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Guest opinion: Our housing crisis calls for regional cooperation

Original post made on Aug 31, 2016

The highly publicized resignation of Kate Downing from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission, due to the price of housing, is just one more reminder that the rapidly rising cost of living in our region is tearing apart the fabric of our communities and undermining our quality of life. At the same time, the couple who created a popular Halloween attraction, the "No Mercy Cemetery" in Old Mountain View, announced that they too are leaving town because their duplex rent was doubling.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 31, 2016, 12:00 AM

Comments (62)

Posted by how ironic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 8:56 am

How ironic it is for these local leaders to ignore entirely their own personal and collective roles in fueling the housing shortage by catering to developers and businesses. Not once do they mention their own responsibility and authority to manage the jobs growth and promote housing in their own communities to attain a better balance. Not once do they say what they will do about the shortage (except saying that Mt View should provide some housing).

Instead, they shirk their opportunity to be true leaders. The could demonstrate by example within and across their communities to put in place what is needed to ensure better balance. These three communities are causing much of the housing shortage by their policies. They could provide more solutions and stop pontificating while they keep promoting more jobs without enough housing


Posted by Adrian
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2016 at 10:37 am

Glad to read some common sense from our local electeds. We are lucky to live in such a vibrant, innovative, and beautiful community, but housing and transportation problems are threatening our quality of life. If we want to remain a thriving, diverse, and inclusive community, we need to build housing and invest in transit. Our role as a community is to make sure that future generations have bigger and better opportunities than we have today - that takes planning, hard work, and yes - it means change.


Posted by Elaine Uang
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2016 at 10:38 am

Really glad to see some intercity and intercounty leadership on the Housing Crisis. This problem is real, and if each city comes together and does a little bit, the total sum will be the greater than the parts. This problem was a long time in the making and will take sustained effort to fix.

Good leadership also requires good followership, and I willingly support these three amazing leaders to make more housing a reality in each of their communities. We can make the jobs-rich cities along the Peninsula more livable through greater infill housing and more amenities that connect and support that housing (pocket parks, greenways, complete streets, better transit & bike infrastructure) In total, that will make it possible for the people who live here today to continue to live here and flourish, improve their quality of life, and improve the quality of life for all of us and for those who have yet to come.


Posted by kudos
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2016 at 10:38 am

Kudos to Wolbach, Siegel, and Keith for this piece. I know these three have often been lonely voices on their councils, urging other council members to plan responsibly and to make the housing crisis a top priority. They have long been ignored and publicly sneered at by many of their colleagues and so they deserve many kudos and much respect for continuing to fight the good fight for all of us. And they deserve great kudos for actually reaching out to each other and building inter-city networks and collaboration, which will allow us to grow in a way that makes sense for the whole region, instead of continuing to function with blinders on. This is what real leadership is all about.


Posted by Marcello
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2016 at 10:58 am

Stanford University is struggling in finding new hires because of the cost of living around here. Thanks to Stanford, so many companies feeding the bay wouldn't even exist. If you starve your roots, you are doomed.

Thanks for your contribution guys!


Posted by Just platitudes
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 31, 2016 at 12:37 pm

I can't speak to Siegel or Wolbach but Council woman Keith was stubborn in 2012, the year Menlo Park was sued for having an out of date Housing Element of the city's general plan. The city settled the law suit ASAP and agreed to identify sites where new housing could be built. In January, February, March, April May and June Keith and her council could have rezoned El Camino Real for housing. They didn't. They went ahead with their plan to make El Camino Real an office park with 400,000 sq ft of office. This contributed to the very jobs/housing imbalance that Keith now says is a regional problem. The Specific Plan allowed 680 housing units on El Camino Real. Stanford and Greenheart are offering 390 housing units. Another 290 units could have been built.
Id rather see an article by Keith where she admits she ignored an opportunity to create sites for housing. Our council approved the Bohannon project that has over 780,000 sq ft of office with no housing. Our council approved the Sobrato office project with 259,000 sq ft of office with no housing. Our council is about to approve the Facebook expansion of 1,000,000 sq ft of office with no requirement for housing.
This article is filled with platitudes, no specifics. no examples of what Menlo Park Council plans to do about this problem. The solutions are not regional; they have to come from the very people who allowed and encouraged this office development. Keith is like the arsonist who arrives at the fire and offers to help the fire fighters put out the fire. Job creation is only possible when office developments spring up. One answer is for there to be a moratorium on office development until the needed housing is built. Now, that's a real solution.


Posted by how ironic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 12:47 pm

@Just Platitudes - you nailed it! Thank you.

Until these same leaders actually DO something to improve the situation, by either slowing down jobs growth until housing and roads can catch up, or by promoting vastly more housing, their words are just empty soundbites.


Posted by Justine
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2016 at 1:02 pm

I agree. Great article. We could solve the jobs/housing imbalance if cities worked together to create plans and then sold these ideas to their residents. It's disappointing to hear the arguments in favor of the status quo with no regard for younger groups' desire to own a condo or not have to spend hours in traffic every day.


Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 1:13 pm

All Peninsula cities share three major constraints that will FOREVER make it IMPOSSIBLE to satisfy even a significant part of the need for additional "affordable housing". First, there is too little undeveloped space available for building more housing. Second, city's have severe constraints on building "high-rise" housing which could provide significant relief. And finally, market forces (which have benefits us all) STRONGLY favor building "non-affordable" housing.

To the east, Peninsula cities are bounded by a large body of "inhabitable" water, and to the west, extraordinary amounts of "open space" exists, an amount larger than what is already developed. Add to this, Stanford University owns 8000 acres, employs ten of thousands of employees, continues to expand and generates a huge percentage of commuters (=>longer commute times) contributes NOTHING to the public housing stock.

Cities like Menlo Park and Palo Alto want to preserve their community "look and feel" so they limit tall high density buildings that could offer apartments for hundreds, even thousands of families. And there are no signs that prevailing attitudes will change.

Requiring developers to subsidy "unaffordable" housing can produce only very small solutions, and the efforts to do so distract us from bigger problems and more promising solutions.

Yes, affordable housing is a huge problem but not one that will be solved with piecemeal, incremental solutions.

Not unless we decide what we are willing to give up and that must be SUBSTANTIAL.

Blaming city councils and developers is largely a red herring.

We are experiencing the by-products, i.e., costs, of the prosperity and lifestyles we so dearly cherish.

What are you willing to sacrifice???


Posted by how ironic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 1:43 pm

City Councils control the land use rules. If those rules don't yield what is desired, they should change them.
So these officials should state whether they are willing to change the rules that are not yielding enough housing. The rules were adopted when businesses didn't pack workers as much as now, so the rules should be adjusted in light of that.

In Menlo Park, both the Middle Plaza (stanford) and 1300 Station (Greenhart) projects could provide a lot more housing using current rules. Stanford could build taller and Greenhart could build more housing. But those same sets of rules also allow a lot of jobs-producing uses. Rules should be adjusted to balance these better. That is under Council control so, yes, we should look to them to act.


Posted by dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 2:18 pm

How ironic, one of my central points is that requiring Stanford and Greenheart to add a little affordable housing to their planned projects does little to address the LARGE fundamental problems Peninsula cities like Menlo Park face, i.e., the need for a HUGE amounts of Below Market Housing.

How does the Menlo Park City Council solve that macro problem unless residents are willing to make huge sacrifices of some kind?

Focusing primarily on two projects accomplishes VERY LITTLE.


Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Marcello: so why doesn't Stanford provide below market housing for its workers????
Why should it be exempt from solving problems it creates for itself and surrounding communities?
Hmmmm....


Posted by how ironic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:09 pm

My central point is that these leaders can decide what the rules are, and how much more housing could be built, how much jobs-producing projects could be built. They can move the development rule dial around so it provides the incentives for the market to produce what the city wants.

Assuming JP is correct, the two projects could provide about 75% more housing than they are. 290 more units is a very large amount.

Because the shortage keeps getting worse, I can only conclude that empty words are preferred by politicians rather than showing real leadership by adjusting the zoning rules. They do have that power.

An article about leadership is needed


Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm

While I am glad that city councils are finally sorta addressing the issue, this is little more than a puff piece. There is no real call to action here, nor does it examine the causes of these issues.

Here's the cause

Prior to current construction projects, there had not been any market-rate apartment buildings of 10 units or more built in Menlo Park since 1974, and no deed-restricted, below-market-rate apartment buildings added to the city's stock since 1987, according to City Councilwoman Catherine Carlton, who cited Costar, a commercial real estate database. Those were buildings on Willow Road that had been built in the 1960s but purchased in 1987 by MidPen Housing to maintain for low-income tenants.

Over the 40 years between 1970 and 2010, Menlo Park built 2,699 housing units, according to City-Data.com, a website that collects statistics on cities. The city was sued in 2012 for not updating for 20 years its housing element, part of the city's general plan for development.

The city councils and their constituents are to blame. Please stop acting like this problem just happened to us.

What is sadder yet is the comments I see here like this one from a resident of Atherton.

"What is so awful about stopping the commercial growth? The land is finite. How much will cities lose if Facebook and the development planned on El Camino is curbed to 1 story offices with reasonable green areas. If these entities move to another city MP will go back to an uncongested town with a schools and roads that can accommodate the residents."

The entitlement of the I got mine, who cares bout future generations crowd is our own worst enemy here. These folks need to understand that the huge increases in the appreciation of there home is DUE to the vibrancy of the economy and reasons illustrated above. They feel that the vibrant economy is causing them more traffic and noise.

It was fine when house were built for them when needed. Sorry everyone else.





Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 3:59 pm

@dana

Totally agree with you except for the comment that the Peninsula is full. MP is 1/2 as dense as Palo Alto with in turn is many times less dense than most European/Asian cities and towns.

We have lots of space to grow with badly needed infill project.

LA is doing this on the Westside and it looks great!


Posted by dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 4:26 pm

how ironic, it is easy to question "leardership" (especially if you do not like the leaders).

If you have a specific solution, please propose it and let the City leaders and other residents discuss/evaluate it.

There will of course be pros and cons, and I recommend that you not only present your views of what they are but also what you view are their relative importance. That way we can understand the values that underly your position.
While others may agree/disagree with your facts, assumptions, and logic they might also value benefits and costs differently than you.

Simply saying you want more of something without acknowledging and considering the "real trade-offs " is not useful.

I look forward to continuing this discussion and hearong other viewpoints.



Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2016 at 6:02 pm

MPer: as I stated in my original comment IF menlo Park residents were willing to greatly increase housing densities AND subsidize below market rentals that would help BUT I see no evidence residents are willing to accept something they view as a "big sacrifice".

Are they willing to build a 4-5 story apartment building in one of the downtown parking plazas and dedicate them to city-subsidized renters? Even just ones who work in Menlo Park? I doubt it.

There is little available land and small infills will add little to "below market" housing stock. No developer will be interested in building them.

Forcing a handful of developers to add ten's of BMR units to a couple of El Camino developments will not make a significant difference. And while this likely would likely make some residents feel better., this does not interest me.

"No (big) pain, no (big) gain".

Focusing on trees is a distraction.

my two cents...


Posted by Move on front org
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 31, 2016 at 9:24 pm

Just_platitudes is collecting stats, but forgets the Bohannon project was not approved by council, it was on the ballot and won in a landslide. In 2014, Measure M lost in a landslide. The current council is in sync with voters.


Posted by Just Platitudes
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 1, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Hey Move on front org. I remember the Bohannon project that won in a landslide after the council put it on the ballot and then all but one council member put their photos on Bohannon's campaign material that was sent over and over to every Menlo Park voter. That was an unethical move on the 4 council member's part. Once council puts a ballot measure before the voters, the council is suppose to step back and let the voters decide without direction. The current council did this very same thing when Greenheart spent $170,000 to defeat Measure M, a citizen's initiative and plastered their campaign material with all five of our council's photos stating their opposition of Measure M.

The voters were swayed by the council and being that the majority of voters live on the west side of 101, they decided that what gets developed on the east side of 101 has no impacts for them. That leads us to the current situation where the Belle Haven neighborhood is facing nearly 3 million square feet of office development and all the traffic those developments produce. It's called elitist power voting. Jam the east side of the freeway with office and then a millions square feet of housing. What would west Menlo think if 5 to 9 story apartment buildings went up near their neighborhoods?

This council is guilty. The traffic, the housing shortages can be blamed on them. A city cannot continue to encourage and approve office development without taking responsibility for the impacts. It's silly to say there needs to be a regional solution. Menlo Park council has caused Menlo Park's traffic and housing problems and it cannot now look to other cities or the county to solve them. No amount of hand holding or forums will change what we are now experiencing. This article by Council Member Keith is no more than a distraction. Change the zoning and require office developers to build housing as part of their projects.


Posted by silly
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 1, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Just Platitudes wrote, "the Bohannon project that won in a landslide after the council put it on the ballot and then all but one council member put their photos on Bohannon's campaign material that was sent over and over to every Menlo Park voter. That was an unethical move on the 4 council member's part."

You are referring to Boyle, Cline, Fergusson and Robinson. These individuals had a first amendment right to support whatever and whomever they want.

Just Platitudes asks, "What would west Menlo think if 5 to 9 story apartment buildings went up near their neighborhoods?"

The only building in Menlo Park currently taller than four (4) stories is the Menlo Towers at nine (9) stories. Menlo Towers is located West of El Camino Real.

Just Platitudes wrote, "This council is guilty. The traffic, the housing shortages can be blamed on them."

El Camino Real has had the same blighted and weed-infested appearance for the past decade (the entire time Cline has been on council). Weeds don't generate traffic. If you take a look at Willow Road and Hamilton Ave, you will see that more housing is being built under this council that has been build in Menlo Park in the past thirty (30) years.

Just Platitudes wrote, "A city cannot continue to encourage and approve office development without taking responsibility for the impacts."

True, this is why the city always has a development agreement that attempts to mitigate these impacts.

Just Platitudes states, "It's silly to say there needs to be a regional solution."

Adding BART or commuter-rail across the Dumbarton rails-line is a regional solution. Adding a congestion-time fee on single-occupancy vehicles coming across the Dumbarton Bridge to pay for rail is a regional solution. Getting people out of their cars, and providing a way for people to work here but live somewhere else a regional solution.


Posted by interesting
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Feels like any time there is an invite for a thoughtful debate, the same rogue residents create mistruths, point fingers and try to scare anyone who will list. Just Platitudes is today's finest example.

First, facts.

The council did vote to approve Menlo Gateway but they also included in that vote to put it on the ballot so that the community could weigh in on the topic since it was so seemingly a two-sided debate with equal noise and often very nasty accusations, no doubt from folks like JP. 4-1 vote, with Boyle's opposition to the ballot measure only.

Given the council's vote, there is no conflict of interest. They evaluated the project over some three years and they voted for it. They can put their names on anything they like at that point. Of course you can make up any story you like and shout it out (ALL CAPS!!) and it won't make it any more true.

As for Measure M, again, council voted to approve the Specific Plan after six years of public process, traffic impact studies that were challenged over and over by some of the same people who opposed Gateway and the 105 housing units that was proposed before Greenheart came in with 200. These same people opposed the Marriott extended stay hotel claiming it wasn't a true revenue producer. Don't forget opposition to smaller El Camino Real projects that even today -- ten years later -- are unoccupied because of poor manipulation of FAR led by these folks.

Council encouraged residents along the corridor to get petitions going as the only tool to try to amend the Stanford Project that originally proposed all office space. Measure M then took on a life of its own and the naysayers over reached again, and tried to put limits on development such that none would succeed. Stanford reacted by proposing 200 units of housing with a plaza, reduced commercial size and the offer to fund a large portion of the pedestrian tunnel under the tracks at Middle.

Measure M lost by the same gap (a little less) as Gateway. If anything, the city has spoken. This council has been very diligent allowing feedback and debate and studies to try to bring together communities behind these projects. Too diligent in my opinion. They should have known the same folks would never be mollified. These folks just want to delay and bankrupt all projects they disagree with -- and I feel sorry for Cline who I think ran on the idea of community based/supported development because they just took advantage and ten years in, we wait for one shovel to hit dirt on El Camino Real. Perhaps we should petition again and ask for more housing? Kidding. We should hope the projects conform to modern needs -- and I bet we can expect to see more housing in developments and a potential review of existing plans to increase the housing envelope.

I have lived here for 30 years. I never thought we would get specific plans approved by council or even housing elements updated. No growth was rampant here long before any of these council members took a seat. It changed a little under Jellin and Duboc and Winkler, but it was nasty.

The projects ahead took hold when Cline and Robinson and Boyle joined Fergusson. This current council is fair and together they will bring about progress.

Don't let the no birds rewrite history.


Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2016 at 4:04 pm

So we have to ask the question of why we think that we suddenly need low-income housing. I don't hear Atherton shouting for it? I don't hear Milpitas shouting 'what we need are some large houses on 1 acre lots!'

The Bay is one large interconnected mega city providing for a huge population. We're not a small isolated town that's self- sufficient. If we don't have more room in our schools, then don't build more housing. If too many people spend their lives commuting up to SF, then build business down here to spread the wealth and cut out some commutes.


Posted by VERG Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Watch video at Web Link

This is what happens - to our quiet residential streets - when our cities approve office development - without requiring adequate housing and transit.

How can our cities do better?

All new office developments:
One new job: One new home

VERG™
Voters for Equitable and Responsible Growth
For updates, write to:
[email protected]


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

VERG:

no, this is what happens when traffic is diverted off a major east/west corridor. Namely Marsh Rd. Or, when there was a major traffic accident on 101, clogging traffic on Willow. Which one is it VERG? If you want to be believed at least don't pull the same old BS of posting pictures or video of an unusual occurrence and claiming it as a regular occurrence.


Posted by Property Owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 3, 2016 at 7:48 pm


A couple of years ago, I approached Mid Peninsula Housing reps about selling an 8 plex of 1 bedroom apt.'s on Willow Rd.

At that time around $185k a unit in very good condition.

They would have been perfect to add to stock of Menlo Park's affordable housing. I was told they were busy, didn't ask for my number and seemed to have a lackluster interest at best.

Instead I sold to an investor who kicked everyone out and raised the rents to new tenants. In hindsight I should have gone directly to Menlo Park but there is no promotion or outreach to owners that they are looking for units. MP should have a conversation with the bureaucrats at Mid Pen.

Get creative, offer a tax credit or other benefits to owners who sell to City for low income stock.


Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2016 at 9:39 pm

VERG?

How can anyone take that video seriously. So is every car in that video representative of one driver saying 'if only I lived in Menlo Park?

[Part removed. Please make your point without negative characterization of other posters.]


Posted by Video
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2016 at 6:56 am

Dear video producer:

All of the cars in your video are headed east. However, no new office development in Menlo Park has been built in the direction they are coming from. I tend to agree with the commentors that traffic in the video is resulting from the Marsh closure.


Posted by VERG Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2016 at 9:54 am

The eastbound Woodland Avenue traffic was recorded on Tuesday, August 30th. The backup was not due to the March road closure that ended August 13th. Similar weeknight backups were common before the March road closure.

Google Maps traffic history shows Woodland backed up for 1/4 to 1/2 mile on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 6 PM. Google Maps traffic history is visible by searching for directions and selecting a day and time.

Most of the Woodland PM traffic appears to originate from the direction of Palo Alto and Stanford. Drivers are avoiding the University Avenue eastbound PM backup by entering the Menlo Park Willows neighborhood via the Pope-Chaucer Bridge.



Posted by VERG Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2016 at 10:13 am

Intended to type Marsh Road, not March Road.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2016 at 10:23 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

So then what you are pointing out VERG is that MP has not been doing its job in demanding Palo Alto growth and specifically Stanford growth pay for the impacts in our city. That has nothing to do with growth in OUR city. We shouldn't be shutting down growth in our city because we've been negligent in dealing with the effects of growth OUTSIDE our city. Demand Palo Alto and Stanford pay us for the the impacts of THEIR growth.


Posted by Just Platitudes
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 4, 2016 at 11:27 am

Menlo Voter, 1. MP has no legal right to dictate to Palo Alto or Stanford how much office each wants to build. 2. When el camino real projects (Stanford with 150,000 sf and greenheart with 200,000 sf of office) there will be a considerable amount of traffic added to the streets leading to 101 (Dumbarton Bridge) and 280. Office growth is in full bloom on the east side of Menlo Park with close to 3 million sf of office just completed, pending or being processed through an EIR. The General Plan admits to an immense potential of office development on both the east and west side of the city.

Menlo Park residents need to understand what the council has and is approving. You are right in that the current Willows cut through traffic is coming from Stanford and P.A. but it's only time and the Willows and Allied Arts will be suffering from even more commuters every morning and afternoon. If 41,000 cars use Willow Rd every day between Gilbert and the freeway now, what are we facing with 350,000 sf more of office on el camino real?

Palo Alto has passed a cap of office in the downtown area that allows no more than 1% growth in any given year. That is what Menlo Park needs to do and ASAP. The 3 million sf of office now in the pipeline will make P.A. and Stanford office growth look like child's play. Read the General Plan EIR and the Facebook EIR to get a glimpse of how MP will change. And there are no mitigations for this office growth. We will be sunk.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

platitudes:

MP had an opportunity to mitigate some of this mess back when they agreed to the widening and extension of Sand Hill Rd. They could have demanded that Sand Hill be continuous into Alma. This would have mitigated much of what is going on now. But they didn't. They rolled over and let Palo Alto and Stanford have their way with us.


Posted by Just Platitudes
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 4, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Connecting Sand Hill with Alma would have done nothing for the congestion on Willow and the cut-through in the Willows and Crescent park neighborhoods: the traffic would have filtered through north Palo Alto and ended up exactly where it is now. Menlo Park seeking the connection of Sand Hill to Alma was dismissed because PA's priority was to protect north Palo Alto from commute traffic; the intersection agreement was between PA and Caltrans. Menlo Park had no legal status in creating the agreement or mitigating the Sand Hill traffic caused by Palo Alto & Stanford development.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Facebook has 7,500 employees and the Sobrato Office development has around 1,000 employees. Just this amount causes a bottle neck on Willow at 101 and at Bayfront Expressway. Facebook's newest expansion will bring in 6,500 employees. Palo Alto is suffering from Menlo Park's development. North Palo Alto is fighting for their neighborhood. It's simple: there's too much office development. Now, you wanna talk about the housing shortages?


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Now, you wanna talk about the housing shortages?"

We're in total agreement on housing shortage. [Part removed. Please avoid labels.} Be it additional housing or office there's always a reason not to have it. Office, "too much traffic." Housing, "the schools are overcrowded we can't take more students." It's always NO.

"Palo Alto is suffering from Menlo Park's development. North Palo Alto is fighting for their neighborhood." [Part removed.} Palo Alto ... couldn't have cared less how their development affected us. [part removed]. Maybe now they'll understand this is a REGIONAL issue.


Posted by VERG Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2016 at 10:21 pm

We agree! "this is a REGIONAL issue"


Posted by be happy
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2016 at 10:47 pm

be happy is a registered user.

If this is truly a regional problem, why isn't Atherton doing their part?


Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 1:20 am

@Be Happy

Because Atherton did not cause this jobs-housing imbalance and it has no place for infill development.

It's a regional problem these three cities created themselves by approving more jobs than housing. If they want adjoining cities to help solve the problem, they must share the tax revenue from their business and shopping centers. Asking neighboring cities to bear the burden of more residential without the tax revenue that business and retail bring in is a non-starter.

A great place to build lots of new housing is all the undeveloped land around 280. Of course, environmentalists will fight tooth and nail to stop it and they will prevail because they have more money and control the politicians. I guess rich people who like their views and nature hikes are more important than the poor and middle class who struggle with the cost of living.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 8:10 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Because Atherton did not cause this jobs-housing imbalance and it has no place for infill development."

Atherton's lack of density contributes to the problem. Acres and acres locked up with one residence where there could be four or more.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 5, 2016 at 8:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is ridiculous to suggest that Atherton does not create a housing demand given the very large number of domestic workers who must commute to the Town every day.

Well when CalTrain electrifies and thereby "destroys" the value of the track side Atherton properties then the Town could acquire those properties and have them developed into ideally located below market housing for just some of the many people who provide services to Atherton residents like gardeners, maids etc..


Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:26 am

Atherton alleviates the jobs-housing imbalance by refusing to allow any commercial or retail buildings in town. Its amount of employment from household maintenance is small compared to what commercial and retail bring in. And really that is why the imbalance exists. Plus, Atherton's employment level has not grown significantly in the past 30 years when the jobs-housing imbalance started.

I don't understand why you want Atherton (or Woodside, Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, Ladera, etc.) to help solve a problem other cities caused, yet not be compensated for the revenue benefits those cities reaped by favoring development that exacerbates the imbalance. If residential heavy cities are compensated so that the rewards and burdens are shared, then I'm sure they would be open to build more housing to reduce the imbalance. It is at that point I know the politicians are serious about solving the problem and it's not just talk because it's an election year.

Another place to build housing occurred to me. Santa Clara County could eminent domain some of the open land that Stanford has. If you drive down El Camino around Palm Drive, there's a ton of Stanford open land. It is already near mass transit, a job center, and retail. If more schools are needed, it could be built on site. Local governments can construct housing for their teachers, police, firefighters, and other municipal workers if they want. Seems to me like an easy win.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:56 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Atherton also contributes to the imbalance exactly because they have no business or retail in town. Exactly where do you think people in Atherton buy things? Not in Atherton. In places like MP and PA that "created the problem." Sorry, Atherton doesn't get a pass in this problem.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is an interesting article on the issue that is worth taking the time to read:

Web Link


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 5, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Resident's belief that Atherton's 7000 plus residents clean their own houses, cut their own grass and grow their own foods is just another example of some believing that Atherton truly is an island.

The induced demand for goods and services from wealthy Atherton homes brings thousands of workers into the Peninsula every day. None of them can afford to live on the Island of Atherton.

The Island of Atherton belief has gotten so strong that the Town Manager now wants the Fire District to take services and money away from East Palo Alto in order to give the Town of Atherton a rebate. This is Robin Hood in reverse.


Posted by how ironic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 5, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Seriously? Sharing the tax revenue from office developments in Menlo Park with other cities? Most of the offices do not generate much because they are filled with professionals and internet workers. Those businesses do not provide tax revenue, Their buildings do, but few pay much for the land because of convoluted technicalities that allow them to not be reappraised when they change hands.
The big office developments were justified, despite major negative impacts, to our community on the basis of the benefits they would provide to us, not to what would be given away to another community.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2016 at 7:55 pm

The adjoining towns did not build more business and retail to meet the needs of Atherton residents. They did it for the tax revenue windfall. Atherton didn't need for more business or retail to be built. The number of Atherton households has been stable since the 1970s according to census numbers.

Due to the household stability, Atherton did not gain more lawn to mow or more houses to clean. The induced demand has stayed largely the same. The housing imbalance is a more recent phenomenon.

If you're looking for solutions, I just proposed a couple already that could quickly meet the needs of the intense housing demand. Frankly, it would be much more fruitful to argue about that then over what role Atherton needs to play in meeting future housing demand.

I'm all for bringing Atherton into the conversation. I'm just dubious that you will find any place there to build. The town doesn't own many tracts of land, except for the civic center, library, and park.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 5, 2016 at 9:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I'm all for bringing Atherton into the conversation. I'm just dubious that you will find any place there to build."

As noted - Well when CalTrain electrifies and thereby "destroys" the value of the track side Atherton properties then the Town could acquire those properties and have them developed into ideally located below market housing for just some of the many people who provide services to Atherton residents like gardeners, maids etc..


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2016 at 7:45 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

actually resident, if Atherton was to change it's zoning there are plenty of places to build. All those "Atherton acres" could easily be subdivided then. Lot's of housing could be built. We know that will never happen though don't we? God forbid the 1% have to put up with higher density.


Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 6, 2016 at 11:22 am

I want to make this clear. This article and issue is NOT about low income housing. It is about housing people can afford. I was speaking with several people who work at the USGS. They rent are are all considering moving away as they don't if they will ever be able to buy a house. Growing up in Palo Alto, I knew several people who worked at the USGS (friends Dads) in similar capacity. They not only owned home is PA & MP, their wives didn't need to work. Hmmm. That's the issue folks.


Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 6, 2016 at 12:47 pm

"The exact same people who complain about infill housing will show up to complain when you want to expand transit….These people will say anything, but they don’t really care about congestion or water use. They care about keeping the town looking exactly the way it is….They think public transit is for the poor and apartments are for people on welfare."


Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 6, 2016 at 5:33 pm

"..as employment continues to increase..." is the key phrase in the opinion piece that reveals the blind spot that exposes council member Kirsten Keith and the rest of the Menlo Park Council. If our Council continues to invite and approve job-rich developments our community is destined to become a more exclusive, high-priced company commuter nightmare. Their approach seems to be to speed up the office treadmill and pretend that by some magical thinking the housing supply and affordability will be improved while catching up with the new pace. Unless office development is severely limited (as Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt recently suggested) housing will never catch up and we'll be stuck with the consequences.
Greenheart and Facebook should be the first candidates for drastic and realistic downsizing before it's too late.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Steve:

additional housing will never be built in the density required to deal with the issue because the "no birds" like you will do everything possible to stop it. You actually want to solve the traffic problem? Increase housing density and improve public transit. We all know what happens whenever anyone wants to do that in this town. Jobs growth isn't going to go away and burying ones head in the sand isn't dealing with the problem.


Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2016 at 9:54 pm

The whole 'bringing offices to Menlo Park' (and all the Peninsula for that matter) is well founded in the desire to move people off 101 and back to their own communities. Sadly though, you can't 'card' people at the door of their employment to make sure they live nearby. Not can you enforce any such discrimination. So all there is is a TDM system to discourage single car commuting.

And so far, so,,,,, whatever. The ideal is there, and a noble one at that, but we're part of a much larger Bay Area eco-system and the political efforts or rants by the few matter squat in the overall context. We need to identify Menlo park's role or responsibility in the overall Bay Area and play to our strengths, not pretend we're a village.

Now I'm out to lay some spikes on Willow Road........


Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 6, 2016 at 9:58 pm

MV:
Head in the sand? Well said! By continuing to invite and approve office development while thinking that housing will be built to balance the job growth, the Menlo Park City Council most certainly has its head in the sand. I agree that housing density should be increased along the transit corridor. However, it doesn't help when the Council allows increased office densities where housing could and should go. 500 and 1300 El Camino come to mind.
And how has Menlo Park done on improving public transit? Obstructing both HSR and Caltrain electrification and dawdling on grade separations and a pedestrian/bicycle undercrossing have been the accomplishments of the last 14 years.


Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2016 at 10:03 pm

And MPer?

This idea that someone is going to build 'affordable housing' that's not subsidized or low income? [part removed.]

The Free Market only builds one kind of housing- that which makes the most cash! There is no such thing as privately funded affordable housing that undercuts the market. So the only solution to this mess is public housing, funded by charities, tax payers, tax breaks, churches, and the tooth fairy. And you probably make too much money or have too many assets to enable you to qualify for it, so good luck.

The only thing that will save the Bay Area is either an Earthquake, another recession, or a sudden trend in the desire to share 2500 sf homes between three families. I'm counting on the latter, but don't hold out for solutions elsewhere.


Posted by just platitudes
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 6, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Menlo Voter: I remember Schmidt on the council. He was pro housing, pro caltrain, pro samtrans buses. Go look at the housing across from the pool. He got that approved despite the neighborhood screaming and yelling. I can't remember any office developments he voted against but that was a different world. Office developers proposed very moderate developments back then. The loss was the two developments proposed for the site that is now greenheart. That was sometime in 2006. And didn't Schmidt get the council to approve the sandhill rd widening.

How long have you lived in MP?

Now we have a gangbuster pro development council that has or is about to approve nearly 3 million sq ft of office in Belle Haven and that's on top of the 350,000 sq ft of office on el camino real.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 7, 2016 at 7:04 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Let's look at this from a broader perspective:

Put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station. And add pedestrian path and a separate bicycle path on the surface along the entire right of way. And include 3 or 4 12" conduits for the technology of the future.

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine for the peninsula.

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.

Let's take the big view and come up with a win-win solution.


Posted by how ironic
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 7, 2016 at 7:29 am

These City Councilmembers have the power to manage this problem. They can modify zoning to discourage this much difference between jobs and housing. For more housing, allow more density, taller buildings. For fewer jobs, lower the amount of office square ft allowed. It is nuts to allow even more office at the levels where bonus square ft is allowed, at least until there is better balance.

When special approvals are required for larger developments or those that require environmental impact reports, the councils could require public benefits in the form of more affordable housing units or payments that allow our cities to buy land for more housing. There are nonprofits that could build housing but don't have enough money for the land.

I agree that the article only acknowledges there is a housing shortage problem but there are just platitudes about what to do about it.

Authors: how about identifying what YOU are going to do differently?


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 7, 2016 at 7:46 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Platitudes:

23 years. Yes Steve helped push through Sand Hill widening. the problem with that is the council didn't demand as condition of our approval that it be connected to Alma. So now we have all of that Stanford traffic dumping onto ECR. That is part of the reason ECR traffic is so bad. That and the utter stupidity of councils past and present that choke ECR to two lanes going through town. We're NOT a village and ECR is a state HIGHWAY.


Posted by where the job creators live
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2016 at 1:39 pm

where the job creators live is a registered user.

@Resident - the reason we bring up Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside and Los Altos Hills is those towns are home to many of the people who run (or invest in) the companies who create the jobs that cause the job/housing imbalance in Palo Alto, Mountain View, etc. So it is only fair that they share the burden of housing since they benefit more than most from the $$ generated by the jobs.


Posted by Just platitudes
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 8, 2016 at 5:39 am

MP voter. What does "demand" mean in the world of getting one jurisdiction to do what another jurisdiction wants to do? Stanford, Palo Alto and Caltrans agreed to keep Alma closed. Period. MP had and has no power about that intersection.
There is no "demanding" or arm waving that works. There are laws and there are higher authorities. The council needs your kind of thinking. It would be funn to watch. How about building a wall and making Stanford pay for it.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 8, 2016 at 7:07 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Just platitudes:

There were things that MP had to agree to in order for the widening to occur. Those things could have been used as bargaining chips to demand the connection with Alma. Don't connect with Alma? Then forget getting what you want from MP. No "arm waving" just shrewd negotiation. But, they didn't do that.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 8, 2016 at 9:08 am

@where the job creators live

You're welcome to take that reasoning to Wolbach, Siegel, and Keith. If they agree, I'm sure they'll ask these other city leaders to join.

Frankly, I think that reason is an oddball. Anyone who has money invested in the stock market or bonds is invested in companies that create jobs. That basically includes people in the middle class or higher.


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