In response to grumblings over the pressure to produce more homes, Assemblyman Rich Gordon is forming a committee of local officials to investigate ways to improve California's controversial housing element law.
But Gordon is quick to point out he isn't siding with the Peninsula's anti-growth advocates.
"I think that if you look at the jobs-housing imbalance in the Peninsula, it raises the question of how do we as a region -- not necessarily city by city -- appropriately house people in ways that gets them closer to work," Gordon said.
"I believe that means we have to look at how to plan for more housing," he added. "If we have absolutely zero housing growth I think it'll have a negative impact on our economy and ultimately our quality of life."
California requires municipalities to remove obstacles to housing growth, such as restrictive zoning, and to develop strategies for meeting current and projected housing needs within their boundaries.
The law's most contentious provision involves the so-called "fair share" of homes each municipality is told to provide and the expectation that some will be priced so that low-income residents can afford them.
The number of needed homes is based on state Department of Finance population projections, and regional planning organizations such as the Association of Bay Area Governments are assigned to divvy up the housing allocations for their areas among the cities in their jurisdictions.
Unless they successfully challenge them, local governments must adopt the allocations handed down by October 2014 and work to meet the quota until the numbers are changed again in 2022.
Duane Bay, the director of housing for San Mateo County, said cities have been taking the state mandate more seriously in recent years because it has come with new incentives, such as grants.
But what also has gotten their attention are the lawsuits filed by housing advocates against cities that have not complied with the law, Bay said.
Last year, for example, Menlo Park settled a lawsuit filed by three nonprofits for having failed to update its housing element plan since 1992. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to push for construction of up to 1,975 more homes.
"What happened in Menlo Park was sort of the boogie man for years," Bay said, adding that affordable housing advocates also have sued the cities of Corte Madera and Pleasanton.
Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, a senior staff attorney for the nonprofit Public Advocates, which sued both Menlo Park and Pleasanton, said the group's intention was to ensure housing for lower-income residents.
"When it comes down to it, it's incredibly important that there are affordable housing opportunities in every city in the state," he said.
Some residents say that instead of cowering, their elected representatives should be challenging the imposed housing allocations. On Monday, the Palo Alto City Council voted to do just that by appealing its allocation of 2,179 new units between next year and 2022.
Menlo Park resident Cheryl Zaslawsky said she believes all Peninsula cities should take their cue from Palo Alto. Forcing housing on all cities will result in uniform density and gridlock throughout the region, she said.
"I think the state is meddling way too much in people's lives," she added.
Menlo Park City Attorney Bill McClure said the city council voted in January to adopt its share of 655 units -- more than half of them to be targeted for low-income occupants -- after negotiating with other county cities to split a regional allocation.
Assemblyman Gordon said council members and city managers have indicated they want to know more about the state housing forecast formula and whether there's some wiggle room. It might make more sense to put the bulk of housing in the region's larger, more urban cities and near public transit hubs, he said.
But Gordon acknowledged that he doesn't know what, if anything, can be done at the state level to appease local concerns.