To implement some new state housing laws and get more affordable housing built, Menlo Park may make some policy changes slated for review tonight (Monday, Feb. 5) by the Planning Commission.
Specifically, the commission will review the city's policies on below-market-rate housing and state density bonuses.
According to a staff report, one of the more significant state laws passed was AB 1505, which overturns a 2009 California Court of Appeal decision, often referred to as the "Palmer decision, that prohibited cities from requiring market-rate rental housing developments to build or pay for affordable housing units. With that decision overturned, the city can once again enact those fees and requirements for rental housing developments.
In general, Menlo Park's Housing Commission favors encouraging developers to actually build new units, rather than contribute to the city's BMR housing fund, which as of the end of June last year contained more than $18 million.
At a meeting Jan. 10, the Housing Commission voted 6-0 to recommend that the city strongly encourage developers to build below-market rate units rather than pay fees; that fees should match construction costs to actually build those units; that developers be granted flexibility in how and where they build the affordable units; and that fees vary by location in the area to encourage affordable housing to be better dispersed throughout the city.
Currently, a large portion of Menlo Park's existing and planned affordable housing is in the city's Belle Haven neighborhood. The concept would be to create a financial incentive for affordable housing development in other areas of the city. If it's cheaper to build a unit than pay a city's required fees, then developers will pursue that option, said Nevada Merriman, Menlo Park housing commissioner and executive at MidPen Housing, a local nonprofit housing developer.
The Menlo Park Planning Commission will meet Feb. 5 starting at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Civic Center.
The Planning Commission is also scheduled to:
● Consider modifying Facebook's vehicle trip cap for its East Campus to allow 1,300 peak hour trips onto campus between 7 and 8 a.m. and another 1,300 between 8 and 9 a.m.; and the same number out of the campus between 4 and 6 p.m., with a daily trip cap of 15,000 trips, with exceptions for up to 12 special events a year and three non-special days within a 180-day period.
● Study a proposed three building development at 1125 Merrill St., 506 Santa Cruz Ave. and 556 Santa Cruz Ave., on and near the site of the Mid-Peninsula Animal Hospital.