Join Peninsula For Everyone, Menlo Together, Housing Leadership Council, Silicon Valley Bike Coalition and other housing advocates to see where Menlo Park is planning to build new homes! Part of Affordable Housing Month in May!
We’re thrilled that an expert group of speakers will be joining us:
State Senator Josh Becker
Affordable housing providers Alta Housing and MidPen Housing
Menlo Park Vice Mayor Jen Wolosin
San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley
The tour includes several sites that are included as priority sites for the next eight years. You can bicycle the route, or follow in a car. We’ll have scheduled stops for those who want to drive or do not wish to do the bike route.
Peninsula For Everyone is a group that works to create a more inclusive and sustainable Peninsula by advocating for building more housing, better transportation, and protecting renters.
Menlo Together is a group of Menlo Park and Peninsula residents who envision a city that is integrated and diverse, multi-generational, and environmentally sustainable. We advocate for an accessible and inviting downtown Menlo Park with housing at all affordability levels, and with pedestrian and bike-friendly spaces, developed to be carbon-free.
Housing Leadership Council works with communities and their leaders to create and preserve quality affordable homes. HLC envisions a San Mateo County that works together to build inclusive, equitable, and healthy communities where all people can access safe, affordable homes and the resources needed for their families to thrive.
Silicon Valley Bike Coalition’s purpose is to create a healthy community, environment, and economy through bicycling for people who live, work, or play in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. We envision a community that values, includes, and encourages bicycling for all purposes for all people.
The Ravenswood City School District is proposing to produce affordable housing on the former Flood School Site (at 321 Sheridan Dr.), which they own, and which is in Menlo Park. The homes would be restricted to people who qualify by income level, and RCSD staff would have first priority to live there.
In addition to producing much-needed affordable housing for education staff, the project would generate sustainable revenue for the district on the order of 1-2% of current budget. Click here for more information about the school district’s proposal.
Menlo Park, like all Bay Area cities, is currently drafting its Housing Element — which is the plan for where and how affordable homes could be built over an 8-year period. The former Flood School site has been identified as a site with the opportunity to produce some of the 1500 affordable homes we are required to plan for this cycle.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, 7pm. the City of Menlo Park is holding public input meeting about the project.
Here are actions you can take to support affordable housing for teachers and school staff:
Attend the meeting (via Zoom) and make public comment
Write a letter of support to the Menlo Park Housing Element project planner, Calvin Chan (email@example.com) Subject: Housing Element Update – Support for RCSD Housing Project at Flood School Site
Dear Members of the Menlo Park Planning Commission,
Menlo Together is made up of Peninsula residents from all walks of life who envision a city that is integrated and diverse, multi-generational, and environmentally sustainable.
We, and the attached list of residents, believe that our city can achieve these goals by building more homes across all levels of affordability, especially near transit and downtown services. The 400 proposed mixed-income homes in the Parkline proposal are a great start, but we believe we can do more. To ensure that we meet the needs of all our residents, including those with extremely low income and/or special needs, Menlo Together would like to see an acre of land within the development donated to a non-profit housing developer and developed to meet our most pressing needs – deeply affordable housing for families and people of all abilities.
We also support increasing our inclusionary BMR requirement from 15% to 20%.
These additional affordable units can be feasible if the project is allowed to increase the number of market rate units (by allowing greater height and density) and by reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements. As stated before, the site is very close to a public transit hub, and could be designed to attract residents who prefer not to own or drive their own car. This would help reduce local traffic, and our city’s climate impact. In particular, the deeply affordable housing should have flexibility with regard to number of parking spots in the development, because according to a study by Housing Leadership Council and Transform, CA, the lower the income of a household, the more likely they are to take public transit instead of driving, so the need for parking spots is less than for many market rate developments.
No matter where you begin, success in life starts at home for all ages and all people. When we have safe, secure places to live, parents earn more, kids learn better, health and well-being improve, and our community is strengthened because it now has the building blocks needed to thrive.
Let’s take full advantage of the Parkline project to build a strong community of people and families of all incomes and abilities who thrive.
The City of Menlo Park will be hosting a virtual community meeting to talk about housing this Saturday, February 12th, from 10am-noon. Details are available here, and you can add a reminder to your calendar!
We hope that this community meeting will be a great chance to hear updates about, and provide feedback on, the City’s progress on the Housing Element. The Housing Element is the process by which the City plans for housing growth for the next several years. (For background on the Housing Element process, see our earlier blog post!)
As the City thinks about its goals and what its housing policies should accomplish, it’s powerful to share your own story and thoughts about why housing security is so important. Stable, reasonably-priced housing that is available equitably to all is crucial for maintaining a complete community. Whether you rent, own, or stay in another setup, whether you live in Menlo Park today or participate in the community in another way, you’re part of the community, and your thoughts matter.
Your advocacy is key this Saturday and in the future as the City plans for what Menlo Park looks like in the years ahead. Based on the City’s meeting description, the following topics could be discussed at February 12th’s meeting. The topics might sound technical at first, but the principles behind them are simple, and they have the power to shape a lot that impacts our daily lives! We’ll explain below:
City/land use policies:
Land use policies include zoning that dictates what can be built (homes, retail, offices) and where, and limits on height or density. Zoning can differ from property to property throughout the city. For example, some of the new development along the Bayfront is currently taller/more dense than what can be built Downtown. The City shapes what can be built on various sites through zoning; here are a few land use policies the City can use to dial development up or down:
1: Number of units allowed per acre
…sometimes referred to as “du/ac” limits for “Dwelling Units per Acre”.
If zoning for a site is too restrictive, it may not be realistic for a developer of any kind to create housing – especially affordable housing – at the site.
The City is currently zoning Housing Element sites for a baseline density of 30 units per acre. Whether this is enough to spur the development of more homes in Menlo Park – especially affordable homes – is not clear. However, 30 units per acre is considered “developable density” by the state, which is why it is being proposed as a baseline. If development does occur at this low of a density, many more sites would need to be developed at this lower density for the City to meet its overall need for housing.
Opportunity: The City can design density bonus policies that allow more density in developments that produce the most-needed types of housing. In general, increasing density can result in more homes on the limited land available, which is a good thing – especially when land is scarce and sites do not often turn over. However, increasing baseline density for all forms of development can increase the cost of land without always resulting in new homes. More on that in the next section!
2: Incentives for Affordable Housing:
Another important land use policy is a zoning bonus called an “Affordable Housing Overlay,” or AHO. AHOs can allow developers to build more units (taller, denser, or both) on a site if doing so would create more affordable units. An AHO aids in the creation of affordable housing by spreading land and construction costs across a larger number of units. High land acquisition costs in Menlo Park can make it difficult for affordable housing developers to acquire sites for projects, especially from private owners, so strategic additional density can help a lot.
Menlo Park has an AHO today, and in the City’s Notice of Preparation for its Housing Element Environmental Impact Report, it’s stated that it may modify the existing AHO to allow up to 100 units per acre for affordable projects.
Opportunity: Increasing the number of units allowed per acre for 100% affordable sites would allow for more much-needed affordable homes to be created on these parcels.
By the way, if you’re wondering about the definition of affordable housing for the Housing Element, see below for a City slide on affordability tiers, based on median household incomes for San Mateo County. A family of 4 making $146,350/year qualifies as low income in our County.
In its R-3 (Apartment) zoning district, Menlo Park currently requires that developers create 2 parking spaces for each unit with 2 or more bedrooms, and 1.5 spaces per smaller unit. In practice, this means that developers often need to dig out costly basements to ensure that buildings can create mandated parking while staying under the neighborhood’s height limits, or sacrifice above-ground floors to cars. In either case, these construction costs add to the total project cost that must be shared across units, and especially in the case of above-ground parking, takes up valuable, expensive-to-build space that could go to people and homes instead of vehicle storage. (As an example: consider that in standalone homes, garage space is sometimes seen as so valuable that residents use or convert their garage space for things other than car storage!)
Many of the proposed Housing Element sites are close to transit and walkable/bikeable routes. Removing City parking mandates would still give developers the option to create as much parking as they’d like, but would not burden them with a requirement to do so where it doesn’t make sense. Especially for certain types of housing, such as low-income senior housing or housing for residents with intellectual or developmental disabilities, much less residential parking is needed. Excess parking requirements increase costs significantly.
Opportunity: Reducing or eliminating minimum parking mandates helps to prioritize limited space for people and homes instead of cars.
Reduced parking requirements free up more resources for more homes, allowing more of our workforce to live near their jobs. And residents are more likely to bike or walk to work when they live in the same city where they work! This reduces long car commutes, which improves air quality, and reduces congestion and our climate footprint. We have a great climate for walking and biking, which is healthy and fun! And, seeing neighbors on the street helps to build a sense of community.
Potential Housing Opportunity Sites:
The City has released its list of sites that it can zone for new housing! However, many of these properties are already in use for other purposes, such as venture capital offices on Sand Hill Road, the popular finance app Robinhood’s Headquarters, and the City’s Safeway stores/parking lots.
For the State to approve Menlo Park’s Housing Element, the City will likely need to demonstrate with “substantial evidence” that non-vacant sites will be redeveloped into housing. To create this evidence, the City would research what changes or policies are needed to incentivize the creation of affordable housing on these sites. Opportunity: Ask the city what it will take for these identified sites to be redeveloped into affordable housing. Little affordable housing has been created in Menlo Park to date, especially in the western neighborhoods. What changes to policies and zoning are being proposed? For ideas on policies that have worked in the past, see this report by local affordable housing developer, MidPen Housing.
As rents continue to rise, our community members are being priced out. To stop displacement, cities like Menlo Park can adopt protective policies and practices like the following:
1. Adopt an anti-displacement red tag ordinance that protects tenants from displacement during necessary repairs
2. Continue to provide emergency rental and mortgage assistance
3. Provide support to Legal Aid, Stanford Legal Clinic, and/or Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto so low-income tenants have access to legal support
4. Create a rental registry and track rent increases
5. Pass fair standards for evictions and rent increases
Many of these measures have been championed by our friends at the Housing Leadership Council – be sure to check out their site to learn more about their important work!
In conclusion: whether or not you’ve been following along with the Housing Element so far, this is a great time to participate and advocate for values you believe in! We hope to see you on Saturday on Zoom, or in future meetings!
As Menlo Together, we are proud to share our work in the last year! To learn more about the efforts of each of our projects and committees, please read on. Thanks to everyone who participated – if you read this and are inspired to learn more and participate,please sign up here.
Belle Haven Empowered has completed its first year goal of presenting Kitchen Table Chats, a 9-month long series of conversations designed to bring Belle Haven neighbors together to share information and discuss topics related to the community. The Chats covered issues including housing, police and public safety, community amenities for the Belle Haven neighborhood and more. These chats helped Belle Haven residents engage in the city’s Housing Element and other decisions. The team has created “infomercials” on the nuts and bolts of participating in city decisions including reading agendas when published, reading staff reports, and making meaningful recommendations to the council.
The Color of Law: Menlo Park Edition is an interactive workshop to explore together the history of how our government segregated America and Menlo Park. The information is presented from Richard Rothstein’s book, “The Color of Law” as well as history we dug up from local archives, and we share first-hand personal stories. By now, we’ve held 9 workshops, reached over 500 people, and most importantly, we’ve added new voices in support of racial equity and housing justice
The Housing Committee has advocated for a viable plan for the city to meet its state requirements to update the Housing Element of its general plan to prepare for housing at all income levels, especially homes for extremely low/very low affordable housing for people of all abilities; and supporting the city in addressing the requirements to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing. Recommendations included greater density at all levels of affordability near downtown and El Camino real and robust tenant protections to avoid further displacement.
The Housing Element is a once every eight years process of planning for housing, and it’s a significant opportunity for us to plan for more homes and much greater affordability in a way that achieves Menlo Together’s vision of a city that is integrated and diverse, walkable and bikeable, and environmentally sustainable.
The Budget Watchdog Committee dove into the information about the City’s budget. As President Joe Biden stated as he quoted his father in 2008, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value”. With this in mind, the budget watchdog committee took a look at opportunities to make recommendations and help Menlo Park actions in the coming year be in line with our values of equity, sustainability, inclusion, health, racial and economic justice. The committee put together a blog post providing an overview of the budget and an update making further recommendations.
The Climate Committee has conducted public outreach on Menlo Park’s Climate Action Plan, aiming for Zero Carbon by 2030. This goal supports the health and environmental benefits of helping homes and buildings transition to electric appliances and the benefits of expanding access to electric vehicle charging stations. During the Summer of 2021, the committee collaborated with Menlo Spark to host an in-person Climate Coalition Social to connect more with local residents. The committee also presented with Menlo Spark at the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit to showcase the City’s exceptional Climate Action Plan and how young people can build an effective and include climate coalitions in their localities.
Menlo Park is currently having a community conversation about where to build new housing. This conversation has been sparked by our state-mandated housing goals, which require that we plan for a little over 3,000 new units of housing over the next 8 years.
This is a perfect time to plug into the conversation, learn about Menlo Park’s housing past, and plan for our community’s vibrant future. The Housing Element planning process has just recently started, and is scheduled to continue over the next year. Below and online is the Housing Element Timeline — the linked website also contains links to recordings of previous meetings and other meeting materials.
On Thursday, Sept. 23rd at 6:30pm, the City’s Housing Element team will be holding a community input meeting to hear feedback on where to plan for new housing. More information on the meeting is available here. Please attend to share your feedback!
Below, we at Menlo Together have pulled together some context to help you understand the why and how of Housing Elements. If you prefer to watch/listen to learn about the City’s housing plan as well (or instead!), we also highly recommend:
The City of Menlo Park’s recording of their most recent Housing Element Community Meeting
Why is the City talking about housing? What’s the “Housing Element” people keep mentioning?
In a nutshell: Each local jurisdiction in California, like the City of Menlo Park, is required by the state to have (and periodically update) a General Plan. Each General Plan is required to include a section called the Housing Element, which ensures that the City is enabling a reasonable minimum number of homes to be built in and for the community.
The Department of Housing and Community Development, commonly abbreviated as HCD, is the state agency tasked with all things related to Housing Elements. In their own words:
“California’s housing-element law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain), housing development”
Cities, as an entity, do not build housing. Instead, the Housing Element requires that the City zones and plans for an adequate amount of housing to be built in each 8-year planning cycle, to meet its RHNA goals.
What is RHNA?
The Regional Housing Needs Allocation is the process by which the state, in conjunction with regional and local governments, determines how much housing each locality must plan for given its recent job growth.
For instance, during 2010-2015, San Mateo County built only 1 unit of housing for every 19 jobs created:
The statewide and regional need for more housing, the high rate of job growth in our region and City, and Menlo Park’s past lack of housing production all led to our next RHNA being higher than previous cycles.
RHNA targets also specify a minimum amount of housing to be built at each income level. The income tiers for San Mateo County are defined below:
It’s important for the City to think strategically about housing plans by affordability tier because the conditions required to produce housing differ by affordability tier. The challenges to producing affordable housing are many, so the City needs to consider several approaches at the same time, including redeveloping City-owned land (like downtown parking lots — as Mountain View is doing), continuing to require that developers set aside 15% of each new market-rate development for affordable units, providing significant density bonuses in exchange for greater affordability, encouraging ADU production, and other strategies.
Q: What sites are being considered for housing?
A: Menlo Park is now planning for new housing throughout the City, in all districts.
Menlo Park — like many cities across the nation — has a history of law, policies, and practices that segregated its neighborhoods and schools. (If you haven’t yet spent time with our Color of Law materials, please check them out to learn more about this history!)
State housing law has finally kicked in to move cities closer to reversing harmful practices of segregation. In the 6th RHNA cycle, cities are required to “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” — for example, by planning for housing for all incomes and abilities throughout the City. Data presented by the City of Menlo Park Housing Element Consultant finds that the City has stark racial differences between its “high” and “low” opportunity neighborhoods. Watch this recording to see the data (example slide below) presented at the recent Housing Equity, Environmental Justice, and Safety community input meeting.
In terms of the specific parcels themselves where housing could be located — we as a community need to get creative and consider a variety of parcel types to meet our goals. Each parcel that is proposed for redevelopment must have a reasonable likelihood of redevelopment within the next 8 years. For example, the state is likely to reject a Housing Element that plans for housing on sites such as an existing cemetery, any site where the owner has not expressed interest in developing, or in place of park land. With this in mind, the City of Menlo Park has brainstormed a variety of potential parcel types to consider:
Q: What if the City doesn’t submit a valid Housing, Environmental Justice, and Safety element?
A: This is important — in earlier RHNA cycles, some cities (including Menlo Park) did not submit a compliant Housing Element. Prior to the 2010s, there were no significant consequences for this imposed by the state. In 2017, seeing that local jurisdictions still weren’t building sufficient housing, state law changed to give HCD more enforcement powers. It’s more important than ever to get the Housing Element right.
The state has made clear that submission of a thoughtful, compliant Housing Element is the best path forward — doing so unlocks state resources and grants. Beyond these state-supplied benefits, we at Menlo Together are also excited for this chance to create more opportunity and equity in all districts of Menlo Park.
Conversely, if the Housing Element is not in compliance — which can occur if the City:
Fails to plan for all the units required
Submits sites with no likely chance of development in the next 8 years
Locates new units in ways that do not affirmatively further fair housing
The state gaining authority to approve housing developments in the City, without say from the City or residents (said differently, if we as a City don’t pick where and how to site housing, the state will pick for us!)
Costly legal battles, where the losing party pays court fees and penalties. There is simply no room for this in the City budget.
As a community, let’s spend our money on things that improve our City, not on legal fees for a losing battle. HCD’s requirements are clear, so it would not be advisable to find ourselves on the wrong end of legal action.
Suspension of all local permitting powers — which means all projects requiring a permit, including residential remodels and builds, would grind to a halt.
If the planning is done correctly, our community and City are in control of where new housing will go. There will be some tradeoffs to consider along the way. For instance, in new developments such as the SRI redevelopment and potential redevelopment of the USGS site, the higher and denser the zoning, the more land can be preserved for parks and open space. Perhaps by sufficiently upzoning along El Camino, the City can even can free up land for a new elementary school. We’re excited about this opportunity to reimagine housing in Menlo Park!
The Housing Element is a state-mandated regulatory activity, with rewards and consequences to our City. The challenge is great. The need is real. We at Menlo Together see this as an opportunity to plan for the City we envision. One that is integrated and diverse, multigenerational, and environmentally sustainable. We hope you will join us by engaging in the Housing Element, Environmental Justice, and Safety Element process and give voice to these values that are important to our community.
How can you get involved?
Sign up for our action alerts to be notified of upcoming housing-related meetings and actions
Engage with the City of Menlo Park’s Housing Element process — check this website for the latest updates.
Your input is essential to the Housing Element process. Together we can build a fantastic future for our City!
It is widely known that climate change poses a great risk and requires mitigation measures to reduce environmental effects. In Menlo Park, we are already feeling the impacts of climate change with intensifying wildfires, heatwaves, poor air quality, flooding and sea level rise. Menlo Park has adopted a bold Climate Action Plan to reduce our carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. The plan includes six core measures to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a pathway to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
Climate change is an issue of equity – those that contribute least to climate change, including low-income, racial minorities, marginalized ethnic groups and the elders will be adversely affected. Bold and equitable action is needed to mitigate these adverse effects from putting our community at risk, especially our most vulnerable members.
In this bold Climate Action Plan, the 6 core measures are:
Transition 95% of existing buildings from gas to all electric
Get electric vehicle (EV) use up to 100% and reduce gasoline sales
Make EV chargers accessible for commercial and multifamily units
Decrease vehicle miles traveled by 25%
Electrify City Operations
Develop a climate adaptation plan to protect the community from sea level rise and flooding
The first core measure to convert 95% of existing homes and commercial buildings from natural gas appliances to all-electric clean energy sources will eliminate almost 40% of Menlo Park’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In the next City Council Meeting, the Council will make a decision using the new consultant’s cost effectiveness analysis and policy options draft report to move us beyond gas and onto clean electricity. Based on this draft report, the Environmental Quality Commission has made recommendations to help provide an equitable transition to electrification. Let’s show our support and encourage the Council to move forward with the climate actions that the EQC is recommending. Going all-electric and phasing out fossil fuels is important to not only mitigate climate change, but also to improve our health, air quality, and resilience.
NATURAL GAS THREATENS HEALTH AND IS LESS EQUITABLE
The burning of natural gas produces potent indoor air pollutants that pose serious threats to health, especially to our most vulnerable populations; young children, the elderly, and people with asthma. The air pollution is also substantially higher in Belle Haven, being in the top 82 percentile, almost double the level in the rest of Menlo Park. As a result, children in this neighborhood pose an even higher risk of asthma from continued exposure to natural gas stoves.
NATURAL GAS IS DANGEROUS
Gas leaks can cause fire and explosions, such as the 2010 accident in San Bruno, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.
COST TO GO ALL-ELECTRIC
Based on the TRC and DNV consultant’s draft report, the cost for electrification can be several thousand dollars extra initially (but then pays back over time (looking at 30 years, with efficient product choices that give some utility bill savings). If buildings have rooftop solar, the utility bill savings with efficient electric appliances can be roughly $140 per month.
KEY EQC RECOMMENDATIONS
The Environmental Quality Commission has robust recommendations on this item, supported by research and actions to transition 95% of existing buildings from gas to all electric through an equitable approach.
If these recommendations are approved by the City Council, it will provide support to low income residents through a special equity fundto fully electrify ~1,400 households in the city that are currently on bill assistance through PG&E.
To provide protection to renters, the EQC recommends the City to pass new policies protecting renters from increased rent or “renovictions” due to electrification retrofit.
Reduce the “hassle factor” of electrification policies for building owners by providing technical assistance, easing permitting, and making it more convenient to go electric.
The City will decide whether and how to go forward with the first set of bold measures in the Climate Action Plan, with a focus on this electrification core measure. Let’s show our support and encourage the Council to move forward with the climate actions that the EQC is recommending. 350 Silicon Valley has prepared a letter that may be personalized! Send this quick letter to the City Council endorsing EQCs recommendations.
Replacing Gas with Clean Electric Appliances in our Homes and Buildings is a Key Climate Action for Menlo Park!
The city’s finance staff has updated its overall budget picture, concluding that the General Fund, which is the largest fund where the City Council has discretionary spending, is balanced at a level of $61.49 million in revenues and $61.49 million in expenditures. In addition, there is about $5.39 million remaining in American Rescue Plan federal relief funds that can also help the city restore services that must be fully spent by December 31, 2024.
At the budget meeting on 6/8, it appeared as though there was progress on Menlo Together’s budget asks. Based on the staff report, there are still some open questions about how the city council will fund these asks.
Menlo Together had requested that some of American Rescue Plan funding be used to support those most heavily impacted. The budget contains several items to do this, including funding for rental and mortgage assistance outreach, connecting residents to existing programs; small business relief, and assistance to people facing eviction.
Climate and transportation:
Menlo Together wanted to see robust staffing to implement the city’s climate action plan, and relatedly, to fund the projects and programs that improve safety for people walking and bicycling, and provide compelling alternatives to driving. In both cases, it sounded like there was majority council support for these goals, but the city was not yet ready to fully staff up, and was going to come forward in the middle of the year with plans that could be funded.
We invite you to thanking the city council for refraining from hiring the additional staff until the city goes through a process of assessing how to fund public safety.
Menlo Together wanted the city to hold off on hiring new police staff until the city went through a process to reexamine public safety and decide how to invest the funds. We did support hiring data staff to provide the data to analyze police activity and hold police accountable. The budget reflects these asks.
Also, the staff report for June 8 had said that the project to reimagine public safety was not funded, and the police chief said that the community-oriented civilian personnel could work on this project.
Join us in our ask that the City Council consider adopting an emergency eviction moratorium for Menlo Park that will take effect in the event that SB 91 is allowed to expire.
The expiration of the statewide eviction moratorium on June 30 has the potential to set off an unnecessary housing crisis.
As the economy recovers and people get back to work, household incomes need time to recover from months of joblessness and economic hardship. This is especially true for lower-income renter families who have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to PolicyLink, approximately 700,000 California renters are still behind on rent, with an average of $4,600 in arrears. In San Mateo County, 11,000 households were in arrears by an average of $2,363 in May. The numbers are likely higher today, and we know that Menlo Park households are struggling because Samaritan House reported recently that the Menlo Park Covid Tenant Assistance Fund they administered was able to assist 30 households before it was depleted.
Much of the federal and state $47 million allocated to San Mateo County for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) remains unused due to a variety of reported factors, including lack of landlord and tenant information, a lengthy application, and eligibility criteria that exclude some households. The Governor has announced that more relief is on the way, but we have learned that such programs take time to roll out and reach those who need it most.
It is clear that the state must extend SB 91 (COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act) protections beyond June 30, but so far, it has not taken action. This is despite many local elected officials, advocacy groups, and concerned residents urging it to do so. With the statewide reopening, the County of San Mateo is limited in its authority to enact a countywide moratorium; any action it takes to extend a moratorium would apply to unincorporated county land, not to cities like Menlo Park. As the clock runs out, it may be up to individual cities to create this temporary stopgap.
We therefore ask that the City Council consider adopting an emergency eviction moratorium for Menlo Park that will take effect in the event that SB 91 is allowed to expire.
We know that COVID-19 has not affected all communities equally: for example, in California, state data show that communities of color have faced much higher COVID-19 infection and mortality rates than their share of the population, and nationwide, the economic fallout of the pandemic has hit lower-income households the hardest. According to the San Mateo County Health Dashboard, Menlo Park’s historical COVID-19 cases are 1,680 citywide, of which 828 (or 49.3%) were in the Belle Haven neighborhood where only 20% of Menlo Park resides.
We appreciate that you, our City Council, are committed to striving towards an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in Menlo Park. We thank you for your consideration of this important and timely action.
SB 91’s eviction moratorium expires on June 30th. This puts at risk over 14,000 households in San Mateo County and over 1 million in California of being unhoused. Read on for a brief explanation of what’s happening and steps you can take right now to help.
California launched Housing Is Key, a rent relief program which reimburses landlords 80% of an eligible renter’s unpaid rent as long as they waive the remaining 20%. [Learn more here] Yet, once this moratorium expires, the program will also be lifted.
Faith in Action Bay Area conducted phone calls to tenants and landlords who hold or owe rent debt in San Mateo County and found:
There is not enough outreach about this rent relief program. To put into perspective, 49 phone calls out of 58 were not aware of the program, that’s 87%.
The program is not accessible due to lack of access to technology and/or language support.
Money is being dirbured too slowly. Pacific Tribune reported that only 1.6% of the money requested in San Mateo County has been paid out.
There have been improvements with this debt relief program, but they are meaningless without the extension of the extinction moratorium. As perfectly stated by HLC, “The debt relief program needs to be improved AND given time to work”. To read HLC’s full newsletter, click here.
Here is what you can do, reach out to your representative:
Contact your State Senator, Josh Becker by clicking here and Assemblymember, Marc Berman here, in support of a state-wide eviction moratorium extension. When asked to “Select an issue” choose COVID-19, Bill/Legislation, or what most closely relates to your comment.
Ask the Menlo Park city council to prioritize rent relief and other covid financial assistance with a new grant to Samaritan House in the budget
Ask the city to fund outreach by local organizations with trusting connection to hard-to-reach residents (BHA, BCDF) and legal services (CLSEPA, Legal Aid SMC)
Identify yourself as a leader in your organization (e.g. Marin Organizing Committee) and a member of your institution (e.g. your place of worship, nonprofit affiliation, etc.)
More than a million CA families are at risk of eviction if the state does not act now to expand and extend protections for renters.
We must extend the eviction moratorium until the end of 2021, or we will see an explosion in our state’s homelessness crisis.
Amend SB 91 to expand eligibility and allow more flexibility in distribution. Senate Bill 91 only provides relief to tenants who owe back rent directly to their landlords. Many renters borrowed from payday lenders, family, friends and others to keep their rent current, or sublease from others.
In order for families to get back to work and repay their debts, tenants need the flexibility to use rental relief funds to prepay rent for at least 6 months.
SB 91 must be expanded to include families who sublease.