Caltrain protesters push agency to pass affordable housing policy soon | November 6, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - November 6, 2019

Caltrain protesters push agency to pass affordable housing policy soon

by Kate Bradshaw

Clustered together on the crisp evening of Oct. 29, protesters gathered around the Menlo Park Caltrain Station with a specific goal: to push the board that governs Caltrain to enact an affordable housing policy.

The protest, led by the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, generated a crowd of roughly 30 people of all ages, many holding signs emphasizing that they're locals, such as "We are the community" and "We're already home."

Greenbelt Alliance and a coalition of housing organizations and service providers called "Home could be Here" also participated in the protest.

The action was in collaboration with StreetLife Ministries' usual twice-weekly dinner held at the station, so attendees who participated could also join the group's dinner.

According to the Housing Leadership Council, the Caltrain Board of Directors has been talking since 2016 about developing a "transit-oriented development" policy that would include an affordable housing requirement and would be used to guide decision-making around leasing or selling land the agency owns.

"Over the past two years, the number of people who are living without shelter has more than doubled in this area," said Leora Tanjuatco Ross, organizing director of the housing leadership council.

"Tonight, we're all standing together to talk about solutions. We need to build more homes.

"When we talk about homes, we're really talking about families, we're talking about birthday parties and (barbecues) and relaxing at the end of a long day."

Other transit agencies, such as BART and VTA, have already created such plans. BART's policy, adopted in 2016 and amended in August of this year, requires that no less than 20% of the total number of housing units on a property should be designated as below-market-rate, with priority for units that are intended for rent at the low- and very low-income levels, or for households earning under 80% of the area median income.

In 2016, VTA also adopted a requirement that 20% of the housing units at each development on its property be affordable to households earning 60% or less of the area median income.

Caltrain's board has hasn't been as quick to adopt such a policy as those other nearby transit agencies. According to documents from the agency's Work Program Legislative Planning Committee agenda from Sept. 25, as of now, the agency appears to be focused on developing a Rail Corridor Use Policy first, which will map out all of the agency's properties, evaluate what the zoning should be, and determine whether future capital projects should be developed at those sites in alignment with the agency's business plan, which is itself still a work in progress.

A transit-oriented development policy would build on the use policy map to assess potential opportunity sites for development projects, according to a staff report from the agency. Such a policy could be finalized in March 2020, according to the agency.

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