Scott Wiener NEW

Scott Wiener

San Carlos officials joined officials from cities across the Peninsula in voting Monday to submit a letter opposing a proposed boost of residential construction near jobs and transit hubs under Senate Bill authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

A letter outlining concerns and suggestions councilmembers have for the controversial housing bill allowing greater housing density and building heights within quarter-mile and half-mile distances of transit stops and job centers received a vote of 4-1 from San Carlos city officials, with Mayor Mark Olbert voting against the draft up for review Monday.

The letter acknowledged the city is on track to build the 596 units the city is required to build between 2015 and 2023 as part of its state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation and has sought zoning and housing policies that can accommodate affordable housing. The draft councilmembers approved also advocated for amendments limiting increased height limits to multi-family and mixed-use zones to preserve single-family neighborhoods, among other suggestions.

Though Olbert largely agreed with the version of the letter city staff drafted, he hoped to include language acknowledging the role cities can play in addressing the regional housing crisis. He said he is open to the state holding cities accountable for building housing but didn’t favor the bill’s proposal to dictate where housing takes shape.

“I would be OK with SB 50 if it stopped telling us exactly where to build the housing,” he said, according to a video of the meeting. “I just would like to preserve some local control as to where we build it.”

SB 50 was last amended March 11 and passed out of the Senate Committee on Housing April 2. It will be heard by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee April 24.

The letter also noted the city’s efforts to provide flexible development standards for affordable housing projects and an inclusionary zoning ordinance mandating developers to designate 15% of the units in a given residential development to be affordable at below-market rates.

Councilmembers continued their discussion of strategies for boosting the number of affordable units built in the city, pegging a review of the city’s below-market-rate and accessory dwelling unit ordinances as among the policies officials could consider amending to boost housing production. Whether to reduce fees associated with ADUs and other residential projects and require developers to include below-market-rate units in their projects instead of allowing them to pay in-lieu fees are among the questions city officials will discuss.

They have also discussed the possibility of scoping higher densities in specific zones in the city as well as relax parking requirements to allow for more units.

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(10) comments


Boo, SB 50 opponents! The Peninsula needs more housing - a LOT more housing - and local governments cannot and do no respond to regional needs.

Here's the bill: read it.

I want my kids to be able to move out some day, even if they don't become software developers, doctors, or lawyers. If you want young people to someday be able to live independent lives, you'll support more local housing - over the screaming objections of those who don't care enough about young people to give them a chance.


just drive around the peninsula and see the results of terrible planning by cities throughout the county. what a mess and no one cares, just let them build. the boom will be a bust again, as it always is. hint, 2001.


EPA does not want all of luxury residential highrise demanded by the multi-national corporates behind SB 50. The newest verson of the bill drops all but the 15 most populous counties. It is an old trick: Divide and conquer. The corporations will be back for more counties when they like.


San Carlos has no problem bending over backwards to build office space for corporations, like the biotech companies that have moved in since 2008. The problem is that the city has displayed zero interest in adding enough housing to match, which is why the state is getting interested in finding solutions to this problem.


@Vincent it does ensure affordable. It ensures offsite affordable housing is actually built in that no certificate of occupancy on market rate housing can be issued without the building permit for affordable % having been issued and affordable has to be near transit and within half mile of original project site.


The discussion from Ruben Abrica, East Palo Alto councilmember who voted to support SB 50, seems relevant here. "There are plenty of cities around here that are very wealthy and they don't want anyone else to come around."

East Palo Alto voted to support the bill, a fact that is ignored in this story about Peninsula cities, because we've always ignored what East Palo Alto - one of the few places on the Peninsula that Black homeowners could buy homes after World War II - wants.

vincent wei

I don't think EPA needs the gentrification that SB 50 will bring.

And you have to keep up with EPA demographics.... In 2017, there were 5.95 times more Hispanic or Latino residents (18.7k people) in East Palo Alto, CA than any other race or ethnicity.


It's very telling that a city with a much more diverse and poorer population that has borne the brunt of displacement is willing to support (or at least, not oppose) a bill that its wealthier cities are not.

Belmont, San Carlos, Menlo Park, the Richmond/Sunset - all of these areas have added very little housing - a lot less than they added in the 1980's - and all of them have seen rent and home price explosions and a lot of displacement. You can change the buildings or change the people who can afford to live in the neighborhood, your choice. I'd prefer people continue to be able to live in the neighborhood.

vincent wei would I, but until SB 50 guarantees affordable housing, it will only lead to more displacement and gentrification.


Where is the coverage of East Palo Alto?

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