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Menlo Park's Measure V puts the future of zoning in the public's hands

Original post made on Oct 14, 2022

On Nov. 8, Menlo Park voters face a critical question on housing and the longstanding ability of the City Council to make land use decisions, with Measure V proposing a significant power shift away from elected officials.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 14, 2022, 11:45 AM

Comments (14)

Posted by Dawn1234
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 14, 2022 at 1:17 pm

Dawn1234 is a registered user.

I'll be voting No on V for many reasons. I hear a lot of talk about family friendly neighborhoods. You know what's family friendly? Having places for the people who grew up here to be able to return to their community to live if they want to. If you add in the generational wealth gap created by redlining and only giving FHA loans to houses in all white neighborhoods, it's clear that reducing opportunities for lots of different income levels is going to fall most heavily on people of color. Also, long commutes are bad for the planet. Let's do the right thing, Menlo Park and vote No on V.


Posted by Menlo Lifestyle
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 14, 2022 at 3:09 pm

Menlo Lifestyle is a registered user.

So Dawn1234 why not pressure the RCSD to build less units and sell them to teachers? Renting to them just keeps them on the hamster wheel of life, never getting ahead in terms of generational wealth. The organizers of Measure V proposed a smaller development with half the units for teachers and it was quickly shot down. No, it’s not about teachers. It’s about the RCSD getting into rental housing business. And without Measure V, our wonderful city council is right on board.


Posted by About that
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2022 at 6:31 pm

About that is a registered user.

Dawn, living in a country that promotes the American dream and that allows people success means that some people will have more means than others. It may be unfair, but it is what drives the economy and make us the most powerful country on the planet. Parts of Menlo Park has become very desirable because of its solitude and low density, and of course everyone wants to get in.

Just remember, the ones that benefits most from increasing density in these areas are developers, and only a fraction of the added housing will be available for teachers. These developers still need to recoup their investments.


Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 16, 2022 at 9:55 am

kbehroozi is a registered user.

"About that", if the housing you're referring to is the Flood School project, you're misinformed – perhaps you're confusing market-rate housing w/ inclusionary BMR units (which is how most developments in our city work) with the 100% BMR project that Alliant Strategic would develop at the Flood School site.

At Flood School, there would be 80-90 units of BMR housing, with the exact # of units per income level (and mix of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units) still TBD. Everyone living there would have to qualify for below-market-rate housing (= less than $160K/year income for a family of four). Teachers and staff working in the Ravenswood district would get first priority for any available units, not just at the outset (as has been claimed) but throughout the 90-year terms of the lease. We haven't yet had a discussion about whether any other group (other teachers in neighboring districts, public sector employees, etc.) would get second priority for units unused by Ravenswood employees. That usually gets worked out with the Housing Commission as the proposal works its way through the system.

Aside from this project, the only developers that I've seen trying to make money in R1 neighborhoods have been building big single-family homes. They're not increasing density – just the average cost per home in Menlo Park.


Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 16, 2022 at 3:46 pm

Henry Riggs is a registered user.

@Katie
You and I agree we need housing for our ever-increasing workers, and especially for teachers. But the RSD project isn't reserved for teachers, they were pressed on that and wouldn't reserve even 50% for teachers, staff. They did however stress that Alliant is to give them the most REVENUE from this project possible. That's not "BMR", thats not "affordable", its about district revenue off of their real estate asset. Which is fine. But.
I've done both student and teacher housing - locally, recently. Two important facts:
1. you can't expect both revenue generation and affordability in the Bay Area, even on mortgage free land. its one or the other. I confirmed that with a local developer on Tuesday.
2. it doesn't matter how many units you build on a given lot. you can make money on 12 units at Flood School site (just ask Thomas James Homes) or on 30, 45, 60, 78 or 90.
I mention 78 because Newsom just signed AB2295 allowing a school district to build teacher housing on R1 lots - works out to 78 at Flood School - with *no rezoning needed*. Measure V wouldn't hold it up. But it has to be for teachers and staff. And RSD doesn't want that, it wants INCOME. Their business manager made that clear in May.
They told their supporters its "teacher housing" so you all will go door to door for them, and all the school districts and the electeds jump on the wagon. It sucks, but the RSD project is not what it seems. And there can be other misrepresentations in other neighborhoods. Thats why residents need the right to confirm a neighborhood zoning change. Thats all Measure V is.
There's more to what's going on at city council, but thats for another thread.


Posted by Stuart Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 16, 2022 at 4:36 pm

Stuart Soffer is a registered user.

Being both a school district and a landlord/ developer builds an internal conflicts of interest. A school district is not a property agent. They will need, like it or not, to also be in the eviction business. As I have seen with our prior City of Menlo Park Redevelopment Agency.
---
Please take the 'messaging' on lawn signs with a grain of salt. One must read the actual ordinances to understand the details. The 'Protect Teacher Housing' messaging on some signs is ambiguous and opaque; which doesn't disclose the details, which teachers, which districts. It goes on.


Posted by Stuart Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 16, 2022 at 4:51 pm

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Let me add some consequences that Henry Riggs would know as well.

We have many single story / single family houses. By adding a new house in an adjacent lot at two stories (or more), the new house could intrude the 'daylight plane' of the existing single story home. When I was on the planning commission daylight plane studies were part of the applications for two or more stories. These intrusions are called a 'taking' for which the city could find itself needing to compensate the owners of the single story first home. Enjoy.

We have a single story home, with a triplex next door with the 3 apartments on the second floor overlooking our bedroom. (They have carports on the ground level).




Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 16, 2022 at 6:19 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

Henry, last week you wrote that two council members told you that this housing development was actually going to be market-rate. That got corrected. I think you are still missing some key details:

1) At present, RCSD seems committed to the high-density BMR housing path, not low-density market-rate housing. The zoning density (20 du/acre) that our entire city council (5/5) suggested for the Flood School site would only enable the district to build 90 units if every single unit on the site were deed-restricted below-market-rate housing. RCSD *can't* build dense, tall housing there unless it is all BMR – regardless of their revenue goals. Council made sure of it.

2) The developer that RCSD has chosen from their RFP process specializes in below-market-rate housing development, including workforce housing projects on school district surplus land. Folks who are skeptical/curious about how this works can come to the HLC event next Friday and learn more. (tinyurl.com/5n6bm6fp)

3) AB 2295 does not require that any percentage of units be exclusively dedicated to teachers and staff, nor does it require that units be entirely occupied by teachers and staff. Rather, AB 2295 requires prioritizing teacher/staff access to housing built on school property – just as RCSD has guaranteed to do, for the lifetime of the ground lease. (tinyurl.com/ysmcjtbx)

And why would Ravenswood lie? They have teacher retention issues due to sky-high cost-of-living in this area. An overwhelming majority of their teachers and staff qualify for BMR housing and are interested. Teacher housing in nearby districts has been enormously successful.

I hear that you are skeptical, but in this case I think it's safe to trust the overwhelming number of public servants, nonprofits, and community members who are saying Measure V is an unreasonable response to a reasonable project that would make excellent use of vacant surplus public land. (Web Link


Posted by Concerned Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 16, 2022 at 8:32 pm

Concerned Neighbor is a registered user.

"I think it's safe to trust the overwhelming number of public servants, nonprofits, and community members who are saying Measure V is an unreasonable response to a reasonable project that would make excellent use of vacant surplus public land."
See the No on Measure V supporters/endorsements here: Web Link


Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 16, 2022 at 11:08 pm

Henry Riggs is a registered user.

@Katie
I believe council signaled it would support teacher housing at a higher density. But this isn't. The business manager made clear that the property haas to produce income. Why? I'm told that in union negotiations this Summer, RSD committed to raises it actually cannot afford; the Foundation can bridge that only until revenue starts to flow.

The business manager offered that teachers would have first notice of available units, but they would not be reserved for teachers and staff - they need them rented and cash to flow. Its just business. So its "teacher housing" on opening day, then it goes to market. If you join the school a month or a year later, there's no room at the inn. If I'm wrong I'd love to see a commitment made by RSD for that "100% affordable housing for teachers" that is thrown around in campaigning. (I hope you will ask for that at your Friday housing event.)

The new state law AB2295 at least requires *prioritizing* teachers and staff - what you and I want to see.

Yes I know its politically required to back anything with the word "teacher" in it, and the list of course is long.

Meanwhile, its been revealed that council will jump on a housing proposal before its even defined, such that the owner (RSD in this case) doesn't need to work with the neighbors. In all my time on Planning Commission, no project has taken a pass from working with neighbors on basics like road access, not to mention environmental review.
Thats why residents need the right for a confirming vote for a zoning change within a single family home neighborhood. And thats all Measure V is.

Our city clearly supports teachers and teacher housing, voters here are not mean. I do hope you will let Menlo Park residents vote in the open to confirm any such bold change.


Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 17, 2022 at 8:36 am

kbehroozi is a registered user.

"The business manager offered that teachers would have first notice of available units, but they would not be reserved for teachers and staff - they need them rented and cash to flow."
"The new state law AB2295 at least requires *prioritizing* teachers and staff."

This is exactly the same process, Henry. That's how BMR prioritization works: anytime there's a unit available, there's a window within which to apply, and people with priority status always get first dibs. But no unit should sit empty if a teacher doesn't claim it. The state agrees. Web Link

"Meanwhile, it's been revealed that council will jump on a housing proposal before its even defined, such that the owner (RSD in this case) doesn't need to work with the neighbors. In all my time on Planning Commission, no project has taken a pass from working with neighbors on basics like road access, not to mention environmental review."

Road access etc. are sorted in the individual project planning phase, not the housing element update, which is purely about zoning – and that is what the council was working on. Flood School is a rare 2.5-acre lot of undeveloped public land – the exact place where affordable housing can pencil out (not just a few units of inclusionary zoning.) Staff felt this was a such an important opportunity that they recommended upzoning to a higher density than where council eventually landed.

It's true that, in deciding to upzone the land, the entire council signaled that they were amenable to developing it to some level of density. Our council was making a good-faith effort to comply with the state mandates. Soon we will hear from HCD about how likely we are to be in compliance by the deadline. Failing that test opens up major opportunities in our city for big commercial developers (cf. Santa Monica, where thousands of units and 15-story buildings are now proposed.) Careful what you wish for.


Posted by Menlo Lifestyle
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 18, 2022 at 11:07 am

Menlo Lifestyle is a registered user.

@ kbehroozi Have you even considered what 90 units of low-income housing is going to do to your property values in Suburban Park? You may not be able to sell your house for half of what it’s worth today. That project will have no money for maintenance and upkeep, and will quickly devolve into EPA West.


Posted by Private citizen
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 16, 2022 at 3:14 pm

Private citizen is a registered user.

Thank you, Henry Rigg, for calmly articulating the realities of this project.


Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 16, 2022 at 3:24 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Private Citizen:

What project? Nothing has been submitted. Until something is, there is no project.


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