Correction: No loss of potential affordable housing due to Facebook rezoning


The Almanac inaccurately reported, in a Dec. 6 online story and in the Dec. 7 print edition, that a rezoning of Facebook's east campus from "residential-mixed use" to "office-corporate housing" in the final months of the process resulted in the potential loss of up to 300 affordable housing units in Menlo Park.

Those potential affordable housing units weren't lost because below-market-rate housing was never part of the plan for the site, city staff and a Facebook spokesperson said.

On Nov. 29, the Menlo Park City Council approved in its general plan update a policy that residential rental developers building over a certain density would have to designate 15 to 20 percent of the total number of units as "below market rate" housing.

In drafts of the general plan update, Facebook's east campus was not zoned to be eligible for "bonus" development – unlike some other residential areas that were rezoned in Menlo Park's M-2 area.

An area where "bonus" development is allowed means that a developer there can negotiate to provide public benefits (such as affordable housing or community amenities) for the city in exchange for greater development allowances, such as greater density, height or floor-area ratio (the ratio of the floor area to the land size).

According to California law, affordable housing cannot be required in developments intended for rental residential use. It is only when developers choose to build above a certain base density – into the "bonus" level – that a development can be required to provide a certain amount of affordable housing, which is what Menlo Park has done in its general plan update.

Areas that are not eligible for bonus development, then, cannot be part of the city's requirements for on-site, constructed affordable housing.

The story is different for commercial or office development, which is the category that Facebook's east campus housing plans fall under now. The city requires that developments in that category pay into the city's "below market rate" housing fund, which is currently set at a rate of $16.15 per square foot of office development.

Facebook may still, as it says it is doing now in a separate development agreement, coordinate with a nonprofit housing developer to see that its "below market rate" funding contribution facilitates the construction of affordable housing off-site in a timely manner.

Any assumption that 15 to 20 percent of the city's total number of 4,500 newly zoned residential units would be part of the city's "below market rate" housing program is also inaccurate. Those percentages would apply only to the number of housing units in developments that are eligible for and built at the "bonus" development level.

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