Housing and Traffic and Schools, Oh My…

This is a preview of my Council Corner for this coming Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

We all remember Dorothy Gale walking down the yellow brick road with the Tin Man and Scarecrow and as they entered the dark woods they started to talk about the things troubling them the most and it ended up in a chant – Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My. Well, in Foster City today the issues of greatest importance to us seem to be housing, traffic and school overcrowding. Well, what the trio on the yellow brick road found out as they became a quartet, is that when you face your problems head on, they turn out to not be as scary as you thought.

Housing is today’s front-page issue. So how are we dealing with it? There are some who want a moratorium and others, including some elected officials, who believe “higher density is going to happen – it’s just a matter of when.” Well, I believe in neither. I believe that we need to take time, study the issue, look at the impacts of additional housing, how they can be ameliorated and how we can best preserve our quality of life. Once all that is done, the problem will be much more manageable. I call that smart growth. I also believe that we, Foster City, rely too much on housing and the property tax revenue it generates. We therefore need to take that into account as we move into the future and try to have greater financial diversity in the City’s revenue stream.

Traffic is a nightmare. I know, I sit in it too often. The problem however, is not that our City streets are inadequate, the problem is that everyone is leaving at our around the same time and going to or coming from the same place. We are all trying to get to 92 or 101 and those roads are already well past their designed use. They are inadequately designed for today’s workload and we have no real public transportation. Traffic will be better when we build the type of flyover at 92 and 101 as was built at 92 and 880. It will also better when we build a BART extension from Hayward to San Mateo. I grew up in New York City and I can tell you that nobody drives to work in Manhattan. Everyone commutes, mostly by train. If we could provide a BART system that made that possible, traffic would be much lighter. They are doing this type of thing right now in Los Angeles, why aren’t we doing it here?

I have been working with the School District on class overcrowding since before I was elected to the Council in 2009. What is needed now is for the two cities, Foster City and San Mateo to come together for the benefit of our children and their education. Yes, each City has different problems, but we can fight with one another or we can find middle ground and compromise for the betterment of all. The Next Steps committee is trying to do the latter and I applaud that. Our Council has stayed involved and I know that the San Mateo Council is also getting involved. That is great news.

So what can you do? In earlier articles I wrote and challenged you to make 2015 the year to get involved. On housing, you can email, call and meet with members of our Council and tell them how you feel about housing, economics and the like. For traffic, I urge you to contact our state representatives and ask them to fix the freeways and find a way to fund real mass transit for our City and County. For the Schools, go to a Next Steps meeting, keep up with it on the District website, understand that you and we will need to compromise and be prepared to do that for the greater good.

Housing and Traffic and Schools are big issues for us right now. There are plenty of ways to get involved, just pick one and do it. This is an election year in Foster City, consider running for office, volunteer for a committee, just come to a Council meeting and share your opinion. If you get involved with solutions, you will see that these problems are not quite as scary as you thought.