New report offers tips for tackling Peninsula's two biggest headaches


Consider the following statistics, released June 14 in a report jointly authored by TransForm, an Oakland-based nonprofit that says it supports "systemic changes in transportation and land use that simultaneously address climate change and inequality," and the San Mateo County Housing Leadership Council, a San Mateo-based nonprofit focused on supporting housing development and affordability for residents and workers in the county.

Since 2010, congestion-related traffic delays in the region have gotten 80 percent longer, says the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Locally, more than 20 percent of people out of 338 who participated in a survey who work near El Camino Real and around Caltrain stations from Palo Alto to San Bruno said they had quit or lost a job because it was hard to get to work. Forty percent of the people who commute to San Mateo County from another county make less than $50,000 annually. And between now and 2024, it's expected that almost half of the new jobs created in the county will pay less than $65,000 a year, with the bulk of those paying under $30,000.

At the same time, it's estimated that people need to earn an annual income of $118,800 to afford to rent the average two-bedroom apartment in San Mateo County. As of April 2018, the median single-family home in San Mateo County cost $1.6 million. To buy that home, a household would need to earn $383,000 a year. To buy a median condo, the report says, a household would need to earn $225,000 a year.

The report, called "Moving San Mateo County Forward: Housing and Transit at a Crossroads," culls data from a wide range of sources and tells the not new, but increasingly nuanced, tale of how the Peninsula's twin problems – a stunted, costly housing supply and jam-packed roads triggered by major job growth in the area – are inextricably linked. The report also includes recommendations for what regional authorities and local jurisdictions should do to address those problems simultaneously.

Evelyn Stivers, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council, says that because the problems of traffic and housing are so linked, policymakers should also take this into account.

"We could spend billions on transportation and actually have traffic get worse if we don't build enough affordable homes," she said in an interview.

"The goal overall is to think about transportation and housing holistically."


The report's release comes at a time when the county is considering bringing a half-cent transportation sales tax before voters on the November ballot, and includes some ideas for how that money might be spent. One policy recommendation is to distribute that new county transportation money, if approved, to cities based on their past track records in approving affordable housing.

The county could also take steps to support affordable housing development in areas where infrastructure enables car-free mobility -- places where there's public transportation, pedestrian and bike-friendly areas, and proximity to jobs and shopping.

The report's authors also recommend the county put at least 10 percent of the funding in the measure toward improving infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, and to continue or increase its support for affordable housing.

The report also states that the county could set as its transportation priorities the following: increasing funding for SamTrans services; supporting new signals or lanes that let buses move faster than regular traffic; making fare more affordable for low-income service workers; and improving the speed, frequency and reliability of existing transit services.

People use public transit when it exists and is convenient, the report's authors assert. They say that, according to a report by the American Public Transport Association, ridership increased 25 percent in two years after Caltrain launched its baby bullet express service in 2004. Ridership is now 150 percent greater than it was in 2004.

But solutions don't just lie with the county, the report asserts.

Transit agencies like Caltrain can prioritize affordable housing for their properties, which could change how those sites are developed over time. They recommend that 25 percent of any housing developments permitted on Caltrain property be designated for rent at below the market rate.

Cities can adopt land-use policies that support housing affordability near transit, Stivers said, noting that cities generally tend to have more power over land use than traffic and transportation. The report recommends cities adopt impact fees and inclusionary housing, both of which Menlo Park has; streamline the approval process for backyard housing units; and create policies that protect people from getting displaced from their communities.

"Housing policy is transportation policy," Stivers said. "Separating them doesn't get the results we need."


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2 people like this
Posted by maddog49
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:48 pm

1 OF 2 -- It is useless to set Climate Change and Inequality as goals, especially local goals.

Did you not notice that large volcanoes have erupted in 3 COUNTRIES within just a few weeks? Hawaii (U.S.), Colombia and Ecuador... Why don't any of you wonder if volcanic activity isn't the real reason that we're seeing erratic weather patterns? Volcanic eruptions don't just suddenly happen. The lava builds up for years underground. Did you know that Los Angeles has gone from a dry humidity region to a frequently humid region, with periods of dryness?

Has anybody been sunburned on a cloudy day, this month? That is due to Greenhouse Effect. It used to be that U.C. Berkeley's Mechanical Engineering Department taught that a gas must be a CONTINUUM (molecules push against each other) in order for the gas to affect radiative heat transfer. There are only 4 molecules of carbon dioxide gas per 10,000 air molecules. Heat photons just shoot between the carbon dioxide molecules, thus there is no Greenhouse Effect. Photons mostly hit nitrogen and oxygen molecules, which are both weak heat absorbers. On a net basis, heat would escape into outer space. But clouds are made of liquid water droplets and solid dust particles. They are quite capable of capturing heat photons, hence sunburn on a cloudy day. U.C. Berkeley no longer teaches the above mentioned lesson about gases. This is DESTRUCTION OF ACADEMIC KNOWLEDGE.

Do you know why the ice core samples (carbon dioxide concentration) correlate with tree ring data (temperature history)? The underlying mechanism which climatologists NEVER STUDY is basic chemistry: Every natural gas vapor reacts with oxygen when heat is sensed (as when the sun rises), creating carbon dioxide gas and water vapor. There is thus always more carbon dioxide gas when it is warmer! The cause and effect taught by Global Warmists is BACKWARDS. In contrast, there is no physical mechanism for very-widely spaced carbon dioxide molecules to capture heat photons.

The climate is always changing. The logical cause of recent decades is volcanic activity, which we now know is abundant.

4 people like this
Posted by maddog49
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2018 at 2:16 pm

2 OF 2 -- The reason that Democrat-solutions for solving social problems with money have never worked is a fundamental economic reason. When government subsidizes something, more dollars are made to chase after goods or services, which inherently drives prices up.

We need economic BALANCE with regards to supply and demand. We need sound money that keeps its value.

We need an economy based on having workers make desired goods for each other. Instead, we produce service that, by definition, can't be stockpiled; or service that the payer doesn't want (overhead and bureaucracy), or goods that ordinary people can't take home (weapons systems, large jet planes, infrastructure). We make foreigners rich by importing so many goods.

No affordable housing program can make housing affordable for more than a chosen few. The cause of ever-rising prices is Fed "money printing," which makes the dollars you hold LOSE VALUE day after day.

Picture a man who sees the water line for his toilet tank leaking. He shouts to his wife to get the bucket, get the mop, get all the old towels. The couple exhausts themselves mopping up the flooded floor, but neither of them TURNS OFF THE WATER MAIN. This is what an affordable housing program is like. The flooding continues as along as the Fed "prints money" out of thin air.

Why does the Fed "print money?" It must keep interest rates fairly low to protect the federal government from too-large interest payments on the National Debt, $21 trillion and counting. You and I are at fault, too, though. When we borrow money via credit cards, home mortgages, auto loans or student loans, where does the upfront money come from? Fed "money printing!" Have you heard that the Gross Domestic Product is 70% consumer spending? Equating spending with economic growth is a fool's errand. We are kidding ourselves about prosperity when all we do is spend more borrowed money, then declare the GDP has gone up. No president, regardless of party, cares that the country is killing itself with debt.

Every affordable housing program offers increased bureaucracy and price-driving subsidies. The programs may induce increased Fed "money printing" for funding. When you see the situation get worse, please refer back to this message to see why.

6 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:12 am

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

Thank you Kate for this timely and helpful article, and the link to the report. The Housing Leadership Council is a reputable local organization with competent and compassionate leadership. Based on the organization's excellent reputation and projects taken on/advocated for, I have every confidence that the report will help inform my thinking as a thoughtful, responsible member of my local democracy.

6 people like this
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:22 am

Thanks for the article. Odd it always brings out the fringe who disagree with 97% of scientists, on behalf of Exxon and the extraction industries.

"The climate is always changing. The logical cause of recent decades is volcanic activity, which we now know is abundant."

Wow. Just, wow. Science needs this guys help, 'cuz he recently discovered this new thing called "volcanoes".

"we now know" about VOLCANOES!!

Again, great job on the article about an important report.

6 people like this
Posted by Same Old Nonsense
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:34 am

@VOLCANOES -- You have to realize that there is an army of bought-and-paid-for trolls whose sole purpose in life is to put up nonsense on discussion boards like this.

If there were a way to shut them all down, we could actually have substantive discussions. Alas, right now, that isn't the case.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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