Displacement of residents among concerns as Menlo Park revises general plan

Community workshop on ConnectMenlo project set for Sept. 9

Draft revisions to rules and policies affecting the future of the eastern portion of Menlo Park will be reviewed by the Planning Commission later this month, but residents have one more chance before then to come together at a public meeting for an update on the project and to offer their views.

A community workshop is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the Menlo Park Senior Center (located at 110 Terminal Ave.) to review proposed changes to the general plan -- considered the city's "constitution" governing development. The changes affect the city's M-2-zoned industrial area, roughly bordered by Marsh Road, U.S. 101, University Avenue and the bay -- an area being transformed as Facebook acquires and develops more land and the Bohannon Development Company prepares to break ground on a major office and hotel project.

The general plan update project, dubbed ConnectMenlo, has involved a number of public meetings over the past year, and was the focus of the city's General Plan Advisory Group, which came up with recommendations for changes in the plan. In March, the City Council and the Planning Commission held a joint study session to review the recommendations, but the council wanted more time to gather additional information and clarification on development plans for the area already in the pipeline.

Among the advisory group's recommendations were provisions to allow up to 2.5 million square feet of nonresidential buildings beyond what is now allowed in the general plan, about 4,500 new housing units, about 5,300 new jobs, and about 600 new hotel rooms.

An outdoor workshop on the grounds of the downtown "paseo" on Sept. 2 drew a small group of residents, and a couple of pooches, to view images of possible developments and roadway features envisioned for a revamped M-2 area. City staff members, consultants and two Facebook staff members answered questions, and later Charlie Knox of the consulting firm PlaceWorks spoke and took general questions from the public. The workshop's format will be repeated at the Sept. 9 event at the Senior Center.

A Belle Haven resident asked how the city would ensure that current area residents and businesses would benefit from the new developments planned for the M-2 district. She urged city leaders to strike deals with the developers that would give first preference for hiring and job training for local residents.

One resident of west Menlo Park said she was "profoundly concerned" about the displacement of residents across the city because of skyrocketing housing costs. She noted that the changes ahead in the east of town could put lower-income residents in that area at even greater risk, and made an impassioned plea for the city to consider enacting rent stabilization rules and mechanisms that would ban evictions without just cause -- words that drew applause from others in attendance.

Mr. Knox said after the meeting that similar concern about the displacement of residents "has been expressed by many community members" during the ConnectMenlo events. Affordable housing advocates agreed at a May 28 Housing Commission meeting that reviewed the ConnectMenlo project "that rent stabilization and just cause of eviction are the two tools available to stem displacement," he said in an email to the Almanac.

Following the Sept. 9 workshop at the Senior Center, the general plan update project will go before the Planning Commission for an environmental impact report (EIR) scoping session on Sept. 21, then back to the council on Sept. 29. The draft EIR is expected to be completed in February, and the final document should be ready by June. The estimated completion for the overall project is July, according to a timeline from the city.

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5 people like this
Posted by Beth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:49 pm

If local politicos don't look out for ALL community members, then no one will. Certainly not large corporations. How many times has Menlo Park said no to a developer, even when said person(s) don't fulfill low-cost housing regulations? This area, sadly, is becoming only a place for the wealthy and those who companies can buy.

All of us should be ashamed. I notice our homeless people are no longer around either, at least not as before. As each of us must decide, wouldn't it be morally easy to stand and fight for those who are losing their basic needs and rights or have we truly become jaded by the glitz.

2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm

really? is a registered user.

So what's the answer? Blanket rent control forced over all of Belle Haven and the M2? A property value cap applied to lower income communities so they do get glitzy? Lower the threshold of affordable housing to be 50% across every site in Menlo Park? Build social housing with a Bond Measure such as Prop A in SF, after snatching up sites with Eminent Domain?

I'm tired of this typical 'gentrification victim' sob story- propose the changes in land-use policy and see what flies.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Why is it that only the eastern portion residents are at risk? How many meetings with that part of the community have been held?

2 people like this
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 8, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Just for the record, Belle Haven is not eastern Menlo Park. I know we want it to be, but it just isn't. Belle Haven is as descriptive a label as the Willows and Lindenwood and other neighborhoods not denoted by the location (especially since the location moniker in this case is inaccurate). Thanks to Rose Bickerstaff for beating that drum.

8 people like this
Posted by RWilson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 8, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Does anyone really think that the Menlo Park council will look out for the interests of East Menlo residents ? The council has allowed west-of-101 development that will unleash a flood of street-clogging traffic in the city -- something already becoming apparent on Ravenswood, Middlefield and Willow Road. And this in a far more affluent section of town. Not a word from council about follow-on housing requirements imposed by ABAG.
What about a development moratorium ?
San Francisco has just qualified one for the November ballot. Before we know it, the Menlo Park we know will have been replaced by car-clogged concrete canyons, with tributaries through our neighborhoods. The charming small businesses will have been transformed into plastic establishments catering to the daily inrush of office workers.

3 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Water is a registered user.

...and as people on NextDoor complain about the Leaf Blower Problem, many of their neighbors are having to confront the fact that no one cares about them or the homes that they will lose.

2 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Alan is a registered user.

Mixed feelings about this. Could results in significantly more services, traffic will get bad, bad, bad. Bad for people who rent here, good for people who own.

4 people like this
Posted by Housing economics
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:31 pm

As long as Menlo park keeps adding more jobs than housing, the cost of housing will increase. The general plan update hides the increase in jobs from more development that is likely throughout town. The documents showcase only the belle haven changes in zoning but not the trends. The biggest offender so far is bohannons Menlo gateway that adds jobs but zero housing.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:05 am

Unfortunatley I couldn't make it. Can anyone who attended this evening share any details, How many people, what was discussed, what was the general idea, housing, business, traffic, FB, Was it productive. Did they have a scale model of what it will look like after finished development?


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:09 am

Any discussion about the fact that the only school in Belle Haven is part of the Ravenswood School District. It has the lowest rankings possible. Any chance of it becoming part of Menlo Park Schools. It would improve the school and take the cost burden off of Ravenswood so they can spread their limited funds to their other schools.

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

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