Matter of Facts
Measure P and the General Plan update
The old saying, "don't change horses in midstream" is good advice. Because extending Measure P leaves the current general plan intact until a new general plan can be adopted, it does not interfere with that process in any way. It does however, provide planning stability and baseline development standards with which new ideas and proposals can be compared. In a way, it is a safety net for the public. When a revised general plan is finalized, it can be presented to the voters for approval.
On the other hand, the competing opposition Measure very clearly does interfere with the general plan update process and undercuts citizen participation. It does so by proposing no maximum height limits in significant areas of the city.
Voting YES on the extension of Measure P will help ensure the entire community -- not just special interests -- decide the future course for San Mateo.
Measure P and Affordable Housing
Measure H (& later Measure P) required that affordable housing be included as part of all new residential development in San Mateo. This was one of the first mandates in the Bay Area for what is known as inclusionary zoning. More than half of the affordable housing built in the last 30 years in San Mateo is directly attributable to these measures. San Mateans can be proud of their commitment to affordable housing.
But inclusionary housing alone won't solve the affordability crisis. It is a supplementary housing program never intended to be the primary delivery vehicle for below market rate housing. One reason we have a housing affordability crisis is that housing prices are set at what the market will bear, not what people can afford. The “market” does not produce affordable housing on its own. Building housing that is affordable to people with below median incomes requires substantial financial subsidy from federal, state and local governments. But over the years those subsidies have largely dried up, leaving local inclusionary zoning -- inadequate as a tool to address staggering affordability needs -- as the last resort.
Relying on inclusionary zoning to solve a problem it is ill-equipped to handle is terribly inefficient at best, producing nine units of unaffordable housing for every one unit that is affordable. It's like taking one step forward for every nine steps backwards.
As long as we allow unsustainable job growth, the upward pressure of “what the market will bear” will continue to push prices higher, and housing affordability will continue to worsen. And as prices rise, increasing building heights without corresponding increases in affordability requirements serves only to widen the affordability gap. Put simply, without managing job demand along with housing supply, there is no realistic way for housing to catch up or prices to come down, no matter how high we build.
Measure P and Economic Growth
San Mateo has grown substantially under the protections of Measure P through many boom-and-bust real estate cycles. Developers, it appears, have had no problem building within the Measure P allowances. New office and residential neighborhoods -- Bay Meadows, Station Park Green, over 900 new housing units proposed at the Passages and many new downtown mixed-use projects -- illustrate the benefits of incremental growth within the ability of the community to absorb it. Measured growth reflects the belief that successful cities have a long-term perspective that maintains their community’s values.
Measure P and Building Height
Some say the only way to meet our housing needs and goals is to go up - way up. The existing height limit of 55’ was chosen to allow substantial growth while being compatible with the majority of the one-two story buildings throughout the community. It also favors less costly, wood-frame construction instead of more costly, steel-framed construction needed for tall buildings. Much new development (e.g.,Bay Meadows, Station Park Green, and the proposed Passages development) has already been built under the current voter adopted height limits while maintaining our valued, mid-scale suburban environment. Five-story building heights emulate the livable, pedestrian scale of many of the most loved and visited American and European cities. These heights promote human-scaled urban design based on the principles of how cities and towns have been built for the last several centuries.