By Joshua Alvarez | Special to the Almanac
Assessed property values in San Mateo County, and especially Menlo Park, are booming.
Menlo Park has the highest percentage growth, 11.36 percent, in assessed property value in the county, according to numbers released July 2 by the office of San Mateo Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Mark Church.
Atherton came in with the fifth highest percentage growth in the county at 8.97 percent. Portola Valley's growth is 7.23 percent and Woodside's, 6.96 percent.
Overall, San Mateo County's assessment roll grew by 7.64 percent, or $12.6 billion, to a record high of $177.5 billion. The numbers are derived from the assessed value of all properties as of Jan. 1, compared with the previous Jan. 1, and include changes in ownership, new construction, and declines/restorations in value.
Menlo Park nearly doubled its assessment roll's percentage growth from 2014, which was 6.22 percent. The city's total property assessment now stands at $13.4 billion. Atherton's roll grew to $8.8 billion, Portola Valley's to $3 billion and Woodside's to $5.3 billion.
"The Roll is now nearly 26% larger than it was in 2010," said Mr. Church, referring to the countywide number. "This is the fourth year in a row that a new historical high has been set, and the fifth consecutive year the Roll has moved in a positive direction, reflecting the county's thriving economy."
The increased assessment values are good news for agencies that rely on property tax revenue, particularly the schools.
According to the report, the shared property tax funding base is approximately 1 percent of the county's property assessment roll, and will thus increase to $1.77 billion. Approximately 45 percent of revenue, or about $800 million, is allocated to schools within the county, 22 percent to the county, 17 percent to cities, 9 percent to special districts, and 7 percent to former redevelopment agencies.
Drew Corbett, the city of Menlo Park's finance director, said the 11 percent growth is better than the city anticipated in drafting its budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The city had anticipated 8 percent growth.
Much of the increase in property value is due to a booming real estate market and a robust economy. Countywide unemployment stands at 3.3 percent, the lowest in the California, which has driven demand for housing and commercial space, Mr. Church pointed out in his report.
"As home to industry leaders in the fastest growing sectors of the world economy, business expansion within San Mateo County has created a tripling of new construction, high job growth and skyrocketing real estate prices, resulting in the highest roll value increase since 2008," he said.
New construction and development projects, notably Facebook's expansion of its Menlo Park campus, has further increased the value of and demand for local real estate. The company purchased 59 acres of property next to the office building in its main headquarters on Hacker Way in June 2014, purchased another 56 acres on the Prologis site on Willow Road in February, and opened its newest Frank Gehry-designed office, "MPK20," on 1 Facebook Way in April.
Furthermore, the number of properties under the Proposition 8/Decline in Value Program has substantially decreased, according to Mr. Church's report. The program provides property tax relief to property owners when the market value of a property falls below its assessed value. There were nearly 35,000 qualifying properties in 2012. Today there are fewer than 8,000.
Foreclosures are also down 40 percent, from 288 in 2013 to 174 in all of 2014, the report says.