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'It would change my life.' New reports on Flood school apartments show need for staff housing

Menlo Park city staff: Workforce housing project would create less neighborhood traffic than reopening the elementary school

A toppled over basketball hoop and abandoned picnic table at the now closed James Flood Magnet School at 321 Sheridan Drive in Menlo Park on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The proposed workforce housing project at the former Flood School would create less traffic than reopening a school of the same size, according to Menlo Park city staff.

Two recently released reports, one from the city addressing misinformation about the development and one from the school district on its employees' need for affordable housing, are adding nuance to the contentious debate over a project that's become a flashpoint for the city's plans to increase its housing units.

More than 40% of the faculty and staff at the Ravenswood City School District are considering leaving their jobs due to the high cost of housing, and two-thirds say their housing is unaffordable or unstable, according to statistics based on a district survey.

Using responses from the 89 out of 300 staff members who took the survey, the school district concluded that only one-third of its staff have access to affordable and stable housing, and that 43% are considering leaving their job due to a lack of access to the cost of living in Menlo Park or the length of their commute.

The Ravenswood School District's administration offices, located on Euclid Avenue in East Palo Alto. Photo by Veronica Weber.

"Workforce housing also provides greater opportunities for the truly passionate people in our community to work and serve alongside our families to benefit our students, without the added burden of considering a second job to ensure we can afford to stay here," a staff member wrote in the survey.

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The school district is seeking to build up to 90 units of affordable housing on the site of the former James Flood Magnet School, with priority given to district employees.

The city is facing a state mandate to zone for thousands of new homes — including 426 units for low-income households and 740 units for very-low income households — the Flood school plan has received significant community pushback, with residents voicing concerns about traffic and appropriate rezoning for the 2.5-acre site, which is currently designated for single-family homes.

Following a community meeting, the city's document was compiled by staff to combat misinformation, according to Deanna Chow, assistant community development director. A key concern is the impact of new traffic from the development.

According to the report, the traffic impacts of a 90-unit residential development would create 400 new daily trips. By comparison, an elementary school with 275 students, the size of the Flood School before closure, would likely produce over 600 trips per day. The proposed development would create a predicted 178 fewer trips in peak morning times than a school, and just nine more trips at peak evening times.

"A residential site at this residential development at this site would still have a fraction of the traffic compared to a school," said Will Eger, chief business officer of the Ravenswood City School District.

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It also flagged the property as an ideal place for affordable housing, given the developer interest and potential for increased housing equity for the Belle Haven neighborhood and city of East Palo Alto, both recognized by the state of California as "disadvantaged communities."

The city of Menlo Park expects a proposed development to make no change to the safety of students

biking or walking to school compared to other developments of this size, and identifies safe paths for

biking or walking to school through the Safe Routes to School Program.

The city plans to complete an environmental impact report which will include a traffic analysis, and the development review process will contain a traffic impact assessment if 100 or more daily trips come as a result of the project.

Bolstering its case for the project, the school district cited data showing that there are no two-bedroom rental units in Menlo Park that are "likely affordable" for a family of four making 50% of the Area Median Income. The current median income in San Mateo County is $166,000 for a family of four.

According to Eger, district staff would receive priority for housing as a completed project is expected to have a long waitlist.

Using that survey data, district officials estimate they would need over 200 units to meet the full housing needs of its staff.

"It would change my life," another staff member wrote. "I live with my landlords in a condo in a tiny bedroom. I pay a ton in gas. I cannot financially support medical costs, car repairs, food beyond basics, trips, or hobbies."

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Cameron Rebosio
 
Cameron Rebosio joined the Almanac in 2022 as the Menlo Park reporter. She previously wrote for the Daily Californian and the Palo Alto Weekly. Read more >>

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'It would change my life.' New reports on Flood school apartments show need for staff housing

Menlo Park city staff: Workforce housing project would create less neighborhood traffic than reopening the elementary school

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 14, 2022, 11:07 am

The proposed workforce housing project at the former Flood School would create less traffic than reopening a school of the same size, according to Menlo Park city staff.

Two recently released reports, one from the city addressing misinformation about the development and one from the school district on its employees' need for affordable housing, are adding nuance to the contentious debate over a project that's become a flashpoint for the city's plans to increase its housing units.

More than 40% of the faculty and staff at the Ravenswood City School District are considering leaving their jobs due to the high cost of housing, and two-thirds say their housing is unaffordable or unstable, according to statistics based on a district survey.

Using responses from the 89 out of 300 staff members who took the survey, the school district concluded that only one-third of its staff have access to affordable and stable housing, and that 43% are considering leaving their job due to a lack of access to the cost of living in Menlo Park or the length of their commute.

"Workforce housing also provides greater opportunities for the truly passionate people in our community to work and serve alongside our families to benefit our students, without the added burden of considering a second job to ensure we can afford to stay here," a staff member wrote in the survey.

The school district is seeking to build up to 90 units of affordable housing on the site of the former James Flood Magnet School, with priority given to district employees.

The city is facing a state mandate to zone for thousands of new homes — including 426 units for low-income households and 740 units for very-low income households — the Flood school plan has received significant community pushback, with residents voicing concerns about traffic and appropriate rezoning for the 2.5-acre site, which is currently designated for single-family homes.

Following a community meeting, the city's document was compiled by staff to combat misinformation, according to Deanna Chow, assistant community development director. A key concern is the impact of new traffic from the development.

According to the report, the traffic impacts of a 90-unit residential development would create 400 new daily trips. By comparison, an elementary school with 275 students, the size of the Flood School before closure, would likely produce over 600 trips per day. The proposed development would create a predicted 178 fewer trips in peak morning times than a school, and just nine more trips at peak evening times.

"A residential site at this residential development at this site would still have a fraction of the traffic compared to a school," said Will Eger, chief business officer of the Ravenswood City School District.

It also flagged the property as an ideal place for affordable housing, given the developer interest and potential for increased housing equity for the Belle Haven neighborhood and city of East Palo Alto, both recognized by the state of California as "disadvantaged communities."

The city of Menlo Park expects a proposed development to make no change to the safety of students

biking or walking to school compared to other developments of this size, and identifies safe paths for

biking or walking to school through the Safe Routes to School Program.

The city plans to complete an environmental impact report which will include a traffic analysis, and the development review process will contain a traffic impact assessment if 100 or more daily trips come as a result of the project.

Bolstering its case for the project, the school district cited data showing that there are no two-bedroom rental units in Menlo Park that are "likely affordable" for a family of four making 50% of the Area Median Income. The current median income in San Mateo County is $166,000 for a family of four.

According to Eger, district staff would receive priority for housing as a completed project is expected to have a long waitlist.

Using that survey data, district officials estimate they would need over 200 units to meet the full housing needs of its staff.

"It would change my life," another staff member wrote. "I live with my landlords in a condo in a tiny bedroom. I pay a ton in gas. I cannot financially support medical costs, car repairs, food beyond basics, trips, or hobbies."

Comments

smallbusinessownerCZ
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 15, 2022 at 9:57 am
smallbusinessownerCZ, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2022 at 9:57 am

These words are what we should all honor "It would change my life." Let's help change the lives of teachers and school staff and build housing that can make a positive difference for employees who work in the school system and are dedicated to educating our youth! Let's do what we can to help get this housing built. Thank you Almanac for this headline - it's perfect!


Menlo Lifestyle
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 15, 2022 at 3:56 pm
Menlo Lifestyle, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2022 at 3:56 pm

All the heart-string tugging in the word won't stop the homeowners of Menlo Park voting on the ballot measure requiring the voters to approve the rezoning required to plop this monster building on the old school site. Once that passes, it will likely be a number of election cycles until something more modest gets approved. All that time wasted by Mr Eger because he put all of his eggs in the City Council basket instead of working with the Menlo Park homeowners actually impacted.

If Mr. Eger truly wanted to help teachers he would redevelop that large piece of property his low-density office sits on, with all of those small builds spread apart like that. But then again, maybe he wouldn't like to work somewhere that dense.


Menlo Lifestyle
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 15, 2022 at 4:04 pm
Menlo Lifestyle, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2022 at 4:04 pm

"It would change my life," is exactly what the families with small children who live along Hedge Road say. Those families with children and pets who will have to contend with all that increase in traffic.


Rob Silano
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 15, 2022 at 8:04 pm
Rob Silano, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2022 at 8:04 pm

Almanac:
Will there be a follow up article by “Menlo Balance” on this subject?

I’m concerned about:

1) Traffic in the neighborhoods that surround Flood Park regarding completion?

2) Entry- Entrance points from the site? There is presently only one.

3) The School District has never disclosed a number of employees that would take the offer to rent there? Would the school district build single story residences, instead of apartments? What an incentive for school employees to have a residence in the area; affordable, and they own outright.

I’m assuming the school district’s incentive is monetary rather than in the interest in their employees. I sure hope I’m wrong on the school district’s incentive and motivation.


K. Dumont
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 18, 2022 at 4:30 pm
K. Dumont , Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Jul 18, 2022 at 4:30 pm

Thank you for this informative article! It helps paint a fuller picture of the burden of our local housing crisis, not just on our public school employees, but on so many workers, students, and retirees.

When the median income in the county is $166,000 for a family of four and 85% of residential land in the Bay Area is allocated to single-family housing, it follows that a study would find affordable rental units to be severely lacking in our community.

I would love to see the Almanac shine a light on the origins of our current housing crisis, because we certainly didn't get to this point overnight. I know this because I grew up here, in a working-class family. I've witnessed so many friends, family, and coworkers move out of the area, but it was only recently that I became aware of the area's exclusionary residential zoning and redlining practices. Such policies created unequal access to housing and helped fuel today's affordable housing crisis. They have pushed–and continue to push–low and moderate income families to the margins, whether physically, financially, or both.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 19, 2022 at 1:39 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Jul 19, 2022 at 1:39 am

In my opinion the dramatic improvement in the lives of those who would live in these homes trumps the small inconvenience imposed on their surrounding neighbors.

How wonderful it would be if Suburban Park, a wonderful community in which I was fortunate to live for two years, welcomed these new neighbors as a beneficial addition to their neighborhood rather than treating them as second class citizens who inconvenience them.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 19, 2022 at 1:43 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Jul 19, 2022 at 1:43 am

Why not extend the Food Park parking area to make it another access/egress point for these new home during the hours that the park is open - spread the load/share the sacrifice.


Frozen
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 19, 2022 at 12:53 pm
Frozen, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Jul 19, 2022 at 12:53 pm

Well, of course, everyone wants affordable housing within an easy commute of their work. I notice that the survey carefully avoided asking the real question: would you want to move your family of four to a tiny housing unit that's not within walking distance of anything?

These housing proposals also vastly underestimate the actual vehicle trips per day. Sure, those traffic estimates are valid -- if you've got only one person living in a unit, and that person never goes anywhere other than to a job. Trips to the grocery store, other shopping, recreational activities, doctor visits -- I guess the new residents won't be doing any of that. And, as any parent could tell you, kids are constantly on the go, traveling to sports practices and games, going to music lessons, getting a ride to the library or to a friend's house for a playdate.

Schools, conversely, have limited traffic: mostly during the week and during the school year. Claiming that schools generate more traffic doesn't pass the straight face test.

Clearly there are people who stand to make a lot of money off this development. The passion is real! But so are the concerns expressed by the neighbors. Let the residents decide in November.


East of Middlefield Road
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 20, 2022 at 10:04 am
East of Middlefield Road, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 20, 2022 at 10:04 am

Menlo Lifestyle. “ It would change my life” is exactly what the Flood Triangle says. Suburban Park stop trying to send the traffic to another neighborhood that already has “ cut through “ traffic that Suburban Park does not contend with daily.


Mary
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 21, 2022 at 4:24 pm
Mary , Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 21, 2022 at 4:24 pm

It is such a poor choice and makes no sense to put high density affordable apartments in the middle of an all single family home development like Sburban Park.
The current traffic study is flawed because it does not take into account that the majority of children that attended that school were bussed in and out on a school bus from Ravenswood School District. The neighbors complained about all the extra vehicles and Flood Park graciously opened their gates and allowed the buses and traffic to go in and out through Flood Park. Thus, reducing the number of vehicles into the Suburban Park neighborhood.
Suburban Park is not anti-affordable housing, or teacher housing. Why not put an appropriate amount of townhouses on the 2 1/2 acres? This would eliminate a lot of the issues circulating around. It would allow the Ravenswood School District to receive the revenue it’s looking for. It would help the residence of Suburban Park and surrounding areas to be more comfortable with the project. It would eliminate the need for a four-story 60 to 90 unit apartment building with parking for the people who live there. These high density apartments would be stuck smack in the middle of a residential area. This would also mean there would not have to be a zoning change. It would make it beneficial to the builder I’m sure.


Menlo Lifestyle
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 27, 2022 at 8:59 am
Menlo Lifestyle, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 27, 2022 at 8:59 am

East of Middlefield Road: Suburban Park isn't "pushing" that traffic solution, your Council Member Combs is pushing it, with the support of Ray Mueller. They were just happy as clams throwing y9our neighborhood under the bus as well. Fortunately, the initiative is on the ballot this fall and RCSD will have to put any solution to the voters in a coming election.


East of Middlefield Road
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 28, 2022 at 8:04 am
East of Middlefield Road, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2022 at 8:04 am

Menlo Lifestyle, Drew Combs and Ray Mueller are trying to meet the demands of Suburban Park residents. Many residents are insisting the former Flood School site have a second access. See post by Rob Silano above.
The council members did not come up with the “idea” to “ push” through Haven House.
To be clear I am not, as well as most residents, opposed to any housing. This project does not belong where it is proposed.


Dawn1234
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 28, 2022 at 8:58 am
Dawn1234, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2022 at 8:58 am

When driving/riding across our wonderful town it is amazing to see just how many single family neighborhoods also have sections of apartments in them and it seems like it all works out pretty harmoniously. As far as neighborhood design goes, having apartments mixed among SF makes the most sense. The ride down Roble is FILLED with driveways with multiple families using each. Wouldn't it make more sense to spread out multi-family dwellings everywhere? So that lots of income levels have access to the idyllic neighborhoods of our town? Especially given the clear racial segregation roots of our current zoning laws. Putting it to a vote every time is a way to negate the effect of district zoning on city council and silence those voices. We elect a council to do this work. Elections aren't free. if successful, it seems like this measure will also add to the cost of every new multi-family project - again, the desired effect is suppression of interspersed affordable housing in our town and maintenance of systems designed for segregation, even if that is not currently an active component. I hope our town shoots down this alternative power grab.


Alan
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 28, 2022 at 9:28 am
Alan, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Jul 28, 2022 at 9:28 am

I'm not sure about the exact number, but there's several thousand new apartments proposed for the area around Belle Haven. Somehow, this small project in Flood Park is getting a lot more attention - in an area that historically had a school, with all of its traffic. My sympathy level isn't very high.


private citizen
Registered user
Laurel School
on Jul 30, 2022 at 2:08 am
private citizen, Laurel School
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2022 at 2:08 am

@Alan, Flood school is getting attention from BayRd./Dist 2 because it's not, by far, the only outsized project going into our string of three, small, single-family, small-lot neighborhoods. The development, as proposed, will stand 4-5 floors high w/ 90 units. Out-of-scale with the neighborhood. Suburban Park would like to off-load the traffic from the project onto Flood Triangle by opening a road at Haven House on Van Buren so they can keep their semi-private, single-entry neighborhood that has not seen outside traffic since Flood School closed in 2011. The Triangle has problems with unmitigated rush-hour, cut-through, speeding traffic and poor infrastructure.
And because the County just over-rode the statistical majority of feedback from a questionnaire about what people want in Flood Park, deciding instead to pander to a vocal minority of parents, mostly from nearby communities, with their own, beautiful parks and woods, who will pay for Flood to be 2/3rds sports fields and courts, including 2 new ful- size grass soccer fields, a refurbished grass baseball diamond, a full-size basketball court, two tennis courts that will also host 36 pickle ball players, a volleyball sand court, and a pump track. All this'll be built within 100 feet of the neighbor's backyards on Elmonte. The county has shoe-horned in so many amenities, that they cannot possibly all be used at once and there isn't sufficient parking to absorb the demand created.


Iris
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 30, 2022 at 9:00 am
Iris, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Jul 30, 2022 at 9:00 am

This initiative is not about Flood Park. It has implications for the future of our town and our neighborhoods.

I believe the housing shortage will never improve until non-residential development, especially of new offices, slows or even reverses.

The ConnectMenlo general plan update and downtown specific plan opened the floodgates to new non-residential development without requiring commensurate new housing, and developments since their adoption have worsened the housing shortage by adding more workers than homes. This has been happening in other nearby cities, too.

Our town council has not acted to remedy our town's part of this problem by modifying non-residential building rules to achieve a healthy balance. Such as converting non-residential to mixed use or all-residential, and limiting non-residential growth. Instead, they seem to be targeting residential neighborhoods as the solution.

Maybe if this initiative passes, the council will look harder at non-residential sites rather than residential sites to address the housing shortage.


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