Menlo Park: Kepler's hosts forum Thursday on housing crisis

All three council candidates to participate

Kepler's Books in Menlo Park will host a forum Thursday, Aug. 18, on the housing crisis -- how high and rapidly rising housing costs are affecting people in the community.

The event will have have a panel that includes all three Menlo Park City Council candidates: Incumbents Catherine Carlton and Ray Mueller and challenger Cecilia Taylor. They are running for two open council seats in the Nov. 8 election.

Kepler's co-owner Christin Evans and East Palo Alto activist Kyra Brown will also participate, according to Ms. Evans.

During the event, personal stories will be read aloud and told via video. There will be an open mic for people to tell their stories and a question-and-answer period.

Some stories will be taken from the Housing Crisis Stories Facebook page created by Ms. Evans.

"It's a real challenge that is facing the community," she said. "There's a tension that's being created where new folks are displacing people who have lived here all their life."

She said the forum will attempt to address solutions.

"Kepler's has always been a place where people share their stories," she said. "I see this as a natural part of what our role in the community is."

Kepler's Books is in the Menlo Center at 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

Go to the event web page for more information or to RSVP.

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5 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Menlo Park politicians - who helped deepen the housing crisis in the immediate area - are in this panel? That's laughable. It's great that Kyra Briwn is on it, but she's far from expert. What gives, Kepler's? Why couldn't you find real experts on the local housing crisis?

8 people like this
Posted by Fixing the errors of the past
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Menlo Park had a terrible track record of not approving housing in the 1990s and 2000s - so and that they lost a lawsuit. However, today's council members were not part of that.

Instead, both Ray and Cat have been proactive in trying to improve the housing situation for low-income residents of Menlo Park. They have been supporters of the Downtown Specific Plan, which provided additional room for housing development in the downtown area.

Although past politicians in Menlo Park added jobs without housing,
the new General Plan adds a roughly even number of jobs and residents. As part of that, both Ray and Cat called for the new development in Belle Haven to include 15% affordable housing, which may net as many as 700 additional affordable units. That's going to be a huge deal as regional housing prices rise and a lot of traditional residents are no longer able to live in Belle Haven.

Sure, the City Council can always do more. But it's a mistake to blame these two for the errors of the past, when they are working on trying to fix them.

2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

City Council members are politicians, not housing experts. They are, by default, the guardians of poor decisions that resulted in the recent housing lawsuit, as well as being partially responsible for the city's traffic problems and increasing corporatocracy. They should be viewed with discernment and a dash of suspicion.

With due diligence, Kepler's could've put together a more informed panel of experts to round out the politicians.

Like this comment
Posted by hi mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 18, 2016 at 10:31 pm

Anybody go? Hopefully Cecilia Taylor gave her relateable and scalable advice to "move back into your childhood home" (Web Link).

3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 19, 2016 at 8:21 am

It sounded like a lot of sad stories without any real proposals or solutions, as an opportunity for local politicians just to show empathy.

But think about the purpose of a meeting like this. This is the community saying 'Government should solve the Housing Shortage.' Is that what everybody wants? So where are the proposals? Seems like the starting point is blanket rent control and a moratorium on building market-rate housing

3 people like this
Posted by avoid more errors
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 19, 2016 at 9:31 am

@ Fixing the errors of the past "Menlo Park had a terrible track record of not approving housing in the 1990s and 2000s - so [sic] and that they lost a lawsuit. However, today's council members were not part of that."

Actually, the current council is worse - the track record they are busy putting into place will substantially worsen the housing crisis. They could require Facebook to provide enough housing (or funding for it to be built, including the land costs) for the new housing demands their growth causes. They could require Greenheart and Stanford to build up to the maximum housing allowed on their properties, or require them to provide enough funding for at least enough housing to match the extra housing demands their huge offices would create. But instead, this council is pushing these projects forward despite their housing shortage impacts.

This Council took one good step forward by updating the General Plan. But they erred by constraining the effort to change land use rules only in the area near Facebook. They ignore the outdated zoning rules in effect in the rest of Menlo Park. They ignore the reality of current business practices that pack workers into office spaces at double what was done in the past. They have refused to modify the current General Plan rules, including those in the downtown specific plan, to avoid aggravating the housing shortage. Instead they are putting a higher priority on filling long-vacant lots with whatever developers want instead of insisting on balanced growth, which they have the power -- but apparently not the backbone -- to do.

The zoning changes in the area near Facebook are a model of balancing growth. However, those changes do not begin to compensate for the increased demand for housing that will result if the Council approves the Facebook, Greenheart, and Stanford projects without requiring them to supply or fund sufficient housing for the enormous new demand for housing they will create.

Like this comment
Posted by Christin
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 22, 2016 at 1:22 pm


"What gives, Kepler's? Why couldn't you find real experts on the local housing crisis?"

This particular event was envisioned as a way to put a face on the housing crisis. To go beyond the headlines of displacement and hear the stories of community members about how displacement has had a personal impact.

Kepler's may host future public forums on this topic, if you have specific experts you'd like to see included, please feel free to suggest them.

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

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