Affordable housing measure collecting local support | News | Palo Alto Online |


Affordable housing measure collecting local support

Palo Alto-based Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is biggest campaign donor to date

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A statewide ballot measure to set up a $4 billion bond to support affordable housing for veterans and low-income residents appears, so far, to have only fans.

Supporters of Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, had contributed a collective $2.1 million to the campaign by mid-month, while no opponent funding or committees had been identified as of July 16, according to the California Secretary of State website.

To date, the biggest donor to the campaign is the Palo Alto-based Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, with a contribution of $250,000 to the fundraising committee Affordable Housing Now. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a limited liability corporation funded with the personal shares of Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his spouse, Dr. Priscilla Chan.

The proposition is also gathering support among area elected officials and organizations, and has been endorsed by Menlo Park City Councilwoman Kirsten Keith, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine, Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, the town of Portola Valley and the cities of Redwood City, San Mateo and Mountain View.

Listed endorsers of the proposition also include a number of housing agencies that operate locally, such as Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley, EAH Housing, and MidPen Housing Corporation, among many others.

Keith cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which show that there are around 40,000 homeless veterans in the United States – more than 11,000 of whom live in California. She noted that the state has seen a 17 percent rise in homeless veterans since 2016.

"All of our veterans should have a home," she said in a written statement. "It is the least that we may do for them. Please vote in favor of Prop 1 this November so that we may build more housing in Menlo Park, and across the State, for our beloved veterans."

Pine shared similar sentiments in an interview with The Almanac. "More state and federal funds are required to leverage the investments in affordable housing that we are making at the local level," he said.

Jan Lindenthal, chief real estate development officer at MidPen Housing, a nonprofit housing developer, said that her organization recently completed 66 new affordable housing units in Sunnyvale and now must hold a crushing lottery to decide who will live there. MidPen received over 3,500 applications in two weeks.

"We're endorsing Proposition 1 because the only way we are really going to move the needle on this housing crisis is if every sector of government from the federal, local and and state level is prioritizing investment in affordable housing," she said in a written statement. "This public investment is critical for us to leverage private capital. The last time a state affordable housing bond came before the voters was in 2006. Prop. 1 is long overdue."

The details

The measure, called the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, would create a $4 billion general obligation bond to fund affordable housing and promote veteran homeownership.

According to a report by the League of California Cities, the measure would provide:

● $1.5 billion to a multifamily housing program to build, rehabilitate and preserve permanent and transitional rental homes for lower-income households.

● $1 billion to the CalVet Home Loan program, which helps eligible veterans get home loans with below-market interest rates and few or no down payment requirements.

● $300 million to a farmworker housing grant fund to build, rehabilitate and acquire housing for agriculture workers.

● $300 million to an infill incentive grant program to promote infill developments (projects in areas considered already "built out") by helping to fund infrastructure rehabilitation and improvement to enable more housing density.

● $300 million to a local housing trust fund matching grant program, to finance affordable housing with matching grants, dollar-for-dollar, for local housing trusts.

● $300 million to the CalHome Program to provide grants to public agencies and nonprofit developers that help low- and very low-income households buy or keep their homes; to provide loans for people in co-ops and other mutual housing situations to acquire property; and to offer direct loan forgiveness for projects with multiple ownership units.

● $150 million to a transit-oriented development program to give low-interest loans to develop housing and provide mortgage help to buy homes at higher-density developments near transit stations that have affordable units. Cities, counties and transit agencies would be eligible for grants for needed infrastructure improvements to allow such developments.

● $150 million to a "self-help housing fund" to help low- and moderate-income families get grants to build their own homes.

The programs would be administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development with the exception of the CalVet Home Loan Program, which would be administered by the California Department of Veterans Affairs. Supporters say the measure is expected to create 137,000 jobs and pump $23.4 billion into California's economy.

Other contributions

According to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, its donation of $250,000 is just the latest in a series of contributions toward affordable housing on a local, state and national level.

It also isn't the first ballot measure the organization has thrown its weight behind: In 2016, it supported local sales tax extension measures in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties that dedicated further funding toward affordable housing.

Locally, it has provided funding to nonprofits that help people with housing such as Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and Project WeHope and through its community fund program, giving grants to the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, Habitat for Humanity-Greater San Francisco, Rebuilding Together Peninsula and New Creation Home Ministries.

It also donated $5 million to Landed to create a down payment fund to help teachers in the Ravenswood City, Redwood City and Sequoia Union High School districts buy homes. In addition, according to the organization, it contributed funds to help the city of East Palo Alto secure new water allocations to enable affordable housing construction.

The Facebook question

There's a complex irony at play, because while the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a separate entity from Facebook, the Initiative is funded with the Chan-Zuckerberg family's Facebook shares – and Facebook's rapid expansion in Menlo Park has been a major, albeit by no means exclusive, culprit in drawing far more workers to the area than can live nearby, given the existing housing supply.

The company reported it had a total of 27,742 employees at the end of the first quarter this year, up 48 percent year-over-year. Roughly 60 percent of those employees work out of Facebook's headquarter offices in Menlo Park, vice president of global facilities and real estate John Tenanes recently told the Menlo Park Planning Commission.

And the company shows no signs of slowing its employee growth. It continues to expand its office space square footage, most recently by securing office space in Fremont from Perry Arrillaga, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed with The Almanac. Tenanes told the Planning Commission in February that the company plans to have 35,000 employees in the area within 10 years.

And Facebook employees tend to be very well-paid – employees' median salary in 2017 was $240,430, according to a company statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in April – meaning they can better afford to pay a premium to live close by than many other local workers, should they choose.

Facebook, the company – separate from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – has made its own contributions to local housing: Spurred by advocacy from nonprofits in East Palo Alto, it created and contributed $18.5 million toward a housing fund with the city of East Palo Alto. The company also plans to build 1,500 housing units – 225 of which are proposed to be for rent at below market rate – as part of its proposed 60-acre "Willow Village" redevelopment project currently under review by the city of Menlo Park.

But that hasn't kept local renters, especially in eastern Menlo Park, from drawing connections between the company's growth in town and escalating rent costs. Sometimes, those connections are more explicit than others. Menlo Gate LLC, which recently purchased some apartments in Belle Haven, referred to Facebook 15 times in its online materials meant to attract investors.

According to a public Facebook post by Sandra Zamora, a member of the Redwood Landing Tenant Union and a resident of an apartment recently purchased by the group, she and her neighbors are facing rent increases and are at risk of losing their homes.

As originally reported in The Guardian, she recently wrote on Facebook in a message to Mark Zuckerberg that she and other residents in eastern Menlo Park "have been extremely affected by the expansion of Facebook in the area."

She claimed that many families in eastern Menlo Park work two or three jobs to keep up with basic needs, and that under new ownership at her apartment building, many other families have already been displaced.

Neither Zamora nor Menlo Gate LLC responded to requests for comment.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Kate Bradshaw writes for The Almanac, the sister publication of

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9 people like this
Posted by R. Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 31, 2018 at 9:06 pm

QUOTE: And Facebook employees tend to be very well-paid – employees' median salary in 2017 was $240,430, according to a company statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in April

Not bad...I would imagine that a majority of single folks around here should be able to live comfortably on $20K per month.

12 people like this
Posted by Corporations need to pay
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2018 at 11:24 am

As usual, large corporations like Facebook want the tax payers to take care of the problems that they have created. Facebook and other large employers, in cahoots with government officials, have caused massive overpopulation in the Bay Area by bringing in multitudes of highly paid employees who have driven up housing prices and the overall cost of living.

Competent government officials, if they had been doing their jobs, would never have allowed (or continue to allow) more development and job creation than can be supported by the roads, schools, houses, water supply and infrastructure of the environment. They are allowing these large corporations to stock away hundreds of billions of dollars in profits by destroying the quality of life of those who live in the Bay Area.

And now they want us to pass bonds to pay to try to fix the very problems that they caused. The large corporations should be the ones taxed to pay for housing for their employees and also for all of the people who need to be hired to support their employees. That would be the teachers, police, gardeners, food service people and such that it takes to employ them here and form a community.

Until we had massive overshoot in the numbers of privileged tech employees, we had more of a balance in this area. Now our environment is completely perverted and to return to normal we need stop their growth and stop the constant influx of more people. There are limits to every environment and ours has surpassed the number of people who can live here and maintain any quality of life.

Large corporations should pay for all employee and ancillary support personnel housing, should be required to add real transportation (not fantasy TDM programs) for all employees and should have to build schools, shopping malls, and recreation facilities for them. Plus they should pay for their own water source and contribute funds to save endangered species and lands. This is no longer an area where there is cheap open space and cities can do this for corporations. They need to be told to finance the entire package or go elsewhere.

8 people like this
Posted by Madias
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm

We don’t need to have a housing unit for every job in the area.
We don’t need to have a housing unit for everybody who wants one.
Creating BMR housing in extremely expensive areas is foolish.

3 people like this
Posted by My Alternative...
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 1, 2018 at 2:11 pm

>>>We don’t need to have a housing unit for everybody who wants one.

I decided last evening that I am going to rent my 3BR/2B house out at market value & personally reside in an RV.

At roughly $5.5K per month times 12...that comes to about $70K per annum less property tax (under Prop 13) and homeowner's insurance.

The used RV I sourced ran about $9.5K and in the house rental lease/agreement, there will be a provision that I can use one of the house bathrooms (as needed) for a quick shower or poop.

My RV will be parked right in front of the house that I actually own so there will be no complaints coming from me. As for the neighbors...who cares? I've lived here longer than most of them anyway and besides, it's my house and my RV.

I figure I'll come out ahead by approximately $60K+ every year and still be able to live in Palo Alto.

That's called eating your cake and having it to.

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