With the future of downtown San Mateo in flux and an increasing demand for affordable housing options, the council and community will soon be tasked with determining the best uses for two city-owned properties long slated for redevelopment.
The City Council meets Monday night to consider numerous important issues including housing redevelopment on city and privately owned parcels, how to pay for flood protection improvements aimed at alleviating costly insurance for homeowners in the North Shoreview neighborhood, enacting stricter requirements for rental property owners to maintain their units, and updating its vision for downtown.
One significant step will be for the city to initiate its search for proposals to redevelop the Worker Resource Center and former Kinko’s sites along Fourth Avenue near downtown.
The properties are some of the city’s last remaining remnants of its former redevelopment agency, which, in part, used tax funds for affordable housing purposes before Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved them in 2012.
Redevelopment agencies “were a great tool to invest in communities and to invest in affordable housing projects and, without that tool, we struggled during very difficult economic years to not monetize whatever assets we had available. Holding on to [these properties] was a phenomenal accomplishment during challenging years,” said Mayor Joe Goethals.
Housing and parking are recommended as top priorities for the two adjacent parcels based on input collected during a council study session earlier this year and stakeholder input gathered during summertime community meetings.
As part of the city’s request for qualifications, both nonprofit and for-profit developers are asked to submit concepts on how to best design a project that meets the city’s goals.
The housing crisis remains a top concern for many county leaders and peaked in controversy during the election when San Mateo voters considered a citizens’ initiative to enact rent control, which was ultimately defeated. Although the city and even council were divided over the initiative, many have remained committed to addressing the affordability crisis through expanding supply and officials have cited the redevelopment parcels as a key component to their approach.
Goethals said he hopes to prioritize housing workers who serve the community.
“The crisis is that school teachers, police officers, firefighters and government workers who we rely on cannot afford to live here,” Goethals said. “All the folks we rely on day in and day out who don’t get those tech salaries and who are still an essential part of the community, we have this opportunity to take advantage of these sites and provide them housing.”
He added the properties’ location bordering the Caltrain line and close to transit is ideal, as is its proximity to downtown. He hopes for synergy in which future resident would support local businesses and restaurants.
In working with a developer, the city may offer the land valued at up to $16 million under a ground-lease and may need to offer subsidies to create new below-market rate units. The council has prioritized helping both low-income workers making 60 percent or below the area median income, as well as workforce housing for those making between 80 percent and 120 percent of the local average, according to a staff report.
Creating a project targeted toward low-income workers would more likely make the project eligible for tax credit financing, but will also likely entail between $100,000 and $200,000 subsidy per unit from local sources, according to the report. As part of the developers’ submissions, they will likely suggest ideas on how to finance the project.
Parking is another main component of the criteria for developers to consider when submitting their ideas.
Consultants have estimated the need for an additional 600 parking spots to accommodate growing demand downtown. The northern Kinko’s lot at 405 E. Fourth Ave. currently has 235 surface-level publicly accessible spaces. Members of the public as well as the business-oriented Downtown San Mateo Association indicated at a minimum, the need to replace those spaces within the new projects, according to the report.
Monday’s discussion will primarily revolve around the council and community providing direction on what should be considered for the site. A formal request for proposals won’t be issued until January, according to the report.
The council’s agenda for next week also includes a variety of other items.
• The council will hear an appeal from a property owner whose application to construct 15 new condominiums at 210 Fremont St. was denied by the Planning Commission in August. The owner hopes to construct a new four-story multi-family building with underground parking at a 15,308-square-foot parcel that has hosted a seasonal Christmas tree lot.
• Consider an agreement for an affordable housing project at a city-owned lot that was secured as part of the Bay Meadows redevelopment. Bridge Housing was chosen to construct between 68 and 72 affordable one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for very low-income families at the 1-acre parcel. The city is expected to offer an essentially free ground lease for 99 years, as well as a $2 million loan toward construction.
• Approve an agreement to spend $925,000 toward updating the Downtown Plan, including a $850,000 consultant contract. The plan, last updated in 2009, aims to develop a vision for San Mateo’s bustling downtown for the next 20 years.
• Consider the feasibility of forming an assessment district to help generate $25.3 million to improve the levee and pump stations used to prevent flooding in the North Shoreview neighborhood. Residents in the affected area will be polled on whether they would support taxing themselves to help pay for improvements that would remove them from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood zone map, thereby alleviating flood insurance requirements.
• Introduce a new property maintenance ordinance that seeks to ensure rental housing owners keep up their units to modern state health and safety codes. Tenants who are forced to leave while a landlord repairs a severe code violation may also be entitled to relocation assistance per state law.
• A study session will be held prior to the regular meeting to discuss the selection process for nominating members of the public to oversee expenditures of Measure S, the city’s quarter-cent sales tax extension.
The City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, at City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106