Housing in mixed-use projects can count toward state housing requirement


Menlo Park -- and other California cities and towns -- will now be able to count housing within mixed-use projects toward its state-mandated affordable housing requirements, thanks to Assembly Bill 1690, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Tuesday, Sept. 30.

The bill, with encouragement from Menlo Park Councilman Peter Ohtaki and city staff, was sponsored by Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, to allow units to be counted as very low- and low-income housing if the project site's zoning allows 100 percent residential and requires that at least 50 percent of the development be used for housing.

"I'd like to express concern and frustration that the current Housing Element process is based on and driven by unfunded and rigidly-defined State mandates, rather than a community-driven process and, as a result, does not consider factors that are critical in local communities," then-Mayor Ohtaki wrote in a letter to Mr. Gordon in 2013.

That frustration peaked when Menlo Park had to scramble to update its housing element to settle a lawsuit brought by three advocacy groups in 2012 after the city failed to complete the updates as required by state law. The settlement required the city to identify potential sites for affordable housing, create zoning that provides incentives for building affordable housing production at those sites, and set aside a portion of local below-market-rate funds for nonprofit development of affordable housing.

The Assembly bill is meant to expand the options available for meeting the state's mandate. "(AB 1690) modifies the housing element law to increase flexibility for cities," said Mr. Ohtaki.

The changes are expected to encourage the development of mixed-use projects in areas of the city, such as Belle Haven, that lack a variety of retail services. Menlo Park wanted to see a grocery store included in a proposed Hamilton Avenue housing development, according to Mr. Ohtaki, but then under current state law the housing would have not counted toward the city's state-assigned allotment.

"Housing low-income individuals on mixed-use sites places them near the jobs and critical services they need, giving our most vulnerable populations access to needed resources," Assemblyman Gordon told the Almanac. He said the legislation's bipartisan support reflects the planning flexibility communities need throughout California.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm

What about people living in existing low-income housing that are being pushed out by greedy developers cashing in on high-density incentives? All these rules are oddly silent about displacement of existing families.

We should be credit for saving the existing low-income housing of residents threatened by displacement because of development. We should get credit and a half as an incentive to counter all the pressures to evict them. Existing, older housing stock is the least expensive affordable housing.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 4,738 views

If you do nothing else, do These Three Things
By Sherry Listgarten | 28 comments | 1,945 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,286 views

Lentil Brownies
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 408 views

Finding Balance
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 238 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.