News

Housing costs drive longtime resident, WWII veteran out of Menlo Park

 

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.

Comments

48 people like this
Posted by Trying to survive
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:12 am

Having grown up on the Peninsula, renting apartments for the last 25+ years, I can empathise. I've worked hard my entire life - mostly administrative/secretarial work - but did not make enough money to buy a home. I'm now in my mid 50s and my rent has increased so much in the last couple of years that it takes an entire paycheck plus three hundred dollars of the second paycheck (I receive two a month ) to pay the rent for my crappy one-bedroom apartment in Menlo Park. My apartment has no laundry facility or garbage disposal, but does have 1970s crappy sliding single-paned windows that don't block out the sound of the train that runs only about 20 yards away. The owner hasn't made much-needed improvements to the delapadated building in the 10+ years since I've lived in it, but has doubled the rent. Oh - they've added ugly black granite counter tops and the cheapest vinyl flooring money can buy, but nothing that really improves the quality of life (heat in the bedroom and bathroom, double paned windows, garbage disposals, three-pronged electrical outlets, etc.).

I'm terrified of what I'll have to do to myself when I'm no longer employable due to advancing age. I don't think I'll have enough money to survive, and I don't want to sleep in my car.


48 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 30, 2016 at 8:48 am

When cities refuse to support affordable housing projects for their own residents, this is what happens. Does the newspaper even know how many people have been evicted in the past year or forced to leave their home because of soaring rents?


38 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 30, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Elderly homeowners are in peril as well. As school bond after school bond is imposed upon them and taxes rise every year, many do not have the ability to pay the increased costs. It is a tragic situation.


21 people like this
Posted by SchoolMom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:01 pm

doesn't MP have "senior exemptions" for home owners on bond measures? and parcel taxes?

I think you just submit a form to the school district raising the $$$ and if you're a senior and owner you can legally not pay.

This applies to one primary residence only, you can't get out of multiple parcels with one senior.


35 people like this
Posted by Alice
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:10 pm

All of us renters are in trouble, but it is especially sad to hear stories like this dear veteran's. As an older elder care worker, I too am in danger of losing my rental to ever increasing rents, and have no where else to go. This is my home, I'm a lifelong Menlo Park resident. As I near 70 (yes, I'm still working, I have to) this is my greatest fear for our lovely area.


2 people like this
Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:41 pm

When the current housing bubble finally bursts, it won't be such a bad thing for a lot of people. Unfortunately the casualties will continue to mount, and many who are forced to leave won't be coming back.


12 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 30, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Like most people, I certainly appreciate the service of our veterans, and I feel terribly for veterans (and all residents who can't afford to live here anymore) when I read stories like this one. However, the answer isn't to artificially hold down prices/rents for some limited set of residents. Veterans are valued, but so are teachers, firefighters, police, librarians, artists, musicians, single parents, and so many more. Who should be subsidized? Who gets to decide? And the more that some housing is subsidized, the greater the demand for that subsidized housing will be. Who WOULDN'T want to seek out subsidized housing in our community...?

THAT points to the core issue: supply and demand. "Demand" is high in terms of people who want to live in our community for a variety of obvious reasons. "Supply" needs to keep up. But for many reasons (some good, some bad), our community has historically been very hesitant about growing that supply. Whether it is downtown mixed use development or simple residential remodeling, we have continuously put an enormous number of obstacles in the way of expanding our housing stock. The required permits and rules and fees keep growing, reducing the incentive to develop more or expanded or even just "improved" housing. When the supply doesn't grow, but the demand does, the price will always go up. Artificially creating BMR housing or other forms of subsidized affordable housing in reality only makes the supply and demand equation worse. More people compete for the little bit of housing that actually ends up being built after all the increased costs and overhead of subsidies.

Is building more and more housing the answer? It will certainly have downsides: more traffic, more crowded schools, etc. But over time, those impacts will dampen some of the demand. Over time, the supply and demand will equalize. Yes, "the market" approach is an imperfect answer. But the current approach of "tax and subsidize" is far worse and will never resolve the housing shortage.


10 people like this
Posted by No more taxes
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 30, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Legally, there are no exemptions to bond measures.
For parcel taxes, they require seniors to renew every single year for the exemption.
For less affluent homeowners bearing the full cost, the school district does not care about your financial situation. They want the $$$$.


36 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2016 at 2:29 pm

pearl is a registered user.

To "Trying to survive" and others: Yours and other comments here tell my story exactly. I am 74 years old. The new owner of the 54-year-old apartment building I have lived in for the last 15 years, has raised my rent by $650/month, leaving me with $278/mo left over. I live on a fixed income made up largely of Social Security. Of course, I cannot live on $278/mo, so I am forced to go into credit card debt until I can find affordable housing. I am on a half dozen affordable senior housing waiting lists, which waiting lists are anywhere from two- to five years' long, so that doesn't help me. With the next rent increase, I will be forced out of my apartment, and will be homeless, as I have no other place to go. I am scared to death.

Over the last year, I have written several letters to my legislative representatives (federal, state and local) concerning the lack of affordable housing for seniors here on the Peninsula, asking them to please make the issue of adequate affordable housing a priority. The only legislator who has responded in a meaningful way is Rep. Jackie Spear, who recently held a town meeting on the subject.

I will forward this news article, and reader comments, to my elected representatives so as to keep this topic at the forefront.

Any useful information I receive, I will share here with readers.


27 people like this
Posted by jackrabbit
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Mar 30, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Being priced out of the market? Talk to realtor Ken DeLeon. He seems 'sympathetic' to your plight (as long as you have a post graduate degree and an above average IQ. Watch the video starting at 19:58.

Web Link


29 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2016 at 3:29 pm

pearl is a registered user.

To jackrabbit: Thanks for posting the website link to Ken DeLeon's video.

If anyone would like to contact him regarding his outrageous comments, here's how he can be reached:

Ken DeLeon
DeLeon Realty
2600 El Camino Real #110, Palo Alto, CA 94306
Phone:(650) 543-8500


10 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 30, 2016 at 4:26 pm

It is sad for this veteran and others who are priced out of this area. Although I'm a home owner, I too am finding the are too expensive. Property taxes and bonds are one reason I'm likely to move away. The other is the SFO plane noise and increased traffic congestion. (Yes, I know, it's called 'progress.') Why pay so much to live here when it's no longer as pleasant as it once was? Unfortunately, as single guy, I'll by hit by extortionate taxes when I sell; in this market a $250,000 tax break is peanuts if I try to buy elsewhere in CA. Imagine in some, less desirable, states, I could almost buy a house for that amount.


31 people like this
Posted by ScaredToo
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 30, 2016 at 7:29 pm

I've been renting the same apartment in Menlo Park for over 22 years now. I initially intended to only rent an apartment near my mother's home in Menlo Park while saving up for a down-payment for a comfortable home of my own, hopefully in my mother's family-friendly neighborhood in Menlo Park. But then I got sick, disabled, and unable to work, and simply "got stuck". My mother past away, but I could still live here in my apartment so I could raise my son in a healthy, family-friendly community who also valued their Menlo Park schools like my parents did for my brothers, sisters, and me. Rent for my same 2 bd-1 bath apartment has increased yet it still has thread-bare 50-year-old Sear's carpet; a lot of mice who live in the interior walls that actually wake us up at night from their nocturnal activities; floor-boards that are breaking and cracking the old tiled kitchen floors right from under our feet; when it rains a lot at once, the rain soaks through the exterior brick and stucco walls into the interior of the apartment; volunteers from Safe-At-Home actually came several times to make safety repairs because the property manager "forgets" to make repairs on all apartments (I went 6-weeks in the winter without a kitchen window, etc.); and on and on. Yet, the identical apartment to mine, except it has new cheap carpet and a little fresh paint, just rented for $3400 per month. I am not lying. And I am scared too. Very scared.


23 people like this
Posted by Menlocat
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 30, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Thsee stories make me incredibly sad. People are suffering and feeling desperate. Many things are not right in America now. I am comfortable in my life, but I don't know what to do to help. I feel powerless. I do what I can, but it is never enough these days. My thoughts and support are with you all.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard Hine
editor of The Almanac
on Mar 30, 2016 at 10:47 pm

Richard Hine is a registered user.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor on this topic:

Email the letter to: letters@AlmanacNews.com. No more than 300 words, please. Include your phone number and home address, and write "letter for publication" in the subject line. If the letter runs, your name, street name and city of residence will be published, not your phone number or address.


23 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2016 at 1:51 am

pearl is a registered user.

To Richard Hine, Editor: Thanks for the invite, but in this day and age, I would not write a Letter to the Editor that published my name and address!!! Not a chance, what with all the dubious people running around these days. The forum here might not reach as many people as a Letter to the Editor, but it has reached a number of people who are making a positive difference by responding here. I have forwarded your news article here, along with all reader comments, to several of our elected officials, which will get lots of publicity. I intend to keep this housing issue alive and well at every opportunity presented. Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by Ethan
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Great video link above. A genuine let-them-eat-cake moment. BTW: One thing that will probably keep the housing prices from going up "forever," as Mr. Deleon predicts, is the inevitable Big One. (They're very sensitive to earthquake threats in China.) Ah, we can only hope.


20 people like this
Posted by no homeless problem?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 31, 2016 at 5:07 pm

The biggest issue is that there is no rent control in Menlo Park. And the current City Council seem utterly clueless about the housing shortage here. Low income people, seniors, moderate income residents, homeless and veterans are struggling in Menlo Park. But the City Council is too preoccupied with appeasing the developers to care. Sure, one low income housing project was just built on the grounds of the VA, but that barely addresses the dire need here for housing. And it was a struggle to get that project approved in Menlo Park. At a Council Meeting about 2 years ago, Kirsten Keith stated that she spent a day counting homeless people in Menlo Park and could only count ONE homeless person. She along with the rest of the Council don't address the problem because they refuse to even acknowledge that it exists.


8 people like this
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 1, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Homeowners are protected somewhat from drastic increases in ownership costs by the 2% annual limit on property tax increases, but there is no corresponding protection for renters.


16 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 2, 2016 at 1:55 pm

"A 92-year-old...[will] have to leave his Menlo Park home of 18 years at the end of June"

OK, I'll be the "keeping it real" guy, since nobody else wants the job...


A 74 year old man in 1998 moved TO the affluent community of Menlo Park, into a RENTAL unit, to RETIRE.

Am I the only one who see's the issues with this retirement strategy?

I've lived in the area for over 30 years. Even back then and in the 90s, Menlo Park was easily upper-middle class and it's proximity to jobs made it desirable even back then (ESPECIALLY during the dot-com boom of the late 90s) and the pricing of housing reflected it.

My grandfather is of a similar age, and is also a veteran, so I understand the appeal for living near a VA hospital. But my grandfather moved to a location he could actually afford (Fairfield), instead of a location he couldn't afford.

I truly hope things work out well for this man, and I'm in complete support of him getting help). But his choices had easily foreseeable long-term consequences; it takes no 20/20 hindsight to see the eventuality of his choices. The choices he made put him in the predicament he's in now.


11 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2016 at 1:45 am

I am writing this as an older semi-retired person from next door in Palo Alto. This elderly man is a Veteran of the second World War, a national treasure and this is the best the state of California can do for him? He is the same age as my dear father who was also a World War ll veteran. They were the greatest generation, honest, hard working and selfless men, who loved their families and paved the way for a free America. I live in a tiny one room studio, about 250 square feet in a building of 90 years old. I have no stove and cannot use the refrigerator because there are only 15 Amps total maximum power out of a 1926 Edison era fuse box. They turn the radiator heat on only a few hours in the morning and a few hours at night. I've got to run a small heater on those Amps, a computer and one lamp. Have no TV. My rent has increased 75% in the last 5 years. I don't complain b/c the housing situation in the bay area is so horrific, now, there are folks chomping at the bit to get even this small space. However, if I had a house with an extra room, I would offer this man housing at a rate he could comfortably afford; and, I guess, I just miss my Dad, too. All you tech barons with your millions and billions, who are "making the world a better place", building your second and third dream mansions, step up to plate and help this man, a 92 year old veteran of the Second World War, who fought for YOUR country!


11 people like this
Posted by Council Watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 4, 2016 at 7:53 am

@nohomelessproblem: on April 26th the City Council is having a meeting on the housing issue. That meeting was scheduled months ago so staff could prepare reports. The present Council has purchased buildings, invested in affordable projects in partership with midpen housing and others, and approved affordable building projects at the VA. In addition I believe some of the Councilmembers actually sit on the board of non-profits serving the local homeless. The City is also working with the County's blue ribbon committee.




8 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2016 at 7:06 pm

pearl is a registered user.

To County Watcher:

"The City is also working with the County's blue ribbon committee."

Do you have an address link to the County's blue ribbon committee?

Thank you.


6 people like this
Posted by K
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2016 at 4:44 am

There is new VA housing, I have read, that opened recently in Menlo Park next to the VA Hospital there. It is called Willow Housing and is located at 605 Willow Road, Menlo Park CA 94025. Phone contact number is (650)-561-6283. Their website is www.eahhousing.org. They have studio and one bedroom apartments. I'm sure, though not for certain, there is probably a waiting list; however, because of the gentleman's advanced age, I can only hope that there could be a consideration for him to get in. Since he is receiving medical treatment at the VA hospital, I hope they know of his housing situation and will help him.


4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Many of us older folks with large lots would happily build small second units to help with the housing crisis but Menlo Park makes it impossible to do so. The permit fees are out of sight plus all of the other requirements, a $2500 "soils test", a $2000 "survey" plus a multitude of other "fees" in addition to construction costs. The costs add up to almost $20,000 before construction even begins. I don't know many people, mostly seniors, who can afford this yet it could go a long way to solving our housing problems. Menlo Parks talks a good story but the reality is very different.


2 people like this
Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm

I would much rather see small in-law units built than high rise apartment buildings. Menlo Park must make it easier to build these units. The high fees mentioned above are totally unnecessary other than to prevent these second units. Many cities have waived their fees to encourage more housing. Why not Menlo Park?


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

Ten Tips for Teens and Young Adults to Survive a Dysfunctional Family
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,633 views

Farm Bill Passes Congress
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 1,111 views

What is a Life?
By Aldis Petriceks | 0 comments | 886 views