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How would SB 50 impact Menlo Park?

Original post made on Apr 12, 2019

Across California, Senate Bill 50, a proposed law that would require cities to relax height, density and parking restrictions in areas that have lots of jobs and reliable public transit, is sparking waves of controversy, especially in affluent suburban areas that prize low-density, single-family homes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 12, 2019, 11:50 AM

Comments (24)

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 12, 2019 at 12:27 pm

If you are interested in the utter and complete destruction of Menlo Park as a pleasant community in which to live, then SB 50 is certainly for you.

Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Interesting that the article zeros in on developer profits for building in Menlo Park, giving specific numbers, while completely ignoring the cost of impacts, infrastructure improvements, the ability of CalTrain to support new riders, need to build new schools.

Focus is on privatized profits, losses and costs are not discussed as they will be born by society at large, later.

Posted by Debbie Hall
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 12, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Debbie Hall is a registered user.

I am confused as to how this study chose Menlo Park to study GIVEN that we are under the population of 50,000, the size of cities which the articles says would be subject to the bill. Yes, I read the reasons they cited, but why wouldn't they pick a city that would be affected by the bill with the other criteria they listed? Or would Menlo Park in fact be subject to the bill?

Posted by Michael G
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Note that Terner Center is definitely in the "Pack-'em-Stack-'em" camp.

A few notes from their study on "density bonuses"

"...concessions could be used to waive the daylight plane requirement, the maximum lot coverage, and the front setback to build up to the maximum FAR....The application of the Density Bonus Law according to the SB 50 language is unclear...since SB 50 does not state whether the project needs to have 30 percent affordable units to receive all three concessions or whether the project would automatically receive the concessions allowed under the Density Bonus if it meets SB 50 inclusionary requirements."

In other words, it could block the sun, go right up to the curb, and cover the entire lot.

On parking: under Sb-50 cities cannot require more than 1 parking space for every 2 apartments. (Because we should all take bus/bike/train to work.)

I almost hope it passes so we can have some concrete examples of what it will actually look like.

Slides and more links from a forum on SB-50 here:
Web Link

Posted by Stan
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Apr 12, 2019 at 1:23 pm

It’s more than a housing crisis

We are facing a crisis in providing adequate housing at the local, regional and national level. Our economic growth has fueled a need for more workers than can be housed within our existing communities, let alone supported by our existing infrastructures.

AB 50 seeks to address this need in a drastic and draconian fashion by mandating up to three times the present population for some communities. This is not a viable solution and, in fact only addresses a symptom, not a root cause.

We cannot simply pile more concrete structures on top of the existing ones without addressing the needs for more schools, better transportation, more city services and utilities, as well as additional neighborhood serving businesses. The infrastructure in many communities is already underperforming and substantially overextended.

Broad solutions which encompass, but are not restricted to, communities are called for, but should begin at the regional level and extend state and nationwide.

Let us consider creating new cities that are designed from the ground up, with zero net energy and water demands and which require limited transportation. Cities which have room to grow and are sustainable.

Finally, we must ask ourselves: How much of our environment and our quality of life are we willing to sacrifice for economic growth? We already enjoy some unenviable social and environmental issues. California is nearly in last place in quality of our roads, crowding of our roads, and performance of our schools. On the flip side we enjoy some of the highest sales, income, and property taxes that combine for almost the highest overall tax impact, also highest cost of electricity, water, and gasoline, highest poverty rate and highest cost of housing. All this in the pursuit of the siren song of growth.

Isn’t it time to seriously begin to question the trajectory of our society?

Posted by All about profits
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 12, 2019 at 2:02 pm

I live on a street with about 10 homes and 40 residents. According to SB50, each of those ten lots could accommodate a 5-story apartment building. The city would potentially accommodate 400 people on one small block instead of the current 40. Where will their water come from? Where will the sewage go? Our existing system is already overtaxed and breaks down frequently. Will the developers be using their 41% profit to overhaul our infrastructure? Where will the new students attend school? How much can Caltrain expand to transport the hundreds of people who allegedly will be taking the train (except in reality we know they'll be driving because Caltrain doesn't go anywhere near their office)?

This is a short-term, shortsighted solution to the housing crunch, a solution that doesn't consider any of the unintended consequences, of which there are many. If we're at all lucky, the next financial downturn will hit before any of these plans can get near fruition.

SB50 isn't about ensuring that more people get to enjoy the fine quality of life that residents value. Rather, it's about ruining communities. Who's going to want to stay here, and why would anyone pay a small fortune to rent a tiny unit here?

Posted by Question
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 12, 2019 at 2:20 pm

Just wanted to make sure this won’t affect Portola Valley? No train station within half a mile that I know about and I don’t think we have any bus stops. Thanks in advance

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 12, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Whether or not Portola Valley is affected probably depends on how 280 is handled. Is it a bus transit corridor?

It is amusing that SB 50 provides an enormous local incentive to resist expansion of public transit.

Posted by RanchGal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 12, 2019 at 3:29 pm

RanchGal is a registered user.

As I understand it none of us are affected at this point being that we are less than 50,000 population. Am I missing something?

Posted by details
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2019 at 3:43 pm

SB4 is limited to cities with 50K in population, not SB50

Posted by Menlo Boomer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 12, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Oh nooooooooo! Making obscene windfall profits from real estate is supposed to only be for us longtime single family homeowners. Menlo Park must continue becoming a haven for the absurdly wealthy, and everyone else can commute from 3 hours away, or whatever- that's just how it is!

Posted by Vincent Bressler
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 12, 2019 at 6:00 pm

Menlo Boomer,

For those of use who live here, we will only realize "obscene windfall profits" if we sell.

Since we have not sold, obviously that is not our objective.

What could motivate someone to troll this comment section, trying to shame people for 1) living here and 2) being of a particular generation? I wonder if you are actually the one seeking these profits?

Posted by RanchGal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 12, 2019 at 7:17 pm

RanchGal is a registered user.

Thanks for clarifying. So SB 50 affects small towns as well ?

Posted by sjtaffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2019 at 11:05 am

sjtaffee is a registered user.

SB50 may be a blunt instrument that does not take into consideration local needs, yet many localities have thrown up obstacles opposing changes necessary to address the address the full extent of the housing crisis. This is a regional problem and as such we must forego thinking within city boundaries per se and be wlling to accept sacrifice for the larger good.

I think we sometimes conflate "familiarity" with "uniqueness." What I mean is that most of us are familiary with our local housing situation and consider it to be unique and therefore eligible for special consideration. When every community thinks this way it sets up a myriad of exemptions and workarounds and finger-pointing.

Equal treatement under the law often happens in an attempt to share both benefits and costs without regard to special circumstances. Who can complain about a program if we are all treated the same? (Lot's of people, it turns out, but when equity fails, equality is democratic alternative.)

In my view, our energy is ill spent resisting change and better placed with "yes and" thinking. This means taking a 50,000 foot view of the region and those areas where denser housing makes sense (existing and new transportation cooridors, for example), little or no development occurs (flood plains and wildfire risk areas), and creative incentives for building and maintaining affordable housing are in place when normal market-based solutions are insufficient.


Steve Taffee

Posted by Gary
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 14, 2019 at 8:20 am

Are community leaders in Menlo Park and other cities prepared to challenge SB 50 by statewide referendum petition? And how about an initiative constitutional amendment to guarantee city and county governments SOME control over local land use? Currently, cities and counties have land use authority only as allowed by the state government. And, of course, to have any chance of forestalling SB 50, local leaders will need an alternative that offers far more housing than is being added currently. The corporations have been allowed to set up shop wherever they like - not just where there is room for the additional neaby housing. Menlo Park city government has gone along. Now, the other shoe is dropping. RESIDENTS SHOULD REALIZE: The corporations want to use your backyard, your frontyard and your driveway for their current and planned workforce. Maybe you can help by driving for UBER.

Posted by details
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 14, 2019 at 11:38 am

@sftaffee you live in the Willows. Would you feel different if you were told every building a half mile every direction from willow road was now being upzoned by the state to 4 and 5 stories with no parking requirement?
That’s what SB50 does from the rail line. Go drive our beautiful residential neighborhoods in Linfield Oaks, Felton Gables and along Encilnal and imagine the change in character of the city. Not to mention, what does that do to the character of encinal school as well as safe routes to school cross town traffic?

Posted by details
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 14, 2019 at 11:44 am

the next article might want include the illustration of area affected in Menlo Park and the grid that shows how much area is upzoned a half mile in every direction from the train station.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 14, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It appears that SB 50 would include ALL of El Camino Real as well as the area adjacent to the train station:

"(d) “High-quality bus corridor” means a corridor with fixed route bus service that meets all of the following criteria:
(1) It has average service intervals of no more than 15 minutes during the three peak hours between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., inclusive, and the three peak hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., inclusive, on Monday through Friday.
(2) It has average service intervals of no more than 20 minutes during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., p.m., inclusive, on Monday through Friday.
(3) It has average intervals of no more than 30 minutes during the hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., inclusive, on Saturday and Sunday."

Posted by Worse still
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 14, 2019 at 2:59 pm

The study does not even seem to address the other excuse for highrise housing (with little or no parking): the area is "jobs-rich." This affects all of the cities on the Peninsula.

How about forced housing - but where cities choose - and with no exemption for Atherton or Woodside?

I bet the politicians in Sacramento will wheel and deal with cities (like Hitler before WWII)to appease some for now - only to slam them later. Cities better get read for a referendum and more. The war is on.

Posted by sjtaffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 15, 2019 at 12:38 pm

sjtaffee is a registered user.

@details. I would not feel differently if this was to happen in the Willows. Sometimes ideas and needs are bigger than my individual wants. When we live in community with one another, we must sometimes make sacrifices for the greater good.

I have lived on Willow Rd for 20 years and watched the traffic increase many fold. I don't like it, but it is part of being in a city with limited East-West corridors and little chance that this will change given the structure of streets and the enormous power that affluent neighborhoods have to prevent such consruction.

I we were to "white board" the city plan all over, we would no doubt design it differently. In the absence of that, we are forced to do the best we can with what we have. This means compromise, flexibility, and compassion


Steve Taffee

Posted by Zuck
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 16, 2019 at 12:02 pm

NIMBYs, NIMBYs, NIMBYs. None of you whined when the rural beauty of Silicon Valley’s orchards were dozed under to make your homes. But now that your precious town is growing the sky is falling!!! None of you can do anything about it. Money talks. It always has. The smart people will cash out and move to a quiet place. The losers will stay and suffer.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2019 at 8:03 pm

Well Zuck. Good points. California was stolen from Mexico but before that from Native Tribes but before that Dinosaurs. We should have all relevant discussions and dabates. But it should start with something the phony corporate YIMBY group rejected from the outset: the truth about proposed law and the landscape at stake. SB 50 is a corporate con. It is not about housing near transit. The residential highrises - with little or no onsite parking - could be added in every part of Menlo Park zoned residential or commercial. The only significant intial limitation would involve accumulating the land. But the next bill from Sacramento could take care of that too. Oust residents through eminent domain.

Posted by how much more?
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 22, 2019 at 10:08 am

Why is it that our community must grow so much more in population? We didn't get to vote on how many huge office buildings are built in the bay area, how many jobs get crammed into the businesses, where the transit stops are, and now we must accept an enormous increase in population living here when there isn't enough water, classrooms, playing fields, open space, adequate transit, safe streets, etc. to support this. Now some people in other areas want to tell us what to do with our own properties and nearby ones that will affect our quality of life? This is not sustainable.

It seems that our area is being tasked with growing much more rapidly than other parts of the country, state, and area. What is appropriate growth that can be accommodated in a sustainable way?

Before anyone accuses me of being a NIMBY, I have to say that I favor some more housing as long as someone stops the gusher of jobs until the infrastructure catches up. If that is possible. But we all need to think long and hard what growth is sustainable. What has been happening recently, fueled by developers and businesses, is too much and is not sustainable.

Posted by Menlo Boomer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 22, 2019 at 7:56 pm

This is not that hard! There is GOOD development, and there is BAD development. Let's review:

1950s-1970s Suburban Sprawl (like my beloved Linfield Oaks!)
*Subdivided by big developers
*Paved over blighted orchards and fields
*Didn't pay any impact fees of note
*Included 0% affordable housing
*Pretty much have to drive to get anywhere from them
*Homes now cost $2M-$5M, accessible only to the 1% but NOT "luxury housing", because... uhhh, you know
*Full of longtime homeowners who pay low Prop 13 taxes that don't account for their infrastructure use, and who get to pass those tax rates onto their children

SB50 Nonsense
*Puts homes near transit, like the Communists did
*Would replace treasured strip malls and shacks
*Happens incrementally, allowing time for adjustment which is bad because then it gets harder to get signatures for my histrionic petitions
*Located in walkable areas, denying our gas stations of precious revenue
*Has to pay through the nose for transit and other impact fees, but would still not make up for our old-timer shortfall
*Has to include or pay for affordable housing, which would be occupied by Those People
*Way more financially accessible

I mean, it's obvious?!?

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