Menlo Park council hopes to partner with nonprofit on tenant fund


Given limited staff availability and a lack of expertise, the Menlo Park City Council agreed on Tuesday (March 12) to explore whether the nonprofit Samaritan House would consider administering the city's planned $100,000 fund for renters in the city who are forced to relocate and are facing homelessness.

The San Mateo-based Samaritan House operates throughout the county to support anti-homelessness and broader anti-poverty efforts.

The council discussed many of the details about how the fund should be administered and who would be eligible for financial support before ultimately agreeing to contact representatives from the nonprofit. Samaritan House has an East Palo Alto location, on Bay Road, which is one of eight places in San Mateo County where people experiencing or facing homelessness can find shelter and other support, such as health care and food.

Funding allocations would be restricted to paying for the costs of moving and finding a new place to live. The city hopes to use data collected from administering the fund to determine the scale of the renter-displacement problem.

Mayor Ray Mueller said he's not interested in creating additional burdens for staff, or in initiating a new city program. "That's not the business we're in," he said.

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton also expressed concerns about running the program from City Hall and what administrative costs the city might take on. Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor expressed some reservations about the data collection being done by an outside agency, but went along with the idea.

Councilman Drew Combs favored keeping the program in the city, but became more open to the idea when Rhonda Coffman, the city's new deputy community development director on housing, talked about how nonprofits are well used to complying with requests for data, metrics, and disbursing funds according to specific parameters.

Coffman said she had worked with Samaritan House in her previous job in Redwood City, and said the agency has the expertise to administer the city's fund.

The council considered what income threshold should be set for eligibility to receive financial support. A draft of the ordinance laid out a range of 50 to 60 percent of the area median income, but members of the public suggested that it be raised to 80 percent of that income. The council agreed to not to make a specific recommendation on this but to work it out with Samaritan House, should the nonprofit accept the job. In addition, the council agreed to collect data on who receives these funds over the next year, asking recipients to complete a small form.

Tenant assistance ordinance

While council members eventually agreed on the idea to have Samaritan House administer the fund, they retained their prior split during a second reading and final approval of the city's tenant relocation ordinance, voting 3-2, with Cecilia Taylor and Betsy Nash opposed.

Several people raised concerns about potential loopholes in the Redwood City-based version of the tenant relocation ordinance the council approved.

In one situation in Redwood City, Housing Commissioner Karen Grove noted, a landlord of one apartment building who plans to refurbish the units has raised rent in the building by about 140 percent, forcing people out. Had they been able to pay for the rent increase prior to the construction work, the landlord would have had to pay the renters the relocation fees, she said.

"The Redwood City situation does vex me," Mueller said. "Let's keep an eye on what's happening there."


• Sign up for Almanac Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or show your support for local journalism by subscribing.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Palo Alto's Taverna to expand next door
By Elena Kadvany | 7 comments | 1,880 views

What Would it Take to Get Tech Companies to Move Jobs Out of the Region and Is This a Good Idea?
By Steve Levy | 27 comments | 1,772 views

A Power Play
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 1,663 views

Premarital and Couples: Valentine's Day: Annually or Daily?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,001 views

Piles of artwork
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 641 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.