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 GP 2040:

maximum growth everywhere

After reviewing 3 city-wide growth alternatives for future development, the City Council voted on April 18, 2022 to apply maximum growth options to every area of our city, increasing building heights everywhere.  Reimagining San Mateo in a way you never imagined.  The result - Draft General Plan 2040.

While these up-zoned high growth study areas allow for 8-12 story building heights, residents should understand this is only the starting point. Governor Newsom signed 60 new housing bills in 2023.  Among them is AB1287, a modification to the State Density Bonus law which allows for a 100% increase in density and an additional 33 feet in building height in exchange for providing some very low, low and moderate-income housing for projects within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop. This means that a 5-story building can become 8 stories, an 8-story building can become 11 stories or higher, and a 12-story building can balloon to 15 stories or more.  Additionally, significantly reduced parking standards will impact surrounding neighborhoods.  These increased density bonuses, height waivers and reduced parking requirements with widespread ramifications have not been considered or incorporated in General Plan 2040.


While residents made it clear with the passage of Measure Y that they wished for a future of reasonable and sustainable growth (this was also underscored by recent survey results and many letters to Council), not once did Council apply the least impactful Alternative A.  Nor did they anticipate that additional State housing laws would obliterate local zoning laws and maximum allowable building heights. 


Since the state enables developers to add 3 stories to the allowable heights codified in our General Plan, it is an argument for reducing allowable building heights rather than raising them.  In other words,  8-story buildings are the result of a Measure Y's 5-story height limit.  Let's start lower, the state will do the rest.


This least impactful Alternative A would enable the city to meet the RHNA housing supply required by the state, been compliant with Measure Y, and, by their own analysis, would have been fiscally beneficial for the City.  (It’s important to note that even as the smallest growth option, Alternative A would have resulted in a population growth rate of over 25% - more than triple our growth rate since 1960.)  


Instead, the City Council designated high growth zones in every study area, including upzoning the 17th Avenue Safeway property, setting the stage to increase San Mateo's population by over 50% in the next 20 years. All with NO mention of how services to sustain this growth can be provided.  All not in compliance with Measure Y protections.

More important to know is that most of the areas targeted for extreme high growth are approved as "mixed use," which does not require housing or affordable housing.  It allows developers to choose the ratio of retail, office and residential that will be most profitable.  Since office development is far more profitable than housing, developers would likely opt against housing every time, thereby increasing the the demand for more and more housing. 


What's Next?

The City will hold more "public hearings," publish a draft EIR and a Draft General Plan.  All intended to solidify extreme growth policies. Ultimately, Council cannot adopt a new General Plan that exceeds Measure Y unless they go back to the ballot box and get voter approval.  

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