Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

Neighboring Peninsula cities see housing actions differently

By Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly, May 7, 2019

“The city councils of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park met in a joint session in Palo Alto on May 6 for an update on and a discussion of the various housing bills going through Sacramento. Most of the council members focused on Senate Bill 50.

“The only thing they agreed on is that each community would benefit from greater collaboration and, if possible, coordination in addressing the regional housing shortage.

Unlike its prior iteration, [the bill, now in limbo] distinguishes between counties with populations that have more than 600,000 residents and those that have less.

“East Palo Alto Councilman Larry Moody challenged cities that oppose the proposed legislation to offer their own plans to address the humanitarian crisis, as evidenced by people living in RVs and sleeping under bridges and highways. The scope of the problem, he argued, creates an imperative for city leaders to take strong action.

“ ‘If they’re not going to be supporting SB 50, tell us what you’re doing. What’s the plan in Menlo Park? What’s the plan in Burlingame? What’s the plan in San Carlos?’ Moody asked. ‘East Palo Alto can’t be the dormitory of the tech industry and for the job growth taking place. We can’t and we shouldn’t have to be the only city that has an active strategy around affordable housing.’

“Both East Palo Alto Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones and East Palo Alto Councilman Ruben Abrica urged opponents of SB 50 to propose alternative solutions. Rather than fight the state, Abrica said, cities should make suggestions to the Legislature to address the problem.

“ ‘Housing will continue to be a top issue in our state,’ Abrica said. ‘Why? Millions of people … cannot afford a place to live. It’s just an undeniable fact.’

“Menlo Park remains by and large agnostic. Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor said the council will be discussing SB 50 independently and that the council does not have a unified voice on the legislation. ‘I believe SB 50 exists because we didn’t take care of our own city,’ Taylor said.”

Read the full article here.