City of San Mateo Seeks Community Engagement for General Plan Update Effort

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By Meghan Hall

The City of San Mateo has recently been making strides toward updating its General Plan and has recently solidified the subcommittee that will oversee the plan’s update. The overhaul originally rose from residents’ concerns regarding the future of housing and traffic in one of the Bay Area’s fastest growing cities.

The City of San Mateo Vision 2030 General Plan is meant to be a comprehensive, long-term guide for the City’s commercial and residential growth. All California cities and counties are required by the state to have a general plan, which addresses a variety of topics such as conservation, land use, safety and noise.

“The General Plan is the primary policy document that represents the community’s long-term vision for [the] future and provides the framework or blueprint to guide future decisions regarding growth, sustainability and conservation over the next 20 years,” explained Klein.

The last comprehensive update of the San Mateo General Plan was completed in 1990, although the city’s Downtown Specific Plan was adopted in 2009 shortly after the market downtown began. According to Julia Klein, the principal planner for the General Plan update effort, the city’s goals have changed over the past ten years.

“In 2010, we were in the middle of the Great Recession, and some of the policies and programs were reflective of the community’s focus at that time,” said Klein. “In 2018, the environment is different, and we’re hearing community interest in coming together to address common issues and the importance of having a community planning process that is broad and inclusive.”

The General Plan Subcommittee had its first meeting at the end of September 2018 and elected its Chair, San Mateo Planning Commissioner and Board Member Ellen Mallory, and Vice-Chair, Adam Lorraine an employee for the City’s Sustainability and Infrastructure Commission, before opening the floor to public comments. Five other members, appointed by the City Council, serve on the subcommittee alongside Mallory and Lorraine.

City officials will host a second General Plan Subcommittee Meeting on October 16th at the San Mateo Garden Center to garner community input on issues such as economics, land use and traffic.

“Community feedback during the General Plan update effort is important and will help identify issues of major concern,” said Klein.

According to the City of San Mateo’s website, future iterations of the General Plan will strive to preserve and create additional housing stock as the Bay Area’s economy continues to grow. The protection of city landmarks, addition of park space and meeting established retail frontage requirements in the downtown core by encouraging the development of cultural and entertainment facilities are also part of the General Plan’s goals.

San Mateo is the second largest city in San Mateo County after Daly City and is expected to add more than 20,000 jobs between 2010 and 2040, a growth of approximately 39 percent. The City’s population is also expected grow nearly 30 percent in the coming years according to the Bay Area Governments (ABAG) research group.

Currently there are 11 projects under construction in San Mateo, which will deliver a combined total of 1,050 multi-family units, 386,507 feet of office space and 69,332 square feet of retail. An additional ten developments are working their way through the Pre-Application process, while another 14 projects have been approved by the city.

Currently, less than one percent of land within the City accounts for mixed-use developments, which include a combination of commercial, office and residential space. However, less than one percent of land within city limits is currently vacant, putting pressure on city officials and community members to work toward an efficient model for growth.

The city will continue garnering input from residents and community members while evaluating areas of major concern through technical analyses and reports. In addition to evaluating existing conditions and community outreach, the city is working on putting together a visioning document to guide the creation of future iterations of the update. A Community Vision Workshop is planned for November 3rd at the Central Park Recreation Center, where the city hopes to collect additional feedback after its second meeting next week.

“Our focus at this early stage is to reach out to community members and encourage everyone to participate,” said Klein.

Although Klein stressed that it is still early on in the process, the city hopes to complete the general plan update by March 2020.

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