Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Year of The Dragon!

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year as today marks the start of the Year of the Dragon on the lunar calendar.

May the coming year bring you health, peace, and prosperity!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Advocating for Affordable Housing in San Mateo

This past Tuesday, January 17 I took a personal vacation day from my day job to drive up to Sacramento to lobby our state legislature on behalf of the City of San Mateo.  

The issue I was discussing with our state elected officials was the need for inclusionary, affordable housing in San Mateo. 

As many of you know, the residents of San Mateo have stated repeatedly over the year that affordable housing in our City must create inclusive, diverse neighborhoods throughout our City, and not segregate families with low incomes into housing projects.  

In 1991 (Measure H), 2006 (Measure P), and in 2011 (Measure G), voters in San Mateo have rejected the notion of separate housing units for people with low to very-low incomes.  Instead, our City General Plan states that efforts to create affordable housing for residents must be spread evenly throughout our City. 

However, due to a 2009 California court case known as Palmer v. Los Angeles, cities such as San Mateo are prohibited from requiring affordable, inclusionary housing in our City. 

The California State Senate is currently considering a bill that would change the law to allow the City of San Mateo to once again allow affordable, inclusionary housing, as voters have consistently stated is their preference in our City.  

So this past Tuesday, I took the day to meet with a number of State Senators from throughout California to urge them to give the power back to the people of San Mateo by allowing inclusionary housing ordinances in towns that want them. 

For over six hours I walked the halls of the State Capitol, taking the voice of San Mateo to Sacramento. 

The day spent off work was worth it to me in order to continue to represent the will of the people of San Mateo.  I will continue to work hard on these and other issues.  

To read more about this issue, click here

Business Spotlight: The Three Lotus Dragon Acupuncture Wellness Center

Last week I had the pleasure of attending one of the monthly mixers sponsored by the San Mateo Chamber of Commerce.  I was able to meet business owners and residents, and talk about what the City can do to help their small businesses thrive in San Mateo.

What is especially exciting is when I get to meet new owners just starting out.  Last week I met Jame'e Brazie'r, owner of The Three Lotus Dragon Acupuncture Wellness Center at 328 N. San Mateo Drive, Suite C, in Downtown San Mateo. 

In honor of the Lunar New Year starting next week, Jame'e is offering s a special discount to new customer aged 55 and over.  To take advantage of his special, click here to view the coupon. 

If you are a new business owner in San Mateo, or know of a new business who would like to contact me about an issue, feel free to have them email me any time!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

San Mateo Resident Kyle Crawford Needs YOUR Help

Kyle Crawford, one of our youngest San Mateo residents, needs your help.

Just last month, 4-year old Kyle was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a disease that means his bone marrow doesn't produce enough new blood cells.   Kyle can be treated with a bone marrow transplant.

Because Kyle's father is Caucasian, and his mother is Asian, people of mixed Caucasian-Asian ancestry are particularly needed, but everyone is encourged to get tested and spread the word.  

The test is quick, painless, and free.  It only takes a few minutes.  Please help our fellow San Mateo resident look forward to a long, healthy life!

To find out how to get tested, and to learn more about Kyle, you can click on any of the links below:

To visit Kyle's website, click HERE.

To visit Kyle's facebook page, click HERE.

To read more about Kyle, click HERE.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Amending our Parking Meters to Allow "Holiday" Parking

Part of my job as a City Councilmember is to listen to residents and help them fix issues that don't make sense. 

Over the holiday season, a number of residents emailed me to complain that on Monday, December 26 and Monday, January 2, the City of San Mateo was enforcing metered parking in Downtown San Mateo despite the fact that both days were recognized state and federal holidays.  The dates were even listed on the San Mateo  City website as "City Holidays".

After a bit of research, I discover that this was not the fault of City staff, but was due to an oversight in our San Mateo Municipal Code.

San Mateo Municipal Code section 11.44.015 defines which holidays during the year are "parking meter holidays."  And when the law was enacted in the 1990's, it defined "parking meter holidays" as "December 25, Christmas Day" and "January 1, New Year's Day".

However, there is nothing in the code that allows City staff to recognize the state or federal holidays of December 26 or January 2 when the holidays fall on a Sunday, which is what happened this year. 

That is why earlier this week I was pleased to introduce a proposed amendment to San Mateo Municipal Code section 11.44.015.  The amendment will allow the City Manager or the City Council to declare a "parking meter holiday" on a state or federally recognized holiday, when any of the holidays listed falls on a Sunday.

I have asked that this item be heard at the next regular City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

I believe this simple yet important amendment will allow residents to enjoy our City with free parking during the holidays, as well as provide our city employees more time to spend with their families during the holiday season.

You can view a full copy of my proposed amendment by clicking HERE.

Thank you to the residents who brought this issue to my attention.  As you Councilman, I remain committed to listening to all my neighbors and being responsive to your concerns. 

Working to Keep Businesses in Downtown San Mateo

At the City Council meeting on January 3, I voted to grant a special use permit to SnapLogic, a software startup company in downtown San Mateo, which would have allowed them to expand their business with 25 new employees.  

The special use permit was necessary because of an ordinance enacted in 2001 that requires the Council to approve a special use permit for any business that is not primarily "retail" in nature. 

My effort to allow SnapLogic to expand in Downtown was denied by a 2-3 vote of the City Council. 

In making my pitch to grant SnapLogic a special use permit in Downtown San Mateo, I relied on the following reasons:

1)  First and foremost, SnapLogic has been a good corporate citizen in our City, and I wanted to encourage them to stay in San Mateo as their business grew. 

2)  The storefront that they proposed to move into has been vacant for over three years.  With the downturn in our economy, three years is too long, and I preferred to have an established business take up the existing vacancy rather than have the spot continue to sit empty. 

3)  The filling of vacant space and expansion of SnapLogic creates more tax revenue for the City of San Mateo which can be used to fund things like parks, libraries, and safety services for the citizens of San Mateo.  The additional employees to SnapLogic create new patrons who will eat, drink, and shop in our Downtown, adding additional revenue and vibrancy to our Downtown.   

4)  Neighborhood residents near downtown voiced concerns over employees from SnapLogic parking in their neighborhoods.  As a condition of the special use permit, the landlords leasing to SnapLogic agreed to require employees to verify that they were parking only in designated parking spots in Downtown. The granting of a special use permit thus helped alleviate an important issue for our San Mateo neighborhoods. 

5)  The current zoning ordinance passed in 2001 allowed us to make the necessary findings to grant SnapLogic a special use permit.  

When I ran for City Council in 2009, I campaigned on a platform of smart growth in our Downtown, with the need to grow businesses in order to help keep City revenue up.  Increased revenue allows the City to continue to offer the high level of services our residents expect and deserve.  I believe that the growth of dynamic young businesses such as SnapLogic add to the vitality of our community and are ultimately beneficial for all our neighborhoods and residents.  

I will continue to advocate for smart growth in our Downtown and throughout San Mateo.  

An article from the San Mateo Daily Journal appears below:

SnapLogic denied ground-floor for office
January 04, 2012, 12:28 PM Daily Journal staff report

SnapLogic, a startup software company in downtown San Mateo, will not be able to expand its business onto the ground floor of the Collective Antiques building as the council voted against the request Tuesday night.

The building’s owner, Steve Musich, fears the council’s move will send SnapLogic looking elsewhere for office space as it grows such as YouTube and AdMob previously did.

The council initially voted 4-1 to table the public hearing to a later date as the city’s Planning Division is set to review the city code that requires retail uses downtown.

But Musich, when asked by the council, said he would prefer to have a decision sooner than later.

The council then voted 3-2 to deny Musich’s special use permit request.

The vote prompted Musich to say he would sell the building since one of three storefronts on the Third Avenue building has been vacant for three years.

“I’ve given up,” Musich told the Daily Journal Wednesday. “They were trying to find a way to approve it. The code is written so poorly. The way it was written is not very clear.”

City code, adopted in 2001, limits downtown storefronts to primarily retail uses or ground-floor dependent offices such as travel, real estate or insurance agents.

The council decided after much debate that SnapLogic does not meet the city code requirements because it neither conducts a majority of its business face-to-face on the site nor serve clients on an unannounced or drop-in basis such as retail establishments do.

Musich called the city code outdated and Deputy Mayor David Lim and Councilman Jack Matthews agreed that the code needs to be revised.

“I hope the decision does not come at a loss of business,” Lim said. “How is it better to have a vacant space than having it filled with a tenant?”

Lim made a motion to allow SnapLogic to expand its business from the basement of the Collective Antiques building into the upstairs space and got some support for the motion from Councilwoman Maureen Freschet.

Mayor Brandt Grotte, councilmen Robert Ross and Matthews voted against the Musich request, however.

“The council really wants to support new businesses in the downtown as well as retain existing ones. We recognize the zoning ordinance needs to be updated to deal with the evolving new economy and retail environment. We just need a little time to do that. I felt we had to have a firm foundation to approve the appeal and it just wasn’t there,” Matthews said.

The city’s Chief of Planning Ron Munekawa said reviewing the “Required Retail Frontage Requirements” would take anywhere from six to eight months to complete.

The code was adopted to protect retail uses downtown during the “dot-com boom” when demand for office space was high.

Much of the council’s discussion on the item Tuesday night centered on the specific language of the code and how it could be interpreted.

Lim suggested the code did allow for the council to grant the special use permit but staff and City Attorney Shawn Mason disagreed.