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Guest opinion: State housing mandates are problematic for Woodside

Original post made on Apr 17, 2022

Longtime Woodside resident Karen Offen writes that SB 9 has received plenty of attention over curtailing local control, but other state mandates like the housing site inventory can present plenty of other issues as well.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, April 17, 2022, 8:46 AM

Comments (24)

Posted by Woodsider Lifer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 17, 2022 at 9:47 am

Woodsider Lifer is a registered user.

It doesn't take a math wizard to quickly determine the economic viability of adding secondary housing to an existing lot in Woodside, presumably to create "affordable" housing for some stranger(s) you'll be inviting onto your property as a tenant. A typical ADU unit might be 1,000 square feet. Today's construction costs would likely peg the "all-in" cost for such an undertaking at around $600,000 given the site prep costs, new septic, fees, permits, labor and materials. Add to that the county's boundless appetite for tax dollars with a property tax increase of $6,000/yr. Lost earnings on the $600K (or cost of borrowed money if financed) adds another $24,000/yr. in cost/lost revenue. So the break even point for this little venture is somewhere around $2,500/month and two+ years of sheer agony. Who would undertake such a venture unless the new ADU could rent for thousands more? Affordable housing?

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 17, 2022 at 11:04 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

On misappropriating the word "rural." If Woodside is rural, then the towns in, say, Del Norte County ... how should we refer to them? Improved campgrounds? Communities of inaccessibility? Hinterlands habitation?

Rural is when you can paint your house lime green, the roof red and populate the front lawn with pink flamingoes and no one can do a thing about it.

Rural is when you can, without fear of sanction, turn your front-yard collection of inoperable vehicles into the seedlings of a junkyard.

Rural is when the only sound is a cow pitifully rending the night air, hour after hour, pining for her calf that, that morning, had been unceremoniously hauled off to the veal factory.

The word for Woodside, located as it is in such close proximity to a major metropolis and populated by movers and shakers who prosper in that metropolis but demand splendid isolation at home, is suburban. Upscale suburban, but suburban nonetheless.

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 17, 2022 at 2:15 pm

MP Resident is a registered user.

David Boyce, you certainly hold the people of rural California in high regard with all those complementary observations of their home aesthetics and occupations. I wonder what insightful comments they would make about you.

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 17, 2022 at 2:45 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

Any slights to rural residents sense of taste are completely unintended.

For one thing, the examples I gave are from rural Western Pennsylvania, where I grew up and where I witnessed these examples of untrammeled freedom in home aesthetics. I cite them here to celebrate them. How to deal with a junkyard down the road? Plant shrubberies on the roadside. How to appreciate plastic flamingoes on the trip to the grocery store? Make jokes about them. And feel for the cow in distress.

I also want to make the point that rural means remote, from zoning laws, from freeways that can get you to your office in minutes, from the fine arts, from fine dining.

California is not Pennsylvania, I'll be the first to admit, maybe because of the sophistication of people leaving Silicon Valley to build tasteful escapes for themselves elsewhere in the state. I don't know. But I expect such transplants will encounter and learn to live with the sense of entitlement to not be hassled about what residents do on their own property.

I care about highjacking a word laden with actual meaning to hide behind and obfuscate the issue of building affordable housing. Fine. Talk about the economics of it and how they don't work. But stop with the BS about "rural" living.

Posted by Woodside Lifer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 17, 2022 at 3:55 pm

Woodside Lifer is a registered user.

Dave . . . Dave . . . Most everyone likely knows Woodside is an equestrian-centric suburban (albeit unrecognized) mountain lion habitat, knee-deep and encircled by a wildland urban interface. Now, back to the subject matter of Ms. Offen's guest opinion piece about affordable housing.

Posted by David B
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 18, 2022 at 12:23 pm

David B is a registered user.

Karen, it's amusing to watch you and others list all the reasons why not.

At least some people in other towns are trying to find solutions that will work.

What if Woodside wanted to find room for even 10% of the state requirement... 32 units. Could you find somewhere, anywhere, in Woodside's 7,500 acres, that 32 units might be built that you would support? Or will you simply oppose everything?

Posted by commonsense2
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 18, 2022 at 2:01 pm

commonsense2 is a registered user.

This article is just a long winded/inked way of writing NIMBY. Woodside needs to be part of the solution like every other town.

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 18, 2022 at 3:56 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

I Woodside were truly rural -- by my definition, which I think FDR would have agreed with -- there wouldn't be any zoning laws and developers could do what made sense.

And homeowners could paint their houses in pastel colors and nurture flocks of plastic flamingoes to their hearts' content.

OK, I'm stepping down from my soapbox now.

Posted by Carol Fisch
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2022 at 5:05 pm

Carol Fisch is a registered user.

As a Woodside resident for 28 years, and a member of several committees, commissions and a Town Council Member, I find all of this extremely troubling. How incredibly elitist can all of these silly comments be? Does no one anymore respect the rights of individuals in a Democratic society... or have you all become mini Putins?

Posted by Tecsi
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2022 at 9:50 pm

Tecsi is a registered user.

@Woodside Lifer
People could see this as a way to offer affordable housing to a local teacher who teaches Woodside kids.
Woodside could also chip in $5K a year to make this even more affordable to local teachers.

Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 19, 2022 at 7:16 am

MenloVoter. is a registered user.


They'd have to chip in a lot more than $5k to make ANYTHING in Woodside "affordable". Affordable housing in this area without large government subsidies is a myth. Until people start admitting this, "affordable" housing isn't going to be built around here. The land is simply too expensive and the cost of construction is too high to build anything approaching "affordable".

Posted by Retired Realtor
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 19, 2022 at 1:11 pm

Retired Realtor is a registered user.

Bottom line is there are flaws in the RHNA numbers and the methodology and the many cities throughout California who are fighting RHNA and SB9 are doing so with good reason. Neither are effective ways to address REAL PROBLEMS affecting the state. And stop with the NIMBY nonsense. YIMBY is really Yes in YOUR Backyard. "WIMBY" is more fitting when it comes to concerns about RHNA & SB9: Wall Street In My Backyard is a reference to those who will really benefit from all this development - NOT the people who need affordable housing.
p.s. Dave Boyce, you never understood Woodside when you were an Almanac reporter, and your voice still stirs up only cognitive dissonance.

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 19, 2022 at 1:58 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

Thanks for the compliment.

Posted by Amused reader
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 21, 2022 at 9:49 am

Amused reader is a registered user.

Dave Boyce - I support building a mid-rise multi-unit dwelling with no parking in Allied Arts/Stanford Park. Maybe next to your house?

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 21, 2022 at 10:43 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

I think my comments on this thread concern the misuse of the word "rural."

As for new multi-story multi-unit affordable housing and where it's built, I leave that to whoever vets those decisions. Such housing is important, as is the resulting enrichment of the community in which it is built. If it's built next to my place, I'll roll with it. I live in a suburb, after all, as do the residents of Woodside.

Posted by PH
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 22, 2022 at 5:04 pm

PH is a registered user.

Coupla notes for Dave. Most places, even rural ones, have zoning codes. I'm lucky enough to have land in Siskyou County. It's zoned. Those codes may be very lax, but they have them. There's a big land-use fight nearby (google:" Stop JH expansion" that resembles everything I've ever seen here. This area is between the Trinity wilderness and the Russian Wilderness.

Developers don't do what "makes sense" they do what makes money. One can form a religion based on the the belief that what makes money makes sense. I don't go to that church.

To help with your distinctions, I usually use terms suburban-urban and suburban rural around here. Here, in EH, I would call it suburban-rural, and in some places "up top", West of Skyline, I would describe as rural. So I can imagine that somewhere in between here and there people begin to feel the change.

Anyhow, I agree with you that the reasons cited in the editorial don't sound particularly compelling.

Posted by PH
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 22, 2022 at 6:06 pm

PH is a registered user.

I like WIMBY. Its better than you even know.

I've spent the last six months deeply researching the establishment schools of thought trashing single family zoning.

Berkeley and the National Media say we're racists who are abusing zoning powers and CEQA to restrict or prevent construction of affordable housing to exclude low-income families (read: minorities).

Yale-Harvard law/economic academics call us "anxious cartels" using SFZ to inflate our property values thereby throttling an "agglomeration" economy which is costing the "US" many points of GDP.

That's why the world has legal standing to tell Woodside what to do. Large-lots zones are racist and inefficient. Everyone in the world who wants to live and work in Palo Alto must be assimilated.


Breathe again.

And again.

Posted by Sunny Storm
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 22, 2022 at 6:26 pm

Sunny Storm is a registered user.

The Atlantic has a great story on how community input has basically killed much development in the past few decades.

It's logical. People fight to keep what they already have.
People that need the housing are not yet residents, and therefore can't fight yet. Nor do they want to.

It shouldn't be so hard, but I can see why it is.

Web Link

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 22, 2022 at 7:28 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

I stand corrected on rural zoning, per se, in California. Thanks, PH.

I also stand by my views on the meaning of "rural," having spent years in cities and suburbs and a few at a farm in Western Pennsylvania at the northern end of Appalachia.

With a friend, I dropped by a cookout happening one night on the property of the guy who owned the local hardware store. Three men were standing in the dark around a small open fire above which was a spit and a roasting groundhog. It felt like nothing out of the ordinary and at the same time like a scene from the movie "Deliverance."

I was glad to have experienced it. We chatted for a while, but passed on the offer of some groundhog.

The town residents included a young man who spent his days visiting the few essential businesses sprinkled along the main street. Everyone was especially kind to him.

Depending on the direction and velocity of the wind, the awful and instantly recognizable smell of chicken manure could be overpowering in places on the main street.

During deer hunting season, we would be awakened by the sound of shots -- from young men driving by with powerful spotlights and shooting at startled wild animals in fields. We avoided walking in our woods during this time, despite them being posted. Lawlessness.

All this, and the memories I cited above, are, to me, the meaning of rural.

Posted by PH
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 23, 2022 at 8:43 am

PH is a registered user.

"All this .. are to ME, the meaning of rural." Fair enough. But you do understand others may use the word differently.

BTW, you're correct. A quick look at, say, Keyser West Virginia zoning code: Web Link


EDITOR’S NOTE: The City currently has no Zoning Ordinance. The Part Thirteen is reserved for any future legislation.


Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 23, 2022 at 9:42 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

I understand that words have power and that they are used to frame discussions.

The GOP is adept at finding the right word to twist, corral or highjack so as to create a frame around an issue and have the discussion occur entirely on their terms.

The ubiquitous use of "rural" in the context of building affordable housing in Woodside is a frame.

Where do you think the editors of any respectable dictionary, if asked to judge the use of rural to describe the community I chose and any typical home in Woodside, would come down?

Park-like, woodsy, bucolic are other words that would suffice for Woodside. Rural Free Delivery (of the mail) and "rural electrification" helped define this word. I borrow my concepts from them, and from the dictionary. You shouldn't misuse words.

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 23, 2022 at 9:49 am

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

And wildland-urban interface, the term of art in California.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 5, 2022 at 7:45 am

Parent is a registered user.

Woodside Lifer: "So the break even point for this little venture is somewhere around $2,500/month "

2,500 per month generates $30,000 per year. How is this "break even" on any normal time scale, assuming the owner sunk $600,000 into the project?

The only justification for the sunk cost of $600,000 is perhaps the property appreciates by a similar amount, but this is unlikely as any future owner would do the same analysis on potential rent.

Posted by Woodside Lifer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on May 11, 2022 at 7:59 pm

Woodside Lifer is a registered user.

Parent . . . I didn't realize what was written would be so unclear. There are some assumptions. 1.) Spending $600K on an ADU means that money isn't earning income elsewhere (or it's borrowed and you're paying interest of at least 24K/yr 2.) Adding $600K in improvements to your property will increase your property taxes by at least $6K/yr. That's where the $2,500/month number comes from . . . $30K/12=$2,500/month.

Of course anyone undertaking such a venture must also take into account several other ongoing expenses 1.) your homeowner's insurance will go up significantly 2.) your utility bills will increase significantly unless all utilities are metered separately 3.) maintenance and repair will come into play.

SB9 allows for a lot split. That would allow for utilities to be billed directly to the tenant. Add another $300K to the cost for undergrounding, water meter, new sewer hookup or septic system.

The break-even point is well above $2,500/month. Probably more like $3,200-$3,500/month just to cover the expense of building the ADU.

Who would go through all of that and not expect to tack on some profit as a fair rate of return on the investment, headaches, vacancy factor, etc?

The cozy 800 sq. ft. ADU would rent for $5,000/month at a minimum.

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