San Mateo County officials join CASA discussion

Officials are seeking to assure San Mateo County is no longer overlooked when examining a transformative slate of bills and taxes designed to address affordability and transportation concerns.

County Supervisor Don Horsley, Burlingame Mayor Donna Colson and Brisbane Councilman Cliff Lentz were named last week to represent local communities on the CASA Legislative Task Force.

Those appointed said they plan to raise the county’s concerns, which to this point have they feel have largely been ignored by the collaborative initiative from regional agencies seeking to establish new land use policies financed by tax measures.

Horsley said he will work to dispel some of the myths held by officials from San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose who crafted the controversial CASA Compact without input from San Mateo County representatives.

“We are doing our part, but some of the big cities probably feel we are not doing enough,” said Horsley.

Colson too said she will work to promote the efforts of local communities to shrink the imbalance of jobs and housing.

“Cliff and I and Don are committed to making sure we have a really good interaction between the cities in the county and the county,” said Colson.

She suggested such collaboration has been lacking, as the compact was formulated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments without local representation.

Boards from each agency voted in favor of the compact, which is now headed to Sacramento as a package of land use bills and tax measures intended to promote transit-oriented development, tenants rights and other initiatives.

For her part, Colson said she intends to fight for the local control of cities which are attempting to address affordability issues in a fashion respectful of the prevailing community character.

“All our cities are trying to balance how to keep our good schools, or neighborhoods, and build new transit-oriented development while balancing the need to keep commercial businesses productive so we can get the continuous tax base to pay for schools and police,” she said. “It’s tricky.”

Ceding local control would strip the rights of those elected to address such matters in a deliberative manner, said Colson, who suggested regional or state officials are more likely to push for development without considering the impact.

“Overlay zoning won’t be able to curate that individual character that each city has,” she said.

Horsley, meanwhile, maintained a broader perspective on the compact’s intent, by simultaneously recognizing the concerns of local officials and also acknowledging the merits of the regional initiative.

Noting the affordability crunch facing many local residents, Horsley said he did support some elements of the compact which partially seeks to streamline housing development proposals.

He said innovative solutions will be required to assure communities across the Peninsula grow and thrive, in an attempt to stem the exodus of locals displaced by the cost of living.

“It’s going to take some new thinking to get out of it,” said Horsley, regarding the affordability crisis.

Both Colson and Horsley acknowledged the county’s Home For All initiative as a model program which they will point to when discussing the local work done to improve the housing crisis.

Beyond the specific solutions which can be identified through the compact, Horsley said he hopes through the task force to offer more insight highlighting the work being done on the Peninsula which aligns with the regional effort.

“I just think the cities of San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland think they are doing all the work in terms of housing and they think of San Mateo County as a no-growth county … But we have put a lot of housing units on the board,” he said.

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