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.
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:
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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).
Members of the public who would like to provide comments to the City Council and are unable to send an email to email@example.com 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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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:
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also donate here.
Redwood City is currently evaluating development opportunities at Sequoia Station in Downtown Redwood City. The Council recently designated this area the “Transit District”, as depicted below.
Planning for Sequoia Station will be done in parallel with updated plans for the broader downtown area, and plans for major station upgrades and rail grade separations that would enable much more frequent Caltrain service and better crosstown connections.
We’re excited about the overall opportunity for redevelopment at this site. The Station today consists mainly of surface-level parking and a strip mall.
The redeveloped area would mix residential and office space, with a proposed 100% affordable housing component, plus ground-floor retail that preserves the existing Safeway, CVS, and more. The upgraded station would allow the community expanded access to clean transit which reduces traffic and emissions.
However, the development as proposed would have office space for several thousand workers and only a few hundred homes. That mix would create pressure to increase prices on other housing in the downtown area, and increase the risk of displacement for lower-income people living near downtown.
The city should look to this development, and other places in the broader downtown, to provide homes to balance the jobs, and reduce the pressure on housing prices and the risk of displacing lower-income neighbors.
About the transit center, now and in the future:
Redwood City’s transit center is an essential hub for local and regional transit:
Currently, the station accommodates 5 Caltrain trains per direction per hour during rush periods, and is expected to accommodate 6 per hour when Caltrain starts electric service by 2023. Caltrain’s plans through the end of the decade have the station increasing capacity to up to 8 trains per direction per hour.
The high cost of living on the Peninsula currently results in many of the region’s workers commuting in from elsewhere via Caltrain or other future transit solutions like a Dumbarton rail bridge.
Redwood City’s rail station needs to alter its footprint in order to accommodate additional Caltrain service and a link to the proposed Dumbarton light rail train. As such, this development opportunity at Sequoia Station is perfectly timed. The area can be redeveloped just once and is then primed for future needs of the community, including existing and future residents, commuters and workers, and transit agencies.
Please join us at this and future council meetings, to support more homes in this development and the broader downtown area.
Especially if you can’t make it in person, please also engage with your local elected officials and Councilmembers to reinforce the importance of including additional housing as this area is redeveloped. You can email the council at: email@example.com
The City’s staff report also includes the following proposed next steps:
Spring 2020: Technical studies begin for railway operations and land needs on the Transit District
Summer 2020: Community outreach for the Transit District on goals, land uses, and connections. Sequoia Station project is revised to conform to the Transit District proposal.
Fall 2020: Technical studies are completed and environmental review begins, including the Sequoia Station project.
Winter 2020 and 2021 – Community engagement continues along with environmental studies and further refinements of the Sequoia Station project to address transit needs and community input.
I’m pleased to announce that I am joining YIMBY Action as full-time staff for Peninsula for Everyone! Find the story of how I came to the movement below. I hope you will join us and help us grow to build a better future for our region.
Quitting my job as a psychologist to become a housing advocate may strike some friends and family as odd, but I can think of no more vital and urgent thing to do at this place and time. In 2016, I moved back to the Bay Area, where I grew up, and was excited to apply my many years of addiction and PTSD-focused training to serving veterans escaping homelessness. I eventually started working in a community-based setting (“in the field”) providing mental health services at veteran’s homes, in shelters, or in public places. The work was often rewarding, always challenging, and eventually unbearable as the systemic problems in our housing system became too great a barrier to ignore. Despite having access to a Federally-subsidized housing voucher, a social worker, and a housing specialist, few of my patients could get housed anywhere close to needed VA jobs programs and treatment due to prohibitively expensive rents near VA campuses in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. I broke the sad news to hundreds of veterans that they were extremely unlikely to be able to find a home in a location that would keep them connected to their VA community.
I started hoping we might get a functioning oven or a doorknob in the bathroom, but we got a for-sale sign instead.
The City of Palo Alto gave me a lesson in the policies perpetuating our housing shortage. As an early-career psychologist, I rented a small 1-bedroom rundown bungalow near downtown Palo Alto. Suddenly, the owners started sprucing the place up with new landscaping and fresh paint job. I started hoping we might get a functioning oven or a doorknob in the bathroom, but we got a for-sale sign instead. The property, which included 2 apartments in addition to our bungalow, was sold for $3.5 million. A redevelopment sign appeared shortly thereafter, indicating a plan to demolish the 3 small homes to build one large stand-alone house. I called the city, sharing my concerns about our dire housing crisis, but city staff explained that the property was zoned single-family and that the third unit on the parcel was illegal to build in the first place. As I learned more about local policies and processes that thwart housing, it became clear that homelessness will only get worse until systemic reforms were enacted.
Palo Alto’s harmful policies roused me into action: I started making public comment and canvassed for a pro-housing City Council candidate, but the power of the entrenched opposition was overwhelming. My voice was easily dismissed at meetings, as long-time homeowners advocating for “sensible zoning” dominated discussion. The candidate I supported lost his bid for re-election after a nasty campaign including misleading attack ads. Wresting power away from those benefiting from the status quo would not be easy.
Fortunately, I began to go to public hearings in other cities and got connected to other housing advocates. We bonded over shared experiences like being yelled at in City Hall and swapped stories about awful NIMBY comments. In 2019, I helped to convene our first official general meeting, at which we named ourselves “Peninsula for Everyone.” Since forming, we’ve grown in membership and influence, advocating for higher heights, more density, less parking, and more neighbors. However, to overcome NIMBYs who have been organizing for decades, we will need to grow our membership rapidly and focus our energy where it will make a difference. In transitioning from part-time volunteer to full-time staff for Peninsula for Everyone, I plan to help move us to a place where our power is undeniable, our voices are heard, and policies are enacted to help move our region toward a more equitable and sustainable future.