San Mateo map

With Measure P set to sunset by the end of the year, a group of San Mateo residents is pushing to extend existing building height limits in the city while exempting areas around transit from those restrictions. 

Proponents of extending the height limit measure, however, suggest this effort will confuse residents who support protection from development interests through another effort set to be on the same ballot.

This week, longtime union leader and community activist Rich Hedges; Nicole Fernandez, San Mateo County Democratic Party chair; and developer Alan Talansky Wednesday announced the beginning of a signature-gathering effort to place on the November 2020 ballot an initiative titled “City of San Mateo Neighborhood Protection/Housing Opportunity and Affordability Act.” 

The initiative would extend voter-approved height and density limits in the city for 10 years while removing those restrictions around the city’s three Caltrain stations until new height limits are established through the general plan update process, which is underway. The initiative also contains provisions that remove barriers to affordable housing development in the city, according to a press release. 

Measure P, a 2004 extension of a measure approved by voters in 1991, caps building height in the city, including areas around transit, at 55 feet and limits density to 50 units per acre. 

“We are proud to bring forward what we believe is a great compromise measure that will protect our single-family neighborhoods and small-town feel, while also allowing the city to address our need for new housing,” Hedges said in the release. “This initiative is critical to our city’s ability to address the housing crisis, traffic congestion and impacts on greenhouse gas and climate change.” 

Signatures from 10% of the city’s voting population are needed to place the initiative on the ballot. There are 55,462 registered voters in the city so 5,546 signatures are required. 

If the signature-gathering effort succeeds and the initiative is placed on the November ballot, it will compete with another ballot initiative seeking to extend Measure P for 10 years with no height limit exception for areas around transit. The Measure P extension is set to be on the ballot because the citizens group San Mateans for Responsive Government in early 2018 gathered more than 7,000 signatures to do so.

Members of that group are ardently opposed to the “City of San Mateo Neighborhood Protection/Housing Opportunity and Affordability Act.” They’re worried it will usher in construction of towering high-rise buildings throughout the city and exacerbate traffic congestion. 

“Don’t be fooled, this measure is not trying to meet the region’s most pressing problems,” said Michael Weinhauer, a member of San Mateans for Responsible Government. “It’s nothing more than a Trojan horse for unrestricted high-rise development of 12 stories or higher in downtown, Hillsdale and other transit sites. It ignores the traffic and infrastructure problems associated with more housing, no matter where it is located in our community.”

Housing advocates, on the other hand, support the proposed initiative and argue it’s necessary to bring about construction of much needed homes. 

“We need thousands of homes now to meet our current needs, and that does not include the babies being born today or the new people moving in to work in this thriving community,” said Evelyn Stivers, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council. “Without addressing the exclusionary height restrictions of our past, the city will continue to contribute to terrible traffic on 92 and 101, displacement throughout the region, and rising homelessness.”

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(2) comments

Christopher Conway

thank you to the SMDJ for reporting on this story. Without you we would never know what is happening in our own town.


Human society is based on may factors.

Most all measures of our society has growth a component. GDP, inflation, stagnation, cost of living, etc

Last in-depth research into The SF Bayarea/Peninsula jobs vs bedrooms in a while. The last one showed that the Peninsula added +200,000 NEW jobs in the last decade…vs…how many new bedrooms?

Most of the NEW affordable bedrooms were generated over on the East Bay’s bedroom communities

Since over there on the East Bay, they commute from over there to over here

Mostly by automobile and the bottle necks are the three bridges spanning the Bay. Bay Bridge has +250,000 auto’s per day, M-F and 92 has +500,00- auto’s per day, M-F. Caltrans did not have the information for Dumbarton

Those bottle necks then dump onto the West Bay/Peninsula at San Mateo and Menlo Park. Then it meters out onto 101, El Camino, 280, etc

To deny additional new bedrooms, all the while new jobs continue to grow will only exacerbate the traffic issues here on the Peninsula

Since The Peninsula is land locked in all directions, except ‘up’ and ‘density’, we need to address where to put those new bedrooms. They should be a mixture of luxury, middle and affordable…even below that

IMHO, most of the resistance is from those who are stuck in the 20th Century of an LOS based society. We are now in the 21st Century and the young are mostly into VMT and Form Based Code (Public Works and Planning metrics)

Extending a 20th Century based measure (P) will only stagnate our area while the rest of the area moves into the 21st Century.

Some supporting links of these thoughts

New Data from U.S. Census Shows (Mostly) Broad and Steady Employment Growth, Highlights Changing Nature of Bay Area Economy

Bay Area 2040 plan, check out page 8…project growth from 7.2 to 9.5 million NEW jobs

Final 9 county report

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