Committee Eyeing Locations for Affordable Housing in Menlo Park

Apartments across the street from La Entrada Middle School on list of places Menlo Park could convert to below market rate housing.

Menlo Park government officials identified multiple locations this week as places where “affordable” housing could be developed, raising concern among some residents about the impact that this would have on their property values.

A group of volunteers called the are updating the city’s General Plan, after the threat of a lawsuit forced Menlo Park to negotiate a settlement with housing advocates. 

In May, Peninsula Interfaith Action, the Urban Habitat Program and Youth United for Community Action for not having enough housing to accommodate it’s growing workforce.  If Menlo Park had entered litigation with these groups, it would not have been able to approve the paperwork required for to develop a physical presence in the city. 

California law requires that as a city increases the amount of businesses within its city limits, it updates its General Plan, so that future developers can build housing for the influx of new workers.  Although Menlo Park has approved multiple in the past few years, the housing element of the city’s General Plan has not been updated since 1992.  It is supposed to be updated every seven years.  The city settled out of court to avoid freezing progress, and subsequently needs to make plans to have 1,975 more housing units within city borders.  These plans must be finished by March 2013; otherwise, Menlo Park will not be able to approve any building permits for new development.

To do so on such a rapid timeline, the city’s New Housing Element Update Steering Committee will be taking on the workload of identifying sites where affordable housing could be placed. 

Some of the sites identified during the committee’s first meeting are: 

  • The apartments across from La Entrada Middle School, which are shown in the photo attached to these words. 
  • Along Sand Hill Road and Alameda de las Pulgas
  • Along Alma by Willow Road
  • Between Constitution and Highway 101
  • O’Brien and Hamilton Avenue
  • On the s property
  • On the

These sites were nominated by , because of their proximity to grocery stores, bus lines, and schools among other criteria which is still being defined.  Other preliminary criteria include the impact on future residents, concentration of homes on the property, and economic considerations. 

Affordability is the main driver of this initiative to develop housing.  Much, if not all, of the housing that the city is planning for is “affordable” housing.  What is affordable is determined by the amount of money a family of four makes. In Menlo Park, a household with an annual income of $55,000 is categorized as “Very Low Income.” Very low income households earn 50 percent of the area’s median income.  For 2012, this is $103,000.

To further bring this into perspective, the average sales price for a home in Menlo Park in the 1st quarter of 2012 was $897,000 for a condominium and $1,003,000 for a single-family home. 

The properties that the committee identified must have a minimum of 30 units per acre to qualify for inclusion, according to a report prepared by the city’s consultant for the June 26 meeting.  The rent at these homes cannot exceed 30 percent of the family’s annual income to be considered "affordable," according to the state's health and safety code. 

Menlo Park needs to plan for 1,975 domiciles to satisfy its fair share of regional housing, which determines how many affordable homes cities in the Bay Area must have. San Mateo County has 15,738 units.

The process of identifying those properties began this week. The committee is scheduled to meet again on July 17 to refine the criteria that will be used to evaluate the potential properties, and determine a community outreach strategy.


*Note: The name of the group has been altered in city documents since we ran the orignal article.

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Andrew Boone July 04, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Great to hear that Menlo Park is finally planning for new housing - the lack of affordable housing in the area forces most employees of Menlo Park businesses to live far away and commute by car, resulting in considerable traffic congestion for residents, and streets less safe for walking and bicycling. Is a recording or minutes from the Housing Element Update Steering Committee's first meeting available? When and where will it meet on July 17? I can't find any information on this committee on the Menlo Park city website. How can the plans for new housing be finished by March 2012? That was 4 months ago. Did you mean March 2013? Thanks for reporting on this important topic.
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) July 06, 2012 at 09:28 PM
My pleasure, Andrew. Thanks for joining the conversation about an issue that is sometimes uncomfortable to discuss. I have notes that I took during the meeting. I did not see the city's usual minute taker in the room. Would you like to see the powerpoint that the city's consultant presented to the committee? You're right; the deadline is for the 2013 year. *That has since been corrected in the article above. Do you think more people would bike around Menlo Park if the cost of living here was less expensive?


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