Beltramo townhomes approved

Menlo council to rethink below-market-rate program

The Menlo Park City Council got the new year off to a productive start. In less than an hour, without much debate or even public comment, the council voted 4-0 to let the Beltramos build 16 townhomes and an office complex at 1460 El Camino Real, in exchange for one below-market-rate (BMR) unit and a stack of fees.

City Attorney Bill McClure told the council at Tuesday night's meeting that including any BMR unit on the site would set a precedent.

"Commercial projects in Menlo Park pay in-lieu fees," he said, explaining that the mixed-use nature of the Beltramos project raised the cost of construction at the same time real estate values are declining.

The city and developer haggled for months over the number of below-market-rate (BMR) townhomes to be included on the 1.54 acre site. The original plan, first approved in 2006, followed city policy by setting aside three BMR units, but the Beltramos have now asked to include only one in light of declining real estate values.

The new agreement allows the Beltramos to include only one BMR townhome in exchange for 10 to 20 percent of sales revenue on each remaining unit if the unit's sales price exceeds $1 million, according to the staff report.

It also lets the city accept in-lieu fees on five market-rate townhomes and up to $382,704 in commercial linkage fees for the two-story, 26,800-square-foot office building.

A member of the Housing Commission, Ann Moser, told the council the same thing she'd told the Planning Commission during its hearing on the project -– that Menlo Park doesn't have enough BMR housing to let the city collect in-lieu fees instead of units.

"I made a real mistake in voting for this on the Housing Commission," she said. "We should hold developers to the standards they agreed upon… despite problems they may have run into over the years. I want you to know I'm very sorry we agreed to this project and wish we'd held them to the market rate agreements first agreed upon."

That didn't sway the City Council, however. Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith said it was important to get at least one BMR unit instead of zero. Mayor Rich Cline concurred, calling the project "very nice," and noted the BMR program was not meant to apply to low-density projects like the townhomes.

In light of the difficulties of providing affordable housing in an area like Menlo Park, Councilman Peter Ohtaki suggested holding a study session to rethink the BMR program. His colleagues agreed and asked city staff to schedule it.

Councilman Andy Cohen was recused from the discussion since he lives near the project site.

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Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Re Beltramo's exemption from BMR regs-

Mayor Cline is wrong. The "low-density...townhomes" at the end of Menlo Ave had 4 BMR units. When did Cline check out the history of BMRs in Menlo? Obviously never.

Bill McClure is right. This sets a precedent which will probably kill any future BMRs.

Why give Beltramo the big exemption? This is favoritism at its worst.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Hey Downtowner don't begrudge the Beltramos their profits. They have to make up for the upcoming loss of business at the liquor store since they weren't able to keep BevMo out of town.
Menlo Park gov't keeps rolling along ignoring the needs of the residents.

Like this comment
Posted by tom haid
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

it's about time!
the city has made it as hard as possible to get this done.
their project is no different all the others in the area.
Happy for you Dan and John!
hope it all pans out for you.

Like this comment
Posted by what rules?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm

so the city continues its habit of approving special requests just because a developer asks. So what about rules that others have to follow? So what that in lieu fees aren't resulting in BMR units?
why bother having rules if they aren't followed?

Like this comment
Posted by locl observer
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 13, 2011 at 7:23 am

while we will all be glad to see the land developed - how would the Beltramos have felt if they had opposition along the way like BevMo did to delay the project. Just makes for extra costs & I still won't go into Beltramos anymore even tho I would never have gone into BevMo anyway.

Like this comment
Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Apparently the writers here don't know anything about the project.

Brundage writes this article like this was a first approval. Hardly. Project was approved over 4 years ago and had been awarded two 2 year extensions to get started. Now Beltramo crying that what he proposed was no longer possible, comes back to the City for a better deal.

In point of fact, the Beltramo family can't agree on what they want to do. I don't see any guarantee that the project will even now be built any time soon. BTW, I don't have much sympathy for the whole BMR program and as far as I am concerned they should not have to pay even a fee or produce any BMR units., but the bleeding hearts locally and at the State level certainly don't see it that way.

The Menlo Square project had 3 BMR units, and they couldn't sell them.

If the Derry project could be built if their obligation for BMR units was released, that would be fine with me.

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

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