PAS • SAGE

  • Local Housing for Local Jobs

Support housing, support transportation

By Robert Whitehair
Sep 30, 2019

There simply aren’t enough affordable housing options available to seniors, teachers, nurses and working families, overwhelmed by the skyrocketing cost of living.

Job growth continues to soar, while low- and middle-income families struggle to make ends meet. Since 2000, median rent in San Mateo County increased 21%; at the same time, household income among renters actually dropped 3%.

In San Mateo County between 2010 and 2014, 55,000 jobs were created, but only 2,100 homes were built. Statewide, the California Department of Housing and Community Development determined that our state must build 180,000 new units of housing annually by 2025 to keep up with anticipated demand. In California, however, we’re annually building only 80,000 new housing units.

Passage at San Mateo will be located at the site of the current Concar Shopping Center in San Mateo. It will add 109 much-needed new affordable housing units, with 36 available for families with moderate incomes and 73 for families with lower incomes.

This project makes a major dent in San Mateo’s overall housing shortfall. A report published by Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, jointly with TransForm determined that a key method in addressing regional housing shortfalls was to build affordable housing near transit. Passage at San Mateo creates more than 900 new units of housing located within easy walking distance of 5,000 jobs and connections to SamTrans and Caltrain.

The Bay Area transportation and traffic crisis is the equally pressing need facing our community. Shortage of affordable housing makes it challenging or impossible for many families — counting my two sons who grew up in San Mateo — to live in the Bay Area. This forces many people to leave, or drive incredibly long, horribly congested and tortuous commutes.

Near the proposed Passage location, Station Park Green’s 600 apartments are almost complete. At the former AAA office site, 73 more units are underway; preapplication has been submitted for 189 units at Hayward Park Station. All this means more than 1,800 new residences near the intersection of Concar Drive at Delaware Street. These units, along with the affordable units provided in each development, are welcome improvements in the housing and transportation crises.

But these 1,800 new homes coupled with two new office buildings now occupied nearby will cause significant traffic and parking impacts on nearby neighborhoods and streets. The Highway 101/State Route 92 interchange nearby is already one of the most congested in the Bay Area.

While not rushing too quickly to approve Passage’s needed new housing, all eyes will be on how its builder intends to address major issues identified in the environmental review. Nearby residents and all citizens of San Mateo will be keenly watching the breadth and depth of the proposed traffic, parking and transportation “mitigation” recommendations.

My wife and I returned last year to our San Mateo home after nine years in small apartments in Queens New York, and Southern California. We benefited in our buildings from how New York and Southern California effectively provide affordable housing in apartments that are economically, professionally and ethnically diverse. We saw how New York and even Southern California work hard to provide adequate and easily available public transportation, while resolving traffic and neighborhood parking problems. I believe that the Planning Commission has a mandate to do likewise here in San Mateo.

There is no quick solution to solving our affordability and transportation/traffic crises, but Passage at San Mateo along with the other great projects in the city’s pipeline, moves San Mateo in the right direction, providing affordable housing and congestion relief to the members of our community who need it the most.

I urge the San Mateo Planning Commission to approve Passage at San Mateo with its affordable housing and hopefully robust traffic, parking and transportation solutions. The project brings new housing to San Mateo and I ask that the builder use sound environmental methodologies to reduce traffic and our carbon footprint.

To learn more about the project, visit: PassageSM.com.

Robert Whitehair of San Mateo is a member of Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County and has been active in his community for more than 45 years, in New York and in Southern and Northern California. He is retired from a senior management career in both the public and private sectors.