A new draft housing element for Burlingame includes population calculations from the state that councilmembers believe are inflated and would potentially affect the projected housing needs of the city.
One big concern of the element is the fact it uses population projections from the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG, that seem higher than they should be, possibly affecting the housing accommodation plan, the City Council said.
The draft includes the fact that it’s recommended, but not required, the city have 863 units of space available in Burlingame for new housing. Of these units, the city would need to accommodate 420 low to extremely low income housing units. One such available site is City Hall, which is zoned for housing.
“My concern is down the road, let’s just say a bunch of units get built, could we get stuck in court over this even though there is the phrasing that you don’t have to build it all?” said Councilwoman Ann Keighran at a council meeting Monday night. “To me these numbers are incorrect. Can we notate that we don’t agree with those statistics that have been brought forward? I understand the consequences, but can we put a notation somewhere we question ABAG’s statistics? I’m a little perturbed there may not be any accountability.”
ABAG projects there will be 10 percent growth in Burlingame between the decades of 2020, 2030 and 2040, meaning it would grow to 38,400 in 2040. Councilmembers suggested including a notation in the element that states that the council disagrees with ABAG’s projections.
“We have to be careful about saying we just don’t agree,” said Mayor Michael Brownrigg. “We invite them to overturn our element. As the staff report makes clear, we’re not changing any zoning that exists in the city today. To me, we risk making a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill if we object too strenuously.”
Brownrigg noted he completely agrees statistically the community would not stand for 1,000 units coming on the market. He said in the final document he would want to call into question the demographic forecast because it’s not compatible with historic population numbers.
Meanwhile, others, like Burlingame Historical Society President Jennifer Pfaff, think the incorrect numbers could have widespread negative implications.
“Beyond basing a housing accommodation plan on data that may be faulty, I am concerned that once certain elements of the draft exist ‘on paper,’ they could be misconstrued as an actual blueprint for our general plan and housing policies,” she wrote in a letter to the council. “This issue was brought up by a commissioner during a June 23 Planning Commission meeting in which the draft was discussed; the consultant remarked that the housing element document ‘sets the framework and broad policy’ for the general plan. That was not my understanding of the purpose of the housing element document.”
Still, any project has to be reviewed under California Environmental Quality Act, said Geoff Bradley, from Metropolitan Planning Group, the consulting firm helping prepare the housing element.
“The state law is very clear it (the housing element) has to be based on ABAG numbers,” he said. “We’d be vulnerable to legal challenges, lawsuits and loss of MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) grants.”
Although the displacement that’s been happening to some Burlingame residents getting outpriced from the area would mean building more housing would make sense, councilmembers don’t want to see the city overbuilt, especially on faulty population numbers.
“It does bother me the displacement that’s going on right now,” said Keighran. “I would not like to see this town overbuilt.”
There shouldn’t be too much concern for Burlingame being overbuilt though, Vice Mayor Terry Nagel said.
“It will be very difficult to put together parcels for developments,” she said. “These properties are owned by a zillion different people and we have a council that is very careful about what projects we allow to get built.”
The report, which the city should send off to the state department of housing and community development in September, would come back from the state before being finalized and submitted for certification. The goal is to have a new housing element adopted by Jan. 31, 2015. The full draft can be found on the city’s website by clicking on the Planning Division’s housing element section.
In other city news, the City Council voted unanimously to appoint a new city councilmember to replace Councilman Jerry Deal who is retiring from the council on Sept. 21. The council opted not to hold a special election for the outgoing member whose term expires in November 2015 since a special election in March 2015 would come with a $190,000 price tag since the ballot would not be consolidating with the county. A May 2015 all-mail ballot would cost $130,000.
The appointment must happen within 60 days of the vacancy, which is Nov. 20.
The interview process would be public and the council could choose to televise the interviews.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105