At Risk in San Mateo County
Gita Dev loves the abundance of open space and county parks in San Mateo County.
And no wonder. The county is a leader in open space protection, both through direct purchase of land and through policy protection. The county is fortunate to have both the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District and the Peninsula Open Space Trust; together, these organizations permanently protected an additional 2,500 acres since 2006. San Mateo is second only to Marin County in the percentage of its landscape that is permanently protected: 38% of total acres.
“There are a lot of trails that go through my neighborhood and connect up to the preserves,” says Gita. Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is a favorite of her family’s because it’s also dog-friendly. She also appreciates the wildlife coming through the community. “Quite a bit of wildlife goes back and forth—deer, rabbits, foxes, possums, all kinds of birds.”
San Mateo County’s urban/rural boundary is a unique policy approach that limits the intensity of development based on a series of criteria, including how steep the hillside is and the quality of the soil. The complex formula can still allow some land outside the boundary to urbanize; this leaves much of the county under only medium protection. Nonetheless, San Mateo has a relatively low level of land at risk of suburban sprawl (only 6%) because most land out- side the boundary has steep slopes and is difficult to develop. Much of the threat to open space in the county is primarily from rural estate homes on large, undeveloped parcels of land.
The most controversial development site in San Mateo County in recent years is the 1400-acre Cargill salt ponds site in Redwood City; a developer is proposing to restore a portion of the site to wetlands and develop a portion as homes, parks, and sports facilities.