As San Mateo city staff begin working on the city’s Housing Element to update its housing goals, the City Council has stressed the importance of a community-oriented process to hear public needs and make the best long-term decisions.

“My thrust is to make it the best quality of life for the people in San Mateo so we end up with a truly livable, walkable, bikeable community, where people can be safer crossing the streets or taking their kids to school on their bicycle,” said Deputy Mayor Rick Bonilla, whose goal is to create a clear and fair housing element process.

The city is updating its 2023-2031 Housing Element, a section of the city’s general plan that provides a framework for housing policy. It must be approved by the state and adopted by the end of 2022. The Housing Element provides a blueprint for housing needs in the coming decades, constraints to housing production, identification of sites to meet needs and a housing plan and public engagement. The city is currently researching, preparing demographics and soliciting community input.

San Mateo must also plan and meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation, or RHNA. California law requires cities to create rules and regulations for adding additional housing units to meet future population growth based on numbers from the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG. San Mateo has been allocated 7,015 housing units in its latest RHNA allocation to plan for from 2023 to 2031. San Mateo does not have to build the housing but must create appropriate conditions for doing so. It must show a plan that ensures enough sites with sufficient zoning density and site development standards to meet the RHNA allocation. The numbers are determined based on access to high opportunity areas and proximity to jobs. Its preliminary analysis shows San Mateo can meet its RHNA numbers without rezoning or increasing densities for this cycle because multifamily residential development is allowed in most commercial and office locations.

Of the 7,015 units, 1,777 must be very low income, 1,023 low income, 1,175 moderate, and 3,040 can be market rate. Very low income is defined as up to 50% of area median income, low is 51% to 80%, and moderate 81% to 120%.

Revisions to land use and development changes will occur in the Land Use Element of the general plan. Since the general plan guides growth to 2040, but the Housing Element only goes to 2031, the city may decide to consider housing needs for two or more housing element cycles.

A Nov. 15 council meeting provided an update to the council on the Housing Element and to give the council a chance to ask questions and provide comment on the process.

Councilmember Amourence Lee asked about the exclusion of lots of single-family zoning from the citywide sites inventory list that examines places that could be accommodated for housing. Lee said there was public concern about the housing element and what the site list means for the process.

Housing Manager Sandy Council noted a site inventory list tells the state San Mateo can mathematically meet its RHNA number. It doesn’t say if it should go on those sites on the list or other places and was for math zoning capacity. She also noted sites are spread out citywide and do not concentrate in existing low-income areas. The site analysis has around 200 locations. Council said the city decides where to place sites during policy discussions. A joint City Council and Planning Commission session is scheduled for Feb. 7 to give staff feedback on housing element programs and plans.

Lee noted faith-based organizations want to be part of an affordable housing strategy. She said a suggestion offered was creating an affordable housing density bonus for faith-based organizations that are landowners outside of the study areas. Lee noted the public wanted clarity on process participation and housing process formulas.

“There are these questions about how can I be a part of the solution, and where do we fit into this process,” Lee said.

Council said the city hopes to release formula information in December with a methodology description. Lee commended staff for outreach to ensure the housing process was community-oriented.

“It’s exciting how many years and steps into this process to see the progression of community-driven input, where we are going and meeting the community where they are, so I feel a lot of learning is coming to fruition,” Lee said.

The city has held community outreach public meetings over the last several months. A workshop on fair housing is Jan. 13. The City Council will adopt a draft housing element in May.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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(1) comment


Governor Newsom signed 31 laws under the banner of "affordable housing" in 2021. Let's see how that is going to work? See What ordinances in the City of San Mateo need to be rewritten and added to comply with these 31 laws? [rolleyes]

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