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Comments from Housing Commission on 2019 Annual Housing Element Progress Report

From: domainremoved <Rachel>
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2020 19:34:32 -0400

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Dear Councilmembers,

I was tasked with making public comment on behalf of the Housing Commission this evening, as determined at our March 4 meeting. Our comments are concerning the 2019 Annual Housing Element Progress Report. Originally, I was to make these comments in-person at the 3/24 meeting.

Regrettably, I mistakenly thought the meeting start time for this evening's special meeting was 5:30pm, not 5:00pm. I submitted the public comment on the online form after 4pm, and therefore not within the 1-hour timeframe.

I am submitting these comments to you via email, in the event the comments did, in fact, not make it into public comment. Please see below.

Thank you very much.


Dear Councilmembers,

Thank you for reviewing the Annual Progress Report on the City’s Housing Element for 2019 and for taking into consideration the feedback of the Housing Commission. The following reflects the collective input of the Housing Commission based upon our discussion on this item at the March 4th meeting.

The 2019 APR shows that many units (196) were permitted in Menlo Park in the past year, with hundreds more in the pipeline. While it is true that Menlo Park is permitting housing—a positive development by all accounts-- it is important to consider the types of housing that are being built. This is why the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) targets are broken down into Very Low-Income, Low-Income, Moderate-Income, and Above-Moderate Income units.

The snapshot provided by the 2019 APR shows that as a city, we are far exceeding our above-moderate, or market-rate, housing target for this period (150 units), with 947 total to date. The addition of units to the housing stock is needed to bring down housing prices, but we must keep in mind that these units are ONLY accessible to higher-income households.

Another, equally important factor is where the units are built. Most of the multifamily affordable housing is being built in District 1, while downtown Menlo Park, a services and transit-rich area, has seen only one-off below market-rate units as a result of the City’s inclusionary housing ordinance. It imperative that the City tap into that potential and use all the tools at its disposal to encourage affordable housing in our Downtown.

While we acknowledge the progress to date and the promising pipeline numbers for VLI and LI units, the fact remains that we are adding below market-rate units at a trickle compared to market-rate units. Clearly, we must focus our efforts on building units at levels of affordability other than market-rate. We encourage you to take concrete steps to prioritize the production of these units.

Chief among these would be the City sponsoring an affordable housing community Downtown. Our city has both experienced staff and a sizable housing fund balance. We should put these to work on producing units in the categories of greatest need – Extremely Low-Income, Very Low-Income, and Low-Income units (staff expects to meet the moderate projections via inclusionary housing); making the NOFA process for this very large fund an over-the counter (rather than annual) application could also help to facilitate development sooner rather than later.

Directing staff to evaluate the City’s options with regard to building affordable housing on the USGS site is another option among many that the City may act upon to spur more affordable housing development.

It is anticipated that the RHNA numbers for the next cycle will increase dramatically, at all levels. We must do what we can now to meet our 2023 goals, but also to deliver on affordable housing opportunities to alleviate the housing burden that so many residents of our City and our region are experiencing now.

Thank you very much.

Rachel Horst
(on behalf of the Housing Commission)
Received on Thu Mar 26 2020 - 16:40:31 PDT

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