Letter: Legalize Fourplexes in San Mateo

Letter: Legalize Fourplexes in San Mateo

Today, we’re featuring a fantastic letter supporting fourplexes that was written by Peninsula For Everyone member Jonathan New and published in part in the San Mateo Daily Journal.

Fourplex in Berkeley, CA

A fourplex building in Berkeley, CA. Source: https://missingmiddlehousing.com/documented/fourplex-berkeley-ca/

In Jonathan’s own words: My letter to the editor urging San Mateo City Council to legalize fourplexes was published in the San Mateo Daily Journal. I had to cut it down to fit into SMDJ’s guidelines. Here’s the unabridged version that I sent to City Council.

Dear San Mateo City Council, As you may have heard, Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to allow more affordable housing types—like duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes—in all residential neighborhoods. It is also currently being considered by our neighbors in Sacramento, South San Francisco, and Sunnyvale, and is already the law in Minneapolis and the entire state of Oregon. It’s clear that this is gaining some political momentum, and I would like to urge you to consider the same action for San Mateo’s General Plan. A diversity of housing allows greater flexibility for people’s changing needs. Whether it’s the construction of additional units for rental income, or a duplex conversion to accommodate the privacy of an aging parent, this kind of housing helps fill in the “missing middle” that would enable more of our hard-working neighbors to stay in the city we love. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that San Mateo’s single-family zoning is steeped in racist redlining policy which was the subject of a recent New York Times Op-Ed. To be clear, I’m not against single-family homes; many people love them! I just don’t think growing cities should zone the majority of their land exclusively as R1. Often, young people find that taking care of a detached house and a yard is a burden, so we should offer flexibility in our zoning and let people choose the homes that best meet their needs. I think there’s a lot of unwarranted concern that neighborhoods will somehow become unrecognizable overnight. What’s more likely to happen is that gradually a few homes here and there will be retrofitted to accommodate an extra family, and the only obvious difference from the street will be that some buildings have an extra mailbox or two. This simple zoning relaxation will allow a grandparent to live closer to their family, or a young couple to live closer to their job. No, it won’t singlehandedly solve our housing supply shortage, but it is one of several small actions we can take to remedy the situation. The alternative is to continue to push people farther from their jobs and families, requiring lengthy commutes which exacerbates our carbon footprint. Personally, I live in a single-family home which is adjacent to a 3-story apartment, a house shared amongst roommates, a duplex, and a triplex. And honestly, it’s great! I love living in a diverse neighborhood where I’ve gotten to know several of my wonderful neighbors. The apoplectic rage about the destruction of our communities I hear in our public discourse just hasn’t come to pass here. If we’re more flexible about what kinds of homes we allow in San Mateo, it would go a long way towards preserving our city’s wonderful diversity. Let’s be a part of this momentous change and legalize fourplexes everywhere! Jonathan New Peninsula for Everyone member

Our Future is Better with Multiplexes

Our Future is Better with Multiplexes

We’re excited to see a growing movement in Bay Area communities to remove restrictive zoning and re-enable multi-unit development — like multiplexes! — in our neighborhoods.  Towns across the Bay Area, from Berkeley to the Peninsula, are re-examining their zoning codes to consider allowing duplexes, triplexes, and quads to be built on existing lots that are currently limited to just one home.  In many cases, this allows neighborhoods to again build the kinds of multi-unit homes that are already there — blending right in!

Images of plexes.  Source: @alli_rico

Read on for more about how our suburbs started, how they’re going, and how returning to our roots (when plexes were plentiful!) will help us address our current crises.

Plexes: The History

Visit older sections of any major city, and notice how the homes were built in the early 20th century.  On first glance, it may be hard to tell that many of the buildings are actually multi-plexes!  These neighborhoods often have “stealthy density” already built in.  Many were built around old rail lines that have since been replaced by buses, and some of the homes have no parking at all.  Many of the older multi-unit buildings would also be illegal to build today under current zoning codes, which in many places only allow a maximum of one unit per lot.

1911 map of the Pacific Electric Railway in Southern California

1911 map of the Pacific Electric Railway in Southern California. Source: https://digitallibrary.californiahistoricalsociety.org/islandora/object/islandora:1513

This old-school density is basically the way we as humans have lived since our earliest days; in proximity to each other, as a community, walking distance to what we needed.

Although single family-zoned neighborhoods are familiar to many adults alive today, their history is actually fairly brief.  They were recently enabled by America’s post-war automotive boom.  The 1950s brought us shiny, big new chrome cars, and big new subdivisions to go along with them, like Levittown.  The Peninsula saw an explosion of building in areas like Belmont, San Carlos, and others.

As the decades wore on post-1950, the suburbs continued to expand, and unsurprisingly, the average American family began to own an increasing number of cars:  

US household car ownership has increased by decade

Source: https://transportgeography.org/contents/chapter8/urban-transport-challenges/usaownershipcars/

The railway lines above were replaced by highways and sprawl.  Southern California’s freeways began proliferating in the 1950s, following adoption of the 1947 Master Plan:  

1947 Master Plan of Metropolitan Los Angeles Freeway adopted by the Regional Planning Commission

1947 Master Plan of Metropolitan Los Angeles Freeway adopted by the Regional Planning Commission. Source: https://www.cahighways.org/maps-sc-fwy.html


Today, suburban Californians often refer to distance in miles and freeway exits instead of blocks walked.  The proliferation of cars changed our entire frame of reference. 

However, the golden age for our suburban developments was anything but for our climate.  Californians began to recognize the existence of smog caused by vehicle pollution in the 1940s. In 1967, California finally established the Air Resources Board and came to grips with the state’s severe, health-impacting smog problem due to vehicle pollution.

We are now left to grapple with the ramifications of decades of sprawl.

Our climate is warming steadily, and here in California, we’re often the first to experience the negative effects of climate change.  Subjectively, it feels like each year’s fire season is worse than the previous one.  In fact, “fire season” itself is becoming an outdated term, as fires now pop up all year long.

One of many solutions to getting this carbon and pollution-driven climate crisis under control is to stop building further and further out, and to instead build more “infill housing“, which means making better use of space in our existing neighborhoods.  One example would be putting a duplex or fourplex building where a one-unit home previously stood.  By creating additional homes in existing areas, infill housing reduces Vehicle Miles Traveled, since more workers can live closer to their jobs, thereby reducing pollution and traffic.  Having a critical mass of customers in a neighborhood makes it easier for local shops and restaurants to thrive, which can make it easier for some residents to meet their daily needs without having to get into a car.  And last but not least — bringing more housing options to existing towns also makes the towns more equitable.

Not everyone has been able to enjoy suburban prosperity

Progressive jurisdictions around the country are recognizing the harmful, racially-charged history of single family zoning and its impacts on communities of color.

New or enhanced single family zoning appeared in many communities after racial exclusion and redlining were struck down in courts during the 20th century.  Requiring large minimum lot sizes and setbacks served to segregate communities by class.  And because explicit segregation and discrimination existed for much of the 20th century, making housing expensive meant that only those with existing assets could secure it — in other words, white families.

A wonderfully-detailed analysis of equity impacts of single family zoning by the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley is worth a read in full.  In a nutshell, they’ve found that cities with a high percentage of single family zoning tend to be more white than others:

City Composition by Single-Family Zoning Percentage

City Composition by Single-Family Zoning Percentage

Race Composition of Bay Area Cities

Race Composition of Bay Area Cities

Additionally, the data make quite clear that single family zoning goes hand-in-hand with exclusion and wealth disparities, with the researchers finding that

“Cities with high levels of single-family zoning have median incomes $34,000 higher and home values $100,000 higher than those of cities with low levels of single-family zoning” 


“Schools in communities with lower levels of single-family zoning have twice as much of their population using free or reduced-price lunch (52 percent, compared to 26 percent in high single-family zoned cities).”

Opportunity is not distributed equally among communities here in the Bay Area.  When single family zoning is the law in a community with high demand for housing due to a decades-long lack of supply, extreme demand escalates the price of housing out of reach of all but the most affluent residents and well-paid workers — both for rentals and purchases.  Stable, reasonable housing costs are good for our communities since they allow households room to save and invest for the future, retirement, and education, and to better weather the shocks of daily life.  When those who work in a community can live there as well, enjoying the community’s benefits and a stable lifestyle, our cities become more complete and sustainable.

The Solution

It’s time to return to the way we used to live; vibrant, fantastic, walkable, community-focused neighborhoods.  Infill development in the form of duplexes, triplexes, and more help us achieve just that.  These kinds of units are often known as “missing middle housing,” since the housing they would create would in many cases be homes for the middle class.

Examples of missing middle housing

Example of “missing middle” housing. Source: www.missingmiddlehousing.com

Those who prefer just one unit on their lot can live this way if they choose, albeit at great expense — the median detached single family home in San Mateo County now sells for over $1.9M.  Expanding zoning means that standalone single-family homes can still be built and sold, but also opens up new possibilities to allow 2, 3, or 4 units on a lot — which can sell for less per unit than a single family home would cost.

While some residents may prefer the luxury of single family homes and are welcome to continue doing so under expanded zoning, others may prefer to live in community with others to share maintenance and costs, or to enable intergenerational living — another “old” concept that’s more appealing than ever as Millennials, now well into their 30s, sort out how to work and care for children and their own parents at the same time.

What does our future look like with plexes?  They provide us with:

More options:

One great thing about opening up restrictive zoning is that it provides property owners with more choices what to do with their land, not fewer:

  • A young family may choose to build another unit on their lot for easy access to aging parents, or housing for another friend or family member to share costs
  • Families with young adult children could add another unit for the child to live in as they get started in the workforce
  • Retirees could add a unit or redevelop their home to provide rental income in retirement
  • Friends could pool their resources to build and co-own a multi-unit building or share a plot of land
  • A family who inherits a family home could redevelop the property so that more members of the family can live there, instead of having to sell it off
  • Builders can repurpose dilapidated old homes into thriving multi-unit buildings so more members of the community can live close to work.  Under current single-family zoning, developers are forced to develop only single-unit multi-million dollar mansions, as no alternative options exist.

Saner and greener commutes:

Below is a map showing the growth in “supercommuters” — those who commute more than 90 minutes each way — between 2009 and 2017:

Map of

Map of “supercommuters” in the Bay Area. Source: https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/09/11/supercommuting-is-not-just-for-central-valley-dwellers-map-shows-growth-in-bay-area-commutes/

With so much Peninsula housing stock currently occupied by retirees (some of whom feel trapped in place by their Prop 13 property tax subsidies) and a severe lack of new building, those who actively participate in the workforce are forced further and further away.  This endangers quality of life for us all, even those who live on the Peninsula; our shops, services, and communities are understaffed and must pay more to incent staff to travel in from far away.  These longer travel times also cause traffic and pollution in our region due to the lack of public transit available to “supercommuters.”

Although a unit of housing — even affordable housing — can cost $1m to build here in California due to our byzantine, lengthy approvals process (see Firehouse Square in Belmont which took almost a decade to approve on a site that sat vacant for 20 years), moving to a “by right” approval model (where projects that comply with zoning are automatically approved) and allowing height/density increases will ease per-unit costs of construction, allowing these units to again become more attainable for typical Bay Area workers and families.

More equity:

The current average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in the town of San Mateo is $2,942, according to Zumper.  With minimum wages around $15 in most cities in the county, it would take about 50 hours of work per week, before taxes, to simply cover monthly rent.  

Studies show that as new units of housing are added — even if those units are market ratesupply and demand works, with existing (older) housing stock becoming more affordable as a result.  More affordable homes mean that those who work here can live here, too.  Workers and families of all types, races, and lifestyles are a critical part of our complete communities.

More resources

When a city’s housing base is stale, so is its tax revenue, due to 1978’s passage of Proposition 13 which generally pegs homeowners’ assessed values to the price at which the home was purchased.

Because of Prop 13 subsidies (which apply to residential and commercial properties alike) and the lack of new development in our region, our state and local governments have simultaneously been forced to raise other forms of taxation and cut services (such as tuition-free college for in-state students and school buses for local schoolchildren).  Prop 13 was passed in 1978.  Cities in 2021 cannot run on 1970s-era revenue.

New housing brings not only the direct tax revenue created by the development itself, but also provides new residents who can support local businesses, improving the community for all.  Imagine what additional retail, services, and restaurants we could support here as ground floor retail in new developments if we had more residents to support these businesses.  Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has championed The 15 Minute City movement, focused on walkable communities similar to those that exist in many Parisian neighborhoods.  Imagine how well the European model could work in our existing downtowns and neighborhood enclaves, which today require residents to get in a car to meet their daily needs.

In summary

With economic, social, and equity benefits on the horizon, our future with plexes looks bright.  Infill development allows middle class residents — just like those who purchased homes here decades ago — to live in the communities where they work.  And as economically and racially diverse communities grow and thrive, existing homeowners’ land becomes more valuable as the possibilities for what can be built there expand.  Expanding zoning is a wonderful policy change that benefits all stakeholders in the community!

Ready to take action?

Evolving the zoning in our local communities is an ongoing process, and the more voices in support, the better.  Join us in raising awareness about the benefits of multiplexes in our communities:

  • There’s a great statewide bill up for a vote soon here in California called SB-9 that would enable infill housing to be built in existing neighborhoods.  Use this tool to drop a quick line to your State Senator in support.
  • Many Bay Area city councils are also separately (independently from SB-9) beginning to explore changing city zoning to allow multiplexes in light of our housing crisis.  Get in touch with your local electeds however you prefer — email, phone, social media — and let them know that you support more inclusive housing.
  • Sign up for our email list and follow us on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) for the latest updates on multiplexes in our area!

Election Reflections

Much attention this election cycle was focused on the Presidential race–and for good reason. Fortunately, American voters saw fit to fire NIMBY in-chief Donald Trump. In contrast to Trump’s divisive rhetoric about “saving” the suburbs from affordable housing, President-elect Biden’s housing plan includes policies to eliminate exclusionary zoning and increase the supply of housing, Federal leadership is vital to solving the housing shortage and we look forward to a new administration’s work on federal housing policy. But how did things shake out locally? 

More YIMBYs In Sacramento

Peninsula for Everyone and South Bay YIMBY are pleased to welcome back all of our incumbent state legislators. Housing champion Scott Wiener won reelection for state Senate against a compelling challenger while other pro-housing incumbents including Assemblymembers Kevin Mullin, Evan Low, and Marc Berman cruised to victory. 

We’re also thrilled to welcome new members to the state legislature, including YIMBY-backed Alex Lee, who won his race for AD25, becoming the first Gen Z and first openly bisexual lawmaker in California history. 

Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese was endorsed by South Bay YIMBY and won a very competitive race against fellow Democrat Ann Ravel to fill Senator Jim Beall’s Senate District 15 seat. The Senate District 13 race was won handily by Josh Becker, who defeated a NIMBY Republican to win the seat vacated by former Senator Jerry Hill. 

Electing state legislators who will advance state-level housing solutions is crucial to success for our region, as we cannot expect the most exclusionary communities to dismantle segregation on their own. 

Local YIMBY Incumbents Triumph

Pro-housing incumbents also fared extremely well in local races: All of the 12 incumbent candidates endorsed by Peninsula for Everyone will be returning for another term.

Redwood City Councilmember Alicia Aguirre won her re-election bid against two challengers in a newly districted race. Despite being a top vote-getter in previous at-large elections, Aguirre’s seat appeared to be at risk, as her new district skewed wealthier and whiter than the rest of the city. Despite demographics, Alicia won alongside a diverse group of candidates in other districts–Michael Smith, Jeff Gee, and Lisette Espinoza-Garnica–ensuring that the new City Council will be more representative of the community it serves. 

Amourence “Amo” Lee, an appointed incumbent candidate in San Mateo, won her first election, despite significant spending from a landlord PAC on behalf of her opponent. Amo’s win ensures a pro-housing majority as San Mateo completes their General Plan process.

Other pro-housing incumbent winners include Juslyn Manalo for Daly City City Council, John Goodwin for Colma City Council, Mark Nagales for South San Francisco District 2, Rico Medina for San Bruno Mayor, Michael Salazar for San Bruno City Council, Sam Hindi for Foster City City Council, Davina Hurt and Tom McCune for Belmont City Council, and Lisa Gauthier and Carlos Romero for East Palo Alto City Council.  

In Mountain View, we also saw the return of former electeds Pat Showalter and Sally Lieber. We’re glad to have their leadership again and look forward to a more progressive and pro-housing Mountain View.

NIMBY Incumbents Ousted

Whereas pro-housing incumbents sailed to victory, several prominent housing opponents lost their seats. Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf, who declared in his 2019 State of the City address that he wanted to “build a wall around Cupertino and make San Jose pay for it,” was fortunately defeated in his re-election bid. Scharf will be replaced by YIMBY-endorsed Hung Wei. And in Foster City, Patrick Sullivan edged out incumbent NIMBY Catherine Mahanpour, helping to pump the brakes on an emergent local anti-housing insurgency.

Further north in South San Francisco, 18-year incumbent Rich Garbarino, lost to YIMBY-endorsed James Coleman, the youngest ever South City Councilmember at age 21. Because Garbarino served on the Association of Bay Area Government’s Executive Committee, his defeat means that this influential seat could be filled by a more pro-housing representative.

New Houser Councilmembers

Although it was a particularly strong year for local incumbents, many YIMBY newcomers were elected this year. A total of 13 YIMBY fresh faces were elected this year from South San Francisco all the way down to Gilroy. 

In Menlo Park, Jen Wolosin won despite a NIMBY smear effort. Jen’s win will flip the council to a majority that is interested in advancing equity within Menlo Park. Alysa Cisneros won her Sunnyvale District race decisively and will be joined by fellow newcomer Omar Din. Sergio Lopez also won in his hometown of Campbell. In Santa Clara, Suds Jain and Anthony Becker defeated incumbents to join the City Council. And down in Gilroy, South Bay YIMBY member and firefighter Zach Hilton won alongside labor leader Rebebca Armendariz. 

In San Jose, YIMBY and labor-backed David Cohen defeated incumbent Lan Diep, flipping the City Council majority from the Chamber of Commerce to labor. We’re hopeful that the new City Council of the Bay Area’s most populous city will advance policies like opportunity housing, which would allow the creation of small “plexes” in neighborhoods that previously allowed only standalone houses. 

Mixed Bag for Ballot Propositions

2020 was a disappointing year for ballot propositions at the state and local levels. One bright spot was regional Measure RR, which provided a dedicated source of funding for Caltrain as the transit system was in danger of shutdown due to dramatic declines in ridership during shelter-in-place. Measure RR earned over two-thirds of the vote in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco counties, ensuring that the transit backbone of the peninsula stays on track.

Other local measures had disappointing results. Voters in Mountain View supported Measure C, which restricts RV parking on streets and will likely result in the displacement of many Mountain View vehicle dwellers. Activists are now working to ensure that vehicle dwellers are not harmed as this measure is enforced.

In San Mateo, forces for maintaining exclusion prevailed as Measure Y, which limits heights and density, was passed with the thinnest of margins: only 42 votes. In the end, this outcome may backfire on Measure Y proponents, as San Mateo is still required to identify sites to meet regional housing requirements but because bigger, denser buildings near transit will be prevented, single-family neighborhoods are likely to be upzoned. 

At the state level, ballot propositions that would have been the most impactful in advancing equity were rejected by the voters. Proposition 15, which would have removed property tax breaks for big businesses to provide needed funding to schools and communities failed in a close race. Prop 16, which would have ended California’s ban on affirmative action fell short. And Prop 21, which would have ended unjust restrictions on localities’ ability to implement rent control also failed. We’re hopeful that future legislative and electoral cycles can reverse this trend and help move our region in a more equitable and sustainable direction.

Tuesday May 5th: Support 463 homes in Mountain View

Tuesday May 5th: Support 463 homes in Mountain View

This coming Tuesday evening (May 5th), Mountain View City Council will be holding a public hearing on a great project proposed for adjoining lots at 355-365, 401 and 415 East Middlefield Road in Mountain View.  Please read on for easy ways you can (remotely) voice your support of this development!

The project as currently proposed would bring 463 much-needed homes to Mountain View, in an area very close to:

  • Multiple VTA bus and light rail stops
  • Many corporate campuses (Google, LinkedIn, NASA, Symantec, and more)
  • Major highways (101, 280, and 85 — reducing commute times for those who need to drive)
  • A variety of shops and services in Mountain View

The development contains a mix of homes for sale and rent:

  • 427 condo and apartment homes will be consolidated into two 7-story buildings on the site
    • 10% of the on-site apartments will be set aside as below-market-rate rentals
    • Rather than building affordable condos and townhomes for sale on-site, the developer will make a contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund
  • 36 four-story townhomes will also be available for sale

This project complies with Mountain View’s East Whisman Precise Plan, which as we covered last year, aims to create more homes and mixed-use developments to help balance the explosion of job growth in this area (the center of Silicon Valley).

Although this development will largely contain market-rate units, we believe these homes play an important role in housing a portion of the local workforce, lessening some of the competition for existing housing stock in the area.  We’re also glad the on-site below market rate units will provide some homes at a lower price point for the area’s workforce.

How can you help?

Mountain View City Council will be meeting virtually at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, May 5th.  This project will be discussed towards the end of the agenda — see section 6.1 here for full details.  Note that the meeting will open with a proclamation recognizing Affordable Housing Month!

Please use one of the methods below to contact Council or speak during the meeting in support of:

  • More homes to house our area’s workforce and reduce our imbalance of jobs to homes
  • This development helping the city meet their goal of 5,000 homes in the East Whisman Precise Plan area
  • The on-site affordable housing component
  • The project’s location near jobs, services, and transit, thereby lessening the need for this development’s residents to drive and park

Public comment methods available from the City of Mountain View:

Members of the public wishing to comment on an item on the agenda may do so in the following ways:

  1. Email comments to city.council@mountainview.gov by 5:00 p.m. on May 5. Emails will be forwarded to the City Council. Emails received after 5:00 p.m. and prior to the Mayor announcing that public comment is closed for each item will be read into the record at the meeting (up to 3 minutes, at the discretion of the Mayor). IMPORTANT: identify the Agenda Item number in the subject line of your email. All emails received will be entered into the record for the meeting.
  2. Provide oral public comments during the meeting: click the following link to register in advance to access the meeting via Zoom Webinar: https://mountainview.gov/cc_speakers.
    • You will be asked to enter an email address and a name. Your email address will not be disclosed to the public. After registering, you will receive an email with instructions on how to connect to the Meeting.
    • When the Mayor announces the item on which you wish to speak, click the “raise hand” feature in Zoom or press *9 if participating by phone. For instructions on using the “raise hand” feature in Zoom, visit: https://mountainview.gov/raise_hand.
    • Speakers will be notified shortly before they are called to speak.
    • When called to speak, please limit your comments to the time allotted (up to 3 minutes, at the discretion of the Mayor).
  3. Members of the public who would like to provide comments to the City Council and are unable to send an email to city.council@mountainview.gov or access the live session to provide oral comments: please call 650-903-6436 and leave your comments in a voice mail message before 5:00p.m. on May 5. Voice mail comments will be played during public comment for the item at the meeting (up to 3 minutes, at the discretion of the Mayor). IMPORTANT: identify the Agenda Item number at the beginning of your voice mail message. Staff capacity to receive and process messages may be limited and we encourage reserving telephone access for those who are unable to send email comments or access the live meeting to provide oral comments

Ready to tune in on the night of the meeting?  Watch it live at:

Thanks for supporting more homes in our community!

Tuesday 4/28: Support 100% affordable housing in San Mateo via remote public comment!

Tuesday 4/28: Support 100% affordable housing in San Mateo via remote public comment!

The recent shelter-in-place orders here in the Bay Area have brought many changes to our daily lives.  One of the many things that are a little different now than before are local government meetings, which have moved online.  

This resulted in an unexpected positive: more residents can participate in the democratic process via online public comment!

Traditionally, many government meetings are held during the 9-5 workday or right after, which can make it hard for those with jobs and/or family duties to be physically present.  With the rise of online public comment, more residents are able to participate either by speaking remotely at the meeting, or by having their comment read aloud during the meeting by a city clerk who is responsible for sharing community comments. 

We welcome this new process as a way to remove barriers to democratic participation!

One upcoming project eligible for online public comment is San Mateo’s 100% affordable housing project proposed for the heart of downtown at 480 E. 4th Avenue and 400 E. 5th Avenue (two adjoining parcels).  As covered previously, we’re really glad that this site can provide much-needed workforce housing right near downtown jobs and transit.

Architect's rendering of the MidPen 100% affordable housing project

On Tuesday, April 28th at 7pm, the San Mateo Planning Commission will hold their usual meeting (online), and topic #3 on the agenda will be this downtown opportunity site.  We want to let City Council know we’re in support because:

  • This project contains 100% affordable housing
  • Half of the development’s 225 units are designated as low and extremely-low income units.  This is essential housing to slow the tide of displacement within our community, and help house part of our workforce.
  • These two perfectly-located parcels becoming available at the same time present a rare opportunity to make the most of a meaningful amount of space that can benefit our community.  We have to use this site to its full capacity.
  • This project is situated near many downtown jobs, transit stops, shops, and services, allowing residents to walk and lessen our community’s dependence on cars for commuting and errands.

There is some local opposition to the height of the project and its number of units, from area residents who wish to make the project smaller.  As mentioned above, we feel that this project should be dense in order to accommodate as many workers and families as possible, especially given the project’s prime downtown location.  

Please use one of the City of San Mateo’s new methods to submit your support.  From the City’s website:

PUBLIC COMMENTS – Comments submitted in the following ways will be made part of the official record. 


Prior to the meeting: Send comments to: planning@cityofsanmateo.org until 4 p.m. the day of the meeting.  


During the meeting: Comments can be submitted online beginning 1 hour before each meeting through Speak Up San Mateo: https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/4245. Find the agenda item(s) you’d like to comment on and complete the form. The platform will remain open for comments until the Chair closes the Public Comment Period for that specific item. 


Staff will read into the record all comments received.


ACCESSIBILITY: In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, those with disabilities requiring special accommodations to participate in this meeting may contact the Planning Division at planning@cityofsanmateo.org or (650) 522-7212 . Notification 48 hours prior to the meeting will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to ensure accessibility to this meeting. 

Want to tune in the night of?  There are three ways to watch the livestream via computer or device:

  1. Public Meeting Portal: www.cityofsanmateo.org/publicmeetings 
  2. City YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/CityofSanMateo 
  3. TV live stream: https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/193/Channel-San-Mateo-Live-Stream 

Thank you for supporting housing for our neighbors and essential workers!

Neighbors helping neighbors during the COVID-19 emergency

Neighbors helping neighbors during the COVID-19 emergency

The COVID-19 crisis has upended countless households’ budgets and caused additional stress for many across our region. We’ve created this list of local resources to help neighbors identify ways they can get help, volunteer, and/or donate to the cause.

To learn more about each provider and their resources, please click on the link attached to each organization’s name. Looking to volunteer or contribute? Read on in each paragraph for direct links to do so!

1. Meals on Wheels: Demand for meals to be delivered to seniors is increasing. This is a critical service in our community during normal times, and it will be vital to keep it going during the weeks ahead. Meals on Wheels usually requires new volunteers to go to the DMV for background checks, but they are modifying this requirement during this time. If you are able and interested in this important work, please fill out this form and say in the section on “Specific Jobs” at the end of the page that you’re interested in COVID-19 emergency volunteering. You can also donate online here.

2. Second Harvest depends on an extensive network of volunteers to distribute groceries to those in need across Silicon Valley. Due to COVID-19 concerns and precautions, they are currently experiencing a volunteer shortage. If you are healthy and not immuno-compromised, please consider signing up for a shift or two here. Volunteers need to be 14 or older (minors must be supervised by a parent), healthy, and ideally able to lift 25 pounds. You can also donate online.

3. Samaritan House provides essential services to low-income Menlo Park residents. You can help with food preparation and/or transport! Contact volunteering@samaritanhousesanmateo.org. Please be patient with the time it takes to respond as volume is high and staffing is low. Due to the postponement of a fundraiser, donations are also especially needed — you can contribute here.

4. Baby Basics of the Peninsula is a 100% volunteer organization based in East Palo Alto that distributes diapers to families in need. To find out more about volunteering, please call (650) 321-2193 or email baby.basics@yahoo.com. You can also donate here.