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Comment from Resident Directly Effected by Derry and Temporary Housing Projects

From: domainremoved <Eileen>
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2013 18:45:57 -0800

Dear Planning Commissioners and City Council:

I will not be able to attend the Planning Commission Meeting this evening
as I have to work long hours remote from Menlo Park to pay my exorbitant
rent for an apartment with pre-1980 amenities on the corner on Oak Grove
Avenue and Laurel St.

I am very familiar with the effected area. I have been in this
neighborhood for years. This neighborhood is one where the out of towners,
like I was, come to Silicon Valley for tech jobs to get their first
impression of Menlo Park and Silicon Valley. People come to rent first to
get the lay of land and figure out if Menlo Park is where they should buy
or whether another community is better. We may not be full of housing
structures referred to as single family, but there are plenty of single
families making their homes here. They are paying exorbitant rents by any
standard, and their children are just as adorable as children who live west
of El Camino Real.

I'll start with the temporary housing although I do feel that it is being
held over this neighborhood's residents heads if we don't accept the Derry
Project. In any event, I am against a *temporary* or *emergency *shelter
zoning. And furthermore, I am against groups outside Menlo Park running
such a shelter. There is a reason they say the road to Hell is paved with
good intentions, often other people's good intentions imposed on you. I am
not opposed to a permanent or long term housing program to help homeless
people willing to participate get into permanent housing.

First, the reasons below are presented in support of my opposition to
expanding *temporary or emergency *housing for the homeless in Menlo Park,
and particularly on the El Camino Real site between Oak Grove, Laurel, ECR
and San Antonio.

a) The MP train station is already a hang out for the homeless in case you
didn't know.

b) If you set up additional temp or emergency beds, you will get more
people showing up than can be accommodated. They will sleep on the
property nearby. In my daily experience in SF, I know to watch my step
coming out of my BART / Muni station because the homeless guys who like to
park their boxes there also leave their human feces there.

c) Not everyone wants to sleep in the shelter, but near enough to show for
the hot meal, leading again to public sleeping and urination on the
surrounding properties, not to mention drug use.

d) I doubt background checks like sex offender checks are done at these
temporary shelters.

e) Shelters throw everybody out at a certain time. They will roam around
the surrounding area all day. That also means their problems roam our
streets, like their addictions to meth and other drugs. Increases in
violence and public sex crimes may also result. My friend was on the BART
train when the homeless guy on crack cocaine was having sex with the seat.
There was also another one near where I work, high on paint fumes "playing
with himself" in public as well. I have had plenty of experience with
homeless people due to taking BART and MUNI.

f) In view of e), please remember there are three schools within walking
distance, and Nativity grade school is right nearby. Kids ride their bikes
on Oak Grove and Laurel to get to Encinal. MA High school students walk to
and from the 7-11 before and after school.

g) Homeless people may be attracted in the direction of at least Nativity
school because the church further down the road is one of the few churches
on the peninsula open during the day as well as all night. One or two
non-disruptive homeless people already hang out and sleep in the church.
The church deals with that already. A lot of homeless people may lead to
disruptive behavior like fights, or at least not being able to clean the
church. (This is my opinion based on experience. You can ask Msgr.
Otellini or Deacon Peloso for more information as they get more feedback
from the numerous prayer participants.)

Another alternative is to pay for rooms for the homeless in the hotels
instead of specific zoning. For example, the overflow from Haven Avenue
could be put up in the hotels, although this may increase demand all the

I prefer a permanent or long-term transitional housing program which
provides job training and life skills and drug and alcohol rehab and
background checks. People who go to Haven Avenue could apply or be
recommended. It's a program not a you show up on the doorstep thing. I
know of a woman myself who would benefit from such a program. You have to
be willing to do something positive to improve your life, and then a lot of
people will help. I do think a permanent or long term housing solution run
by St. Patrick's Seminary or under the auspices of the Vets may be very
viable. Besides a strong desire to assist others, both organizations have
a disciplined approach to goal setting and execution of tasks for not just
for one's own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well and the
community at large. Also, I believe both the Seminary and the Vets feel a
sense of duty to the Menlo Park Community. I know the Vets have
participated in supporting at least one big community event, and I have
participated in community events with several seminarians and a couple of
priests from the Seminary as well and am familiar with Catholic social
teaching as a practicing Catholic.

2) Issues with the Derry Project
a) Everyone riding bicycles and using public transportation is a pipe
dream. You need a car to live on the peninsula. Period. I am extremely
familiar with public transportation, and am seriously considering just
driving to SF for work everyday despite the 25% parking tax increase last
year. I have been in the danger zone of three violent incidents on BART,
Muni and Caltrain, one involving a mini meat cleaver, another a gun and
another just a man who woke up and went beserk tearing up the seat across
from me after viewing a text he received. The bus system is not an
effective way to travel, even aside from the people who just start singing
out loud. Professionals don't have 3 hours to do grocery shopping taking
public transportation on weekends.

b) The traffic on Oak Grove Avenue is constant already. A day or two a
week I do work from home. The traffic has just gotten worse and worse over
the years. You have to close the windows to speak on the phone. And it is
busy traffic from 7a.m. up through 8p.m. Even on Sunday afternoon with no
event downtown, there is significant traffic.

c) It's too big. I think it should be a smaller project of 50 to 75
townhomes of bigger size. Instead of these monstrosities, can't we have
more sites with lower densities allowed. Also, townhouses will sell and
resell over the years bringing home owners who do watch out for their
properties and tax revenue to Menlo Park.

d) The young professionals will not be attracted. Derry may turn into a
Section 8 housing complex, particularly if a temp homeless shelter is
there. The startups and successful started ups are either going to SF or
way further south. Mark Zuckerberg now has his place in Noe Valley in the
city. People coming to MP have been more and more young families as they
here it is family friendly. A young couple with one or two young children
can't live in the mini apartments being built. They will go elsewhere
closer to SF or further south. What young professional is going to choose
to live in Menlo Park just to pay exorbitant rent for a small apartment to
put up with the problems of homeless people roaming a complex along with a
long commute on a 70% reliable public transportation system when he or she
can do the same in SF or have more room further south on the peninsula
closer to a job he/she can drive to?

e) The enterntainment scene? What? Drive, heck, bike, walk or take the
train to Palo Alto, or even RWC, if you need night life. I have always
preferred Menlo Park to Palo Alto for being a little more quiet. I am
already within walking distance of all the downtown restaurants. I don't
need a Chipolte right downstairs.

Here is the really controversial point: I don't see why all of Menlo Park
is not subject to these high density requirements and zoning for temporary
shelters. The whole west side should be subject to these issues as well.
We're not protecting single families by leaving out the west side, just
protecting bigger housing structures on larger plots of land. The reason
to effect the whole town is to make the conversation much more honest and
make the compromises much more realistic. The reasonableness of laws and
their implementation is much more realistically assessed when all have to
be effected by them.

The way Menlo Park is being developed has convinced me that fair
representation needs the breaking up of Menlo Park into districts based
strictly on population count, and each district elects a Council Member.

Eileen Lehmann
Received on Mon Nov 18 2013 - 18:45:12 PST

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