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Atherton: SB 9 applications start to trickle in

Original post made on May 9, 2022

Atherton has received its first batch of SB 9 applications, with property owners seeking streamlined approval to subdivide single-family lots and add housing units under the new state law.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 9, 2022, 10:46 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by MP Father
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 9, 2022 at 2:04 pm

MP Father is a registered user.

Our residential zoning requirements are basically meaningless now. Is this the beginning of the end?

As was revealed last week, our City Council members are funded by the developers and realtors driving and supporting such changes so I am pessimistic that our MP City Council will act effectively to defend our city against urban sprawl. I strongly encourage fellow citizens to exercise their voting power prudently with upcoming elections, at the city and state levels.

Posted by Mary Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 10, 2022 at 8:04 am

Mary Gilles is a registered user.

I think the public should know that not all realtors are in favor of SB 9 and SB 10. There are many of us who make our living selling homes here and are quite upset that these laws will quite negatively change the fabric of these beautiful communities. Adding another smaller unit is one thing, but when your neighbor will be allowed to split the lot and build 2, 3, 4 or more homes (depending on the lot size), the look and feel of our existing single family home neighborhoods -- properties for which we have all paid dearly and continue to pay for dearly via property taxes -- will not be the same. Not to mention the loss of privacy you will experience when your neighbors become multiple neighbors rather than just one neighbor. The state has unilaterally decided that this one-size-fits-all approach is the answer to affordable housing. Whether those people in need of affordable housing will actually be able to afford newly built small homes in our mid-peninsula cities is a big question. More likely our beautiful and spacious parcels will migrate to higher density and still be "unaffordable." This is one of the state's largest grab on your property rights ever and I hope homeowners are paying attention and demand their city council members resist this overreach and object to the constitutionality of SB 9 and SB 10. Other cities are suing the state over this. Zoning should be controlled locally -- not by big government.

Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 10, 2022 at 8:20 am

Thoughtful is a registered user.

Mary, unfortunately the Atherton town council is just rolling over on this one.

Posted by Mary Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 10, 2022 at 8:26 am

Mary Gilles is a registered user.

The Menlo Park majority council (Jen Wolson, Betsy Nash and Cecilia Taylor) are also rolling over. So, there needs to be a grass roots effort by residents who care to maintain the character of our single family zoned neighborhoods. First of all, someone needs to tell us what "affordable" housing is in our geography. Seriously, what are our leaders thinking will be classified as "affordable housing" here? That should be the starting point. This seems to have been lost along the way....

Posted by MP Father
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 10, 2022 at 12:32 pm

MP Father is a registered user.

Well said, Mary. Again, I strongly encourage voters to use their voting power at upcoming City and State elections.

Posted by Law ‘n Order
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 10, 2022 at 12:46 pm

Law ‘n Order is a registered user.

You can thank Zuckerberg, Cook, Ellison, Brin, Page, Schmidt et al for the destruction of the Peninsula; in fact the whole Bay Area. ‘You can never go home again’! Face it … it’s OVER!

Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 10, 2022 at 1:41 pm

MenloVoter. is a registered user.


Good comments.

"Affordable housing" in this area is a LIE. It is being pushed by politicians that want to be seen as "doing something" about the "problem". They always bring out the old, "it's not fair that workers in our community can't live here". It's nonsense. The low paid workers in our community will NEVER be able to afford to live here. I don't care how dense you make it as the numbers (land value and construction costs) simply don't pencil to anything close to something they could afford. I work in Atherton building homes and I'd like to live in Atherton. It's never going to happen even if property owners there subdivide their properties. The land acquisition cost alone precludes it.

Posted by Betsy Roble
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 10, 2022 at 1:53 pm

Betsy Roble is a registered user.

SB9 (and RHNA) are state mandates which local towns/cities are required to comply with. Our local officials have no choice but to allow ministerial lot splits (SB9) and to create zoning opportunities for increased density (RHNA).

State Senator Scott Wiener calls single family housing immoral. California Attorney General Rob Bonta actively encourages citizen groups/organizations to report instances and towns which are seen to be blocking both SB9 and RHNA so that his office can threaten to bring legal action against the same towns.

We need to stop electing people (Rob Bonta who is on the current ballot) to state office who seek to impose top-down policies without the consent of those they govern.

Our problem isn't our Town Council.

Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 10, 2022 at 2:03 pm

MenloVoter. is a registered user.


you're kind of right. Most of the problem is at the state level. Comrade Weiner being one of the top problems. That said, there are many cities and towns that aren't just rolling over and are pushing back with lawsuits. Our council needs to do the same.

Posted by Jon
a resident of another community
on May 10, 2022 at 2:04 pm

Jon is a registered user.

I don't see SB9 as creating affordable housing. But it's a lucrative opportunity for anyone seeking to buy a house and remodel it greatly. They could buy an older house in Menlo Park for $4 Million on a half acre, or they could buy for $5 Million in Atherton on a full acre or more. In the past Atherton was more expensive.

But now all they have to do is split the lot before their rebuild. Voila, they can sell that chunk of land bare for $3 Million. Its competition is a teardown in Menlo Park which could cost much more for the same amount of land. Meanwhile they end up with a half acre parcel in Atherton for a net cost of $2 Million--much much cheaper than Menlo Park.

But this is just a form of speculation because it pumps up land values and encourages building of large brand new houses costing millions of dollars--not affordable housing.

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 10, 2022 at 4:59 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

Mary, Jon, under SB9 you can split a lot once, You can then build one primary home plus one secondary home on each lot, "not more Mary"

If you build 4 new structures You must own 2 of the subsequent homes on one lot and live in one for the next 3 years. Would you then rent the other new structure during those 3 years? and build or sell on the other lot? Do your research.

Don't forget the cost of not just construction at at least $500 a sq. ft. plus the hundreds of thousands of dollars you will spend on soft costs, permits, Fees, PGE costs, Sewer/wate hookups, architects, etc. before breaking ground, and the 2 years of processing and building. That's a lot of money for the average homeowner to have in the bank as discretionary funds and builder/developers will not build to then live in one of the new structures. They like to build and move on to the next project. Do your homework.

Will the average homeowner have that expertise and the cash laying around because not many lenders will want to get involved before the properties are built unless you are a builder and have a construction loan history with a lender They will not loan to the average homeowner, self developer.

Make sure Jon if you buy and build new that the property had not been used as a rental in the last 3 years. Sorry, not allowed. Even prior to you purchasing it.

Sorry Mary, Jon, The RHNA is law, and I guarantee the state has more funds to go after any city trying to get around it.

Make sure you understand the setbacks on the property you purchase. It may not be practical to buy remodel and build another new home on the lot you plan on keeping or the newly created lot, This phase is critical.

SB10 is totally discretionary by each city jurisdiction, it is not mandatory to develop according to SB10 by the state, Someone can not approach any city and say I want to build 10 new Town Homes on my lot. Not going to happen. Check with your city planning dept's
MV as a builder please check my numbers

Posted by Westbrook
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 10, 2022 at 5:48 pm

Westbrook is a registered user.

per "Jon"

"But now all they have to do is split the lot before their rebuild. Voila, they can sell that chunk of land bare for $3 Million. Its competition is a teardown in Menlo Park which could cost much more for the same amount of land. Meanwhile, they end up with a half-acre parcel in Atherton for a net cost of $2 Million--much much cheaper than Menlo Park." and "Voila"

Jon in addition to the above, If you plan on keeping an existing structure would you then build a new second home on that lot? Also, make sure the newly created lot is at least 40% the size of the lot you are keeping,

Also make sure the home on the lot you are keeping complies with the setbacks, Unless it sits off to one side "very unusual" chances are you will have to knock it down and build 1 or 2 new structures because you will have to live in one for 3 years.

Can you afford to live in a brand new home in Atherton with a combined land and construction cost of over 6 Million Dollars. Where would you live while the new construction is going on for 2 years? Are you financially and time-wise prepared for that because that's what's involved?

If you have a mortgage make sure you can pay it off before subdividing. Likely you will not get a new loan until after you subdivide and build new 2 years later.

If you want to do an SB9 lot split in Atherton make sure your lot was subdivided prior to 1946 because the setbacks on lots subdivided after 1946 are very restrictive.

If you decide to build A new home in Atherton, It will most likely be capped at around 6,000 sq. ft. including a basement. Sorry no mega-mansions on the new smaller lots. but at $500 sq. ft. that's still $3M in construction costs alone, plus soft costs, plus property taxes as they are substantial in Atherton, for 2 years, Make sure you have that much cash lying around because getting a loan for developing and building that, is difficult at best.

"Voila" it is not

MV as a builder please check my numbers,

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 10, 2022 at 7:00 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


if anything your numbers are on the low side. Homes are being built in Atherton for between $800 and $1200 per sf. And $800 is probably a little low. Soft costs will run you at least 15% of the cost of construction, maybe more. Run those numbers and you will quickly see how "affordable" housing is a lie.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 10, 2022 at 10:16 pm

anonymous is a registered user.

Was just looking at the 2 Lowery Drive lot which has a lot of large trees. Does SB9 override the town's heritage tree protection? If not, I'm not seeing how 4 homes could be built there.

Posted by Jon
a resident of another community
on May 10, 2022 at 11:22 pm

Jon is a registered user.

SB9 doesn't REQUIRE 2 units on each parcel. The most common case is actually going to be the old standard of a single home even with no subdivision. SB9 overrides local ordinances and zoning regulations as to setbacks and requires ministerial approval of design using objective design standards--not public hearings.

It's a steaming pile that may well be unconstitutional regarding the state constitution in a number of ways, but this is what it requires.

As for tree preservation, such ordinances are only valid when they can be construed as NOT taking property rights from the land owner. This means they can regulate if there is an alternative, but they can't say prohibit construction because to do so would require tree removal. Construction is a property right.

Posted by Jlincoln
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Jlincoln is a registered user.

In response to Law ‘n Orders comment
Yes, you can also thank these founders for the increased value in your property as they brought in thousands of high-paying jobs and stock options worth many millions. These high-paying jobs and stock options are what's driving up your property values, not the sleepy grandmother/grandfather who has lived in the same home for 30+ years protected by Prop13 and has no incentive to sell or move to smaller homes/properties.
So YES, you are correct in thanking them for your home being 1000%+ more valuable today than it would have been without them bringing in jobs to the area.
Maybe we should go back to farmland, orchids, and a depressed labor economy. The good old days when life was simple?
I look forward to one day selling my 1 acre and seeing 2 new homes for 2 new families who bring life to our neighborhoods.

Posted by Jlincoln
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2022 at 1:55 pm

Jlincoln is a registered user.

Is it short-sighted to want more people moving to the Bay Area and trying to house the people already living here to be able to move into the neighborhoods they work in?
I know of 2 young public school teachers who are moving out of the area after the school year because they cannot afford to live in the area without roommates or long commutes. 2 additional teachers are leaving because their husbands are relocating to another office and they can now "buy a house for less than we pay in rent"
The alo Alto Weekly published an article (some time ago) that most of its public servants live outside of the city, commuting in daily.
Who will teach our kids, fight our fires, or police our streets if we cannot find a way to house everyone?
SB9 allows for families who can afford to "buy up" to move and vacate houses that are "more affordable" creating new affordable inventory.
There are multiple studies that show new housing at all levels creates more homeownership, and more property tax revenue.
SB9 is a start it certainly is not the final solution. More affordable housing would mean further rezoning for high-density apartments around transit hubs, THis is already signed into law but is being fought tooth and nail by the wealthy cities.
I say build it denser, build it higher, let's bring in everyone who wants to live here make it their home.
Un unpopular opinion or possibly a silent majority?

Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 11, 2022 at 3:38 pm

MenloVoter. is a registered user.


when you can figure out how to make high density high rises and the land they sit on "affordable" let us know. Talk to someone that builds for a living, research land values, then do some math.

Posted by Mary Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 11, 2022 at 7:24 pm

Mary Gilles is a registered user.

Our schools seem to remain staffed and continue to be top notch, our firefighters seem to have figured out how to work 3-4 nights and live outside the area for their off days, and we seem to still have police protection despite the claims of these workers not being able to afford to buy a home here.

But, getting back to the main issue, I think we all have to ask the question: what does "affordable housing" mean in our geography? Is a $2,000,000 home affordable based on the income averages here? Or, are we suggesting we have homes for sale under a million that are not one bedroom 900 SF condos? Can our governor please define in terms of actual numbers what is "AFFORDABLE HOUSING" on the mid-peninsula and rich California communities who pay his salary and how is exactly is hat achieved by splitting parcels? SB 9 and SB 10 will do nothing to create affordable housing in wealthy communities where land value is off the charts and where land is limited.

Now, no one has said this yet, but I would also like to make the distinction between the "homeless" and people who cannot afford to buy homes in the rich geographies of California. When will our politicians figure out that there is a mental health crisis and address that head on rather than pretend these people on the streets who are addicts are people who simply don't have a home to live in. A relative of mine lives in Venice Beach where there is an extreme crisis of mental health homeless. And, what are the politicians doing there? Why, as a matter of fact, they are building incredibly expensive housing where a homeless person has to qualify to live there (be clean). Guess how many are qualifying: roughly 5%.

The leaders in our state have decided that it sounds good to SAY they are working to create affordable housing for the homeless and they are taking away our rights as property owners in the process - a process based on a complete fallacy.

Posted by Jlincoln
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2022 at 8:10 pm

Jlincoln is a registered user.

Mary Gilles
""our cities seem to be staffed with teachers and firefighters"

Here is some late-night reading for you. You may or may not be aware of the struggles of teachers, firefighters, etc.

from 2016 - has it become more affordable in 2022?
Web Link

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KTVU) - Long gone are the days when many firefighters and police officers could afford to live in the same community they serve. The Bay Area's surging home prices are forcing some departments to re-think how they can get first responders to live closer to where they work.

SChools seem to be staffed with Teachers: For how long?
Web Link">Web Link
Bay Area housing prices land hard on school teachers
High cost of living driving teacher turnover
Despite drawing one of the highest teacher salaries in the country, the typical educator in San Jose and Santa Clara County has a harder time affording a home than his or her peers anywhere in the United States. The East Bay and San Francisco are nearly as bad...

Web Link">Web Link
Educators say the reality is few young teachers in the Bay Area are homeowners. Early-career educators in the Bay Area often share apartments with roommates and partners, live with family or commute long distances to find affordable housing. Homeownership typically is reserved for teachers with partners drawing high incomes in tech or other fields.

Web Link
"Schools want to build cheap homes for teachers in the Bay Area, where rents average $3,300 per month. Some people are furious."

Short-sighted thinking will only cause pain down the line...teacher shortage, more expensive city services

Posted by Jlincoln
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2022 at 8:11 pm

Jlincoln is a registered user.

MenloVoter "when you can figure out how to make high-density high rises and the land they sit on "affordable"
I have lived in the Bay Area since 1986 but I was president of a company for 15 years from 2005-2020 building military housing, 40,000+ units in the Mid Atlantic through the North East region. Cities, States stepped in to help secure land, we secured loans to cover land and the cost of building and builders built homes that housed families. It's possible! It can happen. It happens all over the country
Why build 2-story townhouses when 4 stories or 5 stories would double the density? Who does this hurt? The sun will still shine in your backyard. You will still get to the office and Draeger's and it will remain a lovely city.
Developers will build bigger and taller if they could but they are restricted by cities and NIMBY policies. It's actually cheaper to build more than less if you cut the red tape!

I was at Peets earlier and had someone pushing the keep Menlo quaint..i kept walking

Posted by Carol Scheufele
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2022 at 1:15 am

Carol Scheufele is a registered user.

For inspiration I recommend reading about Abraham E. Kazan, Master Co-op Housing Builder in NYC. He pioneered building upwards of 100,000 cooperative housing homes. These were middle-income housing however.

Posted by Jlincoln
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2022 at 8:59 am

Jlincoln is a registered user.

It seems our neighboring city found a way to build affordable housing
Who will this offend?

Belmont approves large affordable housing site
Web Link

“This project is going to bring desperately needed affordable housing to our community in a sensitive and smart way,” Stone said."

Posted by Jlincoln
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2022 at 10:24 am

Jlincoln is a registered user.

Carol Scheufele
Thank you for referencing Kazan and Co-Op City. Very familiar as Saw it for many years out the subway window and visited people living there.
Good luck getting anything like that built-in CA.
San Jose is doing a nice job to attract residents with high-density housing and companies are moving there to set up millions of square feet of office space so they can be closer to their future workers.

Progressive housing ideas seem to be all around us past and present we are with an affordable housing shortage.

Posted by Stuart
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on May 12, 2022 at 7:00 pm

Stuart is a registered user.

There are multiple references to 'affordability' in this thread and it might be worthwhile defining the term.

Affordability is based on primarily two factors:
Area Median Income (AMI) which for San Mateo County is $149,600 Web Link

and Income Categories where:
Very Low Income is <50% of AMI
Low Income is 51%-79% of AMI
Moderate Income is 80%-119% of AMI
Above Moderate Income is >120% of AMI
Web Link

Hope this helps -

Posted by MenloVoter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 13, 2022 at 7:36 am

MenloVoter. is a registered user.


As I have said before, and you confirm, affordable housing isn't going to be built without government subsidies. Just like they were in the situation you were involved in. My taxes are high enough already thank you.

Posted by Jlincoln
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2022 at 1:41 pm

Jlincoln is a registered user.

Menlo Voter
It’s happening all around us. Just not our local cities. Cities and citizens of cities need to accept it not fight it.
The comments to this thread confirm that the NIMBY is strong amongst the community
Another example of it happening here in the hay area.
Mary Gilles: looks like they are also supporting teacher housing. Same story of teachers not affording the cost of living the Bay Area.
Atherton’s mayor just sent a letter to residents about the need to comply with the housing bill. Atheron had no idea how to get to the required housing required. Still looking for input and zoning overlay changes to the current zoning.

In today news MORE housing happening to support everyone :

The site of Marin County’s largest affordable housing development in a half century is sandwiched between $4 million homes and a maximum-security prison that houses some 2,600 prisoners.

Web Link

How soon will the $4 million home owners file a law suit to block the development?

Posted by Iris
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
16 hours ago

Iris is a registered user.

This whole issue is confusing about what the real problem is:
Hasn’t the population of Califirnia declined the past several years?
What long term effect will the WFH (possibly far away) trend that started during COVID have?
Don’t many fire fighters and nurses earn a decent wage now (many near or mire than $200k)?
Do we know how many “housing” units are and likely be merely airbnb or vrbo units that enrich the owners, add to traffic and utilize/overtax water and infrastructure but don’t house residents?
If local developers and realtors question fundamental assumptions about potential “affordability”, how can state lawmakers responsibly declare a different reality and force cities to enact rules based on such inaccuracies?
When the complex problems are better analyzed and contributing factors identified, any needed solutions will be more clear.
The state laws are being used as blunt instruments that are well meaning, but seemed to be unduly inflexible and not based on local or statewide facts.

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