If Menlo Balance, the anti-apartment measure, passes, the city would get stuck paying legal fees for defending it in court

Daily Post Staff Writer

If a controversial citizen’s initiative passes in Menlo Park, and it’s challenged in court, the city would be stuck footing the legal bill, even though the City Council did not come up with the idea.

In November, voters will decide the fate of Menlo Balance or Measure V, which would block apartments from being built in neighborhoods of single-family homes. However, it would also block the rezoning of any property in single-family areas without asking going to the voters again.

Two projects that could be impacted by the measure are the Menlo Park Fire District’s rebuilding of Fire Station 1 on Middlefield Road and the Ravenswood School District’s plans to build 80-90 apartments at the former Flood School site at 321 Sheridan Drive.

The city can’t do a Hail Mary and try to quickly rezone the fire station or former school site since the measure freezes the city’s zoning as of April 15 of this year.

City will have to defend lawsuits

Menlo Park City Attorney Nira Doherty confirmed to the Post that if the city is sued with the claim that the measure is illegal, it is up to the city to defend the measure in court.

Doherty, however, could not give an estimate as to how much in attorney’s fees the city would have to pay if it did have to defend such a suit.

A “ballot measure impact analysis” put together by city employees and some consultants that the city council reviewed before putting the measure on the ballot, warns the city that it’s possible the ballot measure, if approved, could be considered a ban on subsidized housing, because it would “place a very high barrier to any land use change that would allow higher density residential uses in single family zoned” areas.

The analysis also points out the measure could make it harder for the city to require developers to include subsidized housing in large projects.

Election cost

Developers or entities that want to be able to build non-single family homes on their properties would have to wait until November 2024, until the next regularly scheduled election, to get voter approval from residents, according to Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry. According to the measure, a special election cannot be called if a developer or entity wants to put their project on the ballot.

Irizarry said while it’s difficult to estimate the cost of an election two years in advance, this year’s cost estimate for Menlo Park was between $72,300 and $86,800. The cost of an election depends on how many other items are on the ballot.


  1. Let imagine that Measure V passes and then the Council during the course of the next year wants to rezone 10 properties. In fairness to the individual property owners and to the individual neighborhoods each of those would have to be placed on a separate ballot at at total yearly cost of almost $500,000.
    And all of them would PASS because the rational voter would vote FOR increased density elsewhere in order to reduce the need for greater density in their neighborhood.

    And voters concerned with equity issues would also support a zoning density increase.

    The only voters motivated to vote against the change would be the immediate neighbors and, by definition, the immediate neighbors would be a small minority of the total voters.

    And we would all bear the considerable cost of all these election.

    This is a fatally flawed measure.

  2. Measure V will pass. Homeowners know that long after Asbestos lawyer-turned-Mayor Ray Mueller catches the next train to Sacramento, they and they alone will be on the hook for all the unfunded infrastructure required to service the dense housing development his coalition pushed.

  3. This is incredibly sloppy reporting. Measure V isn’t “anti-apartment.” It only covers existing single family home zoning changes, which are rare. Most dense development is built on commercial or other zoning. But maybe the sloppiest reporting is trying to equate the cost of a normal election to this measure. The city council can add a measure to the ballot for next to nothing during the regular course of their business.

    If you’re going to run biased arguments against Menlo Park homeowners (who overwhelmingly support Measure V) at least have some integrity and do it honestly.

    • Randy, adding a ballot measure for a zoning change will cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to the county Department of Elections. If you disagree, take it up with them and then let everyone know when they admit to you that elections are free. Ha, ha!

    • Randy is wrong when he claims, “The city council can add a measure to the ballot for next to nothing during the regular course of their business.”

      The cost to taxpayers for ballot measures isn’t “next to nothing.”

      Go to City Council’s July 26 packet and in Agenda Item J-2 it says:

      “Impact on City Resources. According to the San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer and Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder for election services, the estimated cost of consolidated election services for one ballot measure is approximately between $36,000 and $43,200. The estimated cost of consolidated election services for the three City Council seats and one ballot measure is approximately between $72,300 and $86,800.”

      That means Measure V cost the city between $40,300 and $44,600 above the costs of holding a regular council election.

      “Next to nothing”?

  4. Randy claims that homeowners overwhelmingly support Measure V. Does he have any proof of this, like a poll? Everybody I know is embarrassed this is even on the ballot because it is so blatantly racist and exclusionary. It’s like we’re in the Jim Crow South.

    • Nice try anonymous. Measure V gathered MORE than the required 3,000 signatures from Menlo Park residents throughout the city, not just those who will be directly impacted by an apartment in their neighborhood. Look it up. Do your research. Don’t be an uneducated snowflake

      • “Anonymous Fraud” is pulling a con here. If you’re going to do a citizen’s initiative, any political consultant will tell you to get more than the necessary number of signatures. That’s because some people, feeling pressured by an aggressive paid signature-gatherer at a farmers’ market or store, will put down a fake name just to get away from the guy. Every initiative that gets on the ballot has more signatures than required. “anonymous F” is trying to make it sound as if he and his committee did something extraordinary when, in fact, it’s the ordinary way to collect signatures. (He knows that but figures he can scam people.)

        People didn’t understand what they were signing, and now that the dust is settling, people don’t want to be associated with this racist ballot measure. It will fail by a big margin. Menlo Park isn’t a racist town, even though there are some residents who want to keep Latinos out.

  5. The donors for this measure are primarily from one neighborhood, not all over town. Do your research “anonymous fraud” (aka Randy) before throwing out lies.

    The fact that the supporters of Measure V have to resort to lies shows you how much trouble this initiative is in.

    • The donors for the original ballot signature effort were primarily, but not limited to, the homeowners of one neighborhood. What’s wrong with that? Homeowners wanted a voice when the city council told them to “go away.” What’s wrong is wealthy people from Palo Alto and well funded homeless and housing advocates from San Francisco and Sacramento swooping in with big money to tell Menlo Park homeowners that their single family home lifestyle is the problem with California.

      If you’re going to point out the money and you’re intellectually honest you will look at both sides. This is truly a David and Goliath situation as far as the money goes.

      • At least [Word omitted, no disparaging nicknames please] Randy admits that the money for this initiative comes “primarily” from one neighborhood.

        But that’s where his truthfulness ends.

        1. I follow City Council closely and I’ve never heard them tell residents to “go away.” Can he provide the date and time when that was said?

        2. I’ve never the anti-Measure V people say they were going to “swoop in with big money to tell Menlo Park homeowners that their single family home lifestyle is the problem with California.” Again, date and time, please.

        [Portion removed, violation of Terms of Service]

  6. Hmmmm. No mention of concern for the many teachers, school employees and other moderate income workers who provide services for the community but end up commuting four hours a day or living in their RV on the street during the week because there is not housing in the area compatible with income level. No mention of other ways to solve this issue if the meassure passes and no affordable housing is build. What kind of a town do we have anyway if longer term residents have no concern for younger people or people serving their community. Housing insecurity is a big issue for a lot of people in this area.

    • Yes, no mention of that at all. The RCSD isn’t interested in more people in EPA. They want a choice lot they can develop in “Menlo Park” that will attract market rate renters to earn revenue.

      Oh, wait. No mention of set aside for below market rentals? Thats right. That’s because there are none.

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