NBA star Steph Curry has joined neighbors in wealthy Atherton who object to the Bay Area city’s plans to build multifamily and affordable housing.
The immediate object of concern for Curry and wife Ayesha is a potential 16-unit townhome development situated on 1.5 acres near their $30-million home. The lot is currently occupied by a single dwelling. It’s common for homes in the five-square-mile enclave to occupy at least an acre.
In a Jan. 18 letter to the city obtained by the Almanac, a local newspaper, the Currys wrote that they had “major concerns in terms of both privacy and safety with three-story townhomes looming directly behind us.”
“We hesitate to add to the ‘not in our backyard’ (literally) rhetoric,” their letter goes on, “but we wanted to send a note before today’s meeting. Safety and privacy for us and our kids continues to be our top priority and one of the biggest reasons we chose Atherton as home.”
Although urging that the development be rejected, they said if that wasn’t “sufficient for the state, we ask that the town commits to investing in considerably taller fencing and landscaping to block sight lines onto our family’s property.”
The Currys are far from the only, the richest or the angriest objectors. Those directing flak toward city officials include billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.
In recent months, town leaders have tried to satisfy concerns raised by residents, but officials can go only so far — because they have to meet state requirements in putting together an updated housing plan. If the state rejects the city’s plan, Atherton would be subject to lawsuits and and the imposition of rules giving developers freer reign within city boundaries.
Underneath the veneer of celebrity and wealth is another iteration of a longstanding debate over who should share responsibility for solving the state’s housing crisis and how. And one portion of the debate centers on whether wealthy neighborhoods and cities — and the wealthy in general — have done their share.
There are state rules in place that attempt to impose responsibility in some unfamiliar places, such as Atherton, located just north of the Stanford campus in San Mateo County.
According to Census data, the community of about 7,000 is 73% white and 19% Asian, with a median household income of $250,000-plus. The density is about two people per acre, and 86% of the housing stock is single-family homes, with an average of just under three people per household.
The city is on the hook to the state for plans that would make possible the construction of 348 housing units by 2031.
Some residents were specific about why a higher density should not be allowed in their vicinity. Other objections were more general.
“As a 32-year resident of Atherton,” wrote Grace Ferrando in comments submitted to the city, “it saddens me and sickens me to think of what has been proposed for our beautiful town. In short, I am deeply concerned about the impact of safety of our residents, including traffic safety.”
“I am 95 years old,” wrote Mari Korematsu. “This has been my home for many decades, and I wish to live the remainder of my life without all of this uncertainty looming over me.”
Joseph Laria wrote: “This plan disproportionately puts the burden of meeting the state requirement for moderate income multifamily on our small community. ... It is not economically feasible to build low-income housing in Atherton. The land cost alone is $8 million per acre.”
Increasing the population density, he added, “restricts our property rights. ... I am raising a family in Atherton because I liked the quality of life and the town. ... There are other options available that can meet the spirit of the housing element given the unique character of Atherton.”
“These are complex times,” wrote Nic and Denise Persson. “If you can’t trust that your single-family neighborhood doesn’t suddenly turn into an apartment complex, how can any American ever dare to buy a house for his/her family? I think we all agree on this.”
“Crime and congestion is what you’ll get with this outrageous plan,” wrote David Randolph.
The debate went down to the wire — a packed special City Council meeting started at 2 p.m. on July 31, the same day the plan had to be submitted to the state. The plan was approved with modifications.
The results of a state review are pending.
The Currys and their immediate neighbors received a partial concession — a stipulation that might result in the property at issue being developed at a lower density.