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Atherton council members divided on where to build multifamily housing in town

Original post made on Jun 2, 2022

Although Atherton City Council members acknowledge they won't meet their state-mandated housing goals with just accessory dwelling units, deciding where to put higher density units is still a point of contention.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 2, 2022, 11:14 AM

Comments (4)

Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 2, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Robert Cronin is a registered user.

It is a pity that Atherton has no business district or town center that would be an obvious candidate for higher density housing. One can imagine a neighborhood of elegant town houses near shopping and public transportation that could go a long away to dispel the image of Atherton as a walled-off town inhabited by people who think they're special.


Posted by PH
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 3, 2022 at 6:11 pm

PH is a registered user.

Two suggestions:

First, Atherton does have a train station. Think about it.

Second, the earliest zoning codes in America in Minneapolis and later, Berkeley, were "districting" systems in which blocks of property owners could petition their cities for zoning. Consider the possibility that some blocks and areas of underutilized 1-acre zoned parcels of Atherton might be willing to upzone themselves voluntarily, (beyond SB9) to allow for multi-family housing and allow them to so petition.

Put in place a block zoning system in which groups of neighbors can petition to be upzoned.

Yeah, other nearby neighbors might be horrified, but you might find clumps of volunteers, where it makes sense.


Posted by PH
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 3, 2022 at 6:18 pm

PH is a registered user.

In line with my earlier suggestions of petition-based block zoning, consider this project proposed for the merged parcels of two single-family zoned parcels in Palo Alto: Web Link

"Request for a Council prescreening to consider a conceptual plan to allow the rezoning of 2239 and 2241 Wellesley St from R-1 to a Planned Housing Zone (Planned Community) to accommodate a 24-unit apartment building. The project would provide 20% of the housing units as affordable units."

Give Cato development a call and see what they can do for Atherton!


Posted by Not-Jeff
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Jun 4, 2022 at 4:02 pm

Not-Jeff is a registered user.

"Atherton does have a train station."

No, Atherton does NOT have a train station. Caltrain closed it (and advocated for it, I should add). Hopefully Caltrain follows through and works with the town to expand the quiet zone through the Watkins crossing...but don't hold your collective breaths.

Without going into the details and debating the merits of SB9 (I'm broadly in favor of adding housing, though I think SB9 is overreach), I do think there's some merit to some of the approaches to adding housing in Atherton, including easier subdividing, easier permitting of ADUs, and allowing for structures like duplexes to increase density.

I think the issues are:

1: Supporting infrastructure. From the state perspective, it is clear this state is short on both drinking-water infrastructure and power generation, not to mention other basics like transportation infrastructure, sewers, etc. It is a classic priority-inversion to build housing while the infrastructure around that housing doesn't support the increase in population that would result in the creation of said housing.

2: Ensuring new structures integrate with their surrounding community. I've seen plenty of 2-to-4 unit housing to know its possible to build multi-unit housing without it looking like multi-unit housing. The town government just needs to set some reasonable limitations and transparency on size and character to achieve this.


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