News

Guest opinion: We support the Flood School housing compromise

The empty James Flood Magnet School property at 321 Sheridan Drive in Menlo Park on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Menlo Park City Council member Ray Mueller recently released a reasonable compromise to develop teacher and staff housing at the former Flood School Site while also minimizing traffic impacts to adjoining neighborhoods. The three of us believe this is a good compromise with a practical approach to building badly needed housing capacity, mitigating traffic and helping the Ravenswood City School District level the financial playing field with neighboring school districts.

Let's agree to the concepts proposed by Mueller, hammer out the details and work together to begin to address the inequities in our community.

How did Ravenswood get here? Nearly a year ago, the school board approved issuing a public procurement process to explore uses for the site. The most compelling offer came from Alliant Strategic Development, who proposed an affordable housing project of up to 90-units, three- to four-stories tall. This would allow our teachers and staff at the Ravenswood school district to be first in line to rent an apartment whenever an opening arose (currently 75% of Ravenswood staff are renters).

This project helps the district achieve two essential goals. First, when accounting for student need, Ravenswood gets less than half the funding per student as Menlo Park City School District and other surrounding districts, and it's worth remembering that one-third of Ravenswood students are Menlo Park residents. The proposed project would bring in about $500,000 of operating funds annually. These funds would make a small but meaningful dent in closing those funding gaps.

Second, Ravenswood need to be able to recruit and retain high quality staff within our community in the face of rising housing costs. This spring the district surveyed its staff on their housing opportunities and the results were bleak. Only one-third of staff report having a "safe, secure, and affordable housing option." Of the respondents, 2% are currently unhoused, 43% are considering leaving the district because of their housing situation and 85% of our staff have incomes (less than $149,100 for a family of four) that make them eligible for affordable housing.

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We have continued to receive positive support from all corners of Menlo Park. As more facts about the proposed opportunity have come out, arguments against the project have weakened. For example, despite initial concerns about traffic, a recent study from the City of Menlo Park found that the proposed development would represent 200 daily trips less than it would as a school.

Based on the mediation efforts led by Council member Drew Combs, Mueller proposed the following:

• The city of Menlo Park would work with Caltrans and LifeMoves to open an additional access road to the site from Van Buren Road

• Ravenswood would install a removable physical barrier that halves the site, allocating vehicle traffic from the site to two entrances. (For the Suburban Park community, this would mean at rush hour there would be one additional car every 3.5 minutes.)

• Proponents of a ballot initiative designed to slow or stop this project would withdraw the measure from the November election.

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Of course, there remain important details to resolve such as obtaining approvals from Caltrans and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, understanding and mitigating the impact to nearby Haven House, and other impacts to neighbors.

Ultimately the three of us support this proposal because it is a win-win for everyone. The school district can attract and retain high quality staff, the traffic impacts are minimized and the neighborhoods will enjoy a vibrant new community to replace an empty lot eyesore. If other interested parties want to suggest creative ideas that allow for productive and realistic uses of this publicly owned land, then the three of us are open to them. Meanwhile, we invite our neighbors to sit down with us and nail down the details of this insightful compromise.

Mele K. Latu is president of the Ravenswood City School District school board. Gina Sudaria is superintendent of the school district, and William Eger is its chief business officer.

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Guest opinion: We support the Flood School housing compromise

by Mele Latu, Gina Sudaria and William Eger /

Uploaded: Sun, Jul 24, 2022, 8:46 am

Menlo Park City Council member Ray Mueller recently released a reasonable compromise to develop teacher and staff housing at the former Flood School Site while also minimizing traffic impacts to adjoining neighborhoods. The three of us believe this is a good compromise with a practical approach to building badly needed housing capacity, mitigating traffic and helping the Ravenswood City School District level the financial playing field with neighboring school districts.

Let's agree to the concepts proposed by Mueller, hammer out the details and work together to begin to address the inequities in our community.

How did Ravenswood get here? Nearly a year ago, the school board approved issuing a public procurement process to explore uses for the site. The most compelling offer came from Alliant Strategic Development, who proposed an affordable housing project of up to 90-units, three- to four-stories tall. This would allow our teachers and staff at the Ravenswood school district to be first in line to rent an apartment whenever an opening arose (currently 75% of Ravenswood staff are renters).

This project helps the district achieve two essential goals. First, when accounting for student need, Ravenswood gets less than half the funding per student as Menlo Park City School District and other surrounding districts, and it's worth remembering that one-third of Ravenswood students are Menlo Park residents. The proposed project would bring in about $500,000 of operating funds annually. These funds would make a small but meaningful dent in closing those funding gaps.

Second, Ravenswood need to be able to recruit and retain high quality staff within our community in the face of rising housing costs. This spring the district surveyed its staff on their housing opportunities and the results were bleak. Only one-third of staff report having a "safe, secure, and affordable housing option." Of the respondents, 2% are currently unhoused, 43% are considering leaving the district because of their housing situation and 85% of our staff have incomes (less than $149,100 for a family of four) that make them eligible for affordable housing.

We have continued to receive positive support from all corners of Menlo Park. As more facts about the proposed opportunity have come out, arguments against the project have weakened. For example, despite initial concerns about traffic, a recent study from the City of Menlo Park found that the proposed development would represent 200 daily trips less than it would as a school.

Based on the mediation efforts led by Council member Drew Combs, Mueller proposed the following:

• The city of Menlo Park would work with Caltrans and LifeMoves to open an additional access road to the site from Van Buren Road

• Ravenswood would install a removable physical barrier that halves the site, allocating vehicle traffic from the site to two entrances. (For the Suburban Park community, this would mean at rush hour there would be one additional car every 3.5 minutes.)

• Proponents of a ballot initiative designed to slow or stop this project would withdraw the measure from the November election.

Of course, there remain important details to resolve such as obtaining approvals from Caltrans and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, understanding and mitigating the impact to nearby Haven House, and other impacts to neighbors.

Ultimately the three of us support this proposal because it is a win-win for everyone. The school district can attract and retain high quality staff, the traffic impacts are minimized and the neighborhoods will enjoy a vibrant new community to replace an empty lot eyesore. If other interested parties want to suggest creative ideas that allow for productive and realistic uses of this publicly owned land, then the three of us are open to them. Meanwhile, we invite our neighbors to sit down with us and nail down the details of this insightful compromise.

Mele K. Latu is president of the Ravenswood City School District school board. Gina Sudaria is superintendent of the school district, and William Eger is its chief business officer.

Comments

PH
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jul 24, 2022 at 11:47 am
PH, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Jul 24, 2022 at 11:47 am

I support the project and the Initiative.

The Initiative has broader , more important impacts than those on this project. Many petitioners signed to protect their own neighborhoods. They are not dumb; they were not misled.

Silicon Valley housing demand is insatiable. Through the RHNA process, the State now makes cities build housing densities commensurate to built job densities.

If job growth is never managed or capped, high density housing must inevitably be built in single family neighborhoods. Worse, it will be built first in R-1 neighborhoods with lower land costs, less economic clout, and higher percentages of investor owned properties -- Belle Haven, East Palo Alto, and North Fair Oaks.

We are ALL being gentrified. The Initiative will help impede self-gentrification.

Would-be affordable housing advocates, including RCSD, are pretending to solve a problem they make worse. RCSD is monetizing two sites, not one. The 2nd site, 2120 Euclid, is a companion site to the Flood School site which could also be built for housing, but instead is being built as a 7-story office for life sciences.

The net impact of the two RCSD projects is gentrification:

1.) They will create many more jobs than housing units.
2.) They will attract future high-paid workers who will displace lower income residents

Menlo Park is doing the same. The Willow Village HNA shows the Facebook expansion will displace 1100 low income households in the region , including Belle Haven.

How does housing 90 overcome decisions to displace thousands?

Stop gentrifying. Stop being seduced by destructive projects like SRI, Facebook, and 2120 Euclid which do not provide enough housing to mitigate themselves.

Local officials must understand the long-term consequences of decisions and push back now to fully mitigate office projects rather than dump future housing demand into R-1 neighborhoods.

Until then, R-1 homeowners should fight back any way they can.


Menlo Lifestyle
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 25, 2022 at 8:23 am
Menlo Lifestyle, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 25, 2022 at 8:23 am

So this is what I don't get. RCSD keeps crowing about benefitting teachers. But when you look into the proposal, it just gives them an alternate place to rent.

"This would allow our teachers and staff at the Ravenswood school district to be first in line to rent an apartment whenever an opening arose (currently 75% of Ravenswood staff are renters)."

This development does nothing to give teachers an investment in their own future. It simply shifts the landlord to their own employer! AND it doesn't guarantee an apartment, but "first in line." What if I'm a teacher and in a lease and can't "get in line" quick enough?

It would be one thing if these were condos and the district was selling only to teachers at well below market rates. But it's nothing of the sort. It's just RCSD and a new revenue generating scheme.


Menlo Lifestyle
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 25, 2022 at 8:31 am
Menlo Lifestyle, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 25, 2022 at 8:31 am

It's not surprising that 3 of the RCSD executives support the plan. They stand to make a TON of money off this deal. And this compromise? It's nothing of the sort.

"Menlo Park would work with Caltrans and LifeMoves to open an additional access road to the site from Van Buren Road."

And what happens if none of that happens to work out? I suspect a dramatic shrug and back to the original plan, and the Suburban Park residents were conned.

I feel sorry for the children educated in the RCSD if this is the best their leaders can do. At no time over the past years have they reached out to the neighborhoods they're impacting. They're not compromising on the size of the development to something palatable locally because they don't want to. They threw all their eggs into a basket Drew Combs and the city council and tried to shove this down the residents throats.

The one favor RCSD did Menlo Park homeowners was to shine a bright spotlight on the abuse of power in our city council, and allow us to remedy the situation with the ballot. After November the RCSD and any other developer who wants to tear up single family homes for dense low-income housing will be forced to work with those communities.

As it should have been all along.


East of Middlefield Road
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 26, 2022 at 8:20 am
East of Middlefield Road, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 8:20 am

How is this “minimizing traffic impacts to adjoining neighborhoods “? This proposal to funnel traffic through VanBuren Road dumps the traffic into the Flood Triangle neighborhood. The traffic from the former school site NEVER came through the Flood Triangle. And who is this “mitigating traffic” for?
This is not a win win for the Flood Triangle or Haven House.
If the city council wanted to avoid the initiative on the November ballot they could have removed the site from the Housing Element.


RP
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 3, 2022 at 12:58 pm
RP, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Aug 3, 2022 at 12:58 pm

I have been a resident of Menlo Park for 11 years, and have volunteered in the Ravenswood School District, as a part of the non-profit organization Ravenswood Classroom Partners (previously known as All Students Matter.) It has been inspiring and heartwarming to work with the teachers and students of the Ravenswood School District. Just as there are a few teachers from MPCSD and MAHS that live among us, I would be delighted if teachers from RCSD would also be neighbors.

Regarding the former Flood School site and plans for its development, months after residents flagged traffic and emergency vehicle access issues as a concern, Councilmember Mueller has offered a potential solution: have an additional access road. This is what many of us have been urging in the first place. Additional access is essential, and the most obvious point of entry is the existing wide entry through Flood Park, which I understand used to be a point of entry for Flood School. This option is not mentioned in Councilmember Mueller’s proposal.

Councilmember Mueller’s proposal is creative, and would be a good option if implementation was guaranteed. Without an agreement in writing and commitment from the various stakeholders, it will remain what it currently is: an interesting idea. The Menlo Park City Council needs to secure this agreement in writing as soon as possible from Caltrans, from LifeMoves, RCSD, and from the builder/developer as needed.

Councilmember Mueller is a candidate for San Mateo County Supervisor in the upcoming November 2022 elections. Demonstrating that he is able to secure agreement among these disparate bodies would certainly be a feather in his cap as the campaign season heats up, and would likely secure him the goodwill and votes of many Menlo Park constituents.


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