News

Firefighters to get stipend to live near Menlo Park fire station

 

There's new incentive for employees of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District to stay near the action. According to the fire district's new salary agreements, firefighters and other fire district employees will receive a monthly stipend if they live within a certain distance of the Menlo Park fire station at 170 Middlefield Road.

The new plan offers four tiers of a monthly stipend to support employees seeking to live closer to their workplace.

Support staff of the AFSCME Union and confidential employees are eligible for $100 per month and up to $250 by 2018 for living within 30 miles of the district.

Fifty-three of the district's 75 firefighters, engineers and captains belonging to the IAFF union are eligible for $200 per month and up to $300 by 2018 for living within 60 miles of the district.

Chief officers on 56-hour shifts and 40-hour work schedules who live within 30 miles of the Middlefield Road station will earn an extra $600 per month.

Chief officers on the 40-hour work schedule who live within 20 miles of the district are eligible for $800 per month, and those within 10 miles can earn an extra $1,000 per month.

Firefighters are often scheduled to be on duty for 56 consecutive hours, and then take four days off. On that schedule, firefighters can live longer distances away in cheaper locales than they could if they had a daily commute to and from the fire station.

According to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman, "Rents and home prices are at an all-time high and traffic into and out of the region is ridiculous."

Some firefighters who live far away sometimes drive to the station the night before their shift, he said, occupying the few beds designated for on-shift staff. Otherwise, they would have to arrive very early in the morning for their shifts.

In addition, he said, frequent evening meetings with various city councils and municipal agencies take a toll on employees who have farther to commute after a long day.

One way the fire district has coped with rising housing costs and the need to have employees nearby has been by purchasing and maintaining a house next to the Oak Grove Avenue station, on Hoover Street, where chief officers can spend the bulk of their weeks. However, that solution seemed impractical for all of the fire district's 110 employees.

The stipend, he said, is similar to that of other corporations, such as Facebook, which, it was recently reported by Reuters, has as part of its employee benefits program a relocation stipend for living within 10 miles of the campus. "It's not a novelty idea," he said.

In short, Mr. Schapelhouman said, "We are fortunate enough to live in an area with a robust economy, but as first responders and as a dynamic public safety organization that must quickly deal with emergencies and community and employee needs we need to try a keep all of our people close by – just in case."

Comments

7 people like this
Posted by Monica
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 31, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Oh well, it's better than nothing, but $200 doesn't go far with the huge rent increases in MP. When my husband and I bought here, many years ago, we had good jobs but those same jobs today wouldn't enable us to buy anywhere in this area. Sad.


2 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Maybe we should just make it easier to build housing in downtown. The Specific Plan called for three-story buildings on Santa Cruz, especially housing over retail, but no one has even proposed one. Given that rents are up 40% since the plan was proposed, we're clearing doing something to make building impossible. Probably, we need to give property owners an alternative to building underground parking garages on their tiny lots. Maybe we should let people build smaller units so that people like firefighters can live there and they don't all turn into super-expensive luxury housing like the last development on El Camino.


9 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 3, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Perhaps we should ask the firefighters if they actually want to live here. It's my understanding that pretty much none of them do. They live elsewhere, at least in part, because their money goes much further elsewhere. $200 a month is meaningless in that equation.


3 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 3, 2016 at 4:45 pm

pogo is a registered user.

I believe fire fighters have rather unusual work hours - 24 hours on followed by 48 hours off. (I'm not positive, so this may be inaccurate.)

To the extent daily commuting is not required and rush hour driving is avoidable, it would certainly make living in more remote areas far less onerous.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Firefighters work 48 on and 96 off.

Paying them to live closer is a great disaster preparedness investment.


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 4, 2016 at 7:19 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Peter:

is $2400 a year really going to make much difference? Seems like not nearly enough to entice them to live closer to work.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 4, 2016 at 10:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As noted "Chief officers on the 40-hour work schedule who live within 20 miles of the district are eligible for $800 per month, and those within 10 miles can earn an extra $1,000 per month."

So $12,000 a year will make a difference for these key individuals for whom there is no backup.


2 people like this
Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 4, 2016 at 11:03 am

While I like the idea of encouraging firefighters to live in our community, I question the use of this money. Aren't they paid enough to live here? So isn't the reason really that they would prefer to live elsewhere, especially for those with families? Would they want to live in dense housing? How about a survey?

@ McGrew - a lot of density is allowed downtown. That means zero that it will be built because the downtown plan does not require any of it to be built, even at the bonus level. So developers understandably build whatever makes them the most money. Right now that is offices and hotels.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Aren't they paid enough to live here?"

No, the current residency data show that many of our firefighters live more than 40 miles for the Distrist.

"So isn't the reason really that they would prefer to live elsewhere, especially for those with families?"

They would prefer to live someplace that they can afford and the Fire District is providing an incentive for them to spend more so that they can live closer.


2 people like this
Posted by swanee
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jan 4, 2016 at 6:02 pm

Add a zero to the offer and see what happens


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2016 at 11:51 am

I am both happy and relieved to read this, as well as Peter's clarifying comments.


4 people like this
Posted by Pragmatist
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 5, 2016 at 12:17 pm

With starter homes in Menlo Park going for about $2mm, it's hard for me to imagine that an additional $12,000 a year is going to persuade anyone to move from a place like Tracy or Oakley, where firefighters can buy a huge modern house with a pool for $500,000. Who wants to trade lots of space, a slower pace, plenty of parks for the kids, and friendly neighbors for the high stress, traffic, and declining lifestyle of Menlo Park?


1 person likes this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 5, 2016 at 1:47 pm

@Pragmatist - almost anyone would trade Tracy for Menlo Park. That's why houses are so expensive here and so cheap there. :)




Like this comment
Posted by Henry
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 5, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Rents are up for all of us, and over 50% of households make less than a first year fireman. That said, the real issue is living up to 30 miles from Menlo is not "nearby" in a disaster. That's San Fracisco or Danville and the roads and bridges will be a mess even for Gilroy or nearby Contra Costa. The bonus plan is great in concept bot should have been limited to 10 miles.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please read the article:
"Chief officers on the 40-hour work schedule who live within 20 miles of the district are eligible for $800 per month, and those within 10 miles can earn an extra $1,000 per month."


6 people like this
Posted by Commute
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 5, 2016 at 3:44 pm

If I only had to drive into work 2x per week, I'd live 40 miles away too for a bigger house, more land, nature, etc.

Too bad more of us can't do that, having to be on-site at our jobs 4-5 days a week. It's the daily commute that's the killer.

The opportunity is for more companies to locate further away, or allow more telecommuting. Everyone drive in on the same day 1-2 days per week, for example.

As an employer, I let my employees choose their schedule, as long as they deliver (and they do!).

Unfortunately, 1000 a month isn't enough to make Menlo Park affordable. Crappy 2 bedroom apartments downtown now rent for 3-4000, and who wants to raise kids in a crappy apartment? Or an apartment at all? Houses are 5000+ per month rent to start. Not affordable unless your family makes 300k+ per year and doesn't have to pay for daycare/preschool.

You all realize that's only the top 5% of incomes in California, right? Less than 5% of families in CA can rent a house here.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul Di Loreto
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2016 at 9:49 am

Fire fighters in the Bay Area receive some of the best salaries in Northern California. Many of the firefighters I know live farther away not because they can't afford to live locally but they are trying to get the biggest bang for their buck. Many like the lifestyle and lower cost of communities in the Central Sierra Gold Country and didn't mind the commute costs. I saw they mentioned a recently retired Menlo Fire Captain that commuted from RENO, NV. Am I to believe there is no affordable housing closer to Menlo Park than Reno? Building sleeping quarters so employees can live even farther away is not a solution.


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

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