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As local cities shape unique policies in anticipation of the forthcoming state housing construction mandate, Burlingame officials favored partnering with neighbors to meet the community’s production goals.

The Burlingame City Council showed Monday, Oct. 7, a willingness to work alongside nearby cities in the effort to meet the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, the state’s administrative arm assuring communities adhere to housing law.

The direction marks a departure from other cities such as San Mateo which have expressed an interest in advancing through the process alone — forgoing the previously formed partnership.

Councilman Michael Brownrigg shared his firm belief that Burlingame officials should seek to work with their Peninsula colleagues, suggesting that finding solutions to the region’s housing issues will require broad strokes.

“We need to lean into county planning. We need to lean into sharing, and sharing opportunities and responsibilities with our sister cities,” he said, according to video of the meeting.

Vice Mayor Emily Beach also said she favored a regional approach.

“It’s better to partner and get things built than not and not get things built,” she said.

Mayor Donna Colson agreed, suggesting Burlingame look to partner with Hillsborough in forming a subregion comprised of communities sharing the same zip code.

Such an arrangement could allow the cities to work collectively toward assuring housing is produced at all ranges of affordability, and excess market rate units built in Hillsborough could be counted by the state for Burlingame, in exchange for spare affordable units credited to Hillsborough, she said.

With the consensus, Burlingame ostensibly agreed to participate in a process similar to the 21 Elements initiative, through which Peninsula officials previously banded together under the City/County Association of Governments umbrella to discuss state housing mandates as a county.

The desire of Burlingame officials to collaborate likely comes with limitations though, acknowledged councilmembers who noted eligible partners may be difficult to come by due to fears regarding the state’s decision.

In preparation for the state’s determination, officials are generally expecting an allocation twice the size of the previous round as state lawmakers seek to solve the state’s housing crisis — especially in job-rich corridors such as the Peninsula.

Recognizing the prevailing concern, Councilman Ricardo Ortiz, who represents Burlingame for C/CAG, said the subregion format is proving less popular for this round of housing production allocations.

“My guess is things are moving away from the subregion,” he said.

To that end, Foster City and San Mateo officials have already expressed disinterest in joining the subregion, while Millbrae officials said last month they supported such a group.

Ortiz said the deciding factor in the matter will likely be the direction of county officials, who are essentially empowered to dissolve the subregion opportunities with a Thursday decision against the proposal.

“If the county opts out, we are done,” said Ortiz, regarding the chance to collaborate with neighboring communities.

If the subregion option stays on the table, Ortiz noted the potency of the group will likely be diminished because there will be fewer participants available to swap affordability types. Should the subregion option get pulled, he said each city will face the mandate without an outlet to counter the state’s allocation.

While councilmembers preferred the chance to work with subregion partners, Burlingame officials expressed some confidence in their anticipated ability to match the mandate.

With a general plan laying the groundwork for development of new residential neighborhoods in the north end of town, and construction of a workforce housing project soon to break ground downtown, officials shared measured confidence over the Burlingame’s capacity to meet the state’s expectations.

“I’d like to be cautiously optimistic,” said Community Development Director Kevin Gardiner. “It will be harder than previous cycles, but we have to tools here to keep at it.”

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(2) comments


The Town of Hillsborough should decline the subregion opportunity w/Burlingame. If you need to think about this for more than five minutes, you probably didn't grow up here.


Craig - I grew up in Hillsborough. Family lost the house in 1990's depression. Took me 20 years to work my way back to San Mateo County. I now rent, may not own, it would be better for Hillsborough to participate. They have more than enough money to buy out their housing elsewhere but if you want to build more housing in Hillsborough... Good Luck.

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