Menlo Park Housing Commission calls for more affordable housing


As Menlo Park updates its general plan, the city's Housing Commission intends to push the City Council to get built as many "below market rate" housing units as possible.

The commission made that decision at its July 7 meeting, attended by three commissioners: Sally Cadigan, Meg McGraw-Scherer and chair Michelle Tate.

Potential zoning changes in Menlo Park's M-2 area east of U.S. 101 could allow up to 4,500 housing units to be built. Most of those units would be on land owned by Facebook. But the city has not yet decided how many affordable housing units that some large developments would have to fund or build.

The commissioners also agreed to question a Facebook-funded displacement study that concluded that Facebook's plans to add 6,550 employees to Menlo Park would have only a limited, indirect impact on local housing demand. Both commissioners and others at the meeting said they were not convinced of the study's findings.

"None of us thinks the numbers are realistic," said Ms. Tate.

"No matter what the displacement analysis said, this is a huge issue the city has to deal with," said Ms. McGraw-Scherer.

"For the first time, the room was full of people who want affordable housing," Housing Commissioner Sally Cadigan commented to her fellow commissioners about the public response at the previous week's meeting. In her four or five years on the commission, she said, the room has been full of people before, but only those who didn't want affordable housing near them.

Ms. McGraw-Scherer also recommended that the city consider using the incremental increase in tax revenue it will get from Facebook's new buildings to fund "below market rate" housing.

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2 people like this
Posted by observer
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I am meeting a lot of people in the last few weeks who have been forced to move from their apartments in Menlo Park because the landlords are doubling and even tripling the rent. Facebook employees are given an monetary incentive to move close to their jobs, so the Facebook employees can afford it. This is becoming a nightmare to decent people. If the communities care about their current, law-abiding citizens, they need to get rent-control laws in place.

2 people like this
Posted by supply and demand
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 23, 2016 at 11:36 am

The problem is an issue of supply and demand. Councils, including Menlo Park's, are approving lots of office growth without insisting on commensurate growth of housing at all price levels. This is Economics 101.

If it were more attractive to build housing than to build offices, the market would correct itself over time. One way to make it more attractive to build housing is to make it less attractive to build so much office, such as by charging commercial developers more for housing impacts.

Councils can correct things more quickly but negotiating projects that provide a balance of new workers and new homes.

They could do these things, and more, but don't.

Like this comment
Posted by See what happens in Mtn. View
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Affordable housing is a tiny bandaid for a huge wound. The lifeblood of the community to leaving the body. Most current renters will be forced out within 2 years without some form of rent increase limitation. City Councilmembers were screened by landlord groups as candidates. They will express concern but do nothing. In Mountain View, folks have resorted to an initiative measure. Landlords will spend millions of dollars to defeat it. See what happens.

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