2023-2031 Housing Element Update

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The City of Menlo Park is updating its required Housing Element and Safety Element, and preparing a new Environmental Justice Element.

Collectively, these are referred to as the "Housing Element Update."

How to get involved

We want your input! Throughout the Housing Element Update process, the City will be seeking input through a variety of engagement opportunities to learn from the community about what matters to you.

Please join our email list to stay up to date on the project.

Project timeline

The Housing Element Update project will span approximately 18 months. The graphic below highlights major milestones.

Housing Element Update - major milestones

The chronology below highlights select events that have occurred, beginning with the most recent event.

On November 17, 2021, the Housing Commission conducted a meeting and reviewed and discussed affordable housing strategy options to meet the City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) as part of the State-mandated Housing Element for further analysis and consideration.

On November 16, 2021, the City Council received an informational item providing an update on Housing Element Update-related questions and comments received from City councilmembers following the October 26, 2021 meeting.

On November 4, 2021, the County of San Mateo and the City of Menlo Park held a webinar for homeowners interested in building an accessory dwelling unit (also known as an ADU or second unit). Staff from the County’s second unit resource center provided introductory information and resources. After that, homeowners were invited to join planning staff for a breakout session to learn more about accessory dwelling units in Menlo Park.

On October 26, 2021, the City Council conducted a meeting and reviewed land use strategies to meet the Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the planning period 2023-2031 as part of the Housing Element Update.

On October 4, 2021, the Planning Commission and Housing Commission conducted a joint meeting and reviewed and provided feedback on land use and site strategy options to meet the Regional Housing Need Allocation for the 2023-2031 planning period as part of the Housing Element Update.

On September 23, 2021, the City held a community meeting to share information on preliminary strategies to meet housing needs in Menlo Park and provide opportunity to hear from the community on how and where new housing should be located. The input received will help shape land use alternatives/scenarios for future housing.

On August 26, 2021, the City held a community meeting to share information about housing equity, environmental justice, and safety issues in Menlo Park and provide an opportunity to receive input from the public. The information provided and feedback received will help form policies for the Housing, Environmental Justice, and Safety Elements.

On August 14, 2021, the City held a community meeting to provide an overview of preliminary land use strategies to implement the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA, pronounced "Reena") and gain community feedback. The RHNA specifies the number of housing units at each income level category required to comply with State mandates. The purpose of this meeting was to introduce land use strategies to the public and to receive feedback. The information provided and feedback received will help develop the land use strategies to meet the RHNA.

On August 12, 2021, the Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC) conducted a meeting and received an update on recent Housing Element Update community outreach activities and reviewed and provided feedback on upcoming Housing Element Update community outreach activities.

On August 4, 2021, the Housing Commission conducted a meeting and reviewed and provided feedback on potential land use strategies to meet the Regional Housing Need Allocation for the 2023-2031 planning period as part of the Housing Element Update.

On July 15, 2021, the Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC) conducted a meeting and reviewed and provided feedback on the draft community survey.

On July 1, 2021, the City held a Housing Element Update Introduction Webinar to provide an overview of the Housing Element Update process, project components, and ways to be involved in the process.

On June 10, 2021, the Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC) conducted a meeting and continued discussion for the committee's roles and responsibilities and provided feedback on Housing Element focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and local community outreach partnerships.

On June 8, 2021, the City Council appointed 1 additional member (1 vacancy) to the Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC).

On June 3, 2021, the Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC) conducted a meeting and reviewed and provided feedback on the draft community engagement and outreach plan.

On May 27, 2021, the Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC) conducted a meeting and reviewed the committee's roles and responsibilities and received an overview of the Housing Element Update project.

On May 25, 2021, the City Council received an overview of the Housing Element Update project and provided feedback on the goals and objectives, roles and responsibilities of the various reviewing and decision-making bodies, and the community engagement and outreach plan

On May 25, 2021, the City Council appointed 12 members (2 vacancies) to the Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC).

On May 11, 2021, the City Council appointed Mayor Drew Combs and Councilmember Jen Wolosin to the Housing Element subcommittee.

On April 27, 2021, the City Council authorized the formation of the advisory Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC) for the Housing Element Update project.

On March 23, 2021, the City Council authorized the City Manager to enter into a contract with M-Group planning consultants for the Housing Element Update project.

Housing Element Community Engagement and Outreach Committee (CEOC)

Frequently asked questions

What is a Housing Element?

A Housing Element is how local jurisdictions plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. At its core, a Housing Element is an opportunity to have a community conversation about how to address local housing challenges and find solutions. The Housing Element is one important part of a city or county’s General Plan, which serves as the blueprint for how a city or county will grow and address changing needs for development. Every eight years, every city, town and county must update their Housing Element and have it certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

A Housing Element is a local plan, adopted by a city, town or county that includes the goals, policies and programs that direct decision-making around housing. All jurisdictions in the Bay Area must update their Housing Element for the 2023-2031 planning period. Local jurisdictions look at housing trends, zoning and market constraints, and evaluate various approaches to meeting housing needs across income levels.

What are the components of a Housing Element?

The Housing Element typically includes the components listed below.

  • Housing Needs Assessment: Examine demographic, employment and housing trends and conditions that affect the housing needs of the community.
  • Evaluation of Past Performance: Review the prior Housing Element to measure progress in implementing policies and programs.
  • Housing Sites Inventory: Identify locations of available sites for housing development or redevelopment to ensure that there is adequate capacity to address the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).
  • Community Outreach and Engagement: Implement a robust community outreach and engagement program, with a particular focus on outreach to traditionally underrepresented groups.
  • Constraints Analysis: Analyze and recommend remedies for existing and potential governmental and non-governmental barriers to housing development.
  • Policies and Programs: Establish policies and programs to fulfill the identified housing needs.

What happens if a jurisdiction does not adopt a Housing Element?

If a city does not comply with State law, it can be sued. In addition to facing significant fines, a court may limit local land use decision-making authority until the jurisdiction brings its Housing Element into compliance. Additionally, local governments may lose the right to deny certain projects. These and other consequences are established in state law; Housing Elements are subject to regulatory oversight by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Who determines how many housing units are needed and how is the number calculated?

To figure out how many housing units a jurisdiction needs, the State of California first looks at several factors like how many jobs there are, how close people live to their place of work, and how many new jobs and new people we are expecting. After doing this, they assign each region a number called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation or RHNA (pronounced ‘ree-nah’).

It is then up to the region, and in our case the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), to decide how much each city is responsible for based on their size and how they are expected to grow by 2050, according to Plan Bay Area. Almost all cities in the Bay Area have a significantly higher target this RHNA cycle than in the past. More details about RHNA are available in the ABAG Regional Housing Needs Allocation Draft Methodology. Once we know our responsibility, cities have to develop a plan to meet or exceed this number in their Housing Element to comply with state law.

Why is the Housing Element Update important?

Why it matters

  • More and more, purchasing a home is out of reach for many while renters face rent prices that are just too high. Just about every city in the region needs more housing, of all types and sizes.
  • Teachers, firefighters, health care and other essential workers are traveling long distances to work or being forced to relocate to other cities.
  • Young adults and students - including your children and grandchildren - are unable to purchase homes or even live in the communities they grew up in once they leave their childhood homes.
  • Communities of color and non-English speakers – who make up the majority of our community members living in overcrowded and unsafe conditions – cannot afford to be near their jobs, school or families.

More housing and more diverse housing choices means

  • Young families can find an affordable starter home.
  • Young adults moving out of their childhood home and into the housing market can stay in the cities they grew up in.
  • Our aging population will have more options for retirement, including downsizing, providing housing for on-site health or home care, and staying in their communities.
  • Workers - teachers, firefighters, health care workers, essential workers - can find homes near job centers (which will reduce traffic!).
  • Your children and grandchildren can stay near you in the communities they feel a part of.
  • More people will have more opportunities, across incomes, to rent or own homes in the places they live, work and love.

Why update the Safety Element?

The Safety Element is another part of the General Plan and contains goals and policies to reduce the potential short and long-term risk of loss of life, personal injury, property damage and economic and social dislocation resulting from fire, floods, earthquakes and other hazards.

State law now includes climate risk in the Safety Element. We are updating the Safety Element to incorporate climate adaptation and resiliency strategies, and ways to reduce these risks.

The element will be updated for consistency with other local documents such as the Climate Action Plan and the County's Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is currently underway.

What is Menlo Park's fair share?

The housing need for the Bay Area region for the current planning period (2023-2031) has been determined by the State of California to be 441,176 housing units. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) has determined that San Mateo County's share of the regional housing need is 47,321 housing units and of that total, Menlo Park's fair share is 2,946 housing units (6.2% of San Mateo County's total). By comparison, Redwood City’s share is 4,588 units, San Mateo's share is 7,015 units, Burlingame’s share is 3,257 units, Daly City’s share is 4,838 units and Unincorporated San Mateo County’s share is 2,833 units.

Providing housing to meet the needs of all income levels is critical to the social and economic health of Menlo Park. The City of Menlo Park must plan for its income-based housing allocation to address its share of the Bay Area region’s housing needs. San Mateo County's 2021 Area Median Income (AMI) for a household of four persons is $149,600. Income groups include: “very low income” (less than 50% of AMI); “low income” (50-80% of AMI); “moderate income” (80-120% of AMI); and “above moderate income” (greater than 120% of AMI). Within the 2023-2031 Housing Element, Menlo Park is required to plan for its fair share allocation of housing units by income group as follows:

  • Very Low Income: 740 units (25% of total)
  • Low Income: 426 units (14% of total)
  • Moderate Income: 496 units (17% of total)
  • Above Moderate Income: 1,284 units (44% of total)

Approximately 40% of the allocation satisfies the housing needs of very low- and low-income households. In total, about 3,000 housing units are needed to accommodate Menlo Park's 2023-2031 growth for all income groups as estimated through the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process. Note, the housing units herein summarized are in draft form. Final RHNA allocation and ABAG Executive Board approval is anticipated in December 2021.

What is Environmental Justice?

Environmental justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment means no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.

Meaningful involvement means

  • People have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health.
  • The public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision.
  • Community concerns will be considered in the decision making process.
  • Decision makers will seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.

Contact us

Deanna Chow

Assistant Community Development Director
Email

650-330-6733

 

Calvin Chan

Senior Planner
Email

650-330-6763