Atherton, a Silicon Valley town considered the richest in the country, is considering doing the historically unimaginable there: allowing homes among its stone-walled mansions.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the town northwest of Stanford University, where the typical Manasseh has a value of $8 million, will consider allowing relatively public grade homes for the first time in its 99-year history. Reason: New state New state to build hundreds of new units.
Atherton Mayor Rick DeGulia said the city’s redistricting would allow up to 10 units into the one-acre plot.
“The way to get to the numbers the state requires requires us to add homes,” DiGullia said.
The 5-square-mile city of 7,000 has become a home to billionaires and sports stars who reside behind high brick walls and opaque gates, on estates studded with tennis courts and swimming pools.
Two years ago, Bloomberg ranked it the “richest city in America,” with a median income north of $500,000 a year. A market survey from Zillow put the median home at $8.1 million — and that includes only the “middle price category,” whose values are up 17.9% over the past year.
In March, an entity operated by Jonathan Ratner paid $44.8 million for a 20,000-square-foot property, the most expensive sale in at least three years in the nation’s most expensive ZIP code.
Its residents included Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, Golden State Warriors basketball star Steve Curry, and the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who sold his former home in 2020 for more than $35 million.
However, the wealth of its inhabitants could not absolve it from the mandates of the state.
More stringent allotment of regional housing needs will require cities across the state to ramp up housing by the end of the decade — or face stiff fines and have the state control local zoning.
Atherton’s requirements are similar to those of Woodside, which cited mountain lions as a reason not to build homes, and Portola Valley, all of which should add about 300 units over the next decade. When the town of Portola Valley recently considered zoning changes without the consent of individual property owners, it was met with the threat of legal action, according to the newspaper.
For Atherton, a town of about 2,200 homes, that means 348 housing units will be added by 2031. Either the city will allow in-laws to build units for the so-called residential component, or it should be an area for multi-unit homes, the mayor said. This made the residents unhappy.
At a public meeting attended by about 100 residents late last month, several suggested that Atherton resist the state’s mandate at all costs.
“Some people were so adamant about opposing the mandate that they considered paying the fine,” said DeGulia, who estimated the fine would be $100,000 a month. The new mandate will take effect in 2023 and last for eight years, which could amount to about $9 million.
“There is absolutely no way to do that,” DiGullia said. “Paying that kind of fine would require a vote of the people.”
The construction option is minimal. Atherton has only two lots – once Town Hall land, and the other a 22-acre park, which was willed for the town in the 1950s on the condition that it returns to Stanford if it is not used for entertainment.
This leaves a downtown corporate yard that may yield five homes. and eight public and private schools, including the prestigious Menlo School and Sacred Heart Schools.
In an effort to provide housing for teachers and to add to the housing stock, schools were offered an urgent deal to build high-density housing on campus for faculty and staff.
“This was an important strategy,” DiGullia said. “But no school has benefited from that.”
[San Francisco Chronicle] – Dana Bartholomew