News

Menlo Park: Study on displacement of residents raises eyebrows

Housing commissioners worry Facebook expansion will lead to Belle Haven, East Palo Alto residents losing homes

The Menlo Park Housing Commission and community members who attended its Wednesday, June 29, meeting, were dubious at best at conclusions in a study claiming that Facebook's addition of 6,550 new jobs, proposed as part of its expansion plans to add two new office buildings and a hotel, would have a minimal impact on local housing demand.

"The analysis was very, very, very conservative and not complete," said Michelle Tate, housing commission chair.

The displacement study was informational only, and won't have legal grounding to affect the city's approval for Facebook's project. Conducted by Keyser Marston Associates and funded voluntarily by Facebook, it attempted to gauge how much the new employees would affect housing demand in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto in particular.

It found that housing demand will not increase beyond Menlo Park's available housing, because currently, only about 4 percent of Facebook's employees live in Menlo Park overall, and about 0.6 percent live in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.

The analysis did not factor in what might happen if and when the city's general plan update is implemented, said Adina Levin, a city transportation commissioner. She pointed out that while the study factored in future projections on how traffic might be affected by the general plan changes, it did not do the same for citywide housing demand.

Under the general plan update, if it is approved as proposed, up to 3,500 housing units could be allowed for construction on Facebook land, and a total of 4,500 new units could be built across the city's M-2 area, east of U.S. 101. Those would be built in addition to the 800-plus apartments already approved or under construction in Menlo Park today.

With a potentially large influx of new housing, a greater proportion of Facebook employees may want to move nearby, several community members predicted.

Remarks from residents to the Housing Commission — which were not recorded as public comments on the project, due to procedural rules — suggested that people are worried about what Facebook's expansion could mean for residents of Belle Haven.

Christin Evans, a co-owner of Kepler's bookstore who is gathering local stories about the housing crisis in Menlo Park at tinyurl.com/crisis329, said she already knows 15 people in Menlo Park who have been displaced by the housing market, so she believes the analysis is "very conservative."

One recommendation was to halt the project altogether. "We need to take a pause from the office boom to try and catch up," said Menlo Park resident and former council member Steve Schmidt.

Menlo Park resident Brielle Johnck said that while it sounds great that the city's zoning permits 3,500 new housing units, Facebook faces no requirement to actually build those units.

"Just because things are allowed doesn't mean things will happen," she said. "Facebook, we've got our faith in you. Don't let us down."

Committee action

The only thing the Housing Commission was expected to do at the meeting was make a recommendation about whether Facebook should have flexibility in how it decides to go about building 20 affordable housing units or paying the monetary equivalent of $6.3 million. The commission agreed to recommend to the Planning Commission and the City Council that Facebook be granted that flexibility.

The mandated affordable housing provision is based on a city formula — part of city rules that require new developments to fund or build affordable housing based roughly on how much square footage would be added to existing built space. Because Facebook is building on land where there are existing buildings, the 20-unit requirement is lower than it might otherwise be, according senior planner to Kyle Perata.

Facebook employees said they have been in talks with MidPen Housing, a nonprofit that develops below-market-rate housing in the Bay Area, and are considering contributing the required funding to MidPen.

According to Jan Lindenthal, MidPen's vice president of real estate development, the funding for the units could be put toward a project that would enable about 70 apartments for mixed-income families to be built on the 1300 block of Willow Road. The housing developer is currently building 90 housing units for low-income seniors on the 1200 block of Willow Road.

Ms. Tate, the commission chair, said she'd prefer to have the units built in a location that better integrates residents of different socioeconomic levels, even if it means waiting longer, rather than place them all in a solely "affordable" complex.

Facebook employees pushed back, saying that working with MidPen would enable the apartments to be built faster, to meet more immediate affordable-housing needs.

Lost households

Hours before the Housing Commission met, MidPen released some startling statistics about how hard the housing crisis has struck locally: From 2010 to 2016, Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood lost 133 households that had annual incomes of less than $100,000, and East Palo Alto lost 699 households with incomes of less than $100,000. Many of those households were replaced by residents with annual incomes greater than $100,000.

MidPen said it had conducted the research in consultation with real estate analysts from the Concord Group.

According to Lily Gray, senior business development manager at MidPen, the numbers are an aggregated count of households registered under one income bracket or another, so some people in that count could have either combined households or experienced income increases that put them over the $100,000 annual income threshold.

"It's not a perfect displacement measure," she said, "But we do know that income growth has been low in recent years."

Housing talk?

A tentative joint meeting with the Menlo Park City Council and Housing Commission is penciled in for Tuesday, July 19, according to Mr. Perata. Previously, the meeting was scheduled to take place in April, but had been postponed indefinitely.

Comments

45 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm

We need to address this issue seriously and quickly or we are going to have a community made up of Senior Citizens and young millioners!


7 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Of course any study that FaceBook would pay for would say that “housing demand will not increase beyond Menlo Park's available housing”, and would not deal at all with the devastating effects on the low-income residents of Belle Haven and East Palo Alto that will be caused by the great increase in gentrification caused by FaceBook addingn thousands of new well-paid employees

Of course that study said FaceBook’s expansion plans would have little effect on local low-income residents.

If you believe that, I have a bridge I can sell you.

Remember: FaceBook is giving every employee who will move to within 10 miles of its offices $10,000 each. Doesn’t this sound as though they are encouraging gentrification?

Gentrification is already happening. FaceBooks expansion plans will just make it much worse. And we all depend on the work done by low-income people -- many of whom are already moving out of the Bay Area because they can no longer afford the current high costs of housing here -- because of gentrification. Our local school board has seen this, and is quite concerned about this.

MidPen’s plans to build a relatively small number of apartment units on Willow Road are a wonderful thing, but, although this would help a few people, it is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed.

I’m all in favor of adding more jobs here in the Mid-Peninsula, but overworked young techies should not be almost the only people who get really good pay. All employees who are now getting substandard wages should get much better pay, so all of them can finally have much better lives

The 3,500 housing units that are planned to be built on FaceBook’s land east of 101 sound great -- but are most of the tenants expected to be FaceBook employees? If so, will most FaceBook employees freely choose to live in the same apartment complex as other FaceBook employees? Don’t most people need to keep their work lives separate from their private lives?

Once the Menlo Park City Council approves FaceBooks expansion plans (which can’t help but encourage gentrification and worsen traffic), the die is cast for the present residents of Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.

This study should do much more than "raise eyebrows". But it won't. Sigh.....


22 people like this
Posted by Free Market
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm

So why don't you just use eminent domain to acquire Facebook's property and kick them out? My property in Belle Haven has increased significantly thanks to Facebook. Soon there will be supermarkets and dry cleaners in Belle Haven thanks to Facebook. All you people who live on the other side of the freeway seem to think you know what is best for us.

Butt out! We don't want your interference. Mark Zuckerberg is the best thing that ever happened to Belle Haven. He has taken a poverty stricken area and is making it a desirable place to live.

Thank you Mark!!!


89 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 9, 2016 at 3:53 pm

"My property in Belle Haven has increased significantly thanks to Facebook. Soon there will be supermarkets and dry cleaners in Belle Haven thanks to Facebook. All you people who live on the other side of the freeway seem to think you know what is best for us.

Butt out!"

EXACTLY!

If companies add jobs, people complain about traffic and housing prices.

If companies add housing, people complain about gentrification and traffic.

If companies add housing AND jobs (which helps address traffic concerns), people complain about gentrification.

It's certainly reasonable for communities to have criteria for building/adding homes and offices. But the governments that represent these communities need to set clear criteria for building then get out of the way.



Jez, there's no pleasing some people


Like this comment
Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2016 at 11:07 am

Same issue is going on in San Jose:

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Jay
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2016 at 11:25 am

You can read the entire article and get all warm and fuzzy, but the key paragraph is this, “The only thing the Housing Commission was expected to do at the meeting was make a recommendation about whether Facebook should have flexibility in how it decides to go about building 20 affordable housing units or paying the monetary equivalent of $6.3 million. The commission agreed to recommend to the Planning Commission and the City Council that Facebook be granted that flexibility.”

Web Link

If you think for a second that Facebook will build affordable housing you are clueless. They will pay the fee.

The article I posted earlier refers to the Reserve apartment complex in San Jose. The builder is building 0 affordable housing; they are just paying the fee. And the City has no plans on using the $ to build any affordable housing.


Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by pdj
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 11, 2016 at 12:07 pm

City of Menlo Park is using Facebook as a part of their slight of hand politics. The Displacement report, reported the information as requested by the City. Therefore it didn't include foreclosures and evictions. Check the MidPen report for more accurate information. Why would the City want to publicize the gentrification (re-colonization) of Belle Haven? After all, think of how full the coffers will be when Belle Haven is nothing but apartments and business.


2 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 1, 2017 at 6:19 pm

We have people on the Menlo Park Housing Commission who are not experienced and well versed enough on the subject matter to represent the community of Menlo Park.

A few of them have their own agendas.

Companies such as Facebook have employees who are extremely educated, experienced and well versed on the subject matter who can speak intelligently on the issues.

The Menlo Park Housing Commission needs to listen and learn from the experts!


Like this comment
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Yes, this is an old discussion, but I wanted to reply to two commenters. It may seem silly of me, but I wanted to say some important things, late as this response is.

"Free Market"
Where will all those low-paid employees of all those dry-cleaners and supermarkets and other retail businesses that you think will appear near FaceBook's campuses live? In East Palo Alto or East Menlo Park after the property values have gone sky-high? How will they be able to afford the rent?

Yes, your property is bow much more valuable. But -- where will you go to shop for food or get your clothes dry-cleaned or find anything else you might want tyo buy from a nearby retail store? Or where will you dine, when no waiters or cooks or dishwashers can afford to live within even barely tolerable commuting distances of the restaurants they will be working in?

Can you enjoy eating all that money your property is now worth? Will that be a good substitute for good restaurant food?

And exactly where will you go for medical care when you need it? there are no hospitals in East Palo Alto or East Menlo Park, and I am sure the few clinics that are there now will not be able to handle the huge increase in demand for basic medical services after FeceBook hugely increases the number of its employees, and I would be very surprised if you would be satisfied with the level of care you would receive at those clinics from their overworked staff, who will not have much time to spend with any one patient. So -- will you go to Stanford Hospital? Or anyof theri clinics? How will you get there? Traffic is often very bad in this area, as I am sure you know.

And with a large increase in the number of FaceBook employees, traffic will get even worse. Then -- hwo will first responders be able to get to your home when there are big traffic jams between where they are and your home? Same applies to anyone in this area who needs medical help NOW. Traffic jams can and will cuse people to die because they will not be able to get to emnergency rooms fast. Remember both Kaiser and Stanford are west of 101.

"peninsula resident":
No, I will not "BUTT OUT". Why should I? I care a lot about the people in this area -- and about you, too -- and I see a lot of very bad effects that have already happened from FaceBook's presence here, and almost no good effects overall. And the planned very fast increase in the number of FaceBook employees will only make thigns worse for all of us -- and this includes all FaceBook employees.

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to keep silent."

I refuse to be silent.


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

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