Menlo Park submitted its draft housing element to the state for review on July 25, putting forth its vision for housing growth over the next eight years under a mandate to plan for 3,830 new units by 2031.
The housing element going to the state is largely similar to the initial proposal created after multiple community meetings. Of units up for development, 2,161 must be affordable housing to meet the city's Regional Housing Needs Allocation. which encompasses very low-income, low-income and moderate-income housing.
California requires that cities and counties throughout the state update zoning and adopt policies to show an adequate supply of housing can be built in eight-year cycles, and do not have regulations that dissuade housing projects and accessibility. While not required to produce the units, cities must prove that there is the capability to develop and provide housing for current and future residents, including a percentage in price ranges considered affordable.
The updated Menlo Park Housing Element designates 69 housing opportunity sites made up of 83 parcels, slightly less than the 73 sites and 84 parcels in the first draft.
The city is anticipating 3,644 housing units from "pipeline" projects that are already in the works — either proposed, approved or under construction — of which 594 are designated for affordable housing. Four of those projects are already under construction, comprising 925 units and including 140 of affordable housing. Among those projects is Menlo Uptown on Jefferson Drive, which is an eight-story mixed-use building proposal with about 15,000 square feet of office space and commercial space.
Another 454 units of affordable housing are coming from projects that have been proposed but aren't yet under construction. Some notable ones include the Parkline SRI redevelopment project and Meta's Willow Village. Menlo Park has designated 85 units of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) could be built, of which 77 are affordable housing. One program encourages the city to adopt policies that incentivize the building of ADUs.
There are 2,153 units listed at so-called opportunity sites, where housing could be possible in the future, of which 2,108 are designated as affordable housing. One notable opportunity site is the Flood School lot, which has sparked contentious community debate and become a focal point for both proponents and adversaries of the controversial Menlo Balance initiative, which would revoke the Menlo Park City Council's ability to change the zoning of single-family lots unless voters approve it in an election. Some critics say that this would halt future developments for high-density housing in large swaths of the city.
The Flood School lot is zoned for single-family housing, but Ravenswood City School District hopes to build 90 units of affordable housing for staff at the vacant site.
One section of the housing element draft aims to identify blockages to fair housing in the city and propose ways to assist in furthering fair housing.
Several high priority issues are listed, along with the programs in place to work toward fair housing access. One of these problems addressed in the housing element draft is housing affordability, with the notation that people of color are more highly impacted by this disparity. One of the programs listed on the list of ways to rectify the disparity is modifying the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) to encourage building affordable units with incentives.
The housing element has been sent to the state for a 90-day review. The city plans for adoption and certification of the housing element plan in winter of 2022.