Commission counters Beltramo's proposal

Negotiations focus on money

The ball's back in the developer's court after the Menlo Park Housing Commission unanimously agreed on a counterproposal last night (Sept. 1) to Beltramo's Investment Co. The city and developer are negotiating the number of below-market-rate (BMR) apartments to be included among the 16 townhomes planned for 1460 El Camino Real.

Although the original approved plan included three BMR units, the Beltramos asked that in light of declining real estate values, only one be set aside, with 10 to 20 percent of sales revenue on the remaining units going back to the city to compensate for not including two more.

Douglas Frederick, the city's housing manager, said the commission asked for a higher percentage of revenue if construction costs declined.

With the exception of that one change, the five commissioners agreed to accept a previous offer from Beltramo's of in-lieu fees on five market rate townhomes, $207,348 in commercial linkage fees, and a cut of the revenue if sales prices exceed $1 million.

If Beltramo's accepts the counterproposal, the Planning Commission and City Council would need to approve the final arrangement.

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Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Wouldn't it have been nice if the Planning Commission and Council had extracted meaningful concessions from Bohannan?

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Posted by angered
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm

yes to frugal, instead we got $500,000 for flowers and shrubs !

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm

So MP could care less about affordable housing in its town. Just give us some money and share any excess profits with us and its all good. I sincerely hope that either the PC or the CC majority do not have as selfish a view of this issue as does the HC.

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Posted by patty boyle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm

As a matter of clarification the in lieu fees, including a percentage of the sales revenue paid
by the Beltramo project, are applied to the below market rate housing fund. The fund will be used to purchase or build affordable housing in another location in Menlo Park. The term "selfish "doesn't really apply to this situation.

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Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm

To Frugal:
The Planning Commission unanimously sent the Menlo Gateway project to Council with some major recommendations that did not make it into the Development Agreement. One was that the independently predicted traffic impacts be reduced by a full 50% by a new level of mitigations (might include extensive shuttle services, tenant employee transit commitments, provision for ZipCar, etc.) Another was that the developer simply "identify" land for homes to accommodate the housing pressure that this much additional office space would create (and for which the city has in-lieu fees in the bank but no viable land).
We tried.

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Posted by hmmm
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Yeah, like a minimum 225K revenue guarantee or a few hundred thousand to schools or bump in the hotel tax for a few hundred grand more a year or 1.5M for the local neioghborhood.

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Posted by tom h
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm

let him build his project we need a nicer looking el camino
and hey who eles has the bucks the B. Get out of his way he does good work and it will just fine. Life is hard and this city makes life harder all the time.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:50 pm

tom h -

Weren't you the one who said on Aug 6, 2010 at 12:44 pm

"we do not need any more big box stores like bevmo

and stop whole foods

more is not better"

Why the change of heart, tom h?

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Posted by reality check
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 5, 2010 at 9:29 am

If every project pays in lieu fees but builds no BMR units or does not provide any housing at all even when the project adds to housing demand (as with Bohannon's Gateway project), where and how will the housing be built? Since Menlo Park is already built up, this seems a reasonable question to be answered.
How much does Menlo Park land cost and how much would it cost to build the housing? Are the required BMR fees, or in Beltramo's situation the negotiated fees, even adequate to buy land and pay for construction costs?
Too bad major property owners like Beltramo and Bohannon aren't accepting responsibility to do their full share of addressing the problems they exacerbate.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 5, 2010 at 10:02 am

As we've said before, it should come as no surprise that people will ALWAYS act in their own interests.

This is true for Beltramo's, Bohannon, BevMo, unions and even homeowners with children in local schools.

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Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2010 at 10:37 am

The unofficial financial answer is that it costs Menlo Park about $500,000 per each BMR unit. This is based on the Hamilton Road project in which the city used RDA housing monies to 1.) buy land and then transfer the land to a developer who built a project that included 20 BMR units.

Former planning commissioner Stu Soffer told me had had done the calculation and he should be consulted, but basically, as I recall the land itself cost close to $20M in acquisition costs, and I think the project yielded 20 BMR units. The city then cut a deal with Clarum homes to build the project, and the city might have gotten some revenue back for the land transfer. Not all of the land acquired in the $20M purchase was used for the housing project.

This calculation should be thoroughly vetted, but I'm sure that its fairly close.

It's not a pretty picture, and Andy Cohen's idea of buying inexpensive single family homes, or my idea of buying multi-unit garden apartments with 6 or so units for $1M should be considered as alternatives.

In all cases where the government gets into the business of building or funding BMR units, it should calculate and publish its performance numbers.

This whole thread shows how cost/financial transparency is lost when RDA BMR monies are collected and projects are later built. I did then and still advocate that the city openly and clearly calculate and publish per BMR subsidies, which can then serve as a performance standard for future councils and future projects, but government is really averse to measuring and publishing its performance.

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Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2010 at 11:33 am

As far as 50% traffic reductions and Menlo Gateway.

The EIR traffic consultant was quite clear and quite correct when he told the Planning Commission that so-called Transportation Demand Management ("TDM") measures cannot be used to reduce projected EIR trip counts for projects, because its not possible to assign reliable trip reduction numbers to various TDM measures, and doing so would not withstand a CEQA legal challenge. (I watch all the videos.)

I agree that though TDM measures are arguably helpful, most TDM measures are symbolic gestures that have no substantive effect on trip reduction. (I know that Gail and Mitch are under the spell of the illusion that TDM can really make a big impact, and its one of the ways they trapped themselves into being supporters of the project. I know that Gail will rattle off an example or two to prove it (I watch the videos), but with this solid earth as my witness its mostly BS.)

I was once a big proponent of shuttles and TDM, but how many reduced automobile trips is a shower, information kiosk, or bike rack really worth? I have come to believe that TDM, like BMR units, is policy tokenism, something government and people do to make themselves feel good, or pretend they are making a difference, and it spares council members from having to make really tough decisions to produce actual results. Developers accept these methods because they completely marginalize government meddling in favor of economic realpolitik, developers wont change or reduce the size of their projects, and most council members wont make them do it.

No-one was willing to make Bohnannon build housing or reduce the size of the project.

When on council I had a conversation with Dan Smith, who I know to be a bona fide, national-class traffic consultant, and I liked Dan very much. (Some conspiracy theorists who are also my friends, think otherwise of Dan.) In 1997 and 1998 Menlo Park and the County was swimming in transit money and we ran the most ambitious local shuttle program ever in Menlo Park, before these gold-rush monies dried up. In a passing conversation about shuttles, I remember Dan telling me that Menlo Park's yearly shuttle capacity at that time for an entire year was equivalent to the amount of trips generated by the city in a single day. The shuttle capacity at the height of Menlo Park's shuttle system days was basically 1/365th of the actual demand.

Shuttles can't significantly eliminate trips, and most shuttle advocates I know, aren't network engineers. They don't know how to pencil the numbers to see if they even meet the sniff test. Dan's quick observation shows that shuttles don't meet the sniff test. That does not mean that Menlo Park should not do certain shuttles to give mobility options to certain customers, it means that shuttles aren't a feasible way of reducing aggregate trip counts.

The real and only way to reduce the Menlo Gateway trips by 50% was discussed plainly and accurately by Kelly Fergusson who noted those various Menlo Gateway EIR alternatives that did eliminate automobile trips and related impacts. That is exactly why EIR's analyze lower intensity alternatives, to give council members the information they need to determine how to actually reduce impacts to levels sustainable by the city's infrastructure.

The only method to reduce trips (and GHG's) is to reduce the size of the project. Kelly challenged her colleagues if they would be willing to reduce the project to one of the alternative sizes required amount to achieve the 50% reduction, and, as usual, the conversation got distracted, and changed quickly, and never really came up again. What was most interesting about that video is that every time council came close to agreeing on specific goal to give to their "negotiating" team, the city Manager, Glen Rojas would interrupt and distract them from defining a hard number, arguing, some incredible argument that council was "negotiating" from the dais.

Council did everything they could to prevent themselves from either a setting a defined goal and sticking to it, or arriving at a common bottom-line or alternative project density, which if not met, they would deny the project.

Of course Bohannon watched the same thing I watched. Once he understood that no-one on staff or on the dais would deny the project or set a bottom line for acceptable impact levels, or agree on a lower density alternative, he knew he was home free, and he knew he could even reneg on earlier promises, which he did with LEED certification.

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Posted by Notice Stanford's TDM with ECR parked cars?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Notice all the cars parked on ECR along Stanford campus so they don't count against "Daily Trips to Campus" in compliance with STanford's SC County approved GUP. Those drivers all pocket the stipend for the "Take the Marguerite Shuttle, Don't park on Campus" when STanford assured the SC County Supes that those drivers would "leave their car at home and take public transit from Caltrain/AC Transit Dumbarton Express" ad nauseum.
TDM in practice is short lived at best. Just a typical developer work around to CEQA compliance of traffic mitigations.
Bohannon knows the score, sell, sell, sell, the MP council is gullible, just like its electorate.

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