Fee possible fix for housing crunch

With a projected 40 percent increase in jobs countywide by 2025, the question facing the city of San Mateo is: Where will all those workers live?

One answer coming from city officials is to force developers to help pay for housing.

The City Council and Planning Department are studying a proposal to adopt a commercial linkage fee — a $5 per square-foot fee on commercial developments that would go toward affordable housing programs. Only one other city in San Mateo CountyMenlo Park — has the fee, though it’s common elsewhere in the Bay Area.

Top on the list of the plan’s critics is the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s the opinion of the chamber that this will discourage development,” the chamber’s president and CEO Linda Asbury said. “And there are already many organizations working on housing.”

About $3.5 million will be available for affordable housing projects over the next five years, said Sandra Council, a senior management analyst in the Neighborhood Improvement and Housing Division. If the fee had been in place since 2000, the city would have collected about an additional $3 million in fees, she said.

Council pointed to the 800 people on the waiting list for affordable housing and rentals as proof that more must be done.

“A lot of working families cannot afford to live here. We’re not talking about people living off welfare, but working families,” she said.

The City Council is likely to be divided on the issue. Councilmember Jack Matthews said he’s open to the idea of a fee, arguing the city needs more workforce housing. But Mayor Carole Groom worried San Mateo might lose development if it became the second city in the county to impose the fee.

“I don’t think the commercial linkage fee should be done one city at a time,” she said. “If it was done countywide, then I might be a little more in favor of it.”

But Council pointed to a study of cities who adopted the fee that suggested there was no effect on the levels of commercial development afterward. Menlo Park, which imposed its fees more than a decade ago, charges up to $13.62 in fees for some developments, said its housing manager Douglas Frederick.

“There are a number of companies looking to build projects here, so I’m guessing it’s not putting them off too much,” he said.

kworth@examiner.com

businessBusiness & Real EstateLocal

Just Posted

A collaborative workspace for a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Coordinape is pictured at a recent blockchain meet up at Atlas Cafe. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Business without bosses: San Francisco innovators battle bureaucracy with blockchain

‘The next generation will work for three DAOs at the same time’

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
Plan Bay Area 2050: Analyzing an extensive regional plan that covers the next 30 years

Here are the big ticket proposals in the $1.4 trillion proposal

Pregnant women are in the high-risk category currently prioritized for booster shots in San Francisco. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Inoculations for immunosuppressed individuals are recommended in the second trimester

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

Most Read