Faced with criticism from the state, Menlo Park must review its housing component | New

Menlo Park must work on its housing element project before it can be approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), proving it can actually build what’s in the plan.

The Housing Element Update is a state-mandated process that happens once every eight years – and this time around the state is firmly enforcing the regulations. The housing element requires cities to build for projected growth, ensuring that jobs and housing are balanced. Menlo Park’s housing target, also known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), is nearly 3,800 new homes by 2031.

Menlo Park submitted its housing element to the state in July, which predicted that Menlo Park would not only meet its RHNA requirements, but exceed them by more than 2,000 units.

According to Jeremy Levine, policy manager for the San Mateo County Housing Leadership Council, the HCD is looking for cities to make substantive policy changes, rather than “analyze their path to compliance.”

The HCD requested more information from Menlo Park in its letter, including the mechanisms the city has to monitor and analyze projects in the development pipeline as it relies on the units to meet RHNA allocations. The city plans 3,644 housing units from projects already underway – proposed, approved or under construction – of which 594 are designated for affordable housing. Four of these projects are already under construction, comprising 925 units, including 140 affordable housing units. Among these projects is Menlo Uptown on Jefferson Drive, which is a proposed eight-story mixed-use building with approximately 15,000 square feet of office and retail space.

The HCD says Menlo Park’s capacity estimates are unrealistic and requires a methodology from the city to calculate “realistic” residential capacity at each site.

Levine agrees that the Menlo Park sites were not realistically measured in the housing element project.

“(The suggested sites) range from the unrealistic to the absurd,” Levine said. “Menlo Park has a huge opportunity to build housing on public land. They have a ton of prime land in their downtown that is currently degrading for cars rather than people…Menlo Park is not making a cohesive plan to dedicate land.”

Another 454 affordable housing units come from projects that have been proposed but are not yet under construction, including the Parkline SRI and Meta’s Willow Village redevelopment project. Menlo Park has designated 85 accessory dwelling units (ADUs) that could be built, 77 of which are affordable housing. A program encourages the city to adopt policies that encourage construction of ADUs.

There are 2,153 units listed on so-called sites of opportunity, where housing may be possible in the future, of which 2,108 are designated as affordable housing. A notable site of opportunity is the flood school grounds, which have sparked contentious community debate and become a focal point for supporters and opponents of the controversial Measure V initiative, which would revoke council capacity. Municipality of Menlo Park to change the zoning of single family homes. lots unless voters approve it in an election. Some critics say it would halt future high-density housing developments in large swaths of the city.

The HCD also mentioned Measure V, telling the city to keep a watchful eye on the initiative and mitigate impacts if the measure passes.

“If (Measure V) is adopted, the element should add a program to include measures to raise awareness and mitigate the impact of the ballot measure on housing development throughout the planning period” , indicates the letter.

Levine agreed that Measure V posed a danger to housing in the community, especially low-income housing.

“A referendum to build affordable housing is like a death sentence because no affordable housing developer wants to go through a long and costly vote of people just to get their application approved,” Levine said.

“It’s completely prohibitive.

If Menlo Park does not pass a compliant housing element by January 31, 2023, it risks allowing developers to use the so-called Builder’s Remedy in the city, which allows residential projects to go ahead. before even if they do not comply with local standards. development standards. It happened in Santa Monica, where 16 projects and 4,562 units were offered, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.

Menlo Park will review the housing element and create another draft for public comment.

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