Lost opportunity for BMR housing
Original post made by Renee Batti, associate editor of The Almanac, on Mar 27, 2007
The 1300 El Camino (Cadillac) project offered Menlo Park its first major new rental apartments in decades. It was a transit-oriented complex that would have provided 134 rental units, including 22 below market rate (BMR) units, as well as retail and office space.
One of the City Council's complaints about this project was there was not enough retail. Another was that we have enough rental units in the city and, because our city would not get tax revenue from the rentals, the apartments should be condos.
The height, setback and density of the project were assailed but the council gave no hint to the developer about what numbers would be acceptable. The council was not willing to work with the developer to come up with a compromise plan.
So instead of much-needed housing and tax-producing retail, it looks like we will get a grocery store and offices, neither of which will generate much in the way of tax revenue.
While the City Council and community members continue to talk about the need to update the general plan and residential zoning ordinances before agreeing to go forward with projects, nothing has been done to begin the process. As Brielle Johnck noted last week, this process could take quite some time. In essence, a moratorium has been created without public discussion or vote of the council.
An El Camino task force is under consideration. While this is potentially a good way to solicit community input, we already have had charrettes, the county has a "Grand Boulevard" commission composed of elected officials, and who knows how many other groups or agencies are working on the same two miles or so of Menlo Park real estate?
Add to that the Green Ribbon Task Force on Global Warming, which should also be involved with this vital discussion, and we now have a lot of overlapping groups and interests that don't communicate with each other.
Back to our BMR units. We are left to wonder about the commitment of our council members to the BMR program and affordable housing. Council members serve on various housing boards and commissions, but whose interests do they represent? Do they really represent the 500 or so households on our BMR list or other Menlo Park residents who might benefit from expanded and more diverse, potentially affordable, housing options? Or do they represent their own re-election interests?
Fremont Street, Menlo Park
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