The Foster City Council committed to more public input about the future of Mariners Point Golf Course after community outcry and discussed the city fighting its state-mandated housing allocation numbers at its July 14 meeting.
It voted to suspend its originally agreed upon Mariners Point public survey to have more substantial community input and authorized staff to work with a consultant to conduct a study of the golf course site.
The council in June discussed Mariners Point Golf Course and if it should be declared surplus land or be made exempt before agreeing to a community survey. The council later decided to engage in a larger land use discussion that included the golf course. The debate about potential changes to the golf course has upset residents and users determined to save it. A change.org petition titled Save Foster City Golf Course has more than 3,700 signatures.
“We sort of preemptively discussed the golf course, so with that in mind, land use discussion and broader discussion is extremely important to provide the context that is needed so that this will not lead to misinformation and so much pain in the community,” Vice Mayor Richa Awasthi said.
Mayor Sanjay Gehani wanted to retain the golf course.
“I’d like to create an exceptional experience that activates it. I would like to retain the golf course and bring a commercial building there that has white tablecloth restaurants, a rooftop bar, other amenities that are there that would be amazing for our community as part of an overall plan that I have with regards to activating Foster City and putting it on the map,” Gehani said.
The mayor said he was not currently interested in putting up housing at the golf course but thought it was important for the council to understand its options through an environmental site constraint study if Foster City was unsuccessful in state dialogue about its Regional Housing Needs Allocation.
“If push were to come to shove, and we were going to lose control of our local housing, it’s important for me to know that we could put housing at the golf course. I do not have interest at this time in putting up housing at the golf course,” Gehani said.
The meeting conversation focused on if the council wanted to meet its cycle six RHNA numbers or fight the state-mandated allocation after Awasthi raised the topic.
“Those are the questions in front of us, and I think those are very critical to tackling first before we give staff any direction on how to approach land use regulations,” Awasthi said.
RHNA goals are mandated by the Association of Bay Area Governments to meet state housing law. ABAG requires a city to plan for the development of additional housing units and lessen constraints, increasing opportunities for housing development. The current RHNA cycle of 2023-2031 calls for 1,896 units to Foster City, a 341% increase from Foster City’s last cycle of 430. The increase has frustrated the Foster City Council.
Councilmember Jon Froomin said the council had not talked about fighting the RHNA numbers at a state level and supported the local community having a say in development.
“I don’t know that I’m done fighting,” Froomin said.
He noted questions remained about if the community was willing to accept ramifications of potential loss of state funding if it fought its RHNA allocation.
“The community needs to know what the ramifications are so that they can help us to make the decision that represents them the best,” Froomin said.
Community Development Director Marlene Subhashini said if the city did not have a compliant housing element by agreeing to meet its RHNA numbers, state laws could give more control to California over deciding how developers could build housing in Foster City.
“At that moment, we are losing complete local control. At this point, working towards having a compliant housing element will still help us retain some of that control,” Community Development Director Marlene Subhashini said.
Gehani suggested dialogue over fighting, favoring significant outreach and engagement to elected officials and the public about RHNA data so the council could reach the best decision.
“I would like to have dialogue before, and if that dialogue goes nowhere, I would like to at least have the input from my community to say which direction would you like to go and how would you like us to proceed, knowing full well the impacts of the decision that we have to make,” Gehani said.
Councilmember Patrick Sullivan said the state did not have the best formula for RHNA numbers, but he wanted to see more creative ideas about housing. He favored exploring alternative property options throughout the city to meet RHNA numbers.
“I don’t think there is any silver bullet in the housing crisis,” Sullivan said.
Councilmember Sam Hindi noted the council voted in June against appealing to reduce its draft RHNA numbers.
“For me, I don’t want to fight because I see a losing battle that is going to consume my time, my energy, my resources with very remote to nonexisting chances of succeeding,” Hindi said.
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