Measure Y will help guide San Mateo’s growth into the future. A future that truly provides for everyone.
Continue smart growth that is affordable and sustainable for the benefit of future generations.
Making a difference in San Mateo is when the grassroots members of the community speak up.
I support SMRG because it represents the interests of the vast majority of San Mateo.
It is our right to be represented by and not ignored by our city council.
Thank you for sticking to it and not letting our community down.
- J. DB.
October 22, 2020
A resident generated ballot measure, Measure H received a majority of votes in 1991, and has served the San Mateo community well for nearly 30 years. It required inclusionary, below-market-rate units in new residential developments. San Mateo was one of the first (if not the first) to require this on the Peninsula. Measure Y would continue the legacy.
Measure R identifies areas around San Mateo’s three Caltrain stations for future increases in height and density beyond what is currently allowed in the General Plan. The Hillsdale and Hayward Park Stations have undergone recent redevelopment (Bay Meadows Phase II, Peninsula Station, Hillsdale Shopping Center’s North Block, Station Park Green, Hines office buildings, the former AAA site, and soon Concar Passage). That leaves the area surrounding the downtown station as the likely target for development as a result of Measure R.
Where are the protections for the downtown historic district, adjacent to the downtown station? Where are the protections for the Latinx owned businesses on North B Street? Where are the protections for the service and small businesses, and single-family residences near the downtown station? Businesses owners and residents near the downtown Caltrain station should be very concerned.
My greatest fear is that the area surrounding the downtown Caltrain station will become a Middlefield Road/Jefferson Avenue in Redwood City, or a King Street in San Francisco. If Measure R passes, a vote by three of the five San Mateo City Council members could make this a reality.
The letter writer is
the vice president of the Home
Association of North Central San Mateo.
Skeptical of the General Plan process
October 19, 2020
The San Mateo City Council opposes Measure Y and prefers to use the general plan process. I’ve attended some of these types of sessions and I have not been pleased.
One workshop started with a consultant proclaiming the market demands higher density. No justification, no explanation, no persuasion. The attendees were told we would work in groups at tables that had a map of the city and a pile of Legos. We would put rows of Legos in areas where taller buildings might be appropriate, perhaps, say, around Central Park or the train station, hint-hint.
Someone stood up to speak in favor of shorter buildings. Sorry, not allowed. No public comments. End of discussion. So we sat at our tables and played with our Legos. You didn’t get any atta-boys if you didn’t put some Legos on the map.
Councilman Rick Bonilla and Ron Munekawa from the planning department were there. I suggested they talk privately with the folks who wanted to speak. They declined. Those folks could speak at a subsequent meeting, they were trying to hijack this meeting.
City officials use these “visioning” or “consensus building” sessions to influence public opinion, to cajole a relatively small group of people to concur with decisions that officials have already made. Search for these terms on web for details. I prefer straight talk, plain dealing, citizen to citizen conversation.
As for this election, if you prefer shorter buildings, vote no on Measure R and yes on Measure Y.
Big money versus grassroots
October 15, 2020
The Measure Y and R campaigns are a true David versus Goliath battle. R proponents have raised over $1,150,000 from real estate and developer interests, and now, from Facebook. Facebook! Chan-Zuckerberg wrote a $100,000 check to defeat Measure Y. How much money does Measure Y have? $16,000. Voters must ask why big money has invested so much in slick weekly misleading mailers and TV ads? All to overturn a policy that has for 30 years guided sensible growth allowing five- to seven-story buildings along transit lines, protected residential neighborhoods, mandated affordable housing, and encouraged public open space.
Don’t be fooled by its false insinuations: Measure R does nothing to ensure affordable housing for our local heroes. Nothing. Developers will be able to cheaply pay “in lieu of” fees instead of building affordable units.
San Mateo, under the provisions of the “old Y” (Measure H), has continued to build future affordable housing such as in the two big developments recently approved behind Talbot’s Toys and on the Trader Joe’s/Rite Aide/Ross site.
Think about it: Isn’t five to seven stories tall enough for San Mateo? Do we really want no height limits? Do we want more traffic choking our main streets? Do we want high rises encroaching into our neighborhoods, changing the character and charm of our city?
David versus Goliath. $16,000 versus $1,150,000. Follow the money. Big money versus grassroots concerned volunteers. Help San Mateo maintain mandated affordable housing and sensible, community-responsive quality growth with your vote. Yes on Y. No on R.
Yes on Y, no on R
October 15, 2020
I agree with letter writer Bob Wackerman (Sept. 30, 2020). Please vote yes on Y for the city of San Mateo and vote no on R. Measure Y must receive more votes than R or else the growth management history of the city will end.
I personally value the historic downtown, with small local businesses that may be lost if developers are allowed to turn our charming city into “anywhere U.S.A.” For over 30 years as a city planner in the South Bay, I saw how cities that open themselves to unbridled change become indistinguishable. I’m thankful for now living in San Mateo.
The stakes are too high
October 13, 2020
It’s quite clear that the voices of the people in San Mateo have been working overtime to encourage the right decision be made regarding measures Y and R. However, we are slowly seeing that those voices are being overlooked or just ignored. Special interests and self-serving groups seem to feel an entitlement to push the envelope with local elected officials and disregard the will of the residents.
This has been labeled a David and Goliath situation given that developers and special interests are spending enormous amounts of money to lure voters into a false assumption that this effort is in their best interest. Does anyone question the fact that big developers are behind Measure R and encouraging a no vote on Measure Y? Do you think this proposed housing is for the benefit of the people or developer’s pockets? Residents have worked very hard on this so who are elected leaders listening to; the people who elected them or the special interests who put out big money? Former Mayor Claire Mack’s support of Measure Y, speaks volumes.
How can anyone consider planning for higher density living, post-COVID? We’re going through changing times, and the stakes are high. Cities and suburbs are being overwhelmed and controlled by developers who have been given free reign by Sacramento lawmakers. Time to stop this and support the will of the residents in San Mateo. Vote yes on Y and no on R.
The letter writer is the
former mayor of Foster City.
The ruse of Measure R
October 13, 2020
Bohannon’s Measure R is running a shameful campaign claiming to be about affordable housing and supporting the San Mateo community. However, Measure R is a ruse that allows developers (Bohannon, Prometheus, etc.) to pay in-lieu fees rather than build affordable units: under Measure R developers never have to build a single affordable unit as part of their own developments. Measure R allows unlimited heights and densities so why not build affordable units within the project?
A recent New York Times article states, “Mr. (David D.) Bohannon became one of the biggest developers of whites-only housing throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-20th century, with significant responsibility for the segregated landscape that persists.” Building affordable units within a project is one way to encourage integration and advance our diversification, addressing those historic mistakes.
Current in-lieu fees fall far short of the money needed to build affordable units but paying even higher in-lieu fees is the cheapest and most expeditious way a developer can rid themselves of the affordability requirement. Is that their goal here?
While Bohannon’s website touts “our commitment to community,” Bohannon’s Measure R clearly shows lack of commitment to provide affordable housing in our community. Measure R is a disgraceful attempt to realize profits under the guise of creating affordable housing.
Big money and San Mateo’s character
October 13, 2020
Big money wants to change the character and quality of life in San Mateo. They wrote Measure R to oppose the residents’ Measure Y (supports existing building height/density limits). Seven-thousand residents signed to put Measure Y on the ballot, but special interests, including the Bohannon Development Company and the Zuckerbergs of Facebook, want to raise the limits.
Bohannon has funded $606,000 and the Zuckerbergs $100,000 so far. Funding from all sources total $978,000 so far. This is obscene. What are they buying with their $1 million in advertising?
The Zuckerbergs live in Palo Alto. They bought four houses next to theirs so that developers could not build there and ensure open space. The hypocrisy is obvious. Why are the Zuckerbergs interfering in San Mateo local politics? Is their goal to trample our quality of life to build fine housing for their high-income employees? Why do they want more office space at the expense of our homes?
Bohannon and other developers want to maximize their profit and return on investment. Station Park Green development, for example, where Kmart used to be, charges exorbitant rents that only high-income wage earners can afford. The small number of units allocated for lower income tenants is a drop in the bucket. Why do the developers want San Mateo to be a mini-San Francisco?
San Mateans — Take our future back and keep our quality of life and growth under control — open space, parking, traffic, retail, housing/office space density. Vote yes on Measure Y and no on Measure R.
San Mateo needs you to vote yes on Y and no on R
October 9, 2020
1991 saw the overwhelming passage of Measure H, an initiative put forward by residents to protect our city which, at the time, was under siege by high-rise development proposals.
Measure H was vehemently opposed by the City Council, Chamber of Commerce and the real estate and developer interests. But residents prevailed, and much of the City Council lost their seats as a result. Renewed in 2004 as Measure P, it will expire at the end of this year unless you vote yes on Measure Y and no on Measure R.
Measure Y continues height protections, community benefits and affordable housing requirements. Measure R severely dilutes them.
Measure R misrepresents its true motivation. Created to sow voter confusion, the real estate development interests behind the no on Y/yes on R campaigns would like nothing more than for both measures to fail. By diluting the vote, it’s possible that neither measure will receive the 50%+ majority of votes needed to become law. If this occurs, then three City Council votes is all it will take to override development guidelines anywhere in San Mateo, effectively rolling back the calendar to 1990.
Opponents of Measure Y will be pleased if Measure R passes, but they will be gleefully popping Champagne to celebrate the beginning of an unrestricted building bonanza if both measures fail. The City Council will once again be in their corner and it will be the Wild West of development once again. This will be devastating for the voice of residents in determining the future growth of our community.
For more information visit www.smartergrowthsm.com.
Money and political influence
October 9, 2020
The pro-Measure R and anti-Measure Y campaign are a case study in political power. Large business interests, real estate interests and the building trades unions are special interests who financially benefit from building more and taller and have always had undue influence in San Mateo County politics.
For example, the commercial linkage fee, an important funding source for affordable housing, could have been established 30 years ago but was strongly opposed by many of the same organizations opposing Measure Y and supporting Measure R. Finally, in 2017, the council established a commercial linkage fee but not until it included a 25% fee discount to the developer if union wages are paid. Imagine how much “money” would be available for affordable housing today had the council been able to resist the business interests then.
Housing nonprofits have their interests too so it’s no surprise why they oppose Measure Y. Follow the money. They benefit from in-lieu fees. Nice to have but not necessary to build affordable housing. Many 100% affordable projects have been built in San Mateo without in-lieu fees. Measure Y helps restore the jobs/housing and business/neighborhoods balance that is so important to community well-being. The vote is the only way residents can compete with these powerful special interests. What these special interests really want is for both measures to fail so that their undue influence with the council can continue and their luxury market-rate projects can exclude affordable housing.
You’ve missed the point
October 7, 2020
In response to your editorial regarding Measures R and Y, you’ve missed the point of why San Mateans want and need Measure Y. The General Plan process and trust in the City Council to do their job and represent the concerns of the community should be all that we need, however, we’ve clearly seen that the council is unduly influenced by development and outside interests over those of San Mateans. Despite the General Plan process, three votes of the City Council can change anything in the General Plan, and the public process becomes meaningless. Absolutely meaningless.
Measure Y does not interfere with the GP process; changes to Measure Y’s development standards can be proposed during the GP process. Measure Y gives citizens the power to approve the proposed changes at the end of the update. San Mateans are rightly concerned about development that serves the needs of real estate investors and corporate interests over the needs of the community. The lies in the countless Measure R fliers we have all received in the mail, funded by big money, claim to have “Hero’s backs.” The only thing that they have is hero’s backs up against the wall of market rate rents that line the pockets of the big money real estate investors and developers. Voter approval gives all San Mateans a way to balance development and counter the undue influence of big money and hold the City Council to account.
Measure Y will prevent gentrification and land grabs in San Mateo.
Mack makes it easy
October 7, 2020
Well you just made it easy for all us San Mateans to vote yes on Measure Y, by publishing mayor Mack’s letter! Mayor Mack singlehandly stopped graffiti in San Mateo more than 25 to 30 years ago when she served as councilwoman and mayor.
Her and her crew would muster early on the weekend with paint and brushes. Now we have apps, then we had mayor Mack. Thanks again mayor Mack for keeping San Mateo beautiful.
John Patrick Kelly
The people of San Mateo cannot be bought
October 6, 2020
I recently received yet another glossy, multicolored, multifold “No on Y” pamphlet from real estate developers who are not interested in what is best for the quality of life and character of San Mateo.
They have been saying, dishonestly, all the right things — “climate change,” “inclusive,” “housing for heroes” — but their promises do not hold up.
But it is their latest disgraceful tactic that I’m calling out; that a Yes on Y is somehow now a yes to “Donald Trump’s Republican Party.” This just further proves that these developers will say anything to build tall buildings in San Mateo and profit from your loss of a beautiful San Mateo. Please join me in voting yes on Measure Y and no on Measure R.
Beware of avalanche of mailers
October 6, 2020
An avalanche of mailers advocating for Measure R have been inundating my mailbox over the past three weeks, no doubt many more to come. I have received several from the “Committee to House Our Local Heroes.” But readers are entitled to know that they are paid for by the Bohannon Organization and other big developers.
Checking out the public filings on the city’s website, I find that this new committee is a “re-branding” of the original name, San Mateans for Neighborhood Protections and Affordable Housing. That name also lists the Bohannon Organization as the sponsor.
Many know that Bohannon has been conducting surveys since 2018, trying to figure out how to push their “sky’s the limit, build bigger and bigger” agenda and defeat Measure Y, the grassroots effort to keep voter control over height, density and affordable housing requirements. Must be that “Housing Our Heroes” polled higher than the other name.
How disingenuous can you get? Hiding behind authentic local heroes to push their true agenda? Especially since their Measure R requires absolutely no affordable housing to be built whatsoever.
Voters beware. Yes on Y, no on R.
Lisa Vande Voorde
In agreement with Claire Mack
October 5, 2020
I remember, fondly, the time Claire Mack served our community with distinction both on the City Council and as our mayor.
During her time of service, much was accomplished with little acrimony. She represented all of us, the entire community and not just one district.
She was open-minded and cordial with those she agreed and with those she disagreed with. It was nice to read her recently published letter expressing her valued opinion about height limits, a topic she is eminently qualified to speak about.
I am definitely planing to join her by voting yes on Measure Y.
Measure R versus Measure Y
September 30, 2020
Measure R is good for developers and landlords, not so good for heroes. Measure R provides housing mostly for the affluent. Only a minority of heroes can benefit because only a small number of affordable units will be built. The large majority of new units will be market rate.
The waitlists for affordable units will be long. Once new affordable units are assigned to residents, they will not be available for many years, because those residents will hang onto them.
Read the Daily Journal accounts of the Foster City units which are exiting 35 years of “affordable” housing and the plight of the long-term residents who now face market rates (“Some reprieve for Foster City renters facing displacement” in the Set. 25 edition of the Daily Journal).
Heroes are forced out of their housing because politicians accommodate new employers and their generously-paid workers. Dinky quantities of new affordable units cannot offset the large influx of the newly hired, who outbid those already living in the county.
Measure Y maintains heroes’ ability to live in San Mateo. It’s time to pass Measure Y, and it’s time to stop creating large numbers of new jobs until our resident “heroes” have affordable housing. Measure R stimulates more new employers to come into the county.
Yes on Y, No on R
September 30, 2020
Saturday I found a flier on my doorstep from the Yes on Y, No on R supporters.
It was a two-sided black-and-white lettered bulletin and looked like something a grassroots campaign had crafted.
It was markedly different from the slick looking multicolored paper flier I got from the No on Y and Yes on R supporters with Mayor Joey G’s mug shot plastered on it. The mailer insinuated how a defeat of the No on Y/Yes on R measures would doom the citizens of San Mateo relative to promoting affordable housing.
I’m a lifelong resident of San Mateo and have watched what was once a great place to live turn into a gridlock of cars leading into downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Brought on by the runaway housing growth happening over the years. It’s a joke to think that as more people move here they will abandon their cars and use public transit for work or leisure. George W. Bush said years ago “Americans are addicted to their cars.” We’re not giving them up. They’re too convenient to use.
Let’s stop the big money developers and real estate interests who’s goal in mind is to profit with their construction of multistoried units under the guise of “affordable housing.” Let’s tell the San Mateo City Council the city is not for sale. It is the residents’ city and it is our decision on what we want our future to look like. Vote yes on Y and no on R.
Yes on Measure Y
September 28, 2020
I am 68 and have always lived in the area and in San Mateo for 15 years. I believe we desperately need affordable housing in the area. I am confused and wondering why Habitat for Humanity and the county Democratic Party are opposing Measure Y. How have they decided that Measure Y keeps us from accomplishing the affordable housing we need? At this moment there are hundreds and hundreds of housing units being built in the city — I drive by them every day — so clearly development is going full speed ahead and the existing building plans have not halted development. So, I have to ask why aren’t more of these units affordable housing? Why didn’t the City Council demand a higher percentage of affordable units in these developments? And why aren’t office developers required to do more to solve the problems they create? Might our failure to build affordable housing be due, in part, to our council’s acquiescence to developers’ desire for profit?
Vote yes on Measure Y which doesn’t allow developers to pay in lieu fees instead of actually building affordable units.
Tunnel vision of Measure R
September 17, 2020
El Camino Real currently has a few tall buildings typically surrounded by smaller structures. Imagine, if you will, the El Camino corridor lined with 75-foot buildings from Poplar Avenue all the way through town to Ninth Avenue. Would this still be suburban San Mateo? Please vote no on Measure R and yes on Measure Y.
The council is not listening to us.
The problems with Measure R
September 12, 2020
In conversation with a neighbor about the Measure R mailer, they said: “If ever there was a convincing argument that the City Council is in the pocket of big developers, that statement by Joe Goethals on the back of the flier is proof!” Yes, indeed.
How unfortunate for San Mateans that this is our representation. The lies in the Measure R flier are staggering. Why do they need to lie?
Read Measure R. No requirements to include affordable housing; they can instead use “in lieu” payments, which do not provide adequate funding for affordable units that would otherwise be built in a development. Measure Y prevents this from happening.
They claim Measure Y is not in compliance with AB 1505, also a lie. Measure Y prevents developers from shirking their duty to build affordable units by disallowing “in-lieu” payments. They have other alternatives per the law for the flexibility they claim Measure Y doesn’t provide.
Look at the map in Measure R as their “designated” development area. Can you see underlying streets? Why did they do this?
What properties lie east and west of South El Camino Real within half-mile radius of the Hillsdale, Hayward Park and downtown Caltrain stations? Are you reassured that Measure R “does not include single-family zoned property within the planning area, which may be designated as islands” (yes, islands) The list of streets in the “designated” development area certainly includes residential property and single-family homes are directly across the street from development areas.
This is why there is a Measure Y. Smart growth works.
We deserve honest, ethical representation. Obviously we will have to look for it at the ballot box.
Yes on Measure Y; vote with citizens, not special interests
September 10, 2020
I just received a glossy flier in the mail, paid for by the real estate interests in San Mateo, encouraging me to vote for Measure R. This ballot measure was put on the ballot not because San Mateo residents asked for it, but because the real estate interests on the council wanted it.
Alternatively, Measure Y is on the ballot because San Mateo citizens gathered more than 7,000 signatures supporting it, representing their desire for continuing quality of life in their city. If our City Council represents themselves, it may be time for the voters to represent themselves. We did so in 1996 when we rejected a card room at Bay Meadows over the wishes of the council. We can do it again. Vote to maintain current building heights until change seems appropriate instead of opening our city to government by developers. This won’t prevent change; it will stabilize it. Vote yes on Measure Y.
Shut the door on heights
June 26, 2020
When a door is open a crack it is easy to push it wide open. This is what I thought of when I read the article in the Daily Journal’s weekend edition of June 20-21 entitled “Council OKs Alternative Height Plan.” The alternative measure did not receive enough signatures to qualify being on the ballot but Deputy Major Eric Rodriguez said he had no doubts the group would have been able to qualify had it not been for COVID-19. Would he have said the same thing about the measure he did not agree with (Measure P)? I wonder. I don’t think so. Call it a double standard.
Back to the image of the door that is open a crack. If height limits can be changed for buildings near train stations, next it could be office buildings, and then shopping centers, then hotels, until the “door” is wide open. And once the height limit is changed, will we wonder how we got there? I urge you to support Measure P and 10 years from now we can consider the development question again. Meanwhile, “Shut the door.”
Thomas Morgan, Jun 26, 2020 4:27pm
Perhaps we can also place a couple of recalls on the ballot this November. No signatures needed due to Covid-19. I remember a past council meeting where Council Member Lim said something to the effect if a Council Member had ever voted in a way that was not in the interest of the public that the council member could make that vote, but if they did, they should resign the next day.
Mike Harris, Jun 26, 2020 12:11pm
Thanks Lou, nice start, as noted, our city council is not representing the community very well with this stunt. Holding back prop P last election was bad enough, but abrogating the process to appease "out of towners" and developers – well, actions have consequences. Vote them out if you don’t like their actions.
Lou, Jun 26, 2020 10:03am
This is about far more than just Measure P (which is very important), but about the lack of integrity with which the City Council is handling this. Shame on them. Reference previous article as mentioned here for particulars.
Major Goethals, Deputy Mayor Rodriguez, Council Members Bonilla, Lee and Papan –
I was raised in a family that believed in rules. It was my Father's belief that you followed the rules, even though you may not like them or agree with them.
In 2018, a group of San Mateo citizens collected over 7,000 signatures to place a measure on the November 2018 ballot to extend the provisions of Measure P and the San Mateo General Plan until a new General Plan was adopted. The petition signatures were verified by the County and certified by the City. The citizens group, San Mateans for Responsive Government, played by the rules. In late April of 2020, the City Council finally agreed to place the measure on the November 2020 ballot.
In early 2020, another group began collecting signatures to place a second, competing measure on the ballot – “San Mateans for Neighborhood Protection & Affordable Housing.” This group has not collected the required number of petition signatures, has not had petition signatures verified by the County, nor certified by the City. In short, they have not played by the rules.
The fact that the San Mateo City Council is even considering placing this measure on the November 2020 ballot is extremely offensive and a slap in the face of Democracy. Shame on you. You are not the City Council I once knew and respected.
Dianne R. Whitaker, AIA
June 18, 2020
Only San Mateo residents should shape city’s future
June 17, 2020
I was surprised to learn from Keith Weber’s June 5 opinion piece “Whose general plan is it anyway?” that the city of San Mateo allows so many non-residents to participate in revising its General Plan. This seems like an easy thing to prevent by checking IDs and only admitting residents into any General Plan meeting. People living in San Francisco and Oakland should not be deciding out city’s future; it’s unfair to the residents of San Mateo. It is upsetting that our City Council and staff allow this, and it’s time that the elected officials who run our city focus on who they serve ... the residents. Only San Mateo residents should be involved in shaping the future of San Mateo.
San Mateo’s General Plan should be for San Mateo
June 17, 2020
I would like to thank Keith Weber for his June 5 guest perspective “Whose General Plan is this anyway?” I’m a 35-year San Mateo city homeowner and couldn’t have said it better.
Last year, I attended my last San Mateo city planning meeting. I was assigned to a table where I was the only San Mateo resident without an agenda. My table included a planner from Oakland, a disrespectful sales guy from Bohannon Development, some transportation fans from Burlingame. It became clear that residents were invited and scattered throughout to legitimize decisions that had already been made. The lack of transparency added insult.
I’ve attended numerous City Council meetings over the years. Also a regular voter at San Mateo city elections. I am disappointed that I voted for several of San Mateo’s current councilmembers. They have forgotten that this planning process is for and with the residents of the city of San Mateo.
June 17, 2020
The June 5 guest perspective “Whose general plan is it anyway?” by Keith Weber was right on. I noticed that for a long time it seems as if the Realtors, developers and building contractors own the city governments in the Bay Area.
It is on a rare occasion when a planning department or council denies a new building proposal. City residents who oppose these proposals are rarely heard and therefore rarely even show up at the City Hall meetings. When residents do show up and complain they are ignored by the planning commission and city council.
I noticed that before the pandemic many cities were rolling in money from the building fees. Now because of the pandemic they have cut back on the raises they intended to give themselves.
Whose general plan is this anyway?
June 5, 2020
Eighteen months ago, before coronavirus paused San Mateo’s general plan update, the community was promised an extensive and “robust” public process. One that would be transparent, inclusive, and where the concerns and input from all residents would be heard. Outreach efforts were broadened to include those who may not have participated in planning efforts before. Now is a good time to look back and assess where we are.
Of the more than 250 public comments posted on the city’s Strive San Mateo website, there are indeed many from concerned San Mateo residents. Reading through the comments, it becomes apparent that there are both pro-growth and measured-growth proponents among the local residents. This is as it should be. Differences of opinion can result in a productive debate and hopefully reconciliation.
But there are also a significant number of comments from people who reside in other cities. These out-of-towners are regular participants in the general plan meetings, workshops and online. They include paid YIMBYs from San Francisco; paid lobbyists and organizers who live in Oakland, Palo Alto and San Bruno; paid attorneys from San Francisco and consultants from Berkeley; activists from San Carlos, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City and Woodside. These voices are exclusively very pro-development. It seems fair to ask, why in the world would the city of San Mateo put comments from residents of Oakland or Belmont on equal footing with those of San Mateo residents? After all, this is San Mateo’s general plan, isn’t it? Affording residents of other cities the same level of influence as local residents has a way of tilting the scales and unfairly influencing the process.
San Mateo has traditionally been very attentive to including its residents in public policy decisions. Community advisory committees were the preferred form of engaging residents when the general plan needed revision, to generate a plan for a new transit center, and many other civic projects. Residents were brought into the conversation early, given a seat at the table and made valuable contributions. That all changed in the early months of 2015.
Real estate development interests convinced City Hall that there needed to be big changes in land use, warning that the community might not agree. Some at City Hall began to dream of grand-scale redevelopment. Neighborhood charm and small-town character were suddenly considered dispensable. Community advisory committees were shelved. Those who pushed for “higher and denser” were courted, regardless of their city of residence. In some influential circles it seemed, San Mateo residents were regarded as more of an impediment than an asset.
It is in this political context that the general plan revision is taking place. But, not to worry, residents are still included in the process. It wouldn’t look good otherwise. But local residents’ input is now heavily diluted by growth lobbyists and paid operatives from all parts of the Bay Area. I suppose it’s one way to define broad and inclusive outreach — bring the foxes into the chicken coop and watch the feathers fly.
San Mateo residents entered into the general plan revision process in good faith. We engaged in the conversation believing it would be the inclusive and fair exchange of ideas between San Mateans about the future of San Mateo. Apparently we were wrong.
We all agree that there’s a dire need for more affordable housing at all income levels. But the manner in which housing and other matters are responsibly addressed in San Mateo is up to San Mateans, not residents of other communities. I for one, am very happy to live with the outcome of a fair and open discussion about height, density and land use in San Mateo, whether or not I agree with that outcome. As long as it is the result of broad participation of local residents and not of those with singular agendas who live elsewhere.
So when the process eventually resumes, the question becomes whose interests is this general plan update intended to serve? If the outsized influence of special interest organizations and paid operatives living in other cities is permitted to continue, the promised “robust” general plan update process will turn out to be a ruse, giving us the best general plan money can buy.
As the November election nears, there is ample opportunity for members of the City Council to step up and show leadership — to take active steps to prioritize the concerns, interests and viewpoints of San Mateo residents — and backbench the out-of-towners. After all, whose general plan is this anyway?
Keith Weber is a participant in San Mateo’s general plan update. He has made San Mateo his home for 37 years.
City Council speakers
July 20, 2018
Monday's San Mateo City Council meeting had some apparent actors in favor of developers, as concerning Measure P. Three people came from outside our city (Millbrae, Hayward and Foster City) to voice their desire for a maximum density building in our city.
Another three or four people prefaced their spiel by saying: "These opinions are my own and not from their organization or company." Huh? It was strange and interesting how they all had almost the exact same preface, word for word (perhaps a lawyer prompted them?). One man inferred that the Measure P petition and the signers were racists, which got a howl from the audience and then a reprimand from the council. Was he trying to incite a reaction to make the petitioners look bad, or what?
One nice mom holding her baby said more should be built for her baby's future, as she adoringly looked down to her baby. Wow, I'm really hoping she's not acting and using her baby as a prop. It truly seemed like the developers and their ilk tried to stack the speakers in their favor for maximum density buildings with unlimited heights.
It is amazing to see what outrageous lengths power and greed will go to (this is not a question, just in awe). At the beginning of the meeting, a large majority of the crowd stood when asked if they worked on or signed the Measure P petition, hopefully the City Council won't forget that or the more than 7,000 citizens that signed the petition, as all these questions will forever persist.
Response to 'San Mateo hight limits'
July 11, 2018
Deborah Kohn, in her letter "San Mateo height limits" in the Tuesday, July 10 edition of the Daily Journal, articulated very well the way many of my friends and I feel about the actions of our City Council.
I am one of those 7,000+ citizens who signed the petition. Without any doubt at all, we knew exactly what we were signing. Two of the three councilmembers involved completely surprised and disappointed me.
Oscar Lopez Guerra