During an annual meeting in which the San Mateo City Council lays a foundation for the coming year, officials noted past accomplishments and challenges that lie ahead as they discussed their goals and priorities.
From focusing on services that support seniors and youth to promoting new recreation opportunities and taking a comprehensive look at city-owned properties to funding traffic improvements, the council agreed on adding a variety of new priorities to its list.
Other issues that have and will continue to remain paramount goals include addressing the affordable housing crisis, increasing the city’s minimum wage, updating the city’s plans for downtown as well as expanding parking, completing the design of the 25th Avenue grade separation project, constructing flood control improvements to remove residents in North Shoreview and North Central from having to pay for flood insurance, and more.
Assistant City Manager Matt Bronson said the annual meeting sets the stage for staff’s and the council’s upcoming work.
It “really is important as a blueprint for the organization,” Bronson said.
After agreeing to remove nearly 14 priorities — that have or are in the process of being completed, can be combined with similar goals or shifted to ongoing work programs — councilmembers floated their own suggestions. Those that received a majority approval will be refined and brought back for a vote at a later date, Bronson said.
Hot topics continued to include increasing the minimum wage, the affordable housing crisis, traffic congestion, neighborhood safety and recreation opportunities in the city.
Mayor Joe Goethals said he was pleased by the conversation and ability to remove several items from last year’s priority list due to them being completed or underway.
“I’m leaving tonight extremely proud of the accomplishments the city has had over the last year and I’m very hopeful we have [what it takes] to take on the challenges ahead of us,” Goethals said.
Several members of the public touched on the effects of the affordable housing crisis and the council agreed to continue investigating tenant protection measures and creation of new units. Still, councilmembers noted they’re awaiting a report from its affordable housing task force, which is compiled of local stakeholders.
Deputy Mayor David Lim maintained his commitment to immediate tenant protection measures, referencing his willingness to reintroduce a just cause eviction ordinance.
“When we receive the report from the housing task force, if there are not short-term emergency measures to address the crisis, I will introduce an emergency ordinance,” Lim said.
Councilman Rick Bonilla said it was important for the city to strive to increase the city’s minimum wage and consider enacting a living wage ordinance that would allow people who work in San Mateo to live in San Mateo.
“It’s my firm belief that no one should work 40 hours or more and still not be able to afford to have a roof over their heads,” Bonilla said.
Recreation has and will continue to be a major topic amongst city officials in the coming year. Between the closure of the Bridgepointe ice rink, the city’s plans to revamp Central Park and consider ways to expand access to fields; many have urged attention be paid to bolstering opportunities for the public and youth to be active.
The council agreed to host a study session on the long-term viability of the Poplar Creek Golf Course and consider whether there might be room for new fields or a recreation center at the site near Coyote Point in April.
Josh Hugg, a sustainability commissioner who spoke during the public comment period, noted the city’s newest recreation center is 25 years old and many are pushing past 50 years old.
“We need to be talking about a capital campaign to significantly reinvigorate those centers,” Hugg said.
Councilwoman Maureen Freschet said she wanted to add juvenile safety, such as promoting diversion programs, and expanding senior services, such as their access to recreational activities, to the priority list. The council concurred and noted additional support for hiring new officers to help patrol downtown or who would focus on traffic enforcement.
The council heeded residents’ complaints about traffic, which is currently the focus of a neighborhood forum series. After discussing what to do with the proceeds generated from the newly approved Measure S, a half-cent sales tax extension approved by voters in November that will replace Measure L in mid-2018, the council agreed traffic and street improvements would be a top priority.
Councilwoman Diane Papan suggested the city consider looking at its investment portfolio to maximize revenue and means to support city expenses or programs.
“My goals were really focused on how do we find money to do the things we want to do,” Papan said.
Other ideas that didn’t make the list of priorities but received general support to be discussed or considered at later meetings included Goethal’s suggestion that San Mateo pick up new technologies or programs known as “Smart City Technology” platforms that could be integrated amongst various departments. In a closed session, the council will also consider increasing health care benefits to retired city employees, which is currently at just $160 per month, according to Lim.
Accomplishments removed from the list because they were accomplished include installing electric vehicle charging stations, replacing city-street lights with LED bulbs, promoting the passage of Measure S, enacting a stricter smoking ban, encouraging buildout of the Rail Corridor Plan such as the new developments at Bay Meadows and Hines office complex, ensuring downtown cleanliness and implementing the city’s Climate Action Plan.
Visit cityofsanmateo.org for more information.
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