Menlo Park: Renters' displacement not city's top priority | News | Almanac Online |


Menlo Park: Renters' displacement not city's top priority

Council members say they want to discuss it, but that might not happen until January

Menlo Park City Council members spent more than an hour Oct. 25 talking about when and how they should discuss what to do about the renters' displacement problem.

The council had been scheduled to discuss the issue this past April, but a meeting on the topic was canceled, and never rescheduled. Now, city staff said, every scheduled meeting until the end of the year is accounted for with such complex topics as the review of the general plan and Facebook's expansion.

City staff is working on many projects and it takes time to do the in-depth research requested by the council on how other cities are attempting to address the displacement problem, said City Manager Alex McIntyre and City Attorney Bill McClure.

Each council member had a different notion of what should be pursued. Mayor Rich Cline wanted a review of the city's current housing policies, such as its below-market-rate housing program.

For months, Councilwoman Kirsten Keith has requested a discussion of three ideas for dealing with displacement: mandatory non-binding arbitration, 12-month leases, and tenant-relocation assistance. Councilwoman Catherine Carlton has suggested that tenants should get more than a 30-days notice of their eviction.

An idea from Councilman Ray Mueller is the creation of a displacement fund, or a new kind of impact fee developers would pay to cover the costs of helping displaced families relocate.

Before adopting a new development-impact fee, an analysis called a "nexus study" would have to be done to determine what those impacts could be, and such a study would likely take six to 12 months, said Housing and Economic Development Manager Jim Cogan.

The main point of the council discussion would be to talk through "best practices" in displacement policy, councilmembers asserted, preferably with housing experts in the room.

Whether the discussion happens during the general plan update process could have a bearing on what gets codified in the general plan. Councilman Peter Ohtaki said he thought the displacement talks should be an urgent, but separate, process to the general plan update.

Councilman Mueller said he wants to have the talk now, before the end of the general plan process, because it would create urgency to act, and recommendations could be a part of the revised general plan document. "This conversation is happening all around us and we're just sitting on the sidelines," he said. Two motions he proposed to the council to require the displacement talk to happen before the approval of the general plan were not seconded.

Councilwoman Keith agreed that having the discussion before the general plan update process ends would be nice, but, given the constraints on staff, she suggested another approach: Pick a couple of measures that are on the less controversial side of the spectrum of options, and try to get them passed as soon as possible.

She recommended policies that would require tenants and landlords to do mandatory, non-binding arbitration and that would require landlords to offer tenants the option to have a 12-month lease. Other cities have those policies and ordinances already written and they could easily be drafted for Menlo Park's use, she said.

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously on a motion indicating the displacement talk could "possibly" occur before the close of the general plan update process, but would most likely occur in January, after the general plan is approved.

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7 people like this
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2016 at 12:42 pm

It should only take one council member to place an item on the agenda.

26 people like this
Posted by Vote Taylor and Mueller
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

This story proves the Almanac was 100% correct in endorsing Cecilia Taylor and Ray Mueller for City Council. It's disgusting not one Councilmember would second Ray's motion demanding a meeting on gentrification prior to approving the General Plan. Vote Mueller and Taylor!

16 people like this
Posted by reporter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Hey Kate, why don't you do your job and actually research how many rental residents have been displaced so far? Instead of gushing over the same council members, you could actually provide a service so that council and readers can see the growing problem themselves. Or is that not journalism in the new age?

28 people like this
Posted by Renter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 26, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I'm guessing that none of the Council members are renters, which is why they feel no sense of urgency on the topic. Our whole property is about to go upscale, and we are among the many (most?) who are being displaced. We will be looking for a new home in other peninsula cities.

27 people like this
Posted by RW
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 26, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Top contributions to Catherine Carlton's campaign (need more be said?):

● David Bohannon, Menlo Park resident and president of David D. Bohannon Organization, $2,500.
● AJ Oxley of Gilroy, vice president of Ciarra, a construction company, $1,500.
● SILVAR (Silicon Valley Association of Realtors), based in Sunnyvale, $1,000.
● Jason Chang, Palo Alto resident and COO of CS Bio, a Menlo Park-based biotech company, $950.
She also received wine valued at about $720 from Joel Butler, executive at W.L. Butler Construction.

VOTE CECILIA TAYLOR, limit development, and preserve Menlo Park's quality of life.

15 people like this
Posted by georg0
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm

georg0 is a registered user.

Carlton failed yet another opportunity to separate herself from the McIntyre development machine, and support Mueller in his attempts to solve real city problems. McIntyre wants the general plan development provisions and the Facebook project both authorized on a fast track this year, and then leave dealing with fall-out problems until next year. I Anticipate deferral of the transportation issues raised at the planning commission until after the development approvals at next Council meeting. Maybe Mueller can find some support on council for dealing with these quality of life, safety and neighborhood issues before the rush approvals, but hard to count on. Please urge other council members to deal with these important matters before the rush to approve development. The railroad is running to make Menlo Park simply a cog in the urbanization of the peninsula, and no longer a separate city with real legitimate independent concerns.

4 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Neilson Buchanan is a registered user.

Menlo Park City Council and Staff are exhibiting near fatal case of willful blindness.

They can take a health dose of medicine by reading fear reducing policy brief from Stanford.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Familiar
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 27, 2016 at 1:12 am

Why discuss something they don't want? There is a need, not a desire. A cynical perspective:

Menlo Park wants OWNERS, not tenants. Just mixed use owner occupied condos above commercial or retail. Every city needs tax and assessment paying owners. Many past discussions have taken place pabout how to transition to owner occupancy. Meanwhile, the rents are in market not in Council control. The message seems clear. Buy or leave.

Quietly discussed for years, the apartments and rental bungalows which peppered Menlo Park of 1950s-70s are past. The rental housing need in Menlo Park created by Stanford, manufacturing and research parks left town long ago. Menlo Park has had enough of problematic apartments and their problematic short term occupants. Issues like parking and poorly maintained Prop 13 valuation buildings are constant challenges.

Even the large corporate owned and managed apartment complexes have high unmanageable turnover - of their own management groups. The regulatory environment for offering rental housing in California has become unwieldy. Why even invest in or start any new rentals?

If new mixed use units proposed and built do not sell, then rent them. Problem solved. What is there to discuss?

6 people like this
Posted by Grow up
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 27, 2016 at 8:26 am

Keep up the good reporting, Ms. Bradshaw. The lack of housing for teachers and other people who provide valuable services in our community is making Menlo Park less charming by the minute. Displaced people living in their vehicles by the parks and the homeless is creating a Health Crisis for them as well as the community where they live - on the streets, in the creek and parks. Developers aren't going to create low income housing out of the goodness of their hearts and it's up to City government to address these issues and make sure that all of the money exchanging hands includes money for low and middle income housing in our city as well as funding transportation infrastructure (light raid, bike trails). Menlo Park is failing miserably. Kudos for Ray Mueller for at least paying lip service on this issue. How long do we have to wait as more and more people are becoming homeless and the City Council and our City Manager continue to turn a blind eye to the housing crisis and worsening traffic situation?

3 people like this
Posted by slow the gravy train
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

The City Manager and Council majority are catering to a gravy train for developers, to the detriment of our residents.
They are pushing to the back burner critical discussions about retaining important members of our community, many of whom teach our kids, respond to emergencies, clean our houses, work in our businesses, restaurants and stores, and add to the diversity of our lives.
They also are pushing to the back burner critical discussions about what it takes to support the massive growth they are about to approve - roads, schools, sports fields, water - and how to fund it. Huge projects will worsen traffic all over town, displace more residents, make our neighborhoods less safe, and generally worsen our quality of life.
The developer gravy train should be slowed down until these back-burnered discussions occur and plans implemented (and funded). WE are the voters they should be serving.

Like this comment
Posted by Renter in MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

Something about this article that bothers me is how a lot of finger pointing is going on. I attend some of the meetings at city council and I rarely see new faces. 5 city council members are just 5 human beings. They have only so many ideas. More than ever this city needs the voices and involvement of a lot more people.

It's easy to be angry and act like our anger is enough - but we are still left with the issues. Why not try a new approach - inspire people to come to the meetings with ideas. I am just a renter in Menlo Park and yes it is scary to think of my future here, but what is worse to me is sitting around blaming the city council without at least trying or offering suggestions. In the whack-a-mole nature of city problem solving, I feel this article paints a negative view when it isn't entirely necessary. Yes of course the displacement problem is not good - but negativity doesn't inspire me either. We need ideas, not blame.

Like this comment
Posted by slow the gravy train
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 2:27 pm

@Renter in MP
Your idea would seem reasonable, but it is clear to many of us that this council thinks they have all they answers, or they are being told by city manager and developers that they have them. The entire ConnectMenlo effort had no meaningful outreach other than during the advisory group meetings that were held at impossible locations (Belle Haven in early evening). The rest of the outreach was not interactive or seeking new ideas. If you have the energy to try another way, go for it.

Like this comment
Posted by think
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 4:27 pm

slow the gravy, the meetings for ConnectMenlo were run by Mueller and Ohtaki as teh subcommittee to council.

you could have sent a note any time. if you think Mueller and Ohtaki just railed this thing through you should have protested. if you think buying to more weeks as Mueller has attempted, after railing this thing through the community at warp speed, is disingenuous, say so.

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