Millbrae officials agreed that urgency is needed to adopt a package of policies, regulations and fees designed to finance and facilitate construction of affordable housing.
Members of the Millbrae City Council concurred they should move swiftly to adopt commercial linkage fees, an inclusionary housing policy and other regulations during a meeting Tuesday, May 11.
The quick action is required to assure the citywide policies are applicable to the sweeping development proposals in the construction pipeline which officials hope will lead to construction of more below-market rate units.
“This proposal has a pretty large impact to the development of our city and I want to make sure it doesn’t get delayed,” Councilman Anders Fung said.
No action was taken at the meeting, but officials generally blessed a slate of proposals which stand to be Millbrae’s first citywide policies designed to address affordable housing. Some similar policies exist for developments proposed in the area near the train station, but councilmembers plan to expand their reach.
Among the proposals are an inclusionary housing policy, which would require developers of rental properties to set 10% of the units aside for those earning very low incomes and 5% reserved for low income. Meanwhile, residential builders selling units would be required to set 15% of the units aside for those earning a moderate amount of the median area income.
Very low income in San Mateo County is considered $63,905 for one person, or $82,250 for a household of three, according to the most recent data. Low income is considered $102,450 for one person, or $131,750 for a household of three; and moderate income is considered $125,650 for one person, or $161,550 for a household of three.
Beyond the affordable housing requirements, officials are also planning to establish fees that commercial developers must pay when proposing office, retail, hotel or other projects.
Builders would be required to pay $3,868 per hotel room, $5.80 per square foot of retail, restaurant and other service users and $12.86 per square foot of all office space, with exemptions for medical offices, life science uses, and research and development spaces.
Officials are optimistic that the fees generated will feed into a fund that can pay for construction of new affordable units, or preservation of those already existing.
“This is really, really important,” Councilwoman Gina Papan said.
Councilman Reuben Holober agreed as well.
“It is incredibly important for our city,” he said.
With sweeping commercial developments already proposed for construction, officials suggested they move as quickly as possible to approve the fees before entitlements are granted.
Once projects are approved, they are not subject to fees introduced afterward. But with an eye on generating revenue, some councilmembers questioned whether urgency sessions — which would allow them to adopt the proposals promptly — are in order.
City Attorney Michael Conneran was unsure whether such a maneuver was possible. In the absence of an expedited timeline, officials are looking to approve the measures in July.
Officials also showed disinterest in allowing exemptions from the proposed policies, overruling a proposal allowing commercial developments smaller than 5,000 square feet to avoid paying the linkage fee.
Additionally, noting the interest among lawmakers to streamline development of duplexes, officials agreed that any residential developer building four units would be subject to paying fees.
Mayor Ann Schneider blessed the package of proposals in the effort “to get us the toolbox we need so we can protect and improve the city.”
She also agreed with her colleagues who suggested moving swiftly on the matter.
“If we can expedite it, let’s expedite it,” she said.