State, local leaders dispute over traffic, tax issues

Traffic, taxes and housing in Belmont are being watched both by local leaders and state representatives, as both groups try to help the area grow in a sustainable, manageable fashion.

But the means to that end are where differences lie, as presented at last night’s public discussion between the Belmont City Council and Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.

“We have to go back to the larger public policy that’s going on in the state,” Yee said. “The question is, ‘How do we do more with less? How do we grow the state without breaking the infrastructure?’”

“Local control,” is Mayor Coralin Feierbach’s goal, including local control over the amount of affordable housing built in Belmont and control over the look of El Camino Real as it stretches through the city.

“I am really opposed to the state telling them how much housing has to be put in the city,” Feierbach. “We have done our fair share in the past.”

According to a 2006 report card issued by the Bay Area Council on the housing needs of the area, Belmont received a “B-” after producing approximately 82 percent of the 306 additional housing units it had to produce between 1999 and 2005 to match city growth.

Chris Mohr, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, said that Belmont needs to work with other Peninsula cities to plan the development of more housing, because much of its “affordable” stock is targeted at seniors and the disabled, with few units for residents who are simply low-income.

Yee said he is sympathetic to Belmont’s opinions on its housing supply, but wants to work with the council to improve it. “Belmont has been one of those cities that has argued that they can’t take these kinds of additional impacts,” Yee said. “This is not about getting out of their obligation, but rather how to meet their obligation and be responsible to the community.”

And although Feierbach said she would like to see control of El Camino Real turned over to the individual cities it runs through, in order to facilitate improvements by removing state review requirements, Yee said there is little chance it will happen.

“It is a state highway, we need to maintain control of that, so we don’t lose options as to what we’re going to do to deal with the congestion along Highway 101,” he said. “Many individuals are using El Camino as a relief arterial.”

jgoldman@examiner.com

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