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.
A confusing housing meeting in San Mateo
April 5, 2021
I read the 4/1 article, “San Mateo Begins Housing Discussion” with interest and amazement. It described a “discussion” I would have liked to attend. Wait a minute! I did participate in Let’s Talk Housing’s online meeting. My experience was not even close to what the article described. Everyone lost 20 minutes due to technical problems. Many who registered were unable to log in. We also lost an essential poll of attendees. Residents? Workers here? Property owners? It might have supported my observation that many attendees did not live here.
It became clear that this was like a written “open mike.” People began posting random ideas, suggestions, beliefs, on the “chat” feature, even as the presentations were going on. The same happened with the 64 attendees in the San Mateo breakout. Rather than a discussion or opinion sharing, this became akin to flinging pasta at the wall to see what sticks. At two points, some of those ideas (often out of context) were pulled into “word clouds” of what people cared about — with zero sense of the writers’ intent. The chat became a free for all, people posting whatever they believed about anything, trying to “talk” over each other. Writers expressed conflicting ideas, challenging each other. One of the moderators finally pulled down the chat because the 180 degree back and forth was getting so out of hand.
The city should view this meeting’s results to be as questionable as residents who attended know them to be. If this is supposed to be what a productive workshop and discussion of housing looks like, we might as well stop right now.
The real cost of up-zoning
April 2, 2021
“Suburban single-family homes will be the holy grail of Bay Area real estate,” according to San Francisco Realtor Nicholas Sprangler. “The most desirable real estate segment is, without a doubt, the single-family home market,” Spangler told the San Francisco Chronicle.
After the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, corporate interests, institutional investors and foreign money flooded the single-family home market, transforming much of it from owner-occupied to rental. Corporate entry into the single-family home market has helped push prices higher and would-be homeowners out.
In a recent article entitled “Why upzoning will make the ‘affordable housing crisis’ worse” Steve Martinot states, “any scheme that will lift zoning regulations will make it easier for the real estate financial corporations to absorb the rest of the supply. That is the gift that upzoning promises to give the real estate corporations.” Because land value increases when single family houses are up-zoned and replaced by fourplexes, it will lead to “price increases across the industry.” If the primary concern is the lack of affordable housing, up-zoning does nothing to solve the problem.
The sudden rush to upzone single-family neighborhoods appears to be just another way investment capital can capture additional appreciation and extract value-added benefit while simultaneously worsening housing affordability and reducing home ownership opportunities. Upzoning single-family neighborhoods just might turn out to be the largest transfer of real wealth from the many to the few that we will ever witness.
Will San Mateo’s General Plan process be fair?
January 28, 2021
Democracy, truth, unity … all inspiring words that apply locally as well as nationally. Words that Measure Y’s San Mateans for Responsive Government (SMRG) are committed to as we move beyond the election. But before residents can move ahead, residents must be able to trust that their City Council will honor the fact that Measure Y won and confirm their commitment to a fair General Plan.
That trust is in short supply since residents learned that the City Council attended a closed-door meeting with the major opponents of Measure Y — the Housing Leadership Council (HLC); David Bohannon, the primary funder of the No on Y campaign and developer/property owner of the Hillsdale Shopping Center; and state Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, whose primary goal is to remove local control of housing development. At that meeting, three councilmembers (Rick Bonilla, Joe Goethals and Amourence Lee) said they were proud to be part of the political “coalition” that opposed Measure Y, that the fight was not over and now would focus on the General Plan update.
The video recording of this meeting clearly demonstrates the council majority’s willingness to subvert voter-approved
Measure Y development standards. This raises serious concerns about council bias in the General Plan update process. The City Council must demonstrate how they will keep politics and personal bias out of the General Plan process and how this undertaking will truly be the “resident-led process” that City Hall describes. It seems fair to ask what actions the council will take to ensure the process favors input from San Mateo residents and businesses more than from paid lobbyists and special interests from outside San Mateo.
The driving force behind the General Plan update appears to be the doubling of new housing units required by the state for San Mateo’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Why did they double? Because population and job growth projections were based on a period of explosive economic growth during one of the Bay Area’s most extended economic booms. Projections assume this job growth will continue unabated for at least the next 20 years and housing production must race ahead at the same breakneck pace. SMRG questions whether the RHNA housing targets are realistic in a post-pandemic world.
Other cities have challenged the extremely high housing numbers. Why hasn’t San Mateo? The RHNA housing numbers are handed down to each city by a regional organization, the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG. The city’s representative to ABAG, Deputy Mayor Rick Bonilla, has represented the building trades union his entire career and leads the pro-development interests on the council. In fact, at the recent council meeting on the General Pan, it was Bonilla who pushed to drop the alternative with the lowest RHNA housing numbers and study all single-family areas of the city for higher development. Can residents have confidence that he is the right one to represent San Mateo’s interests or to question the assumptions that these numbers are based on?
Measure Y does not unduly limit development or prevent building affordable housing. The messaging strategy and talking points for those who oppose Measure Y, many who do not live or work in San Mateo, are easy to identify — bigger is better, the allocated state RHNA housing numbers tie the city’s hands, homeowners are racist, single-family zoning must be eliminated. This divisive language does not help the council bring people together.
As the General Plan process restarts, the consultants must provide truthful, transparent data that residents can have confidence in and that fairly evaluates Measure Y’s ability to meet state requirements. No more colored sticky notes and Lego blocks. It’s time to see specific examples of what heights and densities are being considered in the study areas, with photo examples of comparable projects at varying standards.
SMRG reiterates its commitment to the General Plan being the place that potential changes to Measure Y can be considered. We will actively participate in the update process, and encourage other residents to do the same.
SMRG was created 30 years ago because residents did not believe that their elected leaders were responsive to their concerns. Measure Y’s success assures the voters and taxpayers of San Mateo a seat at the development table normally dominated by the property owners and special interests who financially benefit from land-use changes. Let’s show we can all work together and find the compromise and agreements that will define the city we love. SMRG pledges to do our part.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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