Peninsula cities disagree on housing-quota issue

Despite joining hands to share the burden of building up to 18,000 new housing units countywide, some San Mateo County cities are showing signs of discord about the new cooperative experiment.

Local cities becamethe first in California to take advantage of new housing laws that allow jurisdictions to work together to share housing quotas. Now, as they determine the exact formula by which the region’s housing needs will be determined, some cities are opposing that formula.

Roughly every seven years, the Association of Bay Area Governments creates recommendations for the construction of new housing. New numbers, due later this month, will be based for the first time on a number of weighted factors: 40 percent on a city’s household growth, 20 percent on existing employment, 20 percent on employment growth, 10 percent on job growth near transit and 10 percent on housing growth near transit.

Although most local cities agreed with that formula, Millbrae, Colma and Belmont voted against it.

“It’s a noble idea to put housing close to transit, but … our issue is the fact that we have cemetery land within this area that can’t be developed,” said Andrea Ouse, planning director in Colma. “It does not consider the viability.”

But the cooperative process among San Mateo County cities is designed to alleviate the burden on cities like Colma in which space is short, and allows the group to negotiate for a slightly lower quota, said Rich Napier, director of the City/County Association of Governments.

“If they go directly to ABAG [for their quota] they’re going to get a higher number than what they will get from us,” Napier said. “I think the issues [from objecting cities] will be able to be addressed.”

While Millbrae’s opposing vote was an accident on the part of City Councilwoman Gina Papan, according to planner Ralph Petty, Belmont objects to the prospect of building so much housing when California is facing water shortages.

“We just got a notice from the Mid-Peninsula Water District saying we’re going to have a water shortage,” Belmont Mayor Coralin Feierbach said. “Meanwhile, cities arerequired to build housing — if we’re going to be restricted, how are we going to make up for that?”

ABAG is accepting input on the formula through May 17.

“They are more than seriously considered,” Cha said. “A lot of feedback goes into this process.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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