Thanks in part to money from Menlo Park’s $4.3 million below-market rate housing fund, 88 affordable homes are on track to be built, including 66 at in the big, recently approved development at 123 Independence Drive.
“This morning between 4 and 5 a.m. 120,000 people got out of their beds in their homes up and down the Central Valley and drove ... into the Bay Area to their jobs here," Matt Regan, senior vice president of government relations for the Bay Area Council, said at a Sept. 26 Menlo Park City Council meeting about the lack of affordable housing. "And that is because we, as a region, have failed.”
The Sobrato Organization’s 432-unit, 67-foot-tall housing development in the Bayfront neighborhood, 123 Independence Drive, calls for 116, three-story townhomes and 316 apartments in a five-story multifamily complex. Of these, 66 units are reserved for below-market-rate housing, 18 which Menlo Park is helping finance through the city’s BMR housing fund. The City Council unanimously approved the BMR housing agreements and a tentative project map at the Sept. 26 meeting.
The project also includes 586 parking spaces and nearly 50,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space. According to a presentation by the Sobrato Organization, the property will include a neighborhood park with bike and pedestrian pathways.
“This project will be critical in supporting Menlo Park's RHNA targets, and will make a significant impact to mitigate the housing crisis," said Ali Sapirman, South Bay organizer for the Housing Action Coalition, referring to the number of units the city must plan for in the next eight-year housing element cycle. "Sobrato has gone above and beyond in their commitments to new affordable homes, above the mandated requirements. When you see a developer go above and beyond mandates, that is a clear indicator that they are committed to positive outcomes for the community.”
Habitat for Humanity is responsible for the affordable units on the site, a nonprofit working to provide affordable home ownership. The organization caps housing costs at 30% of income, While Habitat for Humanity normally serves households earning between 50-100% of the area median income (AMI), for 123 Independence Drive they chose to serve making up to 80% AMI. The organization requires those purchasing affordable units to take courses in financial literacy. Only those on the property's title need to be first-generation homeowners, as opposed to Menlo Park's BMR guidelines that state all residents of the home must be first-time homeowners.
Additional affordable housing funding
The City Council also approved a total of $4.18 million for three affordable housing projects from Belle Haven at the Sept. 26 meeting.
The city released a notice of funding availability on Dec. 23 f for affordable housing, allowing developers to apply for the funds. The Housing Commission recommended approving three of four applications.
The one application that didn't make the cut was submitted by HIP Housing, which sought $11.3 million for nine low-income units. Staff said that the decision did not rule out HIP Housing from future funding, but its project was not chosen due to its high cost. HIP Housing planned to contribute to the project through land donation, and requested $1.2 million per unit, which comprised almost all of the project's cost.
Three applications were approved, including one from Habitat for Humanity requesting $2 million for 18 low-income homes in the 123 Independence Drive project, one from MidPen Housing for $2 million for 62 extremely and very-low income units for veterans at 795 Willow Road, and a request for $180,000 from Rebuilding Together to rehabilitate eight units in the Belle Haven neighborhood.
The council unanimously voted to approve the three applications recommended by the Housing Commission.