Issue #5 as posted on NextDoor complains about our street infrastructure. It is posed as follows:

Issue 5. Our roads and related infrastructure seem to be at or beyond capacity. Our City infrastructure is being overwhelmed.

Question 5-a: Do you believe the city is “built out” or “over-built” or is there room for more?

Question 5-b: What specific actions or solutions would you work toward to better manage traffic congestion within the City?

Question 5-c: What specific actions or solutions would you work toward to better manage traffic created by the proposed additional employees from Gilead, BioMed, Illumina, etc.?

Question 5-d: Would you support an additional traffic route in and out of Foster City? If so, where should it be?

My response:

  1. The main question is based on a false premise: Once again I feel that a false premise has been created that our City infrastructure is being overwhelmed in the sense that what is intended to be communicated by author of the post is that the problem comes from recent development within the City. The fact is that traffic is a nighmare and that our streets are impacted but the impact comes mostly from regional commute traffic during peak hours on routes to and from the freeways. To date, we have added only 300 additional residential units to our City in the last decade so the traffic you are seeing is not from that. If the issue is worded in a more neutral sense to ask how would you deal with regional traffic impact on Foster City, then that is a valid question to ask of the candidates.
  2. Asking whether a city is “built-out” or “over-built” ignores fundamental economic issues of long term sustainability of a city. So first, some economic facts: Foster City income to its general fund consists of more than 50% property tax. Under Proposition 13 properties are reassessed for property tax purposes, with exception, only at time of sale. Otherwise, increases in property tax revenue is capped at 2% and can be less. Thus the plain and ugly fact of life is that cities that do not grow in some way ultimately run out of money because inflation, even when modest, exceeds the amount of revenue growth and thus expenses exceed income. If you can find one credible person in the entire State of California that refutes this fact, I would be shocked. Thus, cities understand that it is a grow or die situation. Now I have written extensively in the past about growth alternatives that are not simply additional development and I continue to believe strongly in those. You can find those in my other posts but they include investment in existing developments to increase their value and diversifying the City’s portfolio to a more balanced income stream. I believe those will have less impact that building more buildings of any type, but in reality additional real estate development, both residential and commercial has to happen to keep Foster City, or really any California city, alive. So any of the candidates that believes that we are built-out or over-built to mean that we can never allow more development is dooming the City to ultimate failure. I, for one, would never vote for such a person. The solution is a global plan for growth that looks are alternative growth measures, investments and in managing growth through development and management of impacts.
  3. Traffic congestion mitigation requires a regional solution. There is little that the City can impose by itself that will fix the traffic congestion at and around the freeway exits and entrances during peak periods. However, candidates should understand how things work regionally and within the County as fixing the traffic issue will either require State or regional effort – adding lanes to the freeways, fixing the 92 – 101 interchange, adding busses, adding BART or light rail and so on. Stopping development is not the answer and will not fix the problem. If we do not bring in new jobs to Foster City, our neighboring cities will snatch them up and the employees will still have to get to work traveling through Foster City on either 92 or 101 or both. We need to regionally work to match jobs with housing if we want to see any real impact on traffic reduction. If the candidate you are talking to says otherwise, I would ask a lot of follow up questions.
  4. Additional Employees: Biomed is a landlord/developer, Illumina will be the tenant. Gilead already has a traffic mitigation plan and any further development that will come before the Council will further strengthen that plan. Illumina, just last night, proposed the most stringent traffic mitigation plan for a business of its size in the region. I would love to hear any other realistic ideas that any of the candidates have.
  5. Additional Traffic Routes are not realistic and could exacerbate the problem. Entrances and exits from the freeways are governed by CalTrans not the City. Roads across the Belmont Slough could work but my guess is that a lot of people who do not live in Foster City would use them to get from 101 to 92 and move the traffic into and through the heart of the City. This is not a reasonble solution and if it were there should be significant study on the impacts so that we do not end up making it worse rather than better.

I hate sitting in the traffic and I have to do it often because I commute. The problem, however, is not a Foster City problem it is a regional problem brought about by the success of the local economy. Solutions to traffic need to be regional and they need to be done in a way that does not stifle the economy. Ask the candidates how they would work regionally to address the traffic and what they would suggest be done.

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