News

Menlo Park says 'no thanks' to state affordable housing bill

 

Menlo Park "agrees that California is facing a housing affordability crisis; however, this is not the solution."

That sentence summed up a letter the Menlo Park City Council unanimously agreed to send to California Gov. Jerry Brown on June 21. Signed by Mayor Rich Cline, the letter objects to a proposal by Gov. Brown that would force cities across the state to approve affordable housing developments if those proposals meet certain requirements, instead of allowing cities to grant building privileges at their own discretion.

According to Gov. Brown's proposal, new multi-family affordable housing proposals could skip the local review process if they meet city development rules and are being built in an area already zoned for housing.

Any multi-family housing project with 20 percent or more of its units dedicated for lower-income occupants would be eligible, and in areas near public transportation, that number would drop to a minimum of 10 percent of housing units for "low-income" occupants or 5 percent for those who are "very low income."

One of the largest and costliest hurdles for a development – evaluation of how it could affect the environment, under the California Environmental Quality Act – could be skipped.

Currently, the state's approved budget has $400 million set aside for affordable housing that can't be spent until the affordable housing bill is passed in some form, according to California Finance Department spokesperson H.D. Palmer.

Menlo Park's letter points out two problems the city finds with the legislation: It takes away local power and it doesn't come with sufficient funds.

"Eliminating opportunities for public review of these major development projects goes against the principles of local democracy and public engagement," Mayor Cline writes.

He argues that public hearings help to guarantee that "property rights will not be impacted without due process," even if it "may be frustrating for some developers to address neighborhood concerns about traffic (or) parking."

That process, while painstaking, can lead to buildings that are a better fit with local preferences, he argues.

Furthermore, he says, the bill doesn't address what some in Menlo Park see as a major contributing cause of the affordable housing shortage: a major cut in state and federal funding for affordable housing in the last decade.

According to Menlo Park City Councilwoman Kirsten Keith, the measure would "limit public engagement, design and environmental review over these development projects" while allocating only $400 million statewide to fund affordable housing. Prior to the statewide dissolution of redevelopment agencies in 2011, she said, the state budget for affordable housing was over $1 billion per year. Funding from the last state housing bond measure in 2006 has been completely drained, she said.

Assembly Democrats this year asked to have $1.3 billion in the budget for affordable housing, but only the $400 million was approved.

By contrast, Santa Clara County just put a $950 million affordable housing bond measure on the November ballot.

According to a report by state legislative analyst Mac Taylor, local communities in California, particularly those near the coast, have built too little housing than is optimal at a "state and regional level." One reason for this, the report says, is that in California, cities can often get more tax money and fewer obligations from commercial spaces or hotels than for residential areas, so there is less incentive for building housing.

Another reason, according to the report, is that the local review process which can involve months and even years of public hearings, planning commission and possibly other commission review, and in some cases, an environmental impact report can still conclude with the denial of a project even if it complies with the city's existing general plan and zoning requirements. Residents opposed to developments can take environmental impact review findings to court or seek voter approval by the initiative and referendum processes, thereby blocking projects.

Menlo Park has a checkered history of meeting a state requirement specifying the number of housing units it needs to allow for, through its zoning laws, in the city. It was sued in 2012 by Peninsula Interfaith Action and other affordable-housing agencies when it was learned that the city's housing element had not been updated since 1992. State mandates say it should be updated every seven years.

Its new requirement, according to regionwide planning agencies, should be to have zoning set up to build 505 housing units in the very low-, the low-, and the moderate-income levels by 2022.

In 2015, the city granted permits for 135 affordable housing units, including 90 for very low-income seniors, according to a displacement analysis by Keyser Marston Associates.

Comments

22 people like this
Posted by Amy
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 7, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Come on, Menlo Park. Time to start _finding_ ways to build some housing that's affordable.


23 people like this
Posted by No Thanks Menlo City Council
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 7, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Our City Council is an embarrassment. Yes to developers and No to affordable housing. Shameful.


Like this comment
Posted by interested in decision.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 7, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Kate,

Do we know the results of the meeting between Menlo Park and FaceBook last week to decide if FB should build housing or just give the City of Menlo Park an "in lieu of' payment?

Thank you.


106 people like this
Posted by Be Realistic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2016 at 6:51 pm

It's nearly impossible to build affordable housing when land in Menlo Park goes for between $4 Million to $6 Million/acre except in Belle Haven where the land is less expensive.

If you want to build affordable housing in Menlo Park then Belle Haven is your best bet. But don't kid yourself into thinking you're going to get affordable housing on Bay Laurel Drive.

There are less expensive places to live. I use to live in the East Bay and housing there is still plenty affordable in San Lorenzo, Hayward, Union City, Newark, and Fremont. Menlo Park's former Public Works Director Kent Stephens lived in Hayward and he commuted across the bridge to Menlo Park every work day. There is no shame living in the East Bay, And there is no obligation for the Menlo Park City Council to find affordable housing for everyone who wants to live here. And even if it wanted to we don't have the infrastructure to support it. You don't just put in housing. You have to plan for additional water, electricity, natural gas, sewage, roads, fire department, schools, and businesses such as grocery stores, dry cleaners, gas stations, etc.

I did not move to Menlo Park until I could afford it. If you can't afford to live here then you need to live where you can afford it. It is not the city's job to provide affordable housing. That is a regional responsibility not a local one.

The best way to solve the housing crisis is to defund the high speed rail and use the funds develop high speed regional transit where you will get much higher ridership over much smaller distances. So people can live in places like Salinas and get to work in 45 minutes on a high speed rail.


16 people like this
Posted by Follow the $$$$
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 8, 2016 at 10:42 am

Facts:

All of Menlo Park's councilmembers own their homes.

Limiting new housing construction in a period of extreme demand increases the prices of the existing residential stock.

Whether they mean to or not, this position increases Menlo Park's councilmembers' wealth even more.


10 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 8, 2016 at 12:02 pm

You all say you're in favor or more affordable housing, but when sites were proposed for low income and homeless shelter during the Housing Element discussions two years ago, everyone came out with pitchforks! There is a deep rooted Nimby tradition in this community that carries on well past just complaints about ECR.

And you say you want affordable housing and where are your kids going to live? Certainly not in the subsidized housing we build! To get into affordable units, you need to go to the back of a very long line that includes all the Bay Area. These units will be our local contribution to the greater good, but nothing to do with our immediate community.


Like this comment
Posted by Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 8, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Kate Bradshaw - Almanac Reporter is a registered user.

Interested in decision: Here's a story that should answer your question. The Housing Commission basically decided to recommend letting Facebook have flexibility in how it chooses to either pay the in-lieu fee or build housing units. Facebook says it has been in talks with MidPen Housing about helping fund affordable housing on Willow Road. Web Link


40 people like this
Posted by Read past the headline
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 8, 2016 at 1:38 pm

While the headline is inflammatory, the details in the story shouldn't be overlooked:

"According to Gov. Brown's proposal, new multi-family affordable housing proposals could skip the local review process if they meet city development rules and are being built in an area already zoned for housing.

Any multi-family housing project with 20 percent or more of its units dedicated for lower-income occupants would be eligible, and in areas near public transportation, that number would drop to a minimum of 10 percent of housing units for "low-income" occupants or 5 percent for those who are "very low income."

One of the largest and costliest hurdles for a development – evaluation of how it could affect the environment, under the California Environmental Quality Act – could be skipped."

Are the people posting on this thread really arguing the City should have not opposed allowing multi-dwelling affordable housing developments in existing single family neighborhoods without CEQA and local development review of the impacts?





56 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 8, 2016 at 7:16 pm

"Are the people posting on this thread really arguing the City should have not opposed allowing multi-dwelling affordable housing developments in existing single family neighborhoods without CEQA and local development review of the impacts?"

I KNOW! That's what the Governor's advocating!

And there are people who actually think this is a good idea.


6 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm

Brown's "as-of-right" housing bill only applies to projects that conform to existing zoning and development rules.

Many recent comments reflect either a deep misunderstanding or ignorance of what the bill would and wouldn't do.

Please just Google it and read up on it because this article doesn't provide enough detail.

Or try this for a start: Web Link

What It Does
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the measure would make housing that meets the following conditions “as-of-right”:

* Conforms with existing general plan and zoning rules
* Multifamily housing of greater than two units
* Qualify as infill housing
* Meets certain affordability requirements (20% on-site below-market-rate housing or 10% on-site if located within half-a-mile of a transit stop)
* Not applicable to certain locations such as farmlands, wetlands, hazardous waste sites, etc.

The legislation gives local jurisdictions clear and strict timelines for opposing an as-of-right development, expedites design review, requires relocation assistance for displaced households and, yes, eliminates CEQA review.




2 people like this
Posted by Ernst
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Jerry's 'plan' is a gold plated gift to developers. Had people who think for some reason the city is responsible, via resident tax payers (where do you think the money would coming from??), to provide housing for all who want to live hear, actually read the article, they might understand why the city is saying no thanks. As per the article, under Jerry's plan, developers only need meet a very very low bar with respect to low income housing in order to receive the right to basically build almost anything they want without review! I would say no thanks as well.


3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2016 at 1:36 pm

@Ernst, try reading the text first:

Web Link

After you read it carefully, I think you'll see there's not much to dislike or worry about here (unless, of course, you're a NIMBY ... but then that's the WHOLE point of this legislation!).

I'll quote the most salient parts so that those not able to click the link or view PDFs can see what I mean:

Section 65913.3 is added to the Government Code, to read:

65913.3. (a) For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

(1) “Attached housing development” or “development” means a newly constructed structure containing two or more dwelling units that is a housing development project, as defined by subdivision (2) of subsection (h) of Section 65589.5 of the Government Code, but does not include a second unit, as defined by subdivision (4) of subsection (i) of Section 65852.2 of the Government Code, or the conversion of an existing structure to condominiums.

(2) ”Designated housing sites” means sites designated to allow housing development by the general plan, a zoning ordinance, or for which a certified environmental review document includes provisions to mitigate potential harm.

(3) “Land-use authority” means any entity with state-authorized power to regulate land-use permits and entitlements conferred by local governments.

(4) “Land-use restriction” means covenants restricting the use of land, recorded regulatory agreements, or any other form of an equitable servitude.

(5) “Major transit stop” means a site containing an existing rail transit station, a ferry terminal served by either a bus or rail transit service, or the intersection of two or more major bus routes with a service interval frequency of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon peak weekday commute periods, and offering weekend service.

(6) “Public agency” means a federal, state, or local government agency, or a local or regional housing trust fund which has been funded or chartered by a federal, state, or local government agency.

(7) “Required by law to record” means, but is not limited to, a development applicant or development proponent is required to record a land-use restriction based on any of the following:

(i) As a condition of award of funds or financing from a public agency.
(ii) As a condition of the award of tax credits.
(iii) As may be required by a contract entered into with a public agency.

(8) “Transit priority area” means an area within one-half mile of a major transit stop that is existing or planned within the adopted general plan or specific plan of a local government.

(9) “Urban uses” means any residential, commercial, public institutional, transit or transportation passenger facility, or retail use, or any combination of those uses.

(b) A development that satisfies all the following criteria shall be a permitted use by right as that term is defined in subdivision (i) of Section 65583.2 of the Government Code:

(1) The development applicant or development proponent has submitted to the local government its intent to utilize this authority, and certifying under penalty of perjury that, to the best of its knowledge and belief, it conforms with all other provisions identified herein.

(2) The development is consistent with objective general plan and zoning standards in effect at the time that the subject development is submitted to the local government pursuant to this section.

(3) The development is located on a site that is either immediately adjacent to parcels that are developed with urban uses or at least 75 percent of the perimeter of the site adjoins parcels that are developed with urban uses.

(4) The development must be an attached housing development, for which the development applicant or development proponent already has recorded, or is required by law to record, a land-use restriction, which shall require all the following:

(i) A duration of at least 30 years or more.
(ii) Enforceability by a public agency or by any member of the public.
(iii) For developments within a transit priority area, a restriction of the development’s real property to a level of affordability equal to or greater than either of the following:
(A) At least ten percent of the total units of a housing development for lower income households, as defined in Section 50079.5 of the Health and Safety Code.
(B) At least five percent of the total units of a housing development for very low income households, as defined in Section 50105 of the Health and Safety Code.
(iv) For developments not within a transit priority area, a restriction of the development’s real property to a level of affordability equal to or greater than at least twenty (20) percent or more of the residential units restricted to and occupied by individuals whose income is eighty (80) percent or less of area median gross income.

[...]

(c) If the applicable city, county, or city and county determines that the development is inconsistent with objective general plan and zoning standards, then it must provide the development proponent written documentation of which standard or standards the development is not consistent with, as well as explain why the development is not consistent with that standard or standards, all within thirty (30) calendar days of submittal of the development to the local government pursuant to this section. If the documentation described in this subsection fails to identify the objective standard or standards that the development is not consistent with, if it fails to provide an explanation of why it is inconsistent therewith, or if it is not provided to the development proponent within thirty (30) calendar days of submittal, then for the purposes of this section, the development shall be deemed to satisfy paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of this section.

(d) Any design review of the development shall not exceed ninety (90) days from the submittal of the development to the local government pursuant to this section, and shall not in any way inhibit, chill, or preclude the ministerial approval provided by this section and the effect thereof.

[...]


8 people like this
Posted by Protest July 15
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jul 10, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Everyone please join the OCCUPY BAY AREA movement to protest the anti-development policies of the Bay Area suburbs. We are planning large disruptive protests for later this summer in the neighborhoods of Palo Alto and Menlo Park.


Editor's note: Please contact us at editor@AlmanacNews.com.


2 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2016 at 5:30 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Protest July 15:

Have them come to Belmont, too!!!

Pearl


2 people like this
Posted by Ernst
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 10, 2016 at 10:46 pm

@ Reality Check

Thanks for clarifying my post, I stand by my assessment of the situation. The language of the "Government code" you posted is pretty clear. Local cities will be placed in the position of having to defend themselves against unwanted development that contains a small fig leaf of affordable housing. CA environmental review is thrown out the window to spare developers that inconvenience, and I assume the state, who is pushing this, is the ultimate, and most likely very biased arbiter of final judgement. I still say, no thanks.


2 people like this
Posted by JT
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2016 at 8:52 am

This is an attempt by Gov. Brown and his ilk to take complete control of private property rights. In a nutshell this gives Brown the power to look at a map of your town and say "Here is some empty land in this upper class, single family home area, lets zone this for 300 low income apartments. The residents and local government could do nothing to stop him. His cherry picked developer friends will get billions in taxpayer dollars to throw up apartments that will look nice for a couple of years before they become run down isolated crime zones full of unsupervised kids who will run amok over the entire town. Here is link to the trailer for the film "Over The Edge" This is one of the best movies about latch key kids and what can happen when they are plunked down in the middle of suburbia with nothing to do, no transportation, no social services and little adult supervision. The film is based on the true story of the "mouse packs" who took over Foster City CA in the early 1970's. It is available on DVD and I urge you to see it if you have not. Web Link


60 people like this
Posted by Pay Attention
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2016 at 9:24 am

Among the many reasons to oppose Brown's gambit is the pathetically small percentage of affordable housing that would be required in order to bypass CEQA and local discretionary approval.


7 people like this
Posted by Jaded
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2016 at 12:37 pm

It looks like a lot of people totally misunderstand Brown's proposal. In a nutshell it says, if someone proposes something that meets the zoning and community plan, they should be approved quickly without extra review. This doesn't mean people can propose anything anywhere. It means if there is a parcel that is zoned for multifamily near Caltrain with 5 stories, and a developer comes in and proposes a 5-story multifamily building, they will be approved. Instead of what happens now: endless public meetings where people complain they don't like 5 story buildings, or the company's logo, or the window placement in the mockup and the developer drops out because it is too annoying or the planned 100 gets downgraded to 50 because people didn't want a 5 story building.


5 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2016 at 2:52 pm

@jaded -- Thank You!

Jerry Brows plan is aimed an filling the huge need to HOUSING not just affordable housing. 350k in SC SF and SM counties jobs have been added to the area and only 55k building permits for housing have been approved in the past 5 years. This proposal is engineered to stop things like measure M for dealing already approved zoning. I've been looking at empty car lots on ECR for well over a decade now due to NIMBYism at its best. One of the leaders of that measure told me that he wished NOTHING ever be built there regardless of what the rest of the city or the zoning allows.


2 people like this
Posted by no more
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 12, 2016 at 12:22 pm

MP is not big enough to hold more people... already rebuilding a school to accommodate the population as it is... more families, more schools, no roads, no traffic plans and no place for more people.

MA is having to expand, what's the next step once that gets filled if they add more housing/ families etc? When does MP add it's first skyscraper condominium to accommodate all the poor souls who cant commute more than 2 miles to work at FB?


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

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