On April 28th, 2020, the City of San Mateo Planning Commission held an online study session looking for community feedback on a proposed project that would bring 225 affordable housing units to the downtown area. I wrote a letter explaining why the project would increase the city’s resilience capacity towards climate change.
To the City and Community of San Mateo,
My name is Isaac Gendler. I am a Housing-Climate Resilience Researcher whose work is focused on the San Francisco Bay Area. It has recently come to my attention that Downtown San Mateo may soon be a host to a 100% affordable unit project at 480 E. 4th Avenue and 400 E. 5th Avenue. The geographical positioning of the venture would simultaneously make the city a more just, equitable, and climate-resilient place to live for all.
According to Zillow, the median home value in San Mateo is $1,467,184 and the median rent is $3,357. Given that the minimum wage of the city is $15.38, the cost of living is simply out of reach for many people who would be potential upstanding residents. If the proposed project is constructed according to its current specifications, it will contain 225 units of 100% affordable housing, half of which are designated as low and extremely-low income units. This will allow workers and their families of all backgrounds to enjoy the full benefits of living in the city. A city with ample greenery, clean air, and the most comfortable weather in the world.
Not only would this project provide a phenomenal quality of life and a plethora of economic opportunities for these potential residents, but also insulate them from the effects of climate change. If constructed, this project would provide dense transit-oriented housing in a location that would be safe from the ill effects of sea-level rise. In fact, even the most dire climate models predict that by the year 2100 the site will not be negatively impacted. It would also be a secure distance from the wildland-urban interface, ensuring that residents would be spared from wildfires. The units will be constructed to the most current building codes guaranteeing a safe indoor environment to counteract a hazardous outdoor environment, such as wildfire smoke or a global pandemic.
It is understandable that some residents are concerned and hesitant about these changes. The height of the buildings is above the average San Mateo home, and the architecture may be seen as unfamiliar. However, at this moment we must consider what San Mateo could lose if this project is downsized or even terminated. The city would lose residents to other towns that will most likely not have access to the same level of provided services. They may be forced to super commute over an hour to work, leading to great financial, psychological, and physiological stress. If San Mateo strives to be a champion of equity and environmental management, this project would be a pragmatic and forward-thinking avenue to pursue.
I endorse this project for the economic and environmental benefits it will bring to both the current and future community of San Mateo. Maps of the project’s positioning against sea-level rise and wildfires can be seen below.
Thank you for your time.
200 cm sea-level rise map of San Mateo. The location of the project can be seen on the yellow pointer. Mapping courtesy of Our Coast, Our Future (link).
Wildland-Urban Interface map of San Mateo. The location of the project can be seen on the black dot. Mapping courtesy of Los Padres ForestWatch (link).
Header image credit https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/