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500 El Camino Project - BMR Agreement - Item G1 of the 9/26/17 Menlo Park City Council Agenda

From: domainremoved <Meg>
Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2017 11:55:11 -0700

Dear Council Members:

 

We are writing you as the two Commissioners who voted against the approval of the BMR agreement for the above-mentioned project. As you know, the proposal is to provide ten one-bedroom BMR units at the site. Two are being developed to satisfy a prior BMR agreement for 2131 Sand Hill Road. So, in effect, Stanford will only be providing 8 affordable units out of the total 215 units they are developing. This is a mere 3.7% of the total units.

 

When this came before the Housing Commission in late August, we were shocked by the low number of affordable units being required at the site, as well as the fact that the unit mix doesn't reflect the overall unit mix of the property. It should mirror it. We understand that the proposal complies with the current BMR policy regarding the total number of units, but at a minimum, the unit mix should be changed to include 1 bedrooms and 2 bedrooms per the same proportion of the total units at the site. By not doing this, it is clear the developer is trying not only to minimize their affordable housing unit commitment, but also avoid housing families, the type of resident population that can benefit most from living here.

 

Most critically, we would like to request that you please increase the affordable housing requirement for this project. We understand the BMR policy doesn’t require it, but we also understand you have been negotiating many other items as part of the development agreement. We would like to ask that the provision of an appropriate number of affordable units be added to this package. It is imperative and quite honestly shameful to not do so. It is one of the best opportunities we have to provide affordable housing near downtown. Doing this means taking seriously the value of providing affordable units in a mixed-income environment with great access to downtown, Caltrain, services, and good schools. It also allows you to show Belle Haven that you take the development of affordable housing throughout the ENTIRE city very seriously. By letting this opportunity go, you will be sending a very clear message to Belle Haven that you really have no intention of prioritizing affordable housing development outside of Belle Haven. Please don’t let this opportunity slip away. Please consider increasing the number of affordable units at the site. A great goal would be, at a minimum, to add 10 additional units. Ideally, we would like to see a full 15%, or 32 units.

 

Regardless of the outcome, this situation points to the urgency to update the Downtown Specific Plan to put in place a 15% affordable housing requirement for residential development. Without it, we are going to run into this situation again and again. At a minimum, we request that you prioritize this with planning staff. We are told that the Specific Plan is due for an update this year. Given it is almost October, we are concerned it has been back-burnered so respectfully ask that it be prioritized.

 

One other item worth mentioning as an FYI: You may or may not be aware that the proposed 2018 guidelines for housing tax credit allocations by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC) (this is also the Committee that Ray Mueller was just appointed to as the California Cities representative) include scoring advantages to family projects located in high resource areas. These are areas which are NOT considered impoverished. These are areas that tend to provide richer educational opportunities and resources for their residents. Specifically, from the proposed guidelines:

 

“Fifty-four percent of the nation’s poor live in high-poverty neighborhoods (those with poverty rates over 20 percent). Yet research has shown that low-income children who move to higher-resource, lower poverty areas experience higher educational attainment, college attendance rates, and earnings in adulthood when compared to their counterparts who grow up in areas of concentrated poverty. Living in lower poverty neighborhoods also has been shown to generate substantial physical and mental health improvements for both children and adults.” Various analyses of where TCAC 9% new construction large family projects have been located over the last 5-10 years indicate that such projects are disproportionately located in lower opportunity areas. While staff remains committed to funding developments in neighborhoods across the economic spectrum, staff strongly believes that its affordable housing residents should have more choice in where to live. Some may wish to remain in a community they grew up in. Others may wish to raise their families in places with greater job and educational opportunities. The options are not currently balanced, and the current 9% tax credit competition does not in any way advantage applications proposing new large family projects in higher resource neighborhoods in order to begin correcting the historic imbalance. Following up on last year’s regulation discussions and the spring forums TCAC co-hosted with HCD, staff proposes a number of measures to increase choice and access to place-based opportunity for residents of large family developments”

 

http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/ctcac/programreg/2017/20170911/2017initial.pdf - page 53.

 

500 El Camino, as well as any developments located in Downtown Menlo Park, are located in High Resource areas. We think it is important to realize that providing housing in these areas has a multiplier effect. It impacts lives entirely for the positive, not only by providing housing, but also by providing better life outcomes.

 

Thank you for considering our request. We hope sincerely that you will consider our appeal to increase the number of affordable units at the 500 El Camino project. It is absolutely critical for the reasons stated above. At a minimum, we also request that you readjust the current affordable housing unit mix of all 1 Bedrooms to match the mix at the overall development (1 BD and 2 BD’s). We also ask that you consider prioritizing the Specific Plan update to include a 15% set-aside for affordable units so that we can prevent a repeat of this kind of development.

 

Finally, we ask that you consider our request through the lens of responsible public policy and that which CTCAC is now hoping to promote. Whenever possible, it is critical to provide affordable housing in high resource areas as that is one of the most effective ways for low-income families to succeed. Affordable housing in these areas provides needy families not only with housing, but also with access to high quality amenities like transportation, schools, and community services. We very much want Menlo Park to be a community that values and promotes this kind of thinking.

 
Sincerely,

 

Michele Tate, Chair

Meg McGraw-Scherer, Vice- Chair

City of Menlo Park Housing Commission.

 
Received on Sat Sep 23 2017 - 12:00:43 PDT

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