The proposed workforce housing project at the former Flood School would create less traffic than reopening a school of the same size, according to Menlo Park city staff.
Two recently released reports, one from the city addressing misinformation about the development and one from the school district on its employees' need for affordable housing, are adding nuance to the contentious debate over a project that's become a flashpoint for the city's plans to increase its housing units.
More than 40% of the faculty and staff at the Ravenswood City School District are considering leaving their jobs due to the high cost of housing, and two-thirds say their housing is unaffordable or unstable, according to statistics based on a district survey.
Using responses from the 89 out of 300 staff members who took the survey, the school district concluded that only one-third of its staff have access to affordable and stable housing, and that 43% are considering leaving their job due to a lack of access to the cost of living in Menlo Park or the length of their commute.
"Workforce housing also provides greater opportunities for the truly passionate people in our community to work and serve alongside our families to benefit our students, without the added burden of considering a second job to ensure we can afford to stay here," a staff member wrote in the survey.
The school district is seeking to build up to 90 units of affordable housing on the site of the former James Flood Magnet School, with priority given to district employees.
The city is facing a state mandate to zone for thousands of new homes — including 426 units for low-income households and 740 units for very-low income households — the Flood school plan has received significant community pushback, with residents voicing concerns about traffic and appropriate rezoning for the 2.5-acre site, which is currently designated for single-family homes.
Following a community meeting, the city's document was compiled by staff to combat misinformation, according to Deanna Chow, assistant community development director. A key concern is the impact of new traffic from the development.
According to the report, the traffic impacts of a 90-unit residential development would create 400 new daily trips. By comparison, an elementary school with 275 students, the size of the Flood School before closure, would likely produce over 600 trips per day. The proposed development would create a predicted 178 fewer trips in peak morning times than a school, and just nine more trips at peak evening times.
"A residential site at this residential development at this site would still have a fraction of the traffic compared to a school," said Will Eger, chief business officer of the Ravenswood City School District.
It also flagged the property as an ideal place for affordable housing, given the developer interest and potential for increased housing equity for the Belle Haven neighborhood and city of East Palo Alto, both recognized by the state of California as "disadvantaged communities."
The city of Menlo Park expects a proposed development to make no change to the safety of students
biking or walking to school compared to other developments of this size, and identifies safe paths for
biking or walking to school through the Safe Routes to School Program.
The city plans to complete an environmental impact report which will include a traffic analysis, and the development review process will contain a traffic impact assessment if 100 or more daily trips come as a result of the project.
Bolstering its case for the project, the school district cited data showing that there are no two-bedroom rental units in Menlo Park that are "likely affordable" for a family of four making 50% of the Area Median Income. The current median income in San Mateo County is $166,000 for a family of four.
According to Eger, district staff would receive priority for housing as a completed project is expected to have a long waitlist.
Using that survey data, district officials estimate they would need over 200 units to meet the full housing needs of its staff.
"It would change my life," another staff member wrote. "I live with my landlords in a condo in a tiny bedroom. I pay a ton in gas. I cannot financially support medical costs, car repairs, food beyond basics, trips, or hobbies."