December 21, 2016

Policy Prescriptions for San Mateo County

ONE OF the biggest challenges we face in San Mateo County and especially District 4, is making our exploding local economy work for low-and middle-income workers and households. The county's newly released "Vulnerability Index," clearly shows where the people being left behind reside.

This short guide of policy recommendations, organized into five main goals, is designed to help guide us to accomplish just that by:
  1. Creating more housing choice
  2. Connecting residents to opportunity by providing more transportation choices
  3. Empowering individuals to have a voice in county government
  4. Investing in existing communities through non-profit organizations
  5. Making smarter, more targeted investments in programs that support these goals
It doesn't matter that we have a low county unemployment rate. If you still can't get a job or you watch as your housing costs escalate or opportunities dry up, things aren't working for everyone.

Housing, transportation, and access to education and job opportunities have to be at the top of our action list as we talk about boosting wages, expanding the middle class or providing pathways out of poverty.

These objectives are not cure-alls for all issues. But given the effects of housing and transportation costs on people's checkbooks, expanding economic prosperity, improving lives by improving the communities that we call home and creating opportunities for people to have a high quality of life and build wealth have to be part of the solution.

December 20, 2016

Working Together We Can Tackle The Big Issues

ON DECEMBER 2, 2016, Facebook announced its plan to invest $20 million to address the need to increase the supply of affordable housing and the related issues of displacement, particularly in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and communities within a 15-mile radius of their campus.

This is exactly the kind of leadership that we in local government seek: Leaders who are willing to take stock and commit resources, time and talent to help solve the problem — creatively and collaboratively.

No single sector-government, business, labor or residents — can solve our housing crisis alone. It will take a serious commitment from everyone.

I was privileged this past year to co-chair the San Mateo County Closing the Jobs/Housing Gap Task Force, a 54-member group of elected, community, business and labor leaders which took a hard look at the imbalance of jobs and housing units on the Peninsula. What we learned is that between 2010 and 2014, San Mateo County added 54,600 new jobs but only added 2,200 new housing units. Those of us on the task force knew the problem was growing, but the numbers were stunning nonetheless.

We also learned that the majority of our workers, literally 62 percent of them, live elsewhere and commute to work every day. And the phenomenal job growth that the county experienced between 2010 and 2014 didn’t stop. It continues today.

The Closing the Jobs/Housing Gap Task Force developed a toolbox of potential strategies and policies that cities, the county, businesses, nonprofits and community members could adopt to promote and create a home for all. One strategy was the placement of Measure K on the November 2016 ballot to extend the existing half-cent Measure A sales tax for another 20 years to fund local needs with local dollars. Thankfully, the voters of San Mateo County resoundingly approved this measure understanding that we in government would make investments in housing, transportation, infrastructure and people — with a focus on collective improvement. Launching the Home for All Initiative this past fall continues this communitywide collaborative work. The momentum of the task force is now channeled into the Home For All initiative, providing a toolkit of strategies and implementation assistance where possible.

Our Board of Supervisors has allocated more than $60 million in Measure A (now Measure K) tax dollars for housing projects recognizing the urgency of the situation. More will be allocated in the coming year. Similarly, we created the Housing Preservation Fund to make dollars more quickly available to developers to purchase and preserve affordable rental housing. The recent $5.9 million loan to MidPen Housing for a 55-unit apartment building in Redwood City came from this fund. We also passed a housing impact fee committing half of the fees to HEART, or the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust, to launch affordable housing projects. A Housing Innovation Fund was seeded to research and pilot creative housing solutions, like tiny homes and a universal template for second units.

Even so, the county can’t solve the housing crisis alone. Nor can we ignore our other safety net responsibilities. That’s why Facebook’s news was so heartening.

Facebook calls San Mateo County home. It is rolling up its sleeves to do what it takes to make things better not just for their own business, but for the greater community.

Facebook, a member of Home For All, is tackling these issues in a regional way, cutting across jurisdictions and through the boundaries between government, nonprofit and private sectors. My hope is that Facebook’s headline-making news will encourage other companies to follow suit. Join Home for All and work on housing and transportation solutions.
On Dec. 2, 2016, Facebook announced its plan to invest $20 million to address the need to increase the supply of affordable housing and the related issues of displacement, particularly in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and communities within a 15-mile radius of their campus.
This is exactly the kind of leadership that we in local government seek: Leaders who are willing to take stock and commit resources, time and talent to help solve the problem — creatively and collaboratively.
No single sector-government, business, labor or residents — can solve our housing crisis alone. It will take a serious commitment from everyone.
I was privileged this past year to co-chair the San Mateo County Closing the Jobs/Housing Gap Task Force, a 54-member group of elected, community, business and labor leaders which took a hard look at the imbalance of jobs and housing units on the Peninsula. What we learned is that between 2010 and 2014, San Mateo County added 54,600 new jobs but only added 2,200 new housing units. Those of us on the task force knew the problem was growing, but the numbers were stunning nonetheless.
We also learned that the majority of our workers, literally 62 percent of them, live elsewhere and commute to work every day. And the phenomenal job growth that the county experienced between 2010 and 2014 didn’t stop. It continues today.
The Closing the Jobs/Housing Gap Task Force developed a toolbox of potential strategies and policies that cities, the county, businesses, nonprofits and community members could adopt to promote and create a home for all. One strategy was the placement of Measure K on the November 2016 ballot to extend the existing half-cent Measure A sales tax for another 20 years to fund local needs with local dollars. Thankfully, the voters of San Mateo County resoundingly approved this measure understanding that we in government would make investments in housing, transportation, infrastructure and people — with a focus on collective improvement. Launching the Home for All Initiative this past fall continues this communitywide collaborative work. The momentum of the task force is now channeled into the Home For All initiative, providing a toolkit of strategies and implementation assistance where possible.
Our Board of Supervisors has allocated more than $60 million in Measure A (now Measure K) tax dollars for housing projects recognizing the urgency of the situation. More will be allocated in the coming year. Similarly, we created the Housing Preservation Fund to make dollars more quickly available to developers to purchase and preserve affordable rental housing. The recent $5.9 million loan to MidPen Housing for a 55-unit apartment building in Redwood City came from this fund. We also passed a housing impact fee committing half of the fees to HEART, or the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust, to launch affordable housing projects. A Housing Innovation Fund was seeded to research and pilot creative housing solutions, like tiny homes and a universal template for second units.
Even so, the county can’t solve the housing crisis alone. Nor can we ignore our other safety net responsibilities. That’s why Facebook’s news was so heartening.
Facebook calls San Mateo County home. It is rolling up its sleeves to do what it takes to make things better not just for their own business, but for the greater community.
Facebook, a member of Home For All, is tackling these issues in a regional way, cutting across jurisdictions and through the boundaries between government, nonprofit and private sectors. My hope is that Facebook’s headline-making news will encourage other companies to follow suit. Join Home for All and work on housing and transportation solutions

July 24, 2016

Finding Innovation in the Public Sector

MANY PUBLIC Sector leaders I know are constantly on the look out for great ideas. For innovative ideas. For ideas that can improve quality of life for their communities.

Andy Feldman's GovInnovator is one resource that shouldn't be overlooked. It's tag line is "insights for results-focused public leaders."

The site is packed with Podcasts on various topics like, "How the State of Mississippi uses evidence based budgeting to increase return on investment," "Raising job quality and skills for American workers through more effective education and workforce development," and "Using school-based health centers to address the health needs of low-income youth."

If you're looking for insight and innovation - check out GovInnovator.

Mr. Feldman can also be found on Twitter @AndyFeldman.

July 23, 2016

San Mateo County Board of Supervisors July 26, 2016 Meeting

THE NEXT San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting starts at 9:00 AM on July 26. Meetings are held in the board chambers located at 400 County Center, Redwood City. The agenda for the meetings includes an item that would approve ballot language for the extension of the county's 1/2 cent sales tax.

Go here to check out the agenda.

July 4, 2016

Celebrate Independence Day

THE FIRST "leave movement" began on July 4, 1776 when a group of 56 citizens from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence. As we enjoy backyard BBQs, parades and fire works - let's remember the founding spirit of our nation and all the good it represents.

March 19, 2016

Citizenship Workshop in East Palo Alto

TODAY MY OFFICE held a free Citizenship Workshop at the Costano School & 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto. Hundreds of folks showed up this morning to start the paperwork process to become citizens.

My heartfelt thanks go out to our partner organizations and sponsors because they really helped make this a successful event. Around 40 volunteer lawyers assisted attendees through the process and one of the best parts of today's event was that the $650 fee to process citizenship applications was waived.

Also, a big thank you to Dr. Hernandez-Goff, the Ravenswood School District Superintendent, for allowing us to use the Costano School. It worked out perfectly. We used several classrooms as screening areas and the huge gymnasium was filled with processing stations and volunteers.

This event is the third of its kind in San Mateo County. The first citizenship seminar was held in Daly City with Redwood City being the second location. Just like today, several hundred people showed up at the first two workshops.

A huge shout out to all the volunteers who showed up at 7:30 AM to help the people of our communities.

I am so proud that we were able to organize the Citizenship Workshop and have a hand at making life better for people.

Pretty amazing!





No Electronic Billboards on Highway 280


BILLBOARDS ON 280 - No Way!
Interstate 280 is designated as a scenic corridor and therefore - off limits! It is one of the most beautiful transportation corridors and we would never do anything to change that.
The County of San Mateo is considering a feasibility study of potential sites for electronic billboards - and ONLY looking at areas where billboards currently exist near Highway 101.
The Board of Supervisors must still approve the contract for a feasibility study, and, if one or more sites are deemed feasible, make all decisions regarding any potential project.
Ongoing revenue from a possible electronic billboard can be used to pay the capital and ongoing operating costs of projects that benefit our community like the Devil’s Slide Trail and the addition over recent years of about 200 acres to the Parks System.

March 12, 2016

San Mateo County Joins 118 Cities and Counties to File Amicus Brief

AS PART OF Cities for Action, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors joins a broad coalition of cities and counties that are filing a friend-of-the-court or amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas today, urging the Court to overturn a lower court’s decision that blocked President Obama’s executive action on immigration and allow it to move forward.   

The brief, signed by 118 cities and counties representing 35 states, argues that the nationwide injunction blocking implementation of the President’s executive action on immigration should be reversed because it does not consider the harm the injunction imposes on local jurisdictions when it places millions of families in cities and counties at economic and personal risk.   

Locally, six Bay Area counties have signed on to the amicus brief, including San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Santa Clara, Sonoma and San Mateo Counties along with the major municipalities of San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento.   

On Feb. 25, 2016, in closed session to discuss personnel and legal matters, San Mateo County supervisors voted unanimously to join other local governments in support of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. Both programs were created by executive order but were later successfully challenged in court by the state of Texas (joined by 25 other states).  

Together, these two programs provide relief from deportation to about 4 million undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since 2010 with children who are citizens or permanent residents or who came to the United States as children and meet certain educational requirements.   

Board President Supervisor Warren Slocum requested that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors join this action. “It’s rare that our Board weighs in on a Supreme Court brief, but this will have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of 24,000 San Mateo County residents,” Slocum said. “These residents are largely voiceless. It is up to us to express our support for these programs that bring stability to the lives of children and families and strengthen the local economy in our County.”   

Statistics published by the Migration Policy Institute located in Washington D.C. indicate that there are about 16,000 people in San Mateo County that are eligible for the DAPA program and another 8,000 for the DACA program.  

The Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments in the United States v. Texas case beginning April 18, 2016, and likely render a decision in early June. 

February 21, 2016

Helping Veterans in San Mateo County


DURING MY TENURE on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, one of my focus areas has been veterans. You might not know it but approximately 33,000 vets live in our county and it goes without saying that we owe them a great deal.

Much work is going on behalf of Peninsula veterans and I would like to share a few of those initiatives with you.

One of my first pieces of legislation on the board was to create an eleven person Veterans Commission. The board is comprised of men and women from throughout the county and from the various military services. Their mission is to create a more coordinated service delivery system for former military personnel and their families. The commission is currently focused on creating bylaws, a strategic plan and determining their priorities.

Next, a Vet Connect space was created in the East Palo Alto Library. While the area is physically small, it will have a big impact. It will serve as a resource center for veterans. Staff are available to answer VA related questions. Eventually I would like to add teleconferencing capabilities to the center so that a veteran could communicate directly with a Veterans Service Officer at the county vet office in Belmont - thereby saving time and money for the vet.

A little more than four years ago, a group of people came together to envision a homeless veteran housing unit that was to be built on the campus of the Menlo Park VA. Thanks to the hard work and focus of CORE builders, the VA, the City of Menlo Park, San Mateo County and a host of others, the 60 units of housing have been built and vets have moved in to their new homes. The site's architecture, its furnishings and amenities are truly amazing and the veterans who have moved in can't stop talking about how great the development is.

And finally, on January 5th, I had the honor of being voted President of the Board of Supervisors by my colleagues. I spoke about vets in my speech that night and I set a bold goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2016.

January 17, 2016

Warren Slocum Provides Roadmap for First Term as President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors


FOURTH DISTRICT SUPERVISOR Warren Slocum recently began his first term as president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, and has outlined several challenges he says the county should tackle in the coming months and years.

Those include the housing crisis, homelessness among veterans, and flooding exacerbated by sea-level rise.

And to help alleviate chronic traffic congestion, Slocum supports a hypothetical project that would create a new commuter rail line crossing the Bay, from the Peninsula to Alameda County.

The county has already made progress when it comes to housing homeless veterans, Slocum said. A housing development for homeless vets was recently constructed on the Veterans Administration’s Menlo Park campus, the supervisor noted, adding the “gorgeous” 63-unit apartment complex went from planning to completion in just three years.

Slocum says 2016 should be the year San Mateo County ends homelessness among veterans. While a precise count is pending, the supervisor estimates there are about 125 homeless vets currently on the Peninsula, and he says getting that number down to zero is a readily attainable goal. “I served in the Army in Vietnam, and that experience has been with me ever since,” Slocum said, “I always wanted to give back something to my fellow vets.”

Addressing the eviction epidemic and housing crisis affecting middle class and low-income Peninsula residents might be a bigger challenge. Supervisor Dave Pine has previously broached the idea of enacting a just-cause eviction policy for the unincorporated areas the county has direct authority over, but powerful landlord and Realtor groups have recently succeeded in squashing such measures at the city level.

Slocum acknowledged passing rent stabilization or anti-eviction ordinances might be “an uphill battle.” And while the supervisor has not taken a position on such measures, he said lawmakers must come up with some solutions soon.

“I’m with Dave Pine in that we need to do something,” Slocum noted.

The need to upgrade water and flood-control infrastructure might be less controversial, but as flooding becomes more frequent and severe on the Peninsula, the county could face challenges paying for the needed upgrades, Slocum said.

The Board of Supervisors might hire consultants next month to study the issue, Slocum noted, but the county’s flood control district is poorly funded.

The proposed study should provide a way forward, however, and the consultants will likely help the county identify possible funding sources, Slocum said.

Slocum’s most ambitious vision might be the creation of a new railroad that would link the East Bay to the Peninsula, via a bridge across the Bay. The bridge already exists. Just south of the Dumbarton Bridge, the Dumbarton Rail Bridge was built in 1910, and used by freight trains until the 1980’s.

The cost of restoring the bridge and tracks to serviceable condition would be significant, Slocum said, but the proposed rail line would connect BART stations in the East Bay to Caltrain stations on the Peninsula, and the resulting reduction in automobile trips might justify the expense.

“Everywhere I go, there’s more and more traffic, and I don’t see it changing,” Slocum noted.

The new rail service would run close to Facebook’s headquarters, and the social media giant has donated $1 million to a study of the concept, Slocum said.

The proposed service would likely be a public-private partnership, using light rail vehicles similar to Muni’s streetcars, Slocum noted, adding that a private train operator from Europe has shown interest in the project, saying he believes the proposal is feasible.

Note: Article Published in SF Examiner, January 16, 2016. Written by Brendan P. Bartholomew.
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