Last week, after meeting with an architect, I suggested to Facebook they support creation of small dwellings in their neighborhood as a way to increase housing.
My idea is to encourage secondary dwellings on single-family lofts but also to permit up to four small dwellings on one lot. This is one way to accommodate the approximately 6,000 additional workers Facebook will probably hire in the next five years, without forcing current residents out of the area.
Menlo Park is revising its housing element on a tight timeline ending in March 2013 under a stipulated court order. That order was the result of a long history of struggle in East Palo Alto to keep rents down and housing available. Facebook’s arrival, on top of other events, triggered two non-profit groups threatening to sue Menlo Park because we had not updated our housing element in 20 years.
There are two ways to increase housing: small dwellings and large projects, either apartments or condominiums. Encouraging small dwelling is more consistent with keeping residents where they have lived for years, even for generations. It is also more consistent with modern trends toward a simpler lifestyle, and preserving open space.
As we grow older, (and I am 72), remaining where we have lived for 20 or more years becomes very important. At the same time we all know that population growth is more or less inevitable.
One way to help allow some growth while keeping families in place is to build smaller dwellings among single-family homes.
Keeping loved ones close is something that everyone understands. We can make life easier for everyone by living greener and in smaller dwellings.
Andy Cohen is a Menlo Park City Councilmember who is also on the Housing Element Update Steering Committee.
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