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Grand Jury report calls out Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside for misusing backyard units to meet housing quotas

Original post made on Jun 14, 2023

A San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury has singled out Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside for trying to sidestep state law by relying too heavily on backyard accessory dwelling units in their housing plans.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 14, 2023, 12:05 PM

Comments (15)

Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2023 at 8:04 pm

Observer is a registered user.

Atherton, Woodside and PV trying to keep the riff raff out.
Quelle suprise.

Posted by Ryan Kimmel
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2023 at 8:23 pm

Ryan Kimmel is a registered user.

LOL why would you want more housing in places like Woodside. Woodside is beautiful *because* it's a nice place, not because it's full of junky housing

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 14, 2023 at 8:28 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"However, the state has neglected to propose any form of regulation to ensure low-income tenants ultimately use the ADUs as planned by these cities. And because owners often rent their ADUs to family and friends, they can exacerbate patterns of segregation and exclusion, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). "

Funny, back when ADUs were first being promoted, they were to keep families together -- Granny and the disabled son. And maybe a friend/relative having a temporary set back like unemployment or needing to be near health care for long-term treatment.

Then you couldn't be charitable with your ADU, helping out friends and family because then you'd have price discrimination. No breaks for Granny.

Glad the Civil Grand Jury ruled as they did.

Shame on ABAG et al from lobbying to keep Granny out of Her Own Back Yard.

Shame on the state for refusing to reconsider the housing numbers for 8 LONG years and massive changes --budget deficits, population outflows, unemployment, climate risk etc etc.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2023 at 10:54 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

The state-mandated housing requirements are asinine. People live where they want to live and can afford to live. There shouldn't be any force. To force this utopia view of the world, illogical mindset on society is one of many reasons a certain political leaning is highly mocked, including mocking coming from those who share the same political views. Bill Maher comes to mind.

Posted by Meredith Vogelsong
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 19, 2023 at 8:36 am

Meredith Vogelsong is a registered user.

Shouldn't wealth and prestige be rewarded by residential exclusivity?

If one cannot afford to own a Mercedes, a Toyota will still get you from Point A to Point B and the same applies to housing.

Rich people pay more for their privacy and remoteness from the mainstream.

Why should they be forced to reside alongside those who cannot afford to live in their pristine neighborhoods?

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 19, 2023 at 10:55 am

Annette is a registered user.

"California needs to build 2.5 million homes by 2030 to meet current housing demands, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). "

Please, let's break that need into price tiers and then assess demand. If that's too much to ask, look around and see the obvious: we do not have an acute need for more multi-million $ homes or high-end apartments or condos. What we need is affordable housing for those with limited income. And the ugly truth is that some communities simply are not affordable. Housing may be the first and highest expense for everyone, but all the other costs of living need to be acknowledged. Maybe an "in=lieu" approach makes more sense, with cities defined by a high cost of living and limited public transportation contributing to a housing fund dedicated to building affordable housing in affordable communities.

And SO WHAT if an ADU is used for a family member or friend? That's still at least one less person seeking housing.

Also, keep in mind, that all the housing laws and administrative rules from agencies such as HCD are our GOVERNMENT at work. And in this state the same people have been fully in charge for a long time now, which, if you peel back the layers of the housing problem, means the same bureaucrats who created the problems also created past solutions to the problems, and are now creating new solutions to both the initial problem(s) and the solutions that clearly have not worked. This is a nonsensical vicious circle that proves only that no one in charge has a clue.

We need to vote much differently. For some of us that might mean voting red or purple b/c blue isn't getting the job done. In fact, housing-related problems are getting worse.

Posted by Melanie Harris
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2023 at 2:58 pm

Melanie Harris is a registered user.

Is there any remaining acreage in Palo Alto that could be utilized for a mobile home community? Mountain View and Sunnyvale have trailer parks as does Redwood City.

Accommodating the homeless population with adequate housing is another priority that needs to be addressed.

The more exclusive cities and townships like Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno should be exempt from having to provide additional bay area housing because only the wealthy can afford to live there and they should not be forced to accommodate aspiring home buyers who cannot afford to live there in the first place.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2023 at 5:08 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I'm not sure if this is relevant or worth mentioning, but both Biden and De Santis both came to look for $$$ today from Atherton and Woodside.

Does this say something?

Posted by Marilyn Maxwell
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2023 at 8:28 am

Marilyn Maxwell is a registered user.

We are new to the SF Bay Area and housing prices are astronomical regardless of the city and preferred location.

Has anyone ever resided in Colma? We found a recently-built condominium on El Camino Real that is currently listing for well over $1M but have some reservations.

Though the city's population is around 1,500 residents, I happened to notice a large number of cemeteries. A local resident told me that there are over 1.5M interred in Colma bringing the ratio of living to dead at 1:1000. One cannot travel anywhere within this small city without seeing cemeteries and the visual is extremely disturbing to our eight year old daughter.

Compared to more expensive cities like Palo Alto and Menlo Park, is Colma a desirable city to reside in and raise a family?

The other option would be to resituate to Palo Alto and pay well over $5000.00 in monthly rent.

While we would like to reside in a small community, our RE agent has assured us that Colma is a quiet town with a low crime rate and ease of access to the entire midpeninsula.

The question remains whether to buy in Colma or rent in Palo Alto.

Posted by Bruce Johnson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 20, 2023 at 11:04 am

Bruce Johnson is a registered user.

• "our RE agent has assured us that Colma is a quiet town with a low crime rate and ease of access to the entire midpeninsula."

Colma is a very quiet town of 2.2 square miles, mostly cemeteries. They have a Nordstrom's Rack, K-Mart, and a Toyz R Us reputed to be #1 among sales in California.

Crime is minimal with most of the police activity involving investigations into juvenile vandalism at the cemeteries.

At night, many of the cemeteries along El Camino Real are illuminated and there are separate ethnically-based burial grounds including a pet cemetery.

The city was designed to be a necropolis for San Francisco in 1924 and many well-known Californians are buried there including Wyatt Earp, Charles Crocker, the Hearst family, Charles de Young, Joe DiMaggio, George Moscone, Levi Strauss along with countless other notables.

The city's motto is "It's great to be alive in Colma."

Personally I would not want to reside within easy view of 1.5 million deceased people but Colma could be one of the midpeinsula's best kept secrets.

It is a very quiet place to live and space is limited.

Posted by Optimist Pessimist Realist
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2023 at 11:19 am

Optimist Pessimist Realist is a registered user.

Bystander, presidential candidates also have visited other cities to fundraise, and those cities have affordable housing. So clearly both are possible.

Posted by Carmen Morales
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2023 at 1:28 pm

Carmen Morales is a registered user.

There are other more affordable places to live than Palo Alto. Why are prospective buyers so intent on Palo Alto?

In Alviso, the few available homes can be had for around $750K and a typical mobile home costs less than $300K.

The key is not to be overly picky and to live within one's means.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2023 at 2:27 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

There once was a multi-acre tract in Silicon Valley, which in the old days was mostly orchards. The owner carved out an acre for his family and sold the rest. Originally the house had two bedrooms, and as the family expanded so did the house. A bungalow with a basement became a split level 4 bedroom house. As time went on, the older generation died and left the house to the next generation. With loving care and with a green thumb, the property flourished and housed another family with children. But, as it often happens, in the 90's all of the children had flown to places far away. The old couple could no longer manage a sprawling house. They sold the house and the land it sat on for a vey pretty penny. The buyers, a young couple with young children, wanted to tear the house down to resolve a defect in the foundation that had been there since the 1920's. Apparently, when you do that in some cities nearby, you can't get a permit to start out from scratch on a parcel without involving the City. WHAT DA...? Who's house is this, anyway? When they applied for building permits, the City tried to "pursuade" them to build a tri-plex on the south side of the circular driveway. They pursuaded by delaying the process for permits for so long, the new owner considered selling it to someone else. Passing their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer. But they bought it because it was close to elementary, middle, and high schools, and a college not too far away. They wanted it to be their "forever home". They had NO DESIRE to become landlords and all of the headaches that go with it. As Meredith Vogelsang mentioned, "Rich people pay more for their privacy and remoteness from the mainstream." I can't believe I'm quoting this but riches come with luxuries and entitlements like privacy and no neighbors within earshot and for dog's sake, you should be able to buy a house without the government dictating that you have to build an ADU to accommodate anyone BUT your granny.

Posted by Miriam Lockhart
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 21, 2023 at 8:57 am

Miriam Lockhart is a registered user.

Being a landlord is a thankless job and most rentals nowadays are handled by a property management company.

The old school landlords were from another generation and after they passed, their children sold the properties for a quick and lucrative payoff.

In other instances, earlier generations worked the land agriculturally and later down the road, ensuing generations sold the land for housing tracts.

Certain parts of the the SF Bay Area have become the land of quick cash opportunities.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2023 at 4:55 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Bruce, so many of my relatives are buried in Colma, I think we have our own "wing". Each time we went there for commemorative occasions, my dad's favorite joke was repeated every time.

"Hey kids, do you know how many people here are dead?"

"Yes dad, you ask this every time."

"Say it anyway."


We always laughed. It's tragic he wasn't buried there. He would have loved being a part of that joke.

His other running gag was after reading the paper he would fold it and put it on the coffee table and sigh wistfully. "Everybody died in alphabetical order again. I'm never going to make it to the top of the list."

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