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Don't build more apartments in Menlo Park

Original post made on Feb 25, 2022

Menlo Park has a strong and bustling residential climate. Along with other Bay Area communities, prices have increased dramatically in the last two years. The strength of our community — with its excellent schools, beautiful recreational facilities and fine people — continues to motivate developers to build here. The trouble, however, is that most developers want to build the wrong kind of housing: apartments.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 25, 2022, 12:00 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 25, 2022 at 5:34 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

Big surprise: Sloan Citron, publisher of "Gentry" does not like apartments and invokes the ancient shibboleth of home ownership as the ultimate in community virtue. Maybe he's an advocate for the accompanying notion that voting should be a privilege reserved for homeowners.

I'll admit it. As a person who rents and has never owned a home, publications like Gentry have almost zero appeal to me except when I'm in the mood to laugh at pretense. But the attitude underlying such publications, revealed in this case by Mr. Citron's views on apartments, is toxic to genuine community spirit that is open and welcome to all.

Build more apartments! Increase affordable housing stock in Menlo Park -- and Woodside and Portola Valley and Atherton! Spread the wealth! Call out NIMBYism for what it is wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 25, 2022 at 6:18 pm

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David:

affordable housing in this area is a myth.


Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2022 at 4:01 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Sloan likes to pretend that renters don’t have power. Thanks for the laugh!


Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 2, 2022 at 6:45 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

Uh, Menlo Voter, the concept of affordable housing, to those of us who use it, is not housing to buy. Affordable means affordable to someone with a five-figure annual income who’s just trying to keep a roof overhead and a warm place to eat and sleep. I could not care less about an adequate supply of condos, whether the condos that are here are “affordable,” and sensitivities of homeowners who make a big deal over renting versus buying.

Having lived in Silicon Valley for more than 40 years, always with a five-figure income and for the last 18 of those years making less than $50,000, I can assure you that affordable housing is not a myth. There are kind landlords here. Not all of them, certainly, but enough to make life bearable.


Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2022 at 7:52 am

MenloVoter. is a registered user.

Dave:

I suspect those "kind landlords" are small owners of property and they bought it a long time ago. Their sunk cost is very low at this point and the only ongoing costs are taxes and maintenance. Anything that gets built today, in this area, even if apartments, are not going to be affordable to anyone making $50,000 a year or less.

Redwood City has just built hundreds if not thousands of apartment units. I'll bet none of them would be affordable to someone making $50k or less.


Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 3, 2022 at 8:54 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

It's a complex picture, but affordable housing is not a myth.


Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 3, 2022 at 8:58 am

new guy is a registered user.

how about this:

since you want to afford to live in MP on 5 figures, I want to afford live in Atherton on 6 figures.

deal?


Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 3, 2022 at 11:05 am

MenloVoter. is a registered user.

Dave:

ok, it's a unicorn.


Posted by Kevin
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 5, 2022 at 9:54 am

Kevin is a registered user.

I see so much false thinking here.
* Any new rentals added to the market, help expand supply and offer some relieved on pricing, no matter the entry price. It’s a market, so even if the new huge buildings in Redwood City are pricey, they have an reduction effect on the downstream pricing.
* The main basis of Mr. Citron’s argument, that single family homes are owner-occupied, is far from guaranteed and has been eroding over time. Between outside investors and hedge funds, single family homes are being gobbled up as rentals.

Web Link


Posted by Mary E.Pimentel
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 7, 2022 at 12:52 pm

Mary E.Pimentel is a registered user.

The Ravenswood school district is trying to build high density affordable apartments on the old Flood school site. With only one way in and one way out through Suburban Park this is such an ill conceived idea. Currently the property is zoned for single-family homes. The city Council has the power to change the zoning to accommodate the developers project. I certainly hope the city Council uses their common sense and good judgment not to change the zoning. It should be kept for single-family homes only. This property is quite isolated. There is no close availability to transportation or shopping opportunities.


Posted by ReginaR
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 8, 2022 at 1:00 pm

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My main objection is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to support these housing projects. Where are all these residents going to send their kids to school? And you know there will be kids. We have one public high school that services this area and it’s already bursting. Adding a new, smaller, alternative high school, with no sports, performing arts, or similar programs, has proved to be unappealing to most.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2022 at 11:04 am

Observer is a registered user.

Sloan left out a major reason for being against building more apartments. It could impact his family's bottom line. His wife's business as a major realtor in Menlo Park thrives on single family home sales. No sales commissions to be earned on apartments.


Posted by Kevin
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 9, 2022 at 3:36 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

@Regina,
We're past "peak students" from the last demographic wave. Numbers have gone down at M-A since the class of 2019 and the same has been happening in the middle schools and elementary schools for a while. If I read the chart correctly, MPCSD peaked at about 3,000 students in 2015, and has now dipped below 2,800. FYI - the last buildout for MPCSD with the split Laurel was designed to accommodate 3230-3350.

Web Link


Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2022 at 4:24 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Observer, thank you for the important factual
tidbit about Sloane Citron. Pretty dishonest of him.


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 10, 2022 at 8:00 am

pogo is a registered user.

Observer and Hmmm -

Sloane Citron's is hardly the only family who gains financial benefit from real estate prices in Menlo Park.

While they may gripe about it publicly, the cold, hard truth is that EVERY Menlo Park (and Bay Area) homeowner enjoys these exhorbitant home prices. I've never seen a single homeowner selling THEIR residence at a "below market price." If you know of one - JUST ONE - please let me know. I'll wait...

There are lots of perfectly appropriate and sound reasons to be against mass housing projects - congestion, traffic, water, power, schools, waste, etc. - which impact our lifestyles. If you want big housing projects, there are lots of places you can live.


Posted by Frozen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 10, 2022 at 12:45 pm

Frozen is a registered user.

It's misleading to suggest that people who live here gain financially from higher real estate prices. As long as we remain in our houses, we don't. In fact, due to the perception that everyone here is rich (most aren't) residents tend to be charged premium prices by contractors, painters, plumbers, and other service providers.

We residents chose to invest in an established community that seemed to offer our families the quality of life we desired. Now we're being told "you don't deserve to enjoy what you paid for" and labeled as NIMBYs if we point out that the city is already overbuilt with aging infrastructure, no real transit systems, bad traffic, and diminishing green space.

Who benefits by spreading this propaganda? Not the property owners. The people who are truly profiting from this over-development don't live in Menlo Park, but in communities where the town council is a little more focused on protecting residents' quality of life.

I am not in any way a fan of Sloan, but he has made valid points in this piece.


Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 10, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

Homeowners in these communities are the status quo and, as status quos are wont to do, they oppose change.

Any number of ostensible reasons -- aging infrastructure, inadequate public transit, the incurred costs of whatever is being proposed -- can be trotted out in support of keeping things as the status quo likes them.

Changes that make things worse for everybody -- a fossil-fuel power plant, for example -- are understandably opposed, but how about putting our intelligence to work and creating change that represents actual progress toward realizing this country's promise, changes that involve sacrifice, changes that would add economic diversity to a community? Heaven forbid!


Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 10, 2022 at 1:49 pm

MenloVoter. is a registered user.

Well Dave, can you figure out how to lower the cost of land and construction?


Posted by Raoul
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 19, 2022 at 7:27 am

Raoul is a registered user.

This discussion takes me back and reminds me of all the people and attitudes that I found so unappealing when I lived in California. I lived for 15 years, well above my station, in an exclusive neighborhood in CA. Loved the house and made out well when I sold it but sure don't miss those self-centered neighbors. An insulated, ungenerous lot. Moved "back east" where I can strike up conversations on the street with all manner of characters from humanity's rich spectrum.


Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 25, 2022 at 10:55 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

Hear, hear! Humanity's rich spectrum! That it's missing from Menlo Park and Silicon Valley in general says everything about what's gone wrong here.

We are impoverished. We live in a monoculture defined by one's ability to earn a living in a branch of the American private sector that has never grown up and that has made it impossible people who do grow up in their lives to live here. What a legacy!

That we have to resort to trying to build affordable housing in a vain attempt to attract more of humanity's rich spectrum is a sad commentary on our plight.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 27, 2022 at 9:17 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Dave:

all well and good. Again, I ask, how are you going to bring down the cost of land and construction so you can build your "rich spectrum" utopia?


Posted by Raoul
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 1, 2022 at 10:28 am

Raoul is a registered user.

Menlo Voter,
Yes, the price of land and construction can be quite costly. But I think the more important factor is that inclusivity is not considered a value to be pursued. Other expensive zipcodes in this country have developed strategies to make housing more affordable for lower and middle-income residents. They recognize the value this constituency adds, and maybe don't want their children growing up only knowing other privileged kids which can lead to a skewed view of the world and the people in it. I have a hard time believing that Menlo Park, with all the creative energy and innovation that resides there, can't solve this problem. Easier to believe, is that the majority have no desire for a solution and are perfectly happy with the status quo.


Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 1, 2022 at 12:02 pm

MenloVoter. is a registered user.

Raoul:

The only way to build affordable housing in this area is with government subsidies or subsidies from somewhere else. No one is going to sell land for less than it's worth and no one will build for less than it costs to build. You ok with your taxes going up even more to build this housing? I'm not. As Californians we pay the second highest level of taxes in the nation. We're taxed enough.


Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 1, 2022 at 2:09 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

I'm okay with my taxes going to support denser and more affordable housing–and not just because I'm an altruist who wants to "do something" or virtue signal (waves hands in the air dramatically). First, for reasons Raoul already mentioned, I believe it will make us a stronger, more interesting community. But also, we are already paying for our lack of affordable housing. It hurts small business owners who can't afford to retain employees (or house themselves), and we pay the cost (lack of vibrancy). There's high turnover at places like PAMF (see a recent blog post), in part because even DOCTORS can't comfortably afford to buy homes here. (Cost to us: stability/continuity of care.) A huge percentage of our insane commute traffic comes from people who live far away from the Caltrain line and spend hours each day in their vehicles to get to work. The jobs are here. The homes are not. Want to build a light rail so that they can get here without driving? How would that get paid for, if not by taxes of some kind? And if we just blow it all up–let Silicon Valley implode under the weight of its own success, because at some point the cost of hiring non-executive employees becomes untenable–well, homeowners here will pay for that too, as our property values decline.

And yes, "affordable" is a relative concept. Experienced teachers around here make $80+K/year, which is twice what my mother was making in North Carolina before she retired. That still probably sounds like a lot of money to people who've lived here for a long time. But...a brand new studio ADU in Belle Haven (500 sq. ft) is renting for $2200/month, which would just about be affordable to a Ravenswood District teacher with ~15 years of experience. This is what our constricted market will bear. Change is a constant, even if we want to pretend otherwise. Resisting housing development might work out okay for people in their last decade or so of life. But it screws the next generation, and the one after that.


Posted by Clevinger
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:08 pm

Clevinger is a registered user.

Higher taxes are the price of a sustainable society. How much higher and who should pay them are matters for debate, but all of us benefit from what taxes pay for. An enlightened tax policy shows the humanity of a society; the elevation of childish selfishness as indicated by low taxes, complaints that they aren’t low enough, and institutionalized tax evasion shows something else. Where is our culture along that spectrum?



With tax revenues, governments can, ideally, address the inequalities natural to capitalism, inequalities that in this country are routinely air-brushed into a status quo beyond questioning (“the American dream”) to be advanced endlessly by the political, corporate and media establishment. The message boils down to faith in rugged individualism and the free-market gospel that markets are the best way to sort things out, that efficient markets are better than inefficient ones and that low taxes are somehow vital to the whole thing. Don’t worry, the free-marketers say, the wealth that naturally and properly accumulates among those who benefit most from lower taxes (and feeble tax collection systems) will trickle down to the rest of us and keep our economy going strong! An interesting idea but really just more propaganda, as has been demonstrated repeatedly with decades of real wages either stagnating or losing ground as a result of policies of trickle-down economics.



In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” fictional corporate raider Gordon Gekko summed it all up ringingly: “… Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the evolutionary spirit.”



For lack of a better word! That’s a good one. Let’s not forget that greed is one of Christianity’s seven deadly sins. There isn’t a better word. But hey, flaunt it! (More follows.)


Posted by Clevinger
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:11 pm

Clevinger is a registered user.

How convenient that we all have the capacity for greed. We either act on it or we don’t, and it’s framed as a personal choice: Do I want to be a winner or a loser? Is Gekko’s evolutionary spirit strong within me? Am I willing to tap my capacity for avarice?



As if we all find ourselves, sooner or later, at this vile crossroads!



With greed given a place of honor and with wealth used as the yardstick of success, complaining about the outsized influence of the wealthy then becomes a self-indictment. I could’ve had that influence, too, but I opted to be a loser. Except that greed’s place of honor is undeserved, wealth is no yardstick and there is nothing at all shameful in following our best instincts even if that means working for wages all the livelong day.



So … greed. What if we try to positively and constructively interfere with it and perhaps, over time, create a common good. There’s a useful concept: common. Common ground, common touch, commonwealth, common sense, the Boston Common! We could empower ourselves in a common cause and consign to a common dustbin the bogus narrative that this country is a meritocracy, that considering the health and well being of others is for losers, that thriving here has nothing to do with luck and connections but is a simple matter of having the gumption to pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps.



What we need is responsive government, a government that works with insight and a sense of history and fair play; that takes on injustice with justice; that, in fairness, gives passing but due acknowledgement to an ethos of acquisition and “winning” and to its legions of lobbyists; and that is sustained by political parties periodically willing to trade places as the loyal opposition — What a concept! — and complain loudly when government bungles something or oversteps. (More follows.)


Posted by Clevinger
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:12 pm

Clevinger is a registered user.

I don’t know anything about the economics of home ownership, but I’ve read about a fix to the property tax traditions: tax the land separately from the structures on the land so as to make affordable housing more financially attractive and beneficial than a single-family home on a given parcel. I think it has something to do with raising the tax on the land itself and lowering it on structures. It sounds like it could be done without raising taxes.



This and a bit of judicious rezoning seem like positive steps. (End of post. Thanks for your patience.)


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