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Consultants Influencing New Land Use Laws in Menlo Park

"Under these conditions, there is a substantial danger that the process will fail to adequately consider options available under "normal" revision of a housing element..."

Menlo Park is in the process of creating a after 20 years ignoring state law.

The critical aspect of this undertaking is being minimized by the manner of guiding this discussion.  Actually, the discussion is being guided by staff and a consultant with the emphasis on locations where 30 or more units per acre might be accommodated.  Secondary dwelling units which would be more within the control of single family home owners, are considered to be of only secondary significance, despite state law encouraging such units for 30 years.

Housing and Community Development, a state agency, will historically only approve housing elements based on past years' creation of secondary dwellings, despite the facts that such units are widespread in the region, although illegally created.  HCD also refuses to count legalized second units toward housing quotas, saying they already existed.  As a result there is no willingness or desire to grant amnesty to illegal secondary dwellings.

Creation of a after 20 years ignoring the question is being done under court order, and once completed, will guide the city's creation of new affordable housing at least until 2014 when a new period of review commences.

Under these conditions, there is a substantial danger that the process will fail to adequately consider options available under "normal" revision of a housing element which takes more than the 8 months provided Menlo Park by stipulated court judgment.  The complexity of issues and deference to out of date local ordinances and policies make this process prone to undue influence of special interests and expediency.

Andy Cohen
Menlo Park City Council Member, and
Co-Chair Housing Element Steering Committee

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