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More than 800 new housing units approved in Menlo Park

A rendering of the Menlo Portal development, which was approved Sept. 14 and is set to add 335 new housing units and a child care center to Menlo Park's Bay side. Courtesy Greystar.

Facing little alternative due to new state housing laws, the Menlo Park City Council voted Tuesday, Sept. 14, to approve more than 800 new housing units on the Bay side of Menlo Park proposed by the developer Greystar.

The City Council held two public hearings Tuesday to consider appeals of Planning Commission approvals of two Greystar development proposals. Those appeals were led by the Sequoia Union High School District and City Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor, who represents the voting district where the developments are proposed.

The first proposal, Menlo Uptown, plans to build 441 new apartments and 42 new condominiums, as well as an on-site urgent care clinic at 141 Jefferson Drive and 180-106 Constitution Drive. The second proposal, called Menlo Portal, calls for 335 new apartments, about 34,500 square feet of office space and a 1,600-square-foot child care center at 115 Independence Drive and 104 and 110 Constitution Drive. Combined, the two developments would add 818 new homes to the city.

A rendering of the Menlo Uptown development, which received approval Sept. 14 and is set to add 483 new housing units and an urgent care clinic on Menlo Park's Bay side. Courtesy Greystar.

Council members, as well as City Attorney Nira Doherty, noted that the Menlo Park City Council now has less discretion than it used to when it comes to approving housing projects due in part to the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, also known as SB 330, which limits the number of public meetings on a housing project proposal to no more than five hearings. Tuesday's meeting was the fifth, which triggered in the council a sense of urgency to make a decision. SB 330 also prevents cities from imposing additional fees or policies on developers that weren't in effect when the developer filed the initial application with the city.

The City Council ultimately voted 4-1 to approve both developments, with Taylor opposed each time. In both instances, the council opted to impose certain conditions on the proposals, including what's called a "PILOT agreement" #150; an acronym for an agreement for "payment in lieu of taxes." The agreement protects the city from a circumstance that occurred with another Greystar development in Redwood City when it was sold to Stanford University in 2019 as faculty housing. Because Stanford is an academic institution, it doesn't have to pay property taxes on buildings it owns and operates as student and faculty housing, which can reduce the property tax base for a city. The PILOT agreement would only take effect if the property is sold to a tax-exempt owner; otherwise the city would continue to receive the standard property taxes.

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In addition, the council requested that the developer meet with Sequoia Union High School District to talk about the district's concerns. Among other things, the district's appeal alleged that the process to analyze the potential environmental impacts didn't take into account the proximity of TIDE Academy, a high school located just across the street from the project. It also argued that the impact fees the district would collect from the developer don't account for the full added costs the school district takes on when new developments generate additional students.

Taylor's appeal request raised concerns that included how the development would impact projected drought-related water shortages and existing transportation infrastructure problems in the area. She also argued that the city's current policy of mandating that 15% of the new homes be designated for below-market-rate households is not enough to prevent or slow displacement in the community.

Staff pushed back on the latter argument, saying that a housing needs assessment conducted for the project found that the development is expected to increase the city's housing availability by 498 units, larger than the number of actual units the development will provide. That's because the number of people that won't be working there anymore when the existing commercial buildings are demolished – each of whom generates local housing demand #150; is expected to be slightly higher than the new job demand generated by the development's new residents, according to a staff report.

Council members also agreed at a later point to review a subset of the traffic projects that the developer has agreed to as mitigation for the added traffic associated with the development.

Menlo Uptown

The Menlo Uptown development is slated to provide 172 studio apartments, 224 one-bedroom apartments, 33 two-bedroom apartments and 12 three-bedroom apartments. Thirty of the for-sale townhomes will have three bedrooms, while 12 of the townhomes will be four-bedroom residences.

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Of those, 73 will be set aside as below market rate for households earning less than the area median income. Broken down, there will be 29 below-market-rate studios, 33 one-bedroom units, four two-bedroom residences, one three-bedroom unit and six for-sale townhomes for moderate-income households, of which five will have three bedrooms and one will have four bedrooms.

The Menlo Uptown development will also include a 2,940-square-foot space dedicated as an urgent care center to be operated by the Ravenswood Family Health Network, which is considered to be a community amenity valued at $8.9 million.

Menlo Portal

The Menlo Portal development would add 335 apartments to the city, 48 of which would be set aside for lower-income households.

As a community amenity, the developer would contract with All Five, an early childhood education provider in Belle Haven, to operate a child care facility at the new development. The commitment adds up to about an $8.9 million contribution, including building space, a student tuition, and an in-lieu payment to the city of $3.8 million.

Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

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More than 800 new housing units approved in Menlo Park

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Sep 16, 2021, 9:42 am

Facing little alternative due to new state housing laws, the Menlo Park City Council voted Tuesday, Sept. 14, to approve more than 800 new housing units on the Bay side of Menlo Park proposed by the developer Greystar.

The City Council held two public hearings Tuesday to consider appeals of Planning Commission approvals of two Greystar development proposals. Those appeals were led by the Sequoia Union High School District and City Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor, who represents the voting district where the developments are proposed.

The first proposal, Menlo Uptown, plans to build 441 new apartments and 42 new condominiums, as well as an on-site urgent care clinic at 141 Jefferson Drive and 180-106 Constitution Drive. The second proposal, called Menlo Portal, calls for 335 new apartments, about 34,500 square feet of office space and a 1,600-square-foot child care center at 115 Independence Drive and 104 and 110 Constitution Drive. Combined, the two developments would add 818 new homes to the city.

Council members, as well as City Attorney Nira Doherty, noted that the Menlo Park City Council now has less discretion than it used to when it comes to approving housing projects due in part to the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, also known as SB 330, which limits the number of public meetings on a housing project proposal to no more than five hearings. Tuesday's meeting was the fifth, which triggered in the council a sense of urgency to make a decision. SB 330 also prevents cities from imposing additional fees or policies on developers that weren't in effect when the developer filed the initial application with the city.

The City Council ultimately voted 4-1 to approve both developments, with Taylor opposed each time. In both instances, the council opted to impose certain conditions on the proposals, including what's called a "PILOT agreement" #150; an acronym for an agreement for "payment in lieu of taxes." The agreement protects the city from a circumstance that occurred with another Greystar development in Redwood City when it was sold to Stanford University in 2019 as faculty housing. Because Stanford is an academic institution, it doesn't have to pay property taxes on buildings it owns and operates as student and faculty housing, which can reduce the property tax base for a city. The PILOT agreement would only take effect if the property is sold to a tax-exempt owner; otherwise the city would continue to receive the standard property taxes.

In addition, the council requested that the developer meet with Sequoia Union High School District to talk about the district's concerns. Among other things, the district's appeal alleged that the process to analyze the potential environmental impacts didn't take into account the proximity of TIDE Academy, a high school located just across the street from the project. It also argued that the impact fees the district would collect from the developer don't account for the full added costs the school district takes on when new developments generate additional students.

Taylor's appeal request raised concerns that included how the development would impact projected drought-related water shortages and existing transportation infrastructure problems in the area. She also argued that the city's current policy of mandating that 15% of the new homes be designated for below-market-rate households is not enough to prevent or slow displacement in the community.

Staff pushed back on the latter argument, saying that a housing needs assessment conducted for the project found that the development is expected to increase the city's housing availability by 498 units, larger than the number of actual units the development will provide. That's because the number of people that won't be working there anymore when the existing commercial buildings are demolished – each of whom generates local housing demand #150; is expected to be slightly higher than the new job demand generated by the development's new residents, according to a staff report.

Council members also agreed at a later point to review a subset of the traffic projects that the developer has agreed to as mitigation for the added traffic associated with the development.

The Menlo Uptown development is slated to provide 172 studio apartments, 224 one-bedroom apartments, 33 two-bedroom apartments and 12 three-bedroom apartments. Thirty of the for-sale townhomes will have three bedrooms, while 12 of the townhomes will be four-bedroom residences.

Of those, 73 will be set aside as below market rate for households earning less than the area median income. Broken down, there will be 29 below-market-rate studios, 33 one-bedroom units, four two-bedroom residences, one three-bedroom unit and six for-sale townhomes for moderate-income households, of which five will have three bedrooms and one will have four bedrooms.

The Menlo Uptown development will also include a 2,940-square-foot space dedicated as an urgent care center to be operated by the Ravenswood Family Health Network, which is considered to be a community amenity valued at $8.9 million.

The Menlo Portal development would add 335 apartments to the city, 48 of which would be set aside for lower-income households.

As a community amenity, the developer would contract with All Five, an early childhood education provider in Belle Haven, to operate a child care facility at the new development. The commitment adds up to about an $8.9 million contribution, including building space, a student tuition, and an in-lieu payment to the city of $3.8 million.

Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

Comments

Happy Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 16, 2021 at 1:14 pm
Happy Resident, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 1:14 pm

This is all good. Yes, All Good.


Ellen
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 16, 2021 at 2:28 pm
Ellen, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2021 at 2:28 pm

We have two pressing issues regarding housing; increasing homelessness and the lack of affordable housing for anyone who is not an employee in high tech (or the companies that serve it; e.g finance and legal services).
We have a two-tiered economy in this area, high tech versus everyone else. High tech companies compensate their employees at rates that cannot be matched by other industries or services. There is no way to get around this discrepancy.
Will these projects help to solve our problems with homelessness and housing for non-tech employees? I suspect not. If they eliminate any current housing, they will contribute to the number of homeless. Will that be mitigated by providing more housing for employees in non-tech companies? Not necessarily. It's more likely these apartments will serve as pied-a-terres for tech employees who have homes elsewhere but must at times show-up at the office.
As long as we allow tech to keep expanding, we will have insufficient housing. We need to address this problem at its source, and put a moratorium on further commercial development.




Menlo Oaks Mom
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 17, 2021 at 6:25 am
Menlo Oaks Mom, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 6:25 am

This project promotes development at the expense of quality of life in Menlo Park. Traffic is already intolerable on the east side of ECR especially near the Marsh and Willow exits and around MA. This article suggests there will additionally be negative impacts to our local high school. I also read that the development includes more office space, which will surely exacerbate the housing issues. Based on the housing shortages our community is experiencing, why on earth do we need more office space? Can we use that space for more affordable housing units? It feels to me like these decisions are being made to accommodate Facebook’s relentless growth and I don’t understand it. One only has to read “The Facebook Files” in the WSJ this week to know this not a trustworthy company. They will continue with the unchecked overdevelopment until the city council stands up to them. It is like having big tobacco in our backyard.


Belle Haven Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 17, 2021 at 1:38 pm
Belle Haven Resident, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 1:38 pm

More office space, more building here on our east side. The housing crisis is understood, however are we really saying there was no space on the westside for either of these developments. They are tearing down office buildings to build these projects. The same could not be done on the westside? And where will the $3.8 million go? Will it, as it should be, be used in Belle Haven? Will the city staff and the council do right by their east side community or will those funds if and when they are received be funneled back into the westside operations of Menlo Park? We are all Menlo Park. It will be a bright day when we have a council and staff who truly understand that.


Dawn1234
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 17, 2021 at 2:02 pm
Dawn1234, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 2:02 pm

I am frankly appalled at the city council's approval of projects that so clearly put the burden of their housing requirement on one neighborhood. Hearing the disparities between 4 developments in the bayside neighborhood with over 300 units in each one and 1 development in the rest of the city with 11 units. I heard one council member call this out - along with the historic redlining which created these issues and that the city has NEVER taken steps to make up for the years of turning a blind eye to racism. That it now finds itself with no way to stop an already overburdened neighborhood (because of its own past policies) from bearing the brunt of a housing burden should cause more council members to feel a pang of conscience. Councilmember Taylor is right that we should not be allowing this to proceed. Show some leadership and remorse and lead the fight to fix the problem instead of throwing your hands up in complacent despair.


Tecsi
Registered user
another community
on Sep 17, 2021 at 9:25 pm
Tecsi, another community
Registered user
on Sep 17, 2021 at 9:25 pm

@Ellen, @Menlo Oaks Mom, @Belle Haven Resident, @Dawn1234

You may also know that our CA legislature has just passed housing bills to continue this takeover of our communities, against the known interests of their constituents. They don’t think they have to represent us.

If you would be interested in finding out more about how we can stop this, send me an email: [email protected], and I can tell you what we are doing to fix this.

@Dawn, @Menlo Oaks Mom: I can share with you a housing poll we conducted right in your neighborhoods.


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