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Tonight: Displacement policy talk kicks off Menlo Park council's 2017 agenda

The Menlo Park City Council will kick off the new year with a long-awaited discussion about residential displacement.

The council is scheduled to host a joint study session with the city's Housing Commission at its first 2017 meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The council in November passed an ordinance that will require apartment landlords to give renters the option to sign a 12-month lease. That ordinance will go into effect on March 6. Because of California laws and other exemptions in the ordinance, it is expected to apply to about a quarter of the city's 13,124 housing units.

The council is expected to talk about other policies it could implement.

One that the council has already talked about is a mandatory mediation policy. Under such a policy, if a renter has a complaint about a rent increase or eviction notice, the landlord would have to meet with the tenant and a third-party mediator – who could be a city employee, a contractor paid with city funds, or a volunteer – to reconcile or mediate negotiations between the two parties. The renter could not be penalized for asking for the meeting.

Similar policies exist in Mountain View and Campbell but have variations in how they're administered.

In a previous council discussion, it was pointed out that the policy could give renters false hope of reprieve: Rent increases in Menlo Park are currently unrestricted, as are evictions.

Other measures the city could take are presented in the staff report:

● Reduce the amount of parking required for affordable housing projects, which could cut development costs.

● Promote home-sharing programs, which could increase the number of residents living in the city's existing housing.

● Change the city's below-market-rate (BMR)housing guidelines so that homeowners of BMR houses can sublet rooms to renters at "affordable" rates.

● Change the city's guidelines to allow residents who have been displaced to stay on the wait list for BMR housing for up to three years, to allow community members forced elsewhere to move back.

● Buy and maintain housing units that are less costly in the existing market and keep them available to renters below the market rate.

● Require landlords to pay renters they evict a tenant relocation assistance fee to help them with moving costs. This would apply only to apartment complexes of four units or more, and there would be exemptions.

● Establish a displacement fund to help residents who are being priced out of their communities because of new development. Developers could be required to pay these fees if a study were to find that their development will increase nearby housing costs and displacement.

● Pass an ordinance limiting how much rent can be increased, to minimize sudden, exorbitant rent increases. Such an ordinance could apply only to some apartments because of California law.

● Require landlords to give justification when they evict someone. This could also apply only to some apartments.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. in a closed session to talk about the litigation between East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Its public meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Civic Center.

See the agenda here or watch the meeting online.

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by To What End
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 9, 2017 at 9:42 am

I hope the City Council appreciates that many of the problems we face, the issues which have drawn the most impassioned debates and discussions on this site, are attributable directly or indirectly from overcrowding.

Before new policies or rules are adopted, I hope the Council will solicit input from the residence of the city to hear what we want our city to be. Especially, since the City is striving to increase the population of Menlo Park (i.e. item #2 Promote home-sharing programs, which could increase the number of residents living in the city's existing housing.).

Menlo Park has fixed boundaries and so any increase in population can only come by increasing population density, further exacerbating our overcrowding problems. So, let's have a debate: (1) What is a healthy population for the city that the CURRENT RESIDENCE want, (2) What rate of population increase (3%, 5%, 10%?) do we want to strive for, and (3) What are the expected implications of continuing to add population (traffic, school, water availability, quality of life, parking, bicycle safety, city services).

Give the residence a chance to voice their concerns. And then, heed it. Adopt policies that support the vision for Menlo Park that we all want.


Like this comment
Posted by Tommy B.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 9, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Fair comments, "To what end"...FYI: a residence is a place where people live, a resident is the occupant of a residence!


3 people like this
Posted by Econ 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 9, 2017 at 3:07 pm

The most simple and basic solution is to slow jobs growth so available housing can catch up. This is Economics 101. Balance supply and demand.
Some of the problem is regional but menlo park does not need to make it worse by adding more jobs than housing.

These other ideas poke around the edges but not the heart of the displacement problem. Balance supply and demand. If the supply of housing is not actively and dramatically increased, stop or slow the demand for more.


6 people like this
Posted by hmmmm
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 9, 2017 at 6:33 pm

@Econ101 - agree, but that ship has sailed with the approval of the General Plan and the FaceBook development. The City has already made it ok for thousands of new employees at FB with no plan in site to address the impacts of the development on traffic, schools, water resources and so forth.

One useful thing would be for the City to make it easier and more affordable for residents, including those on smaller lots, to add in-law apartments to their property, or to convert existing structures to living space. Currently I think the lot has to be at least 6000sf? We have many areas with somewhat smaller lots that already have structures in them that could be converted. Many zoning laws were waived for FaceBook. Seems like residents could use a zoning hand up as well.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 9, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

hmmmm:

the only problems with converting and/or adding "in law units" is that the neighbors will complain about increased traffic and the parking regulations in this town don't allow overnight parking except in special circumstances like around apartment buildings. Where will the folks renting those units park their cars?

Bottom line though, really, is the "no birds" will complain about increased density. God forbid we should do anything to increase housing stock inside neighborhoods of single family homes.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2017 at 8:07 pm

@Econ 101

I don't think many elected officials want to go through the ridicule of fighting against "too many jobs"...


2 people like this
Posted by Cayo
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 11, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Landlords have been making huge increases in rents, mine went up $400 with one month's notice, with no repairs or upgrades! There is no assistance in place for many low income tenants, I will soon have to leave the area, I can't make it even with two jobs. Having an assistance program would help, but does not keep landlords from this practice, and we will lose many good workers in the service industry, it isn't sustainable to commute from Salinas or beyond. Without service workers (restaurant, caregiving, landscapers, etc.) how will the affluent maintain their lifestyles?


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Quality of Life in San Mateo County has decreased, No concern for those who live her. Look to the H1-B visas.


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