Customer Opinions: Contrasting opinions on Menlo Park’s Measure V | New
The League of Women Voters encourages the vote “no” to measure V
The South San Mateo County League of Women Voters opposes Menlo Park’s Measure V.
The mission of the League of Women Voters is to make democracy work and support effective representative democracy. By eliminating the function of elected city council officials to effect zoning changes and instead subjecting zoning changes to a public vote, Measure V reduces the effectiveness of municipal government.
Our league has adopted a full range of housing positions. We oppose Measure V for the following specific reasons, which are based on these positions.
• Electoral requirements are a barrier to building new housing and can therefore increase the cost and uncertainty of housing proposals. Our league believes that Menlo Park needs new housing and therefore should avoid barriers and additional costs to housing production.
• The measure does nothing to moderate or otherwise affect housing demand. Our league believes there must be a balance between land uses that create jobs and the supply of housing. This measure does not provide any means or measure that achieves a balance. Our league believes the City of Menlo Park can do better to balance the two and believes there are options to minimize potential negative impacts while meeting housing demand across the city.
• The state and pro-housing groups have acted not only to remove barriers to housing construction, but also to limit local discretionary decision-making. The proposed measure risks being reversed in the future.
We understand that Measure V was born out of the frustration of reviewing a housing project. We believe that the V measure is not the solution to this frustration. We support higher densities along major transportation routes and believe development should be guided by an agreed master plan and supporting zoning rules that are regularly reviewed to ensure consistency. We think Menlo Park could do better with its general plan and zoning regulations.
We encourage strong public engagement regarding potential zoning changes and related development regulations and design standards that minimize impacts to adjacent uses.
Our league would host forums to examine the city’s overall job-producing capacity and housing options to create balance as well as identify development regulations and design standards that minimize impacts. We would join with the city, other community organizations and neighborhood groups to support such forums.
Connie Guerrero is president of the South San Mateo County League of Women Voters
V-measure protects residents from high-density development
It’s no surprise that residents, even volunteer council members, misunderstand a zoning issue. The ramifications of a zoning ordinance — like the one that defines single-family neighborhoods — seem shrouded in complexity, and it’s hard to know for sure when something isn’t more than it says.
It helps to know that Menlo Park, like other Bay Area cities, is required by the state to identify areas where dense housing (apartments) can be built during the next eight-year cycle. . So staff scour zoning maps looking for something to change. Large lots near the train station or in new development areas served by shuttle buses are smart. Small lots tucked away in more remote neighborhoods are also being tossed around, as self-proclaimed housing advocates say new apartments need to be spread across the city. The council is under pressure to find as many lots as possible.
The V measurement is much simpler than these defenders would have you believe. First of all, it does not “block” anything, including dense housing (apartments). This requires a confirmation vote if developers or the city council (or more specifically, three members of council) want to improve the area without considering the residents of that neighborhood.
So far, the test case and initial trigger for Measure V is that owners of land nestled in the suburban park want to build a large number of apartments, in conflict with long-existing zoning. Ninety, instead of about 12, among those typical small 5,000 square foot lots. The owners, the Ravenswood School District, asked a developer (Alliant Strategic) to build a lucrative project, as large as possible. But they told the press that it would be “100% affordable accommodation”. They also said adamantly that the units are not just for faculty or staff and that they aim to take advantage of development, which would suggest market rate units. Eh?
Neighbors would have been okay with 60 units crammed in there – barely a NIMBY reaction, the equivalent of five houses on their typical lot. And they wouldn’t just be two-story buildings, they would have at least four stories. Oh, and there’s no “minimum size” project to plot. Local developers would build any number, 12, 45, 60, 78, 90 – anything works. And now state law says 78 units will do without a zoning change if it’s for teachers and staff.
So, what type of project, affordable or profitable? It can’t be both. I have managed such projects, I know the math. But three council members — all members of Karen Grove’s Menlo Together clique — have already signaled they will push through this zoning change for 90 units.
This is why the neighbors need the V measure. Peter Ohtaki understands this because he served on the council when the neighbors were heard (he is running for council again). Our city should not be a dictatorship by cliques. That’s why you deserve to vote before an awkward “housing solution” is stuck in your neighborhood.
When you read an expensive campaign flyer saying Measure V is “for teachers,” don’t buy the rotation of the Menlo Together clique. Measure V is your chance to vote, no more and no less.
Henry Riggs is a Menlo Park resident, architect and construction manager, and has served on the Menlo Park Planning Commission since 2005.