City to survey citizens in 2007

Residents can probably expect to be surveyed in the new year regarding what city improvements they would most like to see — and whether they’re willing to help pay for them.

San Mateo’s capital improvements program is partially responsible for plans to rebuild the police station, the renovation of library branches and the replacement of the main library, which was given a substantial boost from bond money. Now, officials are looking at the next slate of projects, including fire-station renovations, park upgrades and improvements aimed at reducing flood risks in some regions of the city.

The City Council will discuss future projects — and how to fund them — in a study session tonight.

“It is necessary to go to the voters for capital funding,” according to a report from Deputy City Manager Susan Loftus, who recommends a telephone survey in early 2007 to “gauge the level of support and priorities for these improvements.”

Identifying and prioritizing capital projects helps the city identify existing funding and locate new funds — either through bonds, assessments, grants or other means — to accomplish them. Changes in the economic climate, such as increased construction costs and the economic recession, created a significant funding gap in the last round of capital improvements, according to Loftus.

One major priority to many in San Mateo is upgrading water systems and levees to reduce neighborhood flood risks, estimated to cost $20.5 million for storm improvements required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or $73 million to prepare the entire city for a 100-year storm.

Surveys this year found that those living in FEMA-identified flood zones favored an assessment to raise money for improvements, particularly one that was citywide. A FEMA-only, citywide tax would cost property owners roughly $65 per home per year, while one that funds all city projects would cost $227 per home per year, according to city engineer Darla Reams.

“People who just moved in recently are paying more than $1,000 in flood insurance,” said Kathryn Suski, who lives in the North Shoreview neighborhood. “Like it’s not costly enough to live here.”

Dave Sharp, who lives in the Shoreview-Parkside neighborhood, said that if only certain neighborhoods are assessed, only those neighborhoods should benefit from flood improvements.

“If we’re going to pay for it, let it flood the other areas. And the city has said they don’t want to take it to other areas because they won’t vote for it,” Sharp said.

The City Council meets tonight at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 330 West 20th Ave.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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