders on the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) Plan." These are all agencies that have interests in housing and it's simply more efficient to work through a representative of the local Bay Area Governments than to work with each city council and county board individually. Local elected officials do serve on ABAG committees so it's not like local governments aren't represented in ABAG.
Finally, your last paragraph struck me as pretty much gratuitous propaganda, unsupported by any evidence. Dismissing ABAG as a bunch of bureaucrats under the control of special interests smacks of Tea Party rhetoric, not reasoned argument.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 10:09 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
" the reality that people will continue to move to the Bay Area because of jobs, weather, etc."
More people will move to the Bay Area than move out of the Bay Area only if the housing supply increases. If the housing supply stays constant there would be little net growth.
What attracts net growth in population is net growth in housing. If the people who live in a particular community don't want to increase the supply of housing in their community why should ABAG be able to tell them that they have to do otherwise??
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 10:50 am
Growth of 66,000 may not be appropriate, correct or necessary but it is happening and we need to deal with that reality. We can plan for it and hopefully mitigate its impact or we can stick our heads in the sand and let urban sprawl, uncontrolled traffic growth, etc. continue unabated.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 10:54 am
People come for the jobs - the Bay Area economy is recovering relative to most of the rest of the country. People will come to work and they will need housing.
And ABAG can't tell any community what to do. They can recommend an intelligent course of action that's considered traffic, air quality, etc. but it's up to the community to implement the recommendation or not.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 11:02 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Suffice it to say that Steve and I simply have a different view on how things should work. I prefer a system where people make local decisions and new entrants are either encouraged by the level of traffic and available housing supply or they are discouraged and elect not to come. I reject the approach of saying that they are coming anyway so we must build more housing and infrastructure to accomodate them. Population growth is not necessarily progress and economic progress can be made with population growth.
And with our current rate of unemployment why do we need any new people?
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm
"They're going to keep coming and we can't put a "CLOSED" sign at the city border and tell them to find something in Tracy just so we can maintain the city as we would like it to be. "
Why not Steve? We have no responsibility nor is there any law that aI am aware of that says we must degrade our community in order that more people can live here. It's the reason land tends to appreciate in value, they're not making any more of it. So, to accomodate tehse other people would require higher densities. One of the reasons I live in Menlo Park is for its lower population density. Why would I want more? And again, who says I have to?
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Menlo Voter -
You and Peter have good points - I certainly agree that I don't want to degrade our community to accommodate the rising population. However, I don't agree that more people necessarily means degraded community.
The population of MP has grown over 13% between 1990 and 2010. Has our quality of life declined in that time due to this growth? I think the quality of life has improved in many ways (present economy aside). It's forecast to grow another 7% by 2014 - perhaps even more as FaceBook begins to hire another 6,600 people and Bohannon Park begins to come on-line.
Where are these new residents going to live? In the higher density housing that we see along Linnfield for one, and in homes on lots previously zoned for one home that now hold two for another. In the future some of the growth will be into the multi-use buildings along El Camino with apartments & condos on floors 2 thru 4.
We will grow. Not at the rate of growth of California or even the rest of the Bay Area, but we will grow. Planning for this growth just makes sense.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
California grew 10% in the last decade but Menlo Park CHOSE to only grow 4% during that period and Atherton saw a decrease of 3.9%. There is no reason for Atherton and Menlo Park to grow any faster that the citizens of that community want their community to grow.
Most Facebook employees want to live in places like SF so Facebook provides buses to bring them to Menlo Park - a real win-win.
And Steve - Thanks for an intelligent discussion of this issue. It is a refreshing change from many postings on this Forum.
Posted by +1 to the above, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm
The population of Menlo Park rose from 2000 to 2010. But let's look at the numbers: according to the Census Bureau, the number of households declined, from 12,387 to 12,347. So what we are actually seeing is not an influx of people but a cyclic change in demographics, as the original owners of our post-war homes left their empty nests and young families moved in. Note that the number of households with children <18 was 3,299 2000 and 3,890 in 2010. Unless we start adding a lot of housing -- and those units on Linfield are an abomination and should never have been built -- our numbers will remain stable, apart from cyclic fluctuations.
Much of our state is still unpopulated or underpopulated. If there is no available housing here, people won't move here. Companies will locate their facilities where they can find cheap labor. That's the free market, and, unless the politicians start mucking around, it tends to work fairly well. People who want to live in a densely populated area can move to San Francisco or Manhattan, and those of us who prefer a more suburban lifestyle will still have that option.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm
"The population of MP has grown over 13% between 1990 and 2010. Has our quality of life declined in that time due to this growth?"
You bet it has Steve. Have you driven El Camino between 5 pm and 6 pm. It is atrocious. And that's in a down economy. I remember what it was like during the dot com bubble. It was like that almost all day long. Sorry, the incresed population has definatley degraded the quality of life here. I've lived here 18+ years and the only time it was worse was during the dot com bubble.
The city keeps allowing more and more density to be built. They allow in-fill housing into lots that originally had one house on them and now have two to four in the same space. That's anywhere from two to six additional cars on our local roads. Increased density can't do anything but degrade our quality of life as far as I can see.
They want to put three floors of residential above a first floor of retail/restaurant on el camino. Sounds wonderful doesn't it? Until you start realizing that all of those folks, or darn near all of them are going to have at least one car per household if not two. We simply cannot handle that level of density here and not degrade our quality of life.
The biggest thing is, we simply don't NEED the additional housing. Those folks can find housing elsewhere.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm
I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how the number of households declined from 2000 to 2010.
At least some of the Linnfield homes were already occupied by 2010 and there had been quite a bit of infilling with double homes on single lots since 2000. Perhaps it just reflects foreclosed homes that were empty due to the great recession. Can you tell me the source of your data?
BTW - this is the source for the statistics I quoted above: Web Link
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm
If you gauge quality of life by traffic on El Camino between 5 and 6 pm on a workday, you're bound to be disappointed, regardless of what Menlo Park does to encourage or discourage growth. 40,000 people work in Menlo Park but only about 25% of them live here. Consequently much of the traffic jam you're complaining about is simply workers from other towns trying to get home. That won't change as long as businesses in Menlo Park remain successful.
Now if Menlo Park had more affordable housing, more of these workers could live here and could bike to work like I do. At least they'd be off the major arterials like El Camino.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
There were 12,347 households, out of which 4,112 (33.3%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 6,163 (49.9%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,039 (8.4%) had a female householder with no husband present, 371 (3.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 642 (5.2%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 102 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 3,672 households (29.7%) were made up of individuals and 1,371 (11.1%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53. There were 7,573 families (61.3% of all households); the average family size was 3.20.
There were 12,543 households out of which 25.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.5% were married couples living together, 10.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.67% were non-families. 35.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.15.
^ All data are derived from the United States Census Bureau reports from the 2010 United States Census, and are accessible on-line here. The data on unmarried partnerships and same-sex married couples are from the Census report DEC_10_SF1_PCT15. All other housing and population data are from Census report DEC_10_DP_DPDP1. Both reports are viewable online or downloadable in a zip file containing a comma-delimited data file. The area data, from which densities are calculated, are available on-line here. Percentage totals may not add to 100% due to rounding. The Census Bureau defines families as a household containing one or more people related to the householder by birth, opposite-sex marriage, or adoption. People living in group quarters are tabulated by the Census Bureau as neither owners nor renters. For further details, see the text files accompanying the data files containing the Census reports mentioned above.
Posted by +1 to the above, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm
1. Much of the traffic during rush hour is created by Stanford employees or other employees of businesses in adjacent cities. They don't live in Menlo Park. They don't work in Menlo Park. We're just the city they drive through.
2. Do you move every time you change jobs? Homeowners don't. Most renters don't.
3. If you've got a family, you're not going to want to trade in your geographically undesirable 4 br house with the pool for a tiny unit over a store next to the train tracks on El Camino. Especially not since your house is worth $500k and the tiny unit sells for a lot more than that. You'd rather spend an extra hour driving so that your family can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
4. Remind me: who DOES want to live in those tiny units over the stores on El Camino next to the train tracks? People are going to want to retire there? Really?
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm
They sold out Menlo Square. Right across the street from the train tracks. Many of those units were over $1 million, if I recall correctly, back in 1999. You can bet even with the decline in the economy they sell for more than that now.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm
Somebody must like living near the train tracks - I don't see any vacancies for the apartments/condos behind Gambardella's restaurant. I think the convenience of being close to downtown and to the CALTRAIN will appeal to many who want to live without being so dependent on a car. I live near the train station myself and love the fact that I can
1) catch a train to SF with my bike and bike around the #1 tourist spot in the country
2) Caltrain to Santa Clara and catch a free shuttle to SJC
3) catch the KX to & from SFO (with luggage) for only $1.50
4) bike to work 75% of the year
5) walk or bike to the gyms, pool and library at Burgess Park
6) bike or walk to the shops & restaurants downtown
I think a developer will have no trouble renting units in that area for all of these reasons and I expect they'll get top dollar.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm
I expect the occupants will pay more for municipal services than folks who bought years ago and have had their property taxes capped by Prop 13.
And as tax paying residents of the community they'll have the same rights to the roads & schools as the rest of us. Though, in fact, because they live so close to mass transit hubs, they'll likely drive less than the average Menloite. Also, if +1 is correct about them being more likely to be retired, they'll likely contribute fewer kids to the school system.
Looks like a winner to me for the residents of our fair city.
Posted by +1, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm
Menlo Square is an interesting example. When I look at the list of owners (public info) I see a number that I know do not live there but who bought the units as investments. The sales history suggests that many units have declined in value. For example, a unit that sold for $1mm in 2006 sold earlier this year for $900k; one that sold for $867 in 2010 sold for $705 a year later. A couple went up too, but not by a huge amount.
Besides, Menlo Square is not on El Camino! Very different.
Most of us who live in Menlo Park can easily catch a train to SF, bike to work, walk to Burgess Park, or walk to both Palo Alto and Menlo Park downtowns. Plus the Stanford mall. Hardly a selling point for living on El Camino, given the drawbacks. Also, I can't think of a single mixed-use development in Menlo Park. Living over a shop is a different proposition from living in a condo complex.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm
I'm sorry Steve, but folks like you are in the minority around here. Most every household has at least one car, most two, some even more than that. Especially if they have children of driving age. I don't gauge traffic on el camino as the be all end all, but it is indicative of how bad the traffic is in town. Drive around the side streets at that time of day - same problem. Bottom line is, you can't jam more people into the same space and expect the quality of life isn't going to degrade. San Francisco is a perfict example. High density, terrible traffic, crowded public transit and tons of people wherever you go. Not so here. That's why I live here and not there. I don't want to see those kinds of problems here. That's why I live here. We do not need to make room for more people if we choose not to. Most residents of Menlo Park choose not to have higher density. They don't want their quality of life degraded.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm
I bike as much as possible so I don't see the traffic problems that you do. For me, the quality of life in MP has only gotten better since I moved here in 1985. During that time the population has increased by nearly 6,000 people, or 2400 households. But I see any evidence of a reduced quality of life. On the contrary, I'll list just a few things that have improved during that time:
New gyms & pools at Burgess
New Performing Arts Center
Kepler's & Boronne's
more & better restaurants
A new Safeway
Santa Cruz beautification
London Plane trees along El Camino
more bike lanes and new bike bridges
New Middle school and major renovations at Encinal & Oak Knoll
And I could go on, but you get the picture. Menlo Park is clearly an even more attractive community to live in than it was 30 years ago, 6,000 new residents notwithstanding.
I think you're exaggerating the negative impact of growth and ignoring the positives.
In any case, since 1980 the rate of growth has been fairly steady at about 190 new residents (75 households) per year and I don't see it changing. If anything, the new employment resulting from FaceBook, Google, Bohannon, etc. will probably increase this number.
The question remains: How do we best accommodate this growth?
Posted by +1, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 9, 2012 at 11:49 pm
The thing is, Steve, it's not just a matter of cramming more bodies into a limited amount of space. Sure, we could build 10-story apartment buildings on El Camino and probably squeeze in 10,000 new residents! The problem is that each new resident occupies incremental space all over town. The new resident is the extra person in line at the gas station, needs a parking space at the grocery, has a kid who requires a desk and a classroom, adds to the congestion on El Camino.
And don't claim that new residents won't drive. They will. Unless you're a hermit, it's hard to get by without a car, and if you've got a kid, it's essentially impossible.
My kid's soccer team recently had to reschedule a game. Two other soccer leagues, a lacrosse league, and Little League all wanted the same space at the same time. We don't have enough room now for all our residents' recreational needs now. We don't have enough room, period.
It's not just about having space for housing. Fitting in another 10x10 bedroom is easy. It's everything else.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 7:04 am
you are exactly right. You make my piont better than I have been able to.
just because more people want to move here doesn't mean we need to accomodate them. If we don't build additional housing units those people will ahve to go elsewhere. It is also good for property values as clearly more people wanting limited housing units will drive up those values.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 7:41 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
It is also important to realize that the effects of increased population in any given area or activity are not linear, i.e. a 2% increase in population will, at some point, cause a much bigger increase in congestion. The place that we most often experience this is on our roadways - at 90% of capacity things move well but above that point traffic becomes bumper-to-bumper and then stop-and-go and then comes to a standstill.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 9:55 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
"The population of MP is growing by ~200 people per year and we are accommodating them somehow"
More correctly, the population of MP is growing by X a year BECAUSE we are allowing greater housing density. If the housing stock did not change then the population would not automatically increase - in fact the population might decrease as the number of individuals per household decreases. Atherton's population decreased 3.9% in the last ten years with almost no change in the number of homes.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 11:47 am Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Another way to look at this is to consider each community as a boat - not a lifeboat because there are lots of other boats around. At some point the boat has as many occupants as it can comfortably hold. Adding more people will adversely impact the people in the boat. Should those people be forced to accept more occupants or is that a decision which they should be allowed to make based on their own self interests? And remember that there are lots of other boats around so our boat is not a life or death boat.
Posted by Dues and dont's, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm
To all of the Steves out there:
Atherton in the last year or two, rewrote all of it's Building and Zoning codes as well as our General Plan to accommodate the intense pressure brought on by the Housing Element dictates from ABAG et all.
Here is what the language of the perviosly existing ordinances was CHANGED FROM, starting at the very top of page one, and which had been reasonably well upheld since the Town was incorporated.
"The purpose of these ordinances is to have a comprehensive plan to regulate and RESTRICT all building hereafter erected, to LIMIT the density of population and provide for a system of enforcement. Such regulation is deemed necessary to conserve and stabilize the undue concentration of population, to lessen congestion on streets, provide adequate light and air, and to promote the health safety and general welfare of the residents.
There is no mention of how to squish as many people in as possible so that the construction industry can keep making money.
I will bet that all of our newly "updated" language for these instruments has been seriously altered-I am afraid to look. This is what can happen when you get an ambitious land use attorney on your council.
But it can be death by a thousands cuts (read subdivision) in endless other ways, and with money involved, your daughter's future is very much at stake.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm
Atherton wisely wants to "LIMIT the density of population" and "stabilize the undue concentration of population". But what is the appropriate population density? What constitutes "undue concentration"?
I looked at city stats in Wikipedia and came up with the following info. Atherton has about 21% of the population of Menlo Park but the density is not that different with MP having over 1800 people per square mile living in 751 houses vs under 1400 people/sq mi in Atherton living in 501 houses. If you really want the wide open spaces, go to Portola Valley where there are less than 500 people/sq mi in only 208 houses.
What's surprising to me is how crowded Palo Alto has become, both in population and housing densities. Yet they have two of the best high schools on the peninsula and people pay a large premium to live there.
Which of these communities would you say has the best combination of Population & housing densities?
Hope this table prints well on the web.
___CITY_____2010_POP____POP DENSITY___Housing Units__Housing Density
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm
as Peter aptly notes, the population of Menlo Park will NOT increase if the current housing stocks don't. I don't think Menlo Park should be allowing higher density housing, period. If there isn't a house on it now it should stay that way.
Posted by +1, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm
I thought I had already indicated that a large % of the increase in population over the last ten years is due to empty nesters (1-2 people per hh) moving out and young families (3+ people and growing) moving in. The housing stock has grown by about 100 units too.
The information about housing density just proves that people have choices -- a good thing! We're not all forced to live in a high density environment. (What's happening in Palo Alto is a topic for another thread, but hop over to their boards -- they're not happy about it either.)
Bottom line, you're telling the people who live here now that we need to sacrifice our quality of life on behalf of people who don't live here but might want to move here in the future.
Posted by DandD, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on May 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm
The war on suburbia may eventually result in a return to village life. People will likely have to go back home and move into huts with their parents like everyone else. I'd rather have a Loya Gerga at this point than a completely toothless City Council.
But the issue of dental health aside, All the bike riding in the world is not going to stave of diabetes if you don't knock of the Koolaid.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm
You answered the question "But what is the appropriate population density?" with the statement: "Whatever the citizens of a particular community decide it should be."
So it looks like Menlo Park citizens have chosen gradual but controlled growth, as evidenced by the average growth of 200 people/year over the past 30 years and the fact that the new Downtown & El Camino plans call for more housing above shops on Santa Cruz and in 4 & 5 story multi-use buildings along El Camino.
While there has been some objections to the new plans, I don't recall that concerns about increased population was among them. Therefore I have to conclude that Menlo Park residents are OK with this level of growth.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on May 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Steve - The past is not the future. As I noted above the impact of growth is non-linear. I suspect that the citizens of Menlo Park are much less supportive of future growth than they were of past growth - but that is up to the citizens to decide. We will see how new plans for housing growth are received.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm
not this Menlo Park resident. As I said before, if it doesn't have a house on it now it shouldn't in the future. If it has one house on it now, it shouldn't have more than one house on it in the future. Etc. The developers will keep cramming more and more density in if you allow them to. We should not allow it.
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on May 12, 2012 at 7:25 am
Chances are the suburbs are going to eat up land, they are going to get further and further out. Freeways like L.As. long drives anywhere, you got people in L.A. that driving takes up time. You have miles and miles of 2 to 3 story buildings, miles of parking lots, miles upon miles of roads.
You just need to figure out a way to design buildings that will fit in to places where the density will work. Create some places where a 5 story building might work, if not head back to the drawing board.
Here is something that would help business owners, have some buildings with store units on the ground floor and they can live above the shop. It might keep some of the service professional.
I have traveled somewhat in the world and lived overseas. I have seen some blended housing projects, flats, apts and homes that are attached by a garage. We seem to waste space on side yards, big front yards. I have seen homes with no front yard but good sized back yards, space that made sense for people who don't want to own a car and live in the center of town. I have seen use of space with business in front, housing in the back, you would never have know if housing was back there. In face of you traveled to London England you would find this type of housing.
Yes city have tall buildings, you will mostly like see the density of those building, but do you ever go out on the suburbs, do you ever noticing how they handle fitting in housing for their residents.
They don't want their farm land, open space to be eaten by housing and freeways
Posted by Dues and don'ts, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on May 12, 2012 at 11:43 am
So who is paying attention to the San Carlos story about a different way to loose ABAG and a lot of the public employee union influence, by opting to become a Charter City away from so much state control?
Posted by Adina, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 13, 2012 at 10:29 am
The preference for larger houses and longer drives seems to have peaked, according to a growing body of data. Gen Y folk (like Facebook employees) prefer to drive less, and prefer being close to stores, restaurants, and parks more than they like larger houses.
The perception that most people like larger houses and want to drive everywhere accurately describes an older generation, but doesn't describe the younger adults who will be increasingly influential.
Posted by +1, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 14, 2012 at 11:10 am
You are so right, Adina. Most people in their 20s (Facebook employees) don't want to live in big houses. They want to be able to walk to restaurants and bars and other fun places. It is hard for some 20-somethings to accept, but those of us who are 30-something-plus were once 20-something. We remember.
But, even though 20-somethings don't want to believe it, they will someday hit 30. And, as offensive as it may seem, 40, 50, and even higher ages. Unless this generation of 20-somethings decides that it does not want to reproduce, in another ten years or so they will be eager to forego the 20-something lifestyle in favor of a home with a yard and a car that can transport the kids to school, soccer practice, birthday parties, etc etc etc.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on May 14, 2012 at 11:16 am
Adina, these young people will grow up and want children. After they have kids, do you think they will still yearn to live in urban environments? Should we destroy our residential neighborhoods to appease the young people who are still single and looking for a good time at night? People want to have the bar close, so they don't have to drive. And that might keep cars off the road. But who wants to raise their kids near those bars?
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 14, 2012 at 11:23 am
And so those 20-somethings will be able to buy the single-family home from the 60-something who will want to unload the maintenance of the big home (and realize the profit) but who hesitates to leave the community of friends and family. Having a high-rise apartment building where they can retire to within this community will make for a win-win situation for both.
Seems to me that MP already has approved this kind of high-rise housing with the nine-story apartment building on the corner of University & Valparaiso that's been there for decades. Lots of happy retired folks there and the quality of life in MP hasn't suffered appreciably.
Posted by +1, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm
Steve, I wonder if you have ever been to Menlo Park? Menlo Park does not fit the stereotype of suburbia. Many of us can walk to downtown, to parks, to shops from our homes.
The last time I lived in an apartment, I was 24 years old. Not much privacy or room, no garden, no pets. Living in a highrise on the train tracks in Menlo Park is not a choice you'd make if you had other options. People who own homes in Menlo Park -- especially if those homes are paid off -- do have other options, and upkeep is not a big deal. Get a housecleaner and gardener.
It's the 20-somethings who don't have options. For every Facebook CEO who can afford a $7mm home in Palo Alto, there are 100,000 20-somethings who are working low-paying jobs while paying off a mountain of student loans. Lucky for them that their parents had the foresight to own homes big enough for their kids to move back into. A pied a terre or high-rise 800 square foot apartment wouldn't quite do the trick, would it?
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm
You wrote: "Should we destroy our residential neighborhoods to appease the young people who are still single and looking for a good time at night?"
No one is proposing to rezone the residential neighborhoods for high-rise buildings. The plan calls for multi-use, 3- and 4-story buildings only along downtown Santa Cruz and along the El Camino corridor, both of which are now zoned commercial. The residential neighborhoods remain untouched.
Having more higher density housing would benefit MP for the reasons I mentioned above, providing an affordable alternative to the single-family home on a quarter acre that appeals to families with children but that doesn't meet the needs of the younger 20-somethings and the older folks who want to get away from the upkeep on a house & yard without having to move away from the area.
Palo Alto has a population density of 2500/sq mile, compared to only 1800/sq mile in Menlo Park. I don't think of Palo Alto as being overly crowded. I do think it has a much more vibrant downtown area partly because it has a nearby population that supports it.
I think it's inevitable that MP becomes somewhat more like Palo Alto, which retains it's open residential neighborhoods at the same time it accommodates growth in it's more urban downtown & commercial areas.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm
I've lived in Menlo Park for 27 years, long enough to know that many neighborhoods are absolutely not within easy walking distance of downtown. Most of West Menlo is not within walking distance, nor is the Willows neighborhood for the most part. If they were, would there be as much complaining about parking problems downtown?
I think a lot of older folks, stuck in larger homes than they need in these neighborhoods, would seriously consider downsizing to a nice apartment or condo downtown if it were available. Think Santana Row! From what I can tell, the 9-story apartment building on University & Valparaiso has no trouble filling vacancies.
On the commercial side,I also expect that Mark Flegel would enjoy the boost in business as these folks furnished their new digs, as would the shops & restaurants who would cater to this increased customer base. With increased sales, the sales tax to the city goes up too, which benefits us all.
Seems to me there are lots of positives to intelligently managing population growth for this town that outweigh the negatives you and others keep bringing up.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm
I live less than 900 feet from El Camino and less than 200 feet from the Caltrain tracks. I've adapted to the noise and will have no problem living in one of those smaller units along the El Camino corridor that should be completed about the time I'm ready to retire. However, I'm hoping instead to be able to afford one of the units along Santa Cruz - closer to the nightlife & I do love to dance!
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community, on May 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm
If you are talking about putting homes by trains, use of design to lessen the sound of the trains are needed, just like the use of design to lessen the sound of traffic is needed. Then again I don't think El Camino or Caltrain is that busy at 3 AM.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 15, 2012 at 2:43 pm
Double-pane windows are a big improvement in deadening sound of the Caltrain. Doesn't help much though in the summer when I choose to sleep with the windows open. You just get used to the noise for the most part.
As for it being quiet at 3AM. Sometimes true but the wee hours are when the freight trains run and when Caltrain trains it's new engineers. Not that I notice - I usually sleep right through these disturbances of the "quiet" hours.
Posted by menloshopper, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on May 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm
Something which may be useful to all: My understanding is that the Planning Commission has recommended potential review of Plan parameters (density, parking requirements, bike lanes, setbacks, design criteria, etc.) every two years. So particulars for any or all zones can be pulled out and reset given interest and support to do so. In fact...the Council hasn't approved the Plan, so there's even time now, given good reasons and support. The current zoning doesn't allow that kind of detailed choice. Some big issue items are unlikely to go away, like the Chestnut Paseo, but that's supposed to be started on a trial basis anyway. Garages also have to be funded, so that's also a huge step, not a done deal by a long shot. Stanford does get alot, but it looks like they also give up a chunk of public space at Middle where hopefully a bike/ped tunnel will one day be built. That area apparently has some kind of minimum retail requirements.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on May 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm
Peter, +1, parent -
Hot off the press!
It's not just up to the community to decide whether it wants to accommodate increased growth - it's written into state law that it must do so. And according to a story in today's Almanac, Menlo Park has been negligent in planning for this increase. Web Link The pertinent paragraph follows:
"Every seven years, according to state law, cities must assess and plan to meet their fair share of regional housing needs, which includes affordable housing. Communities also must plan zoning so that it's possible to provide the right number of housing units, although the law doesn't require cities to actually build them."
A question occurs: how has Atherton gotten away with not doing more to accommodate the growth and why haven't they been visited by a lawsuit?