Affordable housing project terminated in Menlo

Council agrees to buy back Habitat for Humanity land

Ten years ago, Habitat for Humanity bought property at 297 Terminal Ave. in Menlo Park to build affordable housing. On July 19, the Menlo Park City Council killed that dream with the nonprofit's blessing.

"The Habitat project is dead, no pun intended," Deven Richardson, the nonprofit's Bay Area real estate director, said.

Habitat for Humanity envisioned a complex of 12 to 22 homes on the 1.5-acre site, but faced neighborhood opposition from the start as well as financing difficulties. Some of the loudest protests came from Beechwood School, a private Belle Haven facility for grades K-8, which needs the land to expand its campus.

The project ran up a tab despite stalled construction. Menlo Park already spent $998,000 on environmental remediation to prepare the site for housing, while Habitat for Humanity paid $481,590 to buy a home on the parcel to get access to the building site.

That $481,590 is what the council agreed to pay to buy back the property. That price, the city staff admitted, was above market rate, but the city is contractually obligated. The council vote was 4-0, with Mayor Rich Cline absent.

The funds were drawn from the city's affordable housing program fund and will need to be paid back to that fund should the site be sold for a different purpose.

Menlo Park Housing Manager Doug Frederick said his department hasn't decided yet what to do with the property. Money has been a sticking point in negotiations with Beechwood School; the city wants more than the school has offered to date.

According to the staff report, Menlo Park could also choose to retain the property for affordable housing or sell it at market rate. The council expects to receive a recommendation for its disposition in the early fall.

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Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm

In other words, aabout a million bucks have been spent and what do we have to show for it? A "Feel Good" experience?
When is the next "Rejuvenate Downtown Menlo Park" study due. How much has been spent on that over the years? And what do we have to show for it? More empty buildings.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Menlo Park affordable housing. Now there's an oxymoron.

Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 23, 2011 at 8:49 am

Once again no one can make a decision, didn't they see this coming a long time ago ? The city council needs to give up their money & all compensation every time they mess up, which means they will be working for free ! Please city council, don't cry poor mouth as you
waste so much money, learn how to make a decision, make it sooner than later, then move on..The goal is to conserve money, not give
it away for no good reason after 10 years....Get a grip people !!!

Like this comment
Posted by Straight Talk
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 23, 2011 at 9:11 am

This council let a small group of people thwart the city's long standing policy of creating affordable housing and it did this while throwing money to the winds.

Next, I fear we will watch the council cave into another small group of wealthy downtown property owners and kill off all the most progressive and interesting elements of the downtown plan.

Stop spending money and make the hard decisions. The council needs to represent the residents who will be living in the city for the next 35 years. Don't listen to the cranky, frightened residents who have no stake in the future.

Like this comment
Posted by GRR
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Stay classy, Menlo.

Like this comment
Posted by archivist
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm

With a very quick scan of old staff reports (for highlights), and yearly council line-up (for reference), we can attempt to shed some light on the (staff) time and money that can be lost when somebody dumps diesel fuel on city-owned property. The city used RDA funds to pay for the clean-up.

2000: Habitat for Humanity purchased property at 297 Terminal:
under Kinney, Collacchi, Schmidt, Borak and Mayor Jellins

2001: Habitat entered agreement to purchase Terminal Property:
under Kinney, Collacchi, Borak, Jellins and Mayor Schmidt

2002: Habitat finds contamination from degraded diesel fuel:
under Duboc, Winkler, Kinney, Collacchi and Mayor Jellins

2003: Phase 2 environmental study due to groundwater contamination:
under Jellins, Winkler, Kinney, Collacchi and Mayor Duboc

2004: Habitat contract amended, county gets involved:
under Fergusson, Cohen, Duboc, Jellins and Mayor Winkler

2005: City send out RFPs for consultants to cleanup site:
under Fergusson, Cohen, Duboc, Winkler and Mayor Jellins

2006: City considers $200K EPA Brownfields Grant for cleanup:
under Robinson, Cline, Boyle, Cohen and Mayor Fergusson

2007: City turns down $200K EPA grant due to complexities:
under Robinson, Cline, Boyle, Fergusson and Mayor Cohen

2008: Cleanup becomes a CEQA issue, proposals go out:
under Fergusson, Cohen, Boyle, Cline and Mayor Robinson

2009: Cleanup finished, Habitat gets push-back from community:
under Fergusson, Cohen, Robinson, Boyle and Mayor Cline

2010: Habitat abandons project, city agrees to purchase 297 Terminal:
under Ohtake, Keith, Fergusson, Cohen and Mayor Cline

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm

"Stay classy Menlo"? How about achieve it first, then try to preserve it! But still better than neighboring Shallow Alto!

Menlo Voter, loved your post.

Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm

R.Gordon is a registered user.

What I really love about the entire incident is how incredibly happy some people are and how others are angry.
This is the really makes me wonder if any people here have any idea of what being a human being is.
Also, that "social status" amounts to a hill of beings as of three years ago.
Corsages are for Halloween.
Golf clubs are for Charles Coburn wannabees.

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

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