Menlo council's interminable plans for Terminal Avenue

Fate of parcel rests with new subcommittee

Twenty-two Habitat for Humanity homes, or 1.5 acres for Beechwood School? That's the question the Menlo Park City Council debated at its Oct. 19 meeting, and in the end, they agreed to let a new subcommittee answer it.

Habitat for Humanity has wanted to build the homes since 2001, but community opposition has kept the program waiting. Now, nine years later, so much time has passed that the nonprofit wants to pull the plug altogether.

"We need to either fish or cut bait here," Phillip Kilbridge, executive director of the nonprofit's San Francisco branch, told the council. "We're asking for your direction. Lacking it, and no offense to any of you, we will have to move on and work with Menlo Park on the next opportunity."

The Belle Haven community would be happy to see the school buy the land, according to neighborhood association president Matt Henry. "Why would Habitat for Humanity continually push to bring housing here when the community for like 10 years has said we don't really want it? It's like you come in and try to shove it down our throats," he said during the council meeting.

"We think education is more important," Mr. Henry said. "If Beechwood could get all of this property, and it doesn't cost an arm and leg, that would be ideal for our community. Education is important on one side of town, seems like it's not important on the other side of town."

The council, however, wasn't happy with the price the school is willing to pay for the parcel -- about $600,000 less than what the city estimates as fair market value, according to Mayor Rich Cline.

"Terminal Avenue is terminally ill," Mr. Cline said, expressing skepticism that the Habitat for Humanity plan could survive neighborhood protest.

The City Council and Housing Commission have struggled with where to build affordable housing in Menlo Park. Of the city's 57 below-market-rate units, 20 are located in a mixed-income housing development in Belle Haven.

Council members Kelly Fergusson and Heyward Robinson volunteered to serve on the subcommittee. Mr. Robinson suggested that having City Council participate in negotiations would finally bring plans for the parcel to fruition.

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Posted by who cares
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Why not sell the property to the school. Its only a loss of $600,000. The city constantly knows how to throw away money.

Look at the downtown-El Camino plan. They thrown 1.2 million at it already, its going nowhere.

The three away $500,000 some years ago on the Smart Growth plan.

The threw away $1 million in claims for the flood on the Creek, because the boneheads didn't have insurance.

Then there was the $900,000 they paid for plan for the child care center, that never got built.

Probably a lot more I don't know about.

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Posted by Nina Wouk
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm

It's better to sell the land at a loss to a school that will make good use of it than to let it sit idle year after year being no good to anybody, or be developed in the totally impractical and dangerous way proposed by Habitat. Cut bait, City Council. It's way past time.

Like this comment
Posted by MENLO
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

As Matt Henry has stated, "Belle Haven Community does not want the homes", build elsewhere! The land would be better served if purchased by Beechwood School to continue educating our kids in their own community.

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Posted by A. Milne
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm

It is apparent none of the above are really anxious to see homes built for those who might be "considered" 'not of our kind' and lower the prices of the not so upscale neighborhood they think they now live in.
NOBODY is ready to help those who want to live at what would be a service to HUMANITY.
We are ALL here on borrowed time......don't be pissants about the homes which may not be so grand as your's.

Like this comment
Posted by MENLO
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

If you're so worried move the homes next to you! I grew up in this neighborhood, 30+ years and enough of the housing we need decent schools for our kids.

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Posted by Long term resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Doesn't the city own the land? Isn't the land zoned for housing?
Does the plan conform with the zoning ordinance?

If the answers to the questions above are yes, the City, like any property owner, has the right to build those houses.

Why should a group of neighbors be able to take away the property rights of an owner? Why don't the neighbors donate their houses to the school for less than they are worth?

These new homes are a good fit for that neighborhood and a much needed asset for the community.

Beechwood school is private and may not even be in business in a few years.

Like this comment
Posted by BoarderMom
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Holy Cow, long term resident and the others calling for more homes in the Bellehaven neighborhood. First, please do your homework on Beechwood School, read about its mission, its founders, its graduates and its staff. The school has been in existence for over 20 years and frankly its Board of Directors are an example to all of us of individuals who walk the talk in every sense of the word. Second, do your homework and take a look at the land that Beechwood School sits on. It is a long skinny lot that runs within a stones throw of the railroad tracks that empties out into the parking lot of the Onetta Harris Community Center. Not exactly a great place to build single family homes, but an excellent choice for a school because it provides less congestion to the neighborhood, allows neighborhood families and children to walk to school, and is an excellent reminder that less is more in terms of city development.

Like this comment
Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Boy all I can say is if Belle Haven is really concerned and not wanting more housing, why in the world do they show up in force and demand the Menlo Gateway project (Measure T) be built.

Talk about increasing traffic and pressure to build homes for another 2500 expected workers. Your closest to the project, your going to be affected the most.

Why do you think David Bohannon kept having picnics and barbaques? He wasn't doing it for his health that's for sure. Did you ever know a developer to be really wanting to do something great for your community.

Matt Henry, supposedly representing your community spoke many times about the wonders of this project. Does he really represent your community?

Is there no opposition to this huge project on your backdoor?

Like this comment
Posted by Ex terminal rez
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2010 at 10:14 am

Beechwood and affordable homes for Menlo residents or folks who work there are two great options for this chunk of land. There are pros and cons to both projects. For example, what if a child from a Habitat home or the school walks around a fence and gets hit by a train? Or eats a handful of the toxic soil at this site? Or what if the homes built provide more stability for a family, or the extra space for the school allows for a project which really inspires a child?

Can someone explain why people are really fired up over the two options? Mr. Kilbridge's request for direction from the community is well said. Beechwood likely has a similar spirit.

May I suggest someone walks down the odd side of terminal ave and take an informal tally of how the neighbors feel? Maybe they want a park there instead?

Irregardless of the decision, shouldn't we be glad there isn't a new 711 going in back there?

Now on measure t, who is going to stay at the gateway hotel? Perhaps the building will be built with local labor, perhaps it will be staffed by locals. But really? A hotel? Seems like development for developments sake, not that any locals asked me.

Like this comment
Posted by MP Rep
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm

How is Habitat's plan any more dangerous than the new development along the track down the street? Or for that matter, any of the homes along the eastern edge of Terminal Ave.?

Why is the "neighborhood" group so adamant about keeping out housing for working families? It seems that support for Bohannon's project would dispel any claim in opposition to Habitat's project noting traffic impacts.

I sense this is a case of NIMBYism...which is curious because I would bet that the homes Habitat builds would look quite nice compared to a lot of the homes in the area. Take a look at an aerial on Google and see how well some of the properties are kept. I would think Habitat's project would have an HOA to maintain and care for the property.

I worry that this neighborhood has been swayed by an intimidating, vocal minority. Do you think it would be tough to live in this neighborhood and speak out in support of housing?

Can anyone suggest another site owned by the city that would be good for affordable housing?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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