U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier stopped by Belmont Monday morning for a meeting with officials and residents that largely focused on housing and environmental issues.

Speier, D-San Mateo, acknowledged the housing crisis throughout the meeting and urged officials to do whatever they can to address it.

“Anything you can do in Belmont to help people stay in their homes, the better it is for everybody,” she said after describing a letter she received from a longtime Belmont resident in her 70s who faced homelessness due to a 100% rent increase. “[That letter] so captured my interest and concern that I wanted to have us start to talk as a region about the importance of allowing people to stay in their homes, whether it’s rental or owned.” 

To that end, Speier urged officials to explore any housing-related opportunities on city-owned land. 

“I’m encouraging cities and school districts to look into surplus land opportunities,” she said. “I think you have to keep working at it because I do think that’s one of the ways we can augment the number of units.”

Acting City Manager Afshin Oskoui provided a snapshot of recent housing projects in the city, some of which are on city-owned land. He also mentioned a plan that the council recently approved to sell a handful of city-owned properties to raise money for its affordable housing initiatives.

Those deals will necessitate the displacement of seven residents, who have known about the impending move for years and will receive relocation benefits, officials have noted in the past. Officials have also said the proceeds from those properties will finance affordable homes for even more residents than are being displaced.

Councilman Charles Stone also said it’s a council priority this year to explore workforce housing opportunities for city employees. As if to prove the need for such an effort, Police Chief Dan DeSmidt said some of the officers in his department commute from as far as Tracy and Chico.

During the meeting, Oskoui also provided an overview of the planning work that has been done in recent years to create a vibrant downtown, including allowing increased density and building height around the city’s Caltrain station. Speier is on board with the plan.

“Belmont would really benefit from creating a viable downtown,” she said.

Electric vehicles came up during the meeting and Speier said she’s going to be introducing legislation to incentivize more people to drive them. 

“I’m going to be introducing legislation that’s going to be holistic around tax credits for electric vehicles and it’s going to try to focus on the middle-income and lower-income person because for the most part electric vehicles are purchased by those with higher incomes,” she said, adding that the legislation will also somehow incentivize the construction of EV charging stations. 

The council has been discussing sites for EV charging stations in the city for some time and Mayor Davina Hurt noted during the meeting that officials are actively exploring grant opportunities and partnerships with local companies to make the plan a reality.

“We are in a desert of EV charging stations in Belmont. … The money is very hard to find,” Hurt said before requesting the Speier’s help in bringing EV stations to the city. The congresswoman answered in the affirmative. 

During the meeting, Speier also noted that China has drastically cut back on trash imports and said she plans to have discussions with local businesses to see if there’s a way the recycling of plastics, for example, can increasingly occur locally.

Speier’s visit to Belmont is part of a new effort of hers to spend a day meeting with officials and residents in each of the cities in her district. The congresswoman plans to be in San Bruno next on June 28 followed by visits to San Mateo Aug. 26, Redwood City Aug. 29 and South San Francisco Aug. 30. 

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