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.