Editor,

I read the 4/1 article, “San Mateo Begins Housing Discussion” with interest and amazement. It described a “discussion” I would have liked to attend. Wait a minute! I did participate in Let’s Talk Housing’s online meeting. My experience was not even close to what the article described. Everyone lost 20 minutes due to technical problems. Many who registered were unable to log in. We also lost an essential poll of attendees. Residents? Workers here? Property owners? It might have supported my observation that many attendees did not live here.

It became clear that this was like a written “open mike.” People began posting random ideas, suggestions, beliefs, on the “chat” feature, even as the presentations were going on. The same happened with the 64 attendees in the San Mateo breakout. Rather than a discussion or opinion sharing, this became akin to flinging pasta at the wall to see what sticks. At two points, some of those ideas (often out of context) were pulled into “word clouds” of what people cared about — with zero sense of the writers’ intent. The chat became a free for all, people posting whatever they believed about anything, trying to “talk” over each other. Writers expressed conflicting ideas, challenging each other. One of the moderators finally pulled down the chat because the 180 degree back and forth was getting so out of hand.

The city should view this meeting’s results to be as questionable as residents who attended know them to be. If this is supposed to be what a productive workshop and discussion of housing looks like, we might as well stop right now.

Karen Herrel

San Mateo

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