March 3, 2018


Our Menlo Oaks neighbor, Surinder, is one of many West Coast homeowners to take the Bay Area’s housing challenge into her own hands by creating an opportunity in her own back yard. Surinder, owner of design firm SKD Design, knew that a well-crafted second unit home could fit into the space then occupied by a garden and generate the income she and her husband sought. Now, she gazes out on a beautiful contemporary two-bedroom, two-bath unit that blends easily with the surroundings. They had no problem renting the unit, and today have both wonderful tenants and a new source of income.
Surinder and her husband are following the lead of cities like Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles who are heading up the backyard revolution happening up and down the West Coast. Second Units go by many names – accessory dwelling unit (ADU), backyard cottage, granny flat, or in-law unit. They are laneway houses in Vancouver where 35 percent of single-family homes have them. No matter the name, the definition is the same: they sit on the same lot as a single-family home and must have a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. They can be created within an existing home or can be detached. In the last few years, homeowners in Seattle and Portland have embraced second units, building them at an increasing rate. Last year, Los Angeles added 2,000.
Now, it’s our chance to join the revolution.
In San Mateo County, 75 percent of the land is set aside for open space and agriculture. Of our developed land, 66 percent is developed with single-family homes. This means second units are a great way to create housing in single-family neighborhoods, without changing their character. They are less costly to build than any other form of housing. Due to their small size, they are also energy efficient and naturally affordable – renting for less than a comparable apartment while still bringing a good income to the owner.
Because of these benefits, Home for All — the countywide collaborative addressing our housing challenges — has focused on creating tools that support homeowners wanting to build second units. To make finding these tools even easier for interested homeowners throughout the county, Home for All just launched a one-stop Second Unit Center website at The website and its tools were developed specifically for our county, drawing on best practices form other parts of the country, informed by focus groups and surveys from our county’s residents, designers and builders.
There is an idea book with photos of beautiful San Mateo County second units and inspirational stories of the people who built them, including Surinder. Posted resources help demystify the process —from design, to working with the County or a specific city/ town on permitting, all the way through construction. An online calculator even helps users think through costs and pencil out a rough estimate of price tag, income, and return on investment. Finally, we included the first section of a workbook that is under development that will guide homeowners through their own project.
We hope this the Second Unit Center is a valuable tool for our community. Please give it a try and see what you think. You might be inspired to be part of a backyard revolution here, in our own community.
Supervisor Warren Slocum represents District Four which includes East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City and the unincorporated area of North Fair Oaks. He co-chairs Home For All with Supervisor Don Horsley who represents District Three.
More Resources:

August 16, 2017

Dumbarton Corridor Study Released

SamTrans has concluded their feasibility study of the Dumbarton Corridor to identify short-and long-term strategies that reduce traffic congestion and improve mobility between Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The study examines potential solutions to address both congestion on the Dumbarton Bridge (Highway 84) and connecting roadways, as well as the rehabilitation and repurposing of the Dumbarton rail bridge to the south.

The study, community meeting dates and other important information can be found here.

August 15, 2017

Dumbarton Rail Project Gains Momentum

The Dumbarton Rail Corridor is the missing link in a mega-regional transportation system. Imagine getting from Sacramento to the Silicon Valley in 60 minutes. Is that possible? Check out the video below to learn more about this project that's got people talking.

August 14, 2017

Proposed Dumbarton Rail Bridge Could Be the First Transbay Rail Crossing Since BART Tube

FOR ROUGHLY TWO decades, transportation planners and local leaders have advocated for a rail crossing along the Dumbarton Bridge corridor that would connect Caltrain in the South Bay to the Altamont Corridor Express and Capitol Corridor in the East Bay.

And for roughly two decades, the idea has gathered dust.

But a Facebook-funded and SamTrans-led study set to be released Tuesday is again floating the idea of a southern rail crossing, and local leaders are hopeful that this time, the project's fate will be different.

Read the entire article in the Mercury News authored by Erin Baldassari.

August 5, 2017

Transforming Cities and Regions into Livable Places

For over 20 years, Rail-Volution has been the place to engage in thoughtful discussions with change makers and influencers, the place to share ideas and breakthroughs frustrations and inspiration, about building livable communities with transit.

The annual conference, place-based events and online resource library showcase how land use, transportation and development can transform communities into livable places - healthy, economically vibrant, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable.

Why should you attend this conference? Watch the short video below.

August 4, 2017

New Rail Across The Bay

SamTrans officials in San Mateo County released recommendations for improvements to the Dumbarton Corridor - both the auto bridge as well as the rail crossing. (The detailed analysis of this proposal won't be released until August 15).

The three phased project will not only address the access issues and congestion on both sides of the bridge, but it also serves as the missing link in connecting residents in the East Bay, Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley to jobs right here in the heart of Silicon Valley,

I want to make it abundantly clear to the residents of the 4th District, many of whom will be impacted by this project that I will listen to your concerns and work to make this a win win for my constituents and people in the larger region.

We can do this - the improvements to the auto and rail bridges are vitally important for the economic and environmental health of our region.

Think big and embrace this bold vision for our future.

Read the article in the San Mateo Daily Journal by Samantha Weigel.