June 15, 2020
SUBJECT: City Council Study Session, June 15, 2020, Agenda Item #2,
November 3, 2020 General Municipal Election – Calling the Election and Placing a City Council Proposition on the Ballot
Members of the City Council:
San Mateans for Responsive Government -SMRG- respectfully comes before you as active community members and, in some cases friends, while recognizing that we sometimes differ on specific city policies. But we have always played by the rules and strongly believe in our democratic rights to hold our elected officials accountable to the voters they serve. Sadly, we make our statement tonight, not in the hope of influencing the discussion. We know a done deal when we see one. But we believe the public is entitled to hear us, and understand just what is happening here. We believe that agreeing to do what you are being asked tonight is just wrong. This is an ethical line that should not be crossed; yet it provides a clear example of how much money talks in politics.
Asking the Council to do what this developer/real estate sponsored group couldn't do for themselves (and what you refused to do for the Measure P supporters) is a case study of why Measures H and P were written and approved twice by the residents and voters of San Mateo. What kind of trust are your constituents who spent countless hours and effort to collect signatures and the 7000+ voters who signed the petitions supposed to have when they followed the rules, yet at the last minute the Council decides to put on a competing measure. It is not fair. It is wrong. But clearly, money talks.
The Council has assured us that they will not change any existing General Plan policies until the new General Plan is adopted and implemented. Even the pre-Covid 19 General Plan timeline indicated that it is unlikely to be completed prior to 2023-24. If the proponents of this competing measure want to replace Measure P, which is part of the existing General Plan, let them do the hard work to place their measure on the ballot in 2022. As the Council has said, nothing will have changed by then. There is no compelling reason for this competing measure to be placed on the ballot at this time. Unless, of course, money talks.
Let's look at why this measure is being proposed before the General Plan process is completed. The Measure P extension is an insurance policy for the community that changes will not be made to the existing General Plan until the update is complete, just as the Council has promised. While the Measure P extension merely continues the General Plan status quo, the competing measure proposes significant changes to the existing General Plan. This opens the door for large property owners and developers to bring forward projects as soon as Measure P expires.
The three people who are asking the Council to take this unprecedented action represent the most pro-development interests in San Mateo: Nicole Fernandez-Chair of the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee; Rich Hedges-long time union representative; and Alan Talansky-developer of Station Park Green and Executive VP of Development for EBL&S responsible for acquiring and entitling developments, business strategy and new investment opportunities for his employer.
Who is really behind the measure these three proponents are asking you to put on the ballot and why isn't this affiliation clearly identified? According to the FPPC legal filing, the measure "San Mateans for Neighborhood Protection & Affordable Housing" is sponsored by Robert L. Webster & Affiliated Entities, including the David D. Bohannon Organization. The Bohannon Company, owners of Hillsdale Mall and adjacent properties, has already contributed $200,000 to pass this measure. Should we be surprised? Money talks.
In closing, let's be clear about the political spin that surrounds this issue. The extension of Measure P will not short-circuit the City’s proposed General Plan process. Since P is already part of the General Plan, it provides the baseline development standards with which new ideas and proposals can be compared. Once a revised General Plan is finalized, even if Measure P is extended, it can be, and should be, presented to the voters for approval. Nothing is locked in that can't be changed by a vote of the people.
With issues this big and this important to the residents of San Mateo, a vote of the people is the best way to confirm that the future revisions to the General Plan have the support of the community. And the community has the assurance that changes cannot be made without their consent by just 3 votes of their elected officials. San Mateo residents determined many years ago that some development decisions cannot be left to just 3 votes of the City Council on any Monday night. Why? Because too often plans that were approved with much public effort and participation, were changed just because a developer wanted even more. Remember, money talks.
Please do not take ownership of this measure and spend up to $200,000 of our taxpayer money to place this on November’s ballot.
Michael Weinhauer, Spokesperson
San Mateans for Responsive Government