Sobrato, Grove among the big names fighting anti-apartment ballot measure

Daily Post Staff Writer

A group opposing the controversial citizen’s initiative Menlo Balance has formed and already has $82,000 in the bank, with most of the money coming from two well-known surnames in the valley — Sobrato and Grove.

In November, voters will decide the fate of Measure V, which would block apartments from being built in neighborhoods off single-family homes. But it would also block the rezoning of any property in single-family areas without going back to voters.

The group that has formed in opposition is called Menlo Park Neighbors for Affordable Homes and is backed by the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, a nonprofit that advocates for new housing and housing laws in the county. So far, the group has reported getting four donations totaling $82,000. The four donations are:

• $50,000 from John Matthew Sobrato, grandson of John A. Sobrato, who created the Sobrato Organization.

• $30,000 from Menlo Park resident Karen Grove, a former housing commissioner and daughter of late Intel CEO Andy Grove.

• $1,000 from Palo Alto Unified School Board Trustee Jennifer DiBrienza,

• $1,000 from Las Lomitas School Board Trustee Heather Hopkins.

It’s possible the group has raised more money, but right now, all political campaigns must report donations of $1,000 or more within 24 hours of receiving the donation.

The opposition group points to a number of reasons why voters ought to vote no, those include the potential blocking of the Ravenswood School District’s plans to build 80-90 apartments for employees at the former Flood School site at 321 Sheridan Drive. It would also require the Menlo Park Fire District to ask voters for permission to rebuild Station 1 and its headquarters on Middlefield Road.

The group also says the measure would “lock in and exacerbate racial and economic segregation by blocking future homes in high opportunity neighborhoods which are predominately upper income and white.”

The group also warns that if the measure passes, it would likely spread to other cities and worsen the affordable housing shortage.

The “yes” side says in their argument that if Measure V doesn’t pass, then three council members “can change zoning to allow development that permanently erodes your neighborhood without your say.” They also say the measure would keep neighborhood character in tact and “prevent excessive traffic on our safe streets.”


    • Ha!

      I think that there are other legal / moral reasons to limited housing, such as at the right to quiet possession of ones property.

  1. Atherton called. They support housing all unhoused persons that come within a 100 yard perimeter of Atherton in Menlo. They say “you’re welcome”.

  2. [Comment removed for violating Terms of Use. Commenter was using different names to make it seem as if several people agreed with his or her position.]

  3. [Comment removed for violating Terms of Use. Commenter was using different names to make it seem as if several people agreed with his or her position.]

  4. Can we call this Menlo Balance initiative what it is — redlining!

    Not only is it redlining but it also would deprive an impoverished school district of funds to educate Latino children.

    It’s Menlo Park’s way of saying to East Palo Alto, “You all don’t get to uppity now! Know your place! Stay out of our town.”

    • Redlining, that’s cute. Can you say with 100% accuracy how many units will be designated and assigned for teachers and staff of RCSD? Based on average income levels of teachers and staff of RCSD, how many would qualify for the low income thresholds specific to the buildings requirements?? Go ahead, I’ll wait. The fact is that developers aren’t in it to “help” people they’re in it for one thing, MONEY!!! Call it racist, redlining, whatever, it doesn’t make it true because the facts don’t support your feelings on the matter.

      • “Not so obvious,” get your facts straight.

        1. You throw around the word “developers” as if this were a private sector housing development, when, in fact, it’s owned by the Ravenswood City School District.

        2. The first priority will be given to employees of that district and then, if there are units remaining, employees of other school districts.

        3. It’s a trick question to say how many units will be allocated because the approval process isn’t that far along yet. But the Ravenswood board has made its plan public — this is for teachers and other school employees.

        • Come on Hal. Educate yourself. To point 1, the property is owned buy RCSD. The development is done by private, for-profit, commercial developers. To point 2, There is is simply nothing about other school districts. That’s just incorrect. There is nothing in the proposal for developing the property that gives any preference to other districts. And for point 3, it’s quite common for developments to define set asides in the plan proposal. Those set asides are integral for getting certain state and federal grant approvals.

          The fact is that time and time again RCSD has refused to set aside rentals or even considering selling developed properties to teachers and school employees. They’re on the record saying that’s off the table, because it doesn’t provide the recurring revenue that market rate rentals provide. Please read the proposal, you’ll see.

  5. It’s telling to see all of the big money coming from rich developers and homeless advocate groups that are outside Menlo Park. I don’t think people who have actually invested in homes in Menlo will so easily give away their communities. And the constant cries of “racist” are going to backfire here.

    • Yes, housing advocacy groups and philanthropists have made significant contributions to the No on V campaign, because they believe Measure V will have negative consequences and block affordable housing (something this area desperately needs). So have a lot of Menlo Park residents. It’s nice to see people rallying around the Ravenswood District and pushing back against the fear-mongering that led to Measure V. Makes me feel better about the decision to buy a home here.

      Yes on V seems primarily funded by Suburban Park residents and realtors. Cui bono?

  6. It’s telling to see that nearly all of the money for Measure V is coming from one neighborhood that wants to stop East Palo Alto workers from living in their midst.

    • @Shaking You might do well to actually know the facts on the issue. The organizers of Measure V met with the RCSD and proposed a semi-dense development (think townhouses) that would be SOLD to teachers and faculty. The response? Not a chance. The business head of the district has said many times the goal is the recurring revenue to the district. The teacher thing is a gimmick.

  7. “Randy” has no idea what he is talking about. Ravenswood’s CFO isn’t going to commit to who will be allowed to rent the apartments because that will make financing more difficult. He’s said this before, and I’m sure he told “Randy” this. Of course the district wants to house its employees, that’s all the school board has talked about, not that “Randy” listens to board meetings.

    But lets say, just for argument, that the district didn’t intend to house school employees in this building. The rents will provide an ongoing cash flow to the district, which will improve classroom instruction. Maybe that’s the real reason “Randy” and the other Measure V proponents put this on the ballot — hurts a Latino-majority school district.

    • You’re right, if they say they’re filling it with folks from EPA financing will be more difficult. RCSD is counting on the majority of units renting for market rate, with maybe a few rented by teachers and staff at lower rates. But you and the other folks screaming racist have conveniently ignored the fact that district won’t sell units to your Latino-majority district. If they’re really concerned with generational equity why not start here?

      It’s because they’re not. The teacher issue is a gimmick from a school district that wants to get into the commercial landlord biz.

      • Good grief. None of what you are saying is accurate. It’s clear that you have not adequately researched the actual facts around the proposed development at Flood School…unless you have, in which case you’re simply lying to mislead voters (in which case you should be ashamed). Regardless, the misinformation you and others are repeating here is a big reason why Measure V is a terrible idea. Most voters are probably not going to read the report that our city commissioned to understand the impact of Measure V. Most voters won’t read the staff reports when various projects come before our planning commission and city council; nor will they participate actively in the Housing Element and General Plan updates and take the big picture into account when being asked to consider individual parcels for rezoning.

        Who has the time to do all that homework and make sober, informed decisions that put the interests of the community at the forefront? City council.

        Council members are the appropriate decision makers when it comes to land use. They sign on to read the staff reports, do their homework, evaluate trade-offs, and make tough decisions for which they can be held accountable by voters. If you don’t like the people occupying those seats, find someone else to run. You may not be able to vote for council members in other districts but you can certainly recruit/donate to/campaign for a candidate.

        • Thank you for this post. It sums up perfectly why Measure V will pass overwhelmingly. The entire argument against Measure V is that it’s a bunch of racist white people who simply are too lazy or stupid to read the initiative and make an informed decision. Unless you inherited or was gifted your property in Menlo, you’re probably an individual who has done well in life by getting an education and working hard. You make good decisions. It’s very likely coming up most if not all homeowners lived in more dense afffordable communities and, after careful research, selected Menlo as just the place they want to raise their families.

          And now a couple of activist council members have decided that for all of us that this ethos is just wrong. And, depending on who you ask, we’re all either racist or too stupid to see it.

          Who has time to do the homework and make sober, informed decisions? The homeowners of Menlo Park. They’re not going throw away what they’ve built because some well funded homeless advocates from San Francisco and elsewhere think they should. So please, keep calling us stupid, lazy, and racist. It’s truly driving support for Measure V.

  8. Ive recited previously the former attempts by the city of Menlo Park to accelerate the production of affordable (whatever that means) housing…. Like the former Redevelopment Agency managed by the City and Council. Liquidated during a prior housing Crisis when RDA bonds could sell (See State Street Bank) Our RDA was disbanded in the detritus. I recall that the state took the funds.

    The BMR (Below Market Rate Program). New developments need to provide a number of BMR units, filled by a list maintained by the City of Menlo Park, not a smaller government entity; not a school. This ‘sort of’ worked in an orderly fashion.. But there was no guaranty tenants could stay if they could not longer afford the rent, or moved, or divorced. RWCSD faces this problem. They aren’t landlords.

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