photo (nz)dave via flickr
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Michele Beasley

San Mateo County Cities Lead the Way toward Thriving Neighborhoods

The hallmarks of thriving, healthy neighborhoods are safe streets, convenient public transportation, access to parks, and homes that are affordable to all. In San Mateo County, three cities—East Palo Alto, Redwood City, and San Mateo—are demonstrating leadership in making their communities better places to live and work by approving projects, programs, and plans that address some of the county’s most critical needs.

East Palo Alto reaffirms its commitment to providing safe, affordable homes for all

Last month, the East Palo Alto City Council approved the University Avenue Senior Apartments proposal, a 41-unit affordable apartment community for low-income seniors. This project, the culmination of a partnership between MidPen Housing and the East Palo Alto Community Alliance Neighborhood Development Organization (EPA CAN DO), is an especially compelling example of smart growth because of its strategic location—within one-half mile of a library, pharmacy, park, senior center, bus stop, and market.

“University Avenue Senior Apartments is long overdue—it will be the second fully-populated senior project in East Palo Alto in 40 years and represents just 2% of the housing need for seniors in the community,” said Robert Jones, executive director of EPA CAN DO.

Greenbelt Alliance endorsed this development under our revitalized Endorsement Program and looks forward to seeing this project built and people move in. Multi-generational and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods are thriving neighborhoods!

Redwood City’s growth boom prompts a push for community benefits

Redwood City has started crafting a program that will deliver desired benefits to the community. It works like this: If a developer wants to build something at a greater density or height than is currently allowed, they will be allowed to do so if they provide community benefits of equal value.

The Redwood City Planning Commission heard a proposal for the program last month. While many benefits are being discussed [PDF]—such as parks, access to the bay, local hiring, and prevailing wage—the most widely-supported community benefit by far is the provision of affordable homes.

This is not surprising as the Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis is at an all-time high, with one-bedroom apartments renting for $2,300 per month in San Mateo County. According to a National Low Income Housing Coalitions survey [PDF], San Mateo consistently ranks as the least affordable county in the United States.

Greenbelt Alliance is leading a coalition of advocacy organizations (read our platform here) who are promoting a suite of benefits to be included in the program, such as affordable homes, quality jobs, and safe mobility choices.

Redwood City’s City Council will consider the framework for the community benefits program at their March 23 meeting. Stay tuned and join us in speaking up for affordable homes and more!

 San Mateo supports safe, green streets

In February, the San Mateo City Council adopted its Sustainable Streets Plan [PDF], a plan two years in the making. It all started with a robust community engagement process that included the Taste and Talk series.

This visionary plan is designed around the concept that streets should be safe, accessible, and comfortable for everyone—whether you’re age 8 or 80—while also contributing to a sense of community and addressing environmental issues. It includes conceptual designs for the recommended projects on North San Mateo Drive, South Grant Street, and portions of El Camino Real.

For El Camino Real in particular, a proposed road diet between 2nd and 9th Avenues would reduce car travel lanes from six to four, making room for a landscaped median, wider sidewalks, and raised one-way bicycle tracks. The City also makes an effort to “green” streets by adding landscaping that naturally manages and filters storm water and pollutants while doubling as wildlife habitat. Talk about efficient!

Greenbelt Alliance wrote a letter of support for the project [PDF] and applauds the City of San Mateo for an excellent plan that will be a model to other communities. We are excited to see it implemented and will plan a bike ride when that time comes!

These three examples illustrate the power of investing in existing cities and towns. East Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Mateo are finding creative ways to make neighborhoods and streets look and function better for more people of all ages and abilities. This is how we build thriving neighborhoods for all.

photo: (nz)dave via Flickr

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