Monthly Archives: January 2015

Economic Development Moves to the Front Burner

Yesterday we had our first budget study session and as part of our discussion, we unanimously decided to hold the first detailed study session to flesh out our long term vision by holding a public hearing on economic development. I was greatly encouraged to see that all the members of the Council believe this to be one of the most important long term issues for our City.  The public study session will be held on Monday, March 9 April 13 starting at 6:30 p.m. at Council Chambers. Hope to see many of you there.

Upcoming Issues

This afternoon we will be having a closed session as we commence the process to look for a replacement for our City Manager, Jim Hardy. This is a bittersweet process for us all as Jim has been running the City for a long time. What is most important is that we do this right, not quickly, and I am pretty confident that we will come to the correct result.

The regular meeting, which starts as 6:30, has some significant issues for our future. One item on the agenda is the approval of the letter of intent between the City and Illumina, Inc. for a new campus at the far end of Third. I am hopeful that this will be a win-win for us and for Illumina.

Also on the agenda is the hiring of CH2M Hill to act as the project manager for the upcoming 20 year wastewater treatment plant modifications and improvements.  We are partners in our wastewater treatment plant with San Mateo and we will, in the coming years, be updating the plant and hopefully generating some recycled water that we can use in the City for irrigation.  I have also talked to some folks in Redwood City in the hope that we could use some of their recycled water on the other side of the City for similar use.  It is something we will be exploring further this year.

Next Monday, starting at 4:00, we will be holding our first Budget Study Session. The review, modification and approval of the budget is probably the most important thing we do every year.  If you want to learn more about it, come meet with us next week.

On the 2nd of February we will be looking at the Housing Element of the City’s General Plan.  I know that many of you are concerned about continued housing growth, so this would be a good meeting to come to and learn more about the process and give us your feedback.

On the 23rd of February we will see a return of the Marina Project.  I hope you will all come out for that as well.

If you haven’t made a new year’s resolution yet, make one to get more involved.  This will be an election year for Foster City, with a majority of the seats on the Council open for election, including one open seat vacated by Art Kiesel who will be termed out. In addition, there may be a school bond on the ballot and I am sure that the state will have other issues of interest for us to decide.

A Shining Example

Yesterday at the meeting of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission made a presentation about the current state of the drought. I was extremely pleased to see that Foster City (Estero Municipal Improvement District) was tied for second best for water conservation on a per capita basis for the entire 9 County Bay Area Region this past November.  Thank you all for helping to make this happen and for being leaders in this area.  We are still in a drought and every drop you save today will be available for us tomorrow.  Great job Foster City!!

Another Quick Note on the Marina Project

Yesterday, the Foster City City Counsel held its annual Team Building meeting.  Among the things accomplished was a decision by the Council to bring the Marina project back for a second public hearing to get further public and Council comments.  The date has not yet been set, but that should happen soon.  UPDATE – The meeting on the marina project will be on February 23, 6:30 p.m. at Council Chambers.

A Planned Community But What’s The Plan

[This will appear as my Council Corner on January 14]

The mantra in Foster City is “We are a planned community.” While technically that is correct, the question presenting itself recently is “What is the Plan?”

Back in the 1960s when the first homes started to come on line in Foster City, the plan was to build housing, schools, parks, small neighbourhood shopping areas and add a bit of business on the other side of 92. A great plan that has given us a great City.  Today, however, we live in an Internet shopping world, in the middle of booming Silicon Valley with not enough schools for our children.  Thus, the initial plan to build and grow was great, but it no longer works and we need a new plan. The problem is that we seem to be stalled.

Last November 6, towards the end of my term as your mayor, we held the first ever long term visioning meeting among the Council.  As then vice-mayor Art Kiesel said, this was the first meeting where we ever looked beyond five years and into the long term future.  What came out of that meeting were seven key priority issues:

  1. High Quality Education
  2. Economic Development
  3. Transportation
  4. Managed Growth
  5. Regional Influence
  6. Environmental Responsibility
  7. Adapting to Meet the Needs of a Changing Community

Education – So what are we doing about education?  I suggested to the Council that while we are not the School District, a quality school system with ample resources is key to our City’s long term viability and so we had money and land and we could use that money and land to help our students get that quality education.  While I have no particular use in mind, I think that we need to study this issue, get public input and determine as a City what we can and should do to help to provide a quality education at great schools. So far, however, we continue to take a back seat.

Economic Development. I have gone on and on about this, but the fact is that since last March, when a majority of the Council voted not to fund the Plan, economic development has, other than in a few areas, stalled.  In my opinion there is nothing more critical than to find new revenue sources so that we no longer need to rely on growth.  I can tell you that just yesterday it took me an hour and twenty minutes to get home from Palo Alto, the last thirty minutes of which was getting from 101 and Ralston to my house.  HELP!!!

Transportation – Last year we also approved a weekday shuttle to bring employees from our businesses into our shopping centers and restaurants.  That was supposed to be operational this month but a snafu in the routes has delayed implementation.  The real transportation problem, however, is much broader.  We have no real public transportation options going east and west, they only go north and south.  Since we do not live on the transit corridor, we are left stranded.  We need to have a greater voice in this and we need it soon.

Managed Growth – Last year we implemented a process to get better public input on new projects and the residents made it quite clear that they wanted to limit housing growth due to its impact.  Nonetheless, the proponents of the Marina project have resubmitted their plan to our Planning Department.  At the Council meeting last week I asked that the issue come back before the Council for another public hearing, a notion seconded by Councilmember Perez.  I have since asked that it be set on the January 20th meeting.  I do not yet know if that will happen, but I will keep pushing it to happen.  If you want it to happen, email the rest of the Council.  They cannot tell you their position on the substative issues, but they can tell you whether they want another public hearing or not.

As I have said many times, we are at a crossroads and we need to come up with a new and modern plan for the long term future of our City.  I hope to see many of you get involved with that.  It is critically important.

A Brief Note About The Marina Project

A short while ago I received notice from our Development Director that the developer of what is known as the Marina Project has resubmitted an application.  I responded to that notice asking that the matter come again before the City Council for a public hearing because based on what I understand are some minor changes, the plan is much the same and I think that another public hearing is therefore necessary. If you agree, I would appreciate your emailing the remainder of the Council and telling them that you want another public hearing before the project begins the planning process.  Their emails are akiesel@fostercity.org, gpollard@fostercity.org, sokamoto@fostercity.org and hperez@fostercity.org.  Thanks.

The Year in Review – Corrected

Happy New Year to you all.

This week’s Foster City Islander contains a very long article entitled “The Year in Review.” I have no interest in antagonizing anyone, but there are a few significant factual errors in the article and so I think it is important to the residents and businesses of Foster City to set the record straight.

The Gatekeeper Ordinance Was Not The Result Of Any Dissatisfaction with the Planning Commission – In 2014 we passed a law that provides for a public hearing before the City Council for any project that would require a change in zoning or land use designation. I can say with absolute certainty that the reason for the ordinance was not any dissatisfaction with the Planning Commission. The reason for the ordinance was to provide a way for the public and the City Council to weigh in on significant land use changes as the first step in the process rather than after the property owner has invested large amounts of money and time. As the primary advocate for this process I can tell you that I heard from many people who felt that by the time a new project came to the Council, they felt it was a “done deal.” By flipping the process on its head and starting with a public hearing, we gave the public and the City Council a chance to really have their opions heard.  In just a few months this year, we heard five projects and the public was very strong in turning out and giving us their opinion. The Council now understands how the residents of Foster City feel about further housing development and can act accordingly.  A major success I would say.

Sustainable Foster City Is Not Dead – In February of 2014 the City Council unanimously approved the Sustainable Foster City Economic Development Plan.  It is the first economic development plan ever considered or passed in Foster City.  It was the result of two years work by a committee of eight, including myself, Councilmember Herb Perez, and City Manager Jim Hardy. Because it was our first economic development plan we wanted to start modestly and the proposal was to hire the Foster City Chamber of Commerce to do much of the intial legwork.  When the proposal to fund that effort came before the Council in March, some felt that there was not sufficient details to understand what the City would be getting from the Chamber so the funding was, by a 3 – 2 vote, not approved.  However, the Plan itself is still in place and this year I expect there will be studies done to come up with an alternative implementation stategy, likely the hiring of an economic development director or manager. The Plan however, can be seen alive and moving forward on a daily basis in much of what we are doing. It is in our Climate Action Plan, It is in the new solar panels going onto the library roof. It is in the solar plans and programs that are being implemented with Foster City as the lead but on a County-wide basis. It is in the consideration of loans to HOAs to provide separate water meters to each unit. It is going on all around us and so long as I sit on the Council it will never be dead.

There Is No Brain Drain – When I first started my tenure on the City Council all of the then-current deparment heads were people who had been working for Foster City for decades.  Between 2009 and 2013 (prior to 2014) we replaced the Development Director, Public Works Director, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Assistant City Manager, Finance Director, and City Clerk. Last year, 2014, we lost our Assistant City Manger, who went to Milbrae and is now moving out of State and our Public Works Director, who was on the job for only about eighteen months. Yes, that is a lot of key people to replace, but it was not something that started in 2014 and our City Manager, Jim Hardy, has managed the transitions so that to most residents and businesses they are invisible.  Our staff continues to provide stellar service in a friendly manner and I do not see that changing ever.