Tech titan wants more housing, just not in his neighborhood

Marc Andreessen. AP photo.

Daily Post Staff Writer 

One of Silicon Valley’s kingmakers wants to see housing built for “regular people” — but not in his hometown of Atherton. 

Marc Andreessen, who has helped fund Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and helped create Netscape, wrote an essay in 2020 on his blog titled “It’s Time to Build,” where he calls for skyscrapers and more housing in the American city. But as The Atlantic pointed out, Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, daughter of the late billionaire developer John Arrillaga, wrote an email to the Atherton City Council objecting to plans to allow nine properties around town to build a combined total of 137 townhouses. 

The final sentence of the letter says: “They (townhouses) will MASSIVELY decrease our home values, the quality of life of ourselves and our neighbors and IMMENSELY increase the noise pollution and traffic.” 

The couple lives at 164 Elena Avenue, which they purchased in January 2007 for $16.6 million. The website RedFin estimates the five-bedroom home is now worth over $38 million.

Arrillaga-Andreessen also states the couple owns four properties on Tuscaloosa Avenue.

Atherton, just like all other cities in the state is on the hook to increase its housing stock and is in the process of planning how those new homes will be built. The state wants a portion of those new homes to be offered at below-market rent.Townhouses were seen as a way for lower-income homes to be built in Atherton, but because of the blowback from residents, the idea was scrapped from the plan the town recently submitted to the state. Instead, Atherton is nearly entirely relying on Accessory Dwelling Units, called ADUs or granny units and housing built by schools in town to meet its 348 home requirement.  If the state rejects the plan, the town will have to figure out other ways to add housing.   

Andreessen’s 2020 blog post about housing appears to favor building housing in cities but does not mention anything about building in tony towns such as Atherton. 

“We can’t build nearly enough housing in our cities with surging economic potential — which results in crazily skyrocketing housing prices in places like San Francisco, making it nearly impossible for regular people to move in and take the jobs of the future. We also can’t build the cities themselves anymore. When the producers of HBO’s ‘Westworld’ wanted to portray the American city of the future, they didn’t film in Seattle or Los Angeles or Austin — they went to Singapore. We should have gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities at levels way beyond what we have now; where are they?” 

Andreessen has not posted on Twitter about the article. He did not return a request for comment from the Post. 


  1. No comment from him? Shocking. How about the other zillionaires funding the Yimby’s, and the new housing laws? Comments from them?

  2. It’s absolutely ridiculous that they own a total of five properties in Atherton. The only way he’s going to allow more houses or anything else, is likely if he’s the owner.

  3. I agree with Andreessen. Americans have gutted and abandoned their cities for vast, ugly tract homes connected by ugly expensive highways lined with box stores and fast foods. It’s a mess and we all hate it. Greed and neglect, lack of planning, and development for the profit of a few. Renewal of the urban core in each of our gutted cities would solve the housing shortage. It’s so easy to say now that we have spoiled things, the good places that are left should yield up theirs. We made a mess of our cities. California’s pave-over-everything for more car-connected box communities peppered with fast food strip malls is the worst possible development and the most expensive, most eco destructive development. The ‘State’ is pushing electric vehicles – that’s just more time in cars, more roads, more sprawl, more car-dependency. Sorry Elon, bad idea. We’re doing all the wrong things and expecting good communities. Public/Private partnerships focused on really good, high density urban cores – as practiced elsewhere – can work. Things may be tough in the People’s Republic of California, with our one-party rule, but we shouldn’t think seizing other people’s stuff is a good solution to anything.

  4. We can’t afford Atherton, but with the exception of schools, do lower-income residents want to live there? I wouldn’t want someone making me feel inferior just because I didn’t have any money. Kids growing up lying to compensate just to fit in. No, thank you. IMO, that would be an uncomfortable way to live.

  5. I think that parents would be very pleased to be able to live in Atherton’s school district and send their kids to Atherton public schools — funded in part with state money as even direct aid schools are. Kids would be very happy to have the wide open streets to ride bikes down and play on, as well as all of the clean air and trees provided by tony towns like Atherton. There IS a desperate need for housing there — and quite frankly, Atherton, with its mandatory minimum lot sizes starting at 1/4 acre (or is it 1/2 acre?) has more room for housing than anywhere else – so planners should be starting there.

    What is perhaps most disappointing to me – on top of the obvious narcissism and greed of the email — is the inaccuracy in its claim. First, a home that more than doubled in value in the past 15 years has virtually no probability of losing “massive value” – in particular when compared with its purchase price. Second, economic studies overwhelmingly show that increasing housing density in low-density neighborhoods like Atherton actually INCREASES home values rather than decreases them. Shouldn’t a renowned Venture Capitalist be aware of this proven fact?

    What makes this most crazy-making of all is that these two VC/philanthropists claim that a few residential townhomes will ruin their neighborhood, while the put millions of dollars of money into the Castilleja commercial project including the concrete underground commercial garage that, thanks in part to this family, now absolutely will harm the quality of life of *Palo Alto* residents with commercial scale construction in Old Palo Alto for years to come.

    In sum, they say: no residential building in their neighborhood at all, even when their neighborhood has approximately a dozen families per half mile. And: all development — even *commercial construction* in our neighborhood is free game, even to the tune of building underground commercial garages directly across the street from homes that our residents have occupied for decades.

    I vote for Palo Alto taking some of those proposed townhomes, and Atherton can have Castilleja’s commercial construction. Is it a deal?

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