Guest opinion: Let's tackle the moral crisis of our time: affordable housing | Town Square | Almanac Online |

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Guest opinion: Let's tackle the moral crisis of our time: affordable housing

Original post made on Jun 11, 2019

In 1994, my husband and I put a bid on a house in Ladera. The deal never went through, but one of the shocks of my life came when I read the deed to that house and found an exclusionary racial covenant from the 1950s. The realtor's cover letter said that racially based covenants were no longer legal, but there it sits, a blight on our history, fully searchable by anyone who wants to visit the San Mateo County Records.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 12:00 AM

Comments (13)

6 people like this
Posted by Not just Ladera
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jun 11, 2019 at 6:16 pm

Not only does Ladera have this on their deeds, so does Westridge Homeowners Association. I found it abhorrent when I moved here, and still - but nothing has been done to eradicate this from our town/property 'history' or deeds. I'm actually shocked how anyone gets away with this wording - why haven't the entities been sued years before now? Agree 100% with your view that housing is the moral crisis of this area, but NIMBY's have won before and will try to do so again. Education and awareness are key. People here don't see further than their own backyard, their own convenience, and their own kids (school $50m with no affordable housing for teachers?). Thank you for putting this out there Nancy. Let's hope for better behavior, less navel-gazing and some true kindness.

27 people like this
Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jun 11, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Nicely written Nancy. However, it’s very unlikely that the land near the frog pond will be developed. Talk with the families that live in the PV Ranch and along Alpine Rd. They treasure the tranquility of that area. It’s reasonable to me that they would want to keep it that way. Your vision of some green homes packed into that small plot would in reality forever change the character of that area.

Portola Valley unfortunately can not even put a tiny dent in the bay area housing problem created by unchecked growth of industry. The real solution entails moving jobs outside of the Bay Area. Portola Valley always has been a low density community and I hope it will always stay that way. Yes, maybe we can fit a few homes on town property. But let’s be realistic. This area is one of the few areas remaining with open space, wildlife and recreation that is available for everyone to enjoy. Not just for those who have back yards in town. Let’s keep it that way for all future generations to enjoy.

14 people like this
Posted by Jackie
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2019 at 12:05 am

Housing - including below-market housing - need not be the responsibity of every bedroom suburb. But if a city or county has room to add corporate job centers, that city or county should (be forced to) also make room for adjacent or nearby housing and supporting infrastructure. So, if Menlo Park, for example, wants more office space for more Facebook employees, it should make room for much more housing and the nearby goods and services and transporation and parks and schools needed for new residents. Otherwise, let Facebook expand elsewhere - such as in the many "economic opportunity" zones in the State and Bay Area. The plan being advanced by the giant high tech companies involves turning single-family neighborhoods into high-density housing opportunities for private developers and high tech workers who can afford $1-3 million units. Most talk of creating significant "affordable" ownership housing in the Bay Area is a smokescreen for corporate expansion plans. Ownership housing in the Bay Area is not "affordable" for anyone that deserves public assistance. Most everyone needs some housing - but not everyone needs or deserves to own a house paid for by others.

7 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 12, 2019 at 12:53 pm

Linfield Oaks has the same (unenforceable) on our deeds.

Shocked to have seen it when I first read it. Detritus of the emotions following WWII

2 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Jun 12, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Heather Hopkins is a registered user.

I’m collecting restrictive neighborhood covenants for an upcoming event about the book The Color of Law. Please email me at if you have one.

7 people like this
Posted by Unrestrained Population Growth
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 12, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Unrestrained population growth is the real moral crisis of our time. Ignoring demand only looks at one side of the equation. You furthermore need to ask why at least two more times to get even close to root cause, not just stop with the first answer (housing supply) to the question of why housing is unaffordable. You’re also turning a blind eye to the numerous other detrimental effects population growth has. Population is not only driving the cost of housing, but also driving commute times (lost productivity & lost family time), overtaxing infrastructure, and straining California’s resources (water & food production to name a few). For those who care about carbon emissions, you can cut the per capita carbon footprint all you want and any gains will be rapidly overtaken by the exponential nature of population growth.

What we need is not more housing and commercial development, but instead a comprehensive set of zero population growth policies at the local, regional, state, and national levels.

7 people like this
Posted by Ev
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 13, 2019 at 10:01 pm

@Population growth: You're right. We should put a stop to population growth. Perhaps we should limit the number of children people can have? Perhaps, we should stop immigration. Oh! We could build a wall around our community, and keep out those we don't want.

After all, we already got ours. Let's make sure no one else, our children included, gets theirs!

7 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 14, 2019 at 7:59 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"After all, we already got ours. Let's make sure no one else, our children included, gets theirs!"

Think of the life boat analogy. There's only so much room and supplies in our life boat (country). Shall we just keep pulling people into the life boat until it sinks? After all we wouldn't want to be accused of being selfish. We got ours right?

Great idea. Keep pulling folks into the life boat until it sinks then no one will have anything! But we can say we were virtuous. Only in Caliunicornia would people think that's a good idea.

Like this comment
Posted by West Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 14, 2019 at 12:34 pm

@Menlo Voter: so, how much room and supplies are in our life boat? And who gets to decide? Some people, including some very smart and influential Stanford professors in the 1970s thought our state , country and the world had maxed out on population. Not enough land, water, food or natural resources and that we were going to have massive famines and die-offs as a result. And we all saw how ridiculous that turned out to be. Looks like if we built a few more dams in CA we’d have plenty of water for people and food. So, again, who decides, and maybe more importantly, how do they decide? And how, in our republic, do we enforce those decisions?

3 people like this
Posted by downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2019 at 6:35 pm

@ Stu Soffer& Not just ladera
Those deed restriction were written in the late 1800s & early 1900s when large parcels of land were originally subdivided. In Woodside, Atherton, and old parts of Palo Alto & Los Altos, they appear as well. Often "exceptions" for domestic servants are stated. Some deeds also say no alcohol can be consumed outside the dwelling, so no beer outside at a holiday bbq. This stuff isn't unique to CA or the Bay area. Since it's long since been negated & made illegal, it rarely appears anymore unless the same person/trust has owned the property for 60-75 years or more.

When the ownership is transferred, that verbiage is eliminated. Yes, it was terrible but now it's a non-issue. Can we move on please to current issues??

3 people like this
Posted by Unrestrained Population Growth
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 14, 2019 at 8:29 pm

Eve states “We already got ours.” Wrong. We already got our, singular, child. We’re doing our part and cutting the future carbon emissions of our first generation of descendants at least in half. If we’ve done our job right, our child will follow suit and do his part to invert the exponent on population growth or at least bring it to 0.

And since you ask, jumping straight to the Chinese one child policy is a bit hyperbolic, don’t you think? I can list a number of options to influence family size. Eliminate the child tax credit, for starters. Why in God’s name are we incentivizing population growth? I’d like to hear a politician get real, just once, and name population, not cars, not oil, not cow farts, not any other single factor as the number one cause of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. All of those factors are symptoms, not the problem. I didn’t hear our kid talking excitedly about that when he came home from school after his Earth day science lessons - let’s move an honest discussion of population to the top of that curriculum.

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Posted by Reality
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 19, 2019 at 11:34 am

The Bay Area has 707,000 Acres of public access Open Space, and 1,085,000 acres of Protected land.

San Mateo County has 53,900 acres of Open Space and 112,000 acres of Protected land, equaling 24% of the total land in the county. Add in other parks and the % rises.

More housing *is the moral crisis of the Bay area* and can only be accomplished by EVERY community doing it's part or they are a part of the problem, not the solution.

Of course people hate change, but change is going to happen regardless, and sometimes it's the right thing to do, like now.

Wiki on Open Space:
Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 19, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Menlo Park has declared a silent war on more housing because "housing nets less revenue for the city than does hotels and bigger hotels net more revenue than smaller hotels".

So forget about housing in MP.

Forget about balance in MP.

They are simply going to sell OUR city to the highest bidder.

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