Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reaffirming Our Committment to Sustainability

At last night's City Council meeting, our City took several steps to reaffirm our commitment to sustainability in amending the City's General Plan.

The San Mateo General Plan is an important document, in that it lays out the vision and "master plan" for how to grow our City responsibly over the long term.

Our City staff worked for over a year gathering input from residents, meeting with experts, and spending countless hours writing and revising areas of the General Plan dealing with zoning, park space, and sustainability.

In the area of sustainability, especially the area of water conservation and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, we worked in partnership with local groups such as the Sierra Club to strengthen our environmental policies.  In just one of many steps taken in the General Plan, the City now pledges to "Reduce citywide gross water consumption per capita to 102 gallons/day, and reduce the residential per capita to 70 gallons/day." Land Use Goal 8e (p. II-43). 

Thank you again to the City Staff, City residents, and advocacy groups who helped to bring our General Plan up to date! 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shelter Network Benefit Breakfast

Attending Shelter Networks benefit breakfast this morning.

In these tough economic times, there is a wait list of over 150 families for vital services.

Thanks to Shelter Network for helping those in need.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

International Walk to School Day

This morning, school kids around San Mateo took part in "International Walk to School Day" as part of an effort to encourage children to lead healthier lives, protect our environment, and create safer paths to school for all children.

While various elected officials around San Mateo County did a great job highlighting this effort, I chose a more subdued approach -- I walked my two girls to their Kindergarten!

It was great fun.  First, the girls enjoyed walking and spending time with me (I hope!).  Second, we ran into their friends walking to school, and so they got spend some time talking to friends on the way to school.  And third and perhaps most importantly, the kids found a "secret shortcut" to school (really just a detour through a church parking lot!).  

All in all, walking to school has many benefits beyond the health of the walkers.  Walking to school creates a sense of community, which is turn leads to safer streets.  Plus, it's just great fun!

Our family plans to make the walk to school a regular part of our routine!   Happy walking!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peninsula Station Housing Opens in San Mateo!

Congratulations and a hearty "thank you" to our City Staff for working so diligently to make sure that the Peninsula Station Apartments were able to open last week for their first new residents!

Located on El Camino Real near the Hillsdale Caltrain Station, the "Pen Station" apartments fulfill the vision of the El Camino Real "Grand Boulevard" Initiative, and the City's overall goal for Transit Oriented Development.  With 68 one-, two-, and three-bedroom rental apartments available to families who earn 30 to 60 percent of annual median income (AMI), this housing complex ensures that every member of our diverse community can afford a place to live.  The development also includes commercial space for lease and many amenities for residents including a computer lab, community center and kitchen, a large central courtyard with two play areas for children and on-site programs and services.

This project is just one example of the hard work and dedication shown on a daily basis by our City Staff to make the City of San Mateo such a wonderful place to live! 

San Mateo forecasts for slight revenue increases

September 27, 2010, 03:30 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff 
The city of San Mateo is looking at projected revenue over the next eight years to help it decide how to best keep services and employees intact as the economy slowly rebounds.
In forecasting ahead, city staff has tentatively called for less reliance on the property transfer tax, received after a home is sold, which has been the San Mateo’s most volatile funding source over the past four years.

Revenue projections are being examined through 2018-19, when the Measure L quarter-cent sales tax expires, to help the city identify a “new normal” of general fund revenue that keeps the city running.

Measure L will provide about $3 million annually to San Mateo’s general fund but will expire in 2018.

The general fund pays for police, fire, parks and recreation and other essential city services. About 70 percent of the city’s general fund comes from property tax, sales tax, hotel tax and property transfer tax, which have all declined significantly in the past two years, forcing the city to cut millions from its annual budget.

General fund revenue is forecast to increase by an average of 2.5 percent annually over the eight-year period from fiscal year 2011-12 to 2018-19. In contrast, the historical annual average increase has been approximately 5 percent, according to a staff report the City Council will weigh in on at a meeting today.

The current revised budget for FY 2010-11 is $951,280 lower than expected and the 2011-12 revised estimate is $2.9 million lower than expected.

The city may need to cut more from the budget to close the gap in this budget cycle.

Next year’s nearly $3 million shortfall will be addressed during the 2011-12 annual budget process, according to a staff report compiled for the meeting.

The city’s general fund revenue is expected to be approximately $95.6 million in FY 2018-19, the year after Measure L expires.

San Mateo’s most volatile funding source has been the property transfer tax, reaching a high of $10.4 million in FY 2006-07. The number dropped by 70 percent in just two years, however, to $3.3 million in FY 2008-09.

Median home prices in San Mateo have dropped 25 percent since 2007 from a historical high of $781,500 to about $590,000 this year.

The property transfer tax is forecast to reach $5.4 million in 2013-14. This year, the city expects to net about $4 million from the property transfer tax.

After 2014, staff has capped the property transfer tax at $5.4 million regardless of how much the city actually nets from it.

“This policy direction would mean that any future revenue received over the $5.4 million cap would be utilized for other purposes such as increasing reserves for service stability or used for capital projects,” according to the staff report.

Although Councilman Robert Ross had yet to see the staff report, he indicated early support for the property transfer tax cap as did Councilman David Lim.

“My initial reaction is, it is a prudent approach and definitely worth considering,” Lim said. “It is a step in the right direction but, as we adjust to this new economic reality, we have to make sure it does not affect our vital services or put our employees at risk. No one sector of the city can absorb major cuts.”

In 2004, for instance, 1,348 homes were sold in San Mateo. In 2009, however, only 712 homes were sold in San Mateo.

Sales tax and property tax revenue is expected to climb moderately over the next eight years, according to the staff report.

Property tax is expected to increase between 3 percent to 4 percent annually and trending up to 4.5 percent in 2018-19. Sales tax is expected to increase between 2 percent and 3.5 percent and trending up to 4.5 percent in 2018-19, according to the staff report.

The city’s hotel tax is expected to make modest climbs over the next several years by approximately 4 percent and up to 5 percent in FY 2018-19.

The San Mateo City Council will hold a special study session on revenue projections, 5:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 27, City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave., San Mateo.