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Housing crisis solutions discussed

August 29, 2016

By Kevin Kelly : mercurynews – excerpt

“In general, we need to review the entire catalog of options when it comes to helping our residents stay in their homes and thrive,” Cline said. “Options range from adding affordable housing to rehabilitating older structures to increase and improve housing … to rent control to … policies against evictions. Lots of options, but nothing will solve it alone.”‘

MENLO PARK — As the urgency grows for Menlo Park to build more housing with an influx of thousands of new workers looming, Mayor Rich Cline says he is open to the idea of increasing downtown zoning density.

“I could support an increase if there were tradeoffs that would mitigate against increased traffic volumes,” Cline told The Daily News on Tuesday.

Downtown zoning rules established in 2012 allow up to 680 more housing units, with 18 of those approved and 462 proposed, accounting for 71 percent of the total…

Adina Levin, who serves on the Transportation Commission and lives near downtown, said she supports the idea of increasing downtown density even if it means three-story buildings on Santa Cruz Avenue.

“We’ve had people who say, we want to keep the buildings the same to preserve the character … but if we keep all of the buildings the same, we lose the character of the people,” Levin said Aug. 18 during a housing crisis forum at Kepler’s Books…

Kepler’s held the housing forum — moderated by council candidates Ray Mueller, Cecilia Taylor and Catherine Carlton, as well as East Palo Alto activist Kyra Brown — to raise awareness about a growing problem that affects many of its employees. According to an analysis by the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, the county added 70,800 jobs and 2,501 housing units between 2011 and 2014.

Between 50 and 60 people attended the event, with roughly a dozen speakers blaming government officials for the problem. Kate Downing, who cited displacement in her recent decision to resign from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission, put the blame squarely on city councils.

“The root of the problem … begins and ends with your local city councils,” Downing said. “I hear a lot of blame about Facebook and I hear a lot of blame about Google … but they don’t make these decisions alone. … Be wary of the politicians who say that affordable housing is the only solution. … We need to get rents down, not just for affordable units, not just for the subsidized units, but for all units.”

At the event, Mueller said he hopes Menlo Park and East Palo Alto can “share revenue” to deal with the jobs/housing imbalance. Both cities are undergoing General Plan updates.

Cline said he’s also open to the idea of rent control, but noted the General Plan update might not be the best place to address it.

Email Kevin Kelly at kkelly@bayareanewsgroup.com

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