A 92-year-old World War II veteran took the dais at the Menlo Park City Council meeting on March 15 to tell how rising housing costs are forcing him out of the city.
"I'm here today, unfortunately, because I'm really sad and somewhat angry as well," he told the council. "And why? Because I and hundreds of others valley residents are being essentially uprooted and evicted. ... We know Menlo Park is a super affluent community, but does that make it OK to dump all renters unless they can pay up?"
The man, who asked the Almanac not to identify him, said his landlord told him in November that he would have to leave his Menlo Park home of 18 years at the end of June; whether it was because he could no longer keep pace with increasing rent or because the owner was selling the building was not clear.
He signed an agreement to leave but has no plans for where to go. His apartment is filled with books stacked floor to ceiling, wartime memorabilia and travel keepsakes he doesn't want to part with.
He receives monthly treatment for macular degeneration at the Palo Alto VA hospital, and said he will go blind if he does not receive the treatment regularly.
Plus, true to the spirit of Silicon Valley, he said he plans to launch a startup, or even two. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, he said, he had a career in industrial design and became a pioneer in the field of "innovation management." Having to leave the area could impact his work, he said.
Mayor Rich Cline told him, "First, (the ability of people to stay in their homes) is probably the biggest issue that keeps us up at night."
"We may not on the outside look like we're doing a great job of it," he added.
Council members said they plan to have a discussion about housing issues with the city's housing commission, tentatively scheduled for April 26.
In previous council meetings, Councilwoman Kirsten Keith has asked that city staff research such housing policies as mandatory nonbinding arbitration, long-term leases and tenant-relocation assistance.
At the March 15 meeting, the council approved on a 5-0 vote an annual report on the city's "housing element," part of the general plan. The report said there were 748 housing units under construction in 2015. Of those, 25 were for very-low income residents and 20 for low-income residents.