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April 19, 2015

Comments

Joe

Letter to the Editor (Times/Merc)

New Development is Taking Residents' Water

The governor is requiring all of us non food growers to reduce our collective water use by 25 percent. In return for conserving water we are being hit with water surcharges and general rate hikes. Meanwhile, massive commercial and residential real estate projects continue to be hooked-up to municipal water systems. That begs the question: Where is that water coming from? I conclude that it is coming from me, my neighbors, and everyone else who is diligently conserving water. I think it's quite appropriate to mitigate some of the water price hikes resulting from our conservation by imposing a surcharge on each and every new water hook-up since 2012. Real estate developers are making enormous profits in this building boom. It will take political courage to impose a water hook-up surcharge, but it's the right thing and the fair thing to do.

Anthony Stegman
San Jose

I'm not sure such a surcharge will be sufficient. We still have the question of where the water will come from? Any new sources: desalination, water pipelines, larger reservoirs, etc will take years to implement......

fred

Does the city of Burlingame plan on reimbursing the downtown property owners that paid into a parking district years ago to get additional parking lots when these lots are taken away?

Joe

We may not agree on some things but we are definitely aligned on the idea of local government giving people what they have already paid for or adequate compensation.

The question is "does anyone even remember what was collected and what it was collected for?" I fear only those who paid in remember the details so when we have some on the council who could care less about the past, that is what you get. Carelessness.

fred

I can think of a handful of people who know what they paid and what it was for. If they take away downtown parking and don't replace it I think the property owners would react.

resident

Even if they do take it away and then replace it but also add a bunch of new housing the big picture will still be uglier. Where does the city get off bring in the housing business. It is just unreasonable to begin with.

Bruce Dickinson

Fellas, allow me to add a corollary to resident's question, to wit: WHOM in the City government will be the beneficiary of getting into the affordable housing business? Yes, Bruce Dickinson, aka the *king of prescience* predicts that an architect, developer, investor, builder, financier of the winning RFP will in some way be tied to a current or former commission or council member. This is in addition to the money that the City of Burlingame will get in the form of property taxes, gains on the sale of land, affordable housing breaks, transportation dollars, etc, that will help safeguard the under-funded pension liabilities for the City employees. Ever wonder why the City's three favorite words seem to be (in no particular order): 1) build 2) build and 3) build.

It's a win-win for all involved (except for you), under the guise of making Burlingame "affordable". Who would be against affordable housing? Who would be against reducing greenhouse gases by going high density? These are public goods with no drawbacks, Right? Wrong! Folks, what you have before you is a steamroller and either get out of the way or get run over!

(P.S. Bruce Dickinson will give the winner the choice of a C-note or a 20 minute ride in one of my Ferraris to the first astute observer who finds which city commission or council member will benefit from the winner of the RFP).

Jennifer

I think I'd get car sick in your ferrari, BD, but thanks for the offer anyhow.

Methinks it is not as "direct" as you suggest. I think that there is an undercurrent of pressure to push high density that trickles down through municipalities in each region. It comes from the way projects are funded via grants, etc. We are hostage to rules set by others. The push is not originating locally, but more likely by the bigger politicians some of whom do have longstanding ties to various interest groups that support them. The fallout on our more local level is the end of the line, not the beginning, and that is why it is more difficult to halt. There may be one or the other local current or former politician that would like to become a bigger wig, hence the tendency not to make waves with said wigs. This is no different with HSR, for example. But you are correct that the common folk (not to put you in that category) will bear the burden of larger "designs" on the region. The easiest and probably the only way to impose the ABAG tendencies, is to treat each municipality the same. Afterall, we are just the suburbs and those in SF probably think we are being stubborn, old fashioned, and when pushed, unruly. Why don't we "get it"?!? they probably are wondering. This is paint by numbers, and this city, at least, has never gone by the Paint by Numbers plan. It's easier to roll over and go with the flow, but we will pay dearly for it in quality of life all around. Those who think that all this is going to bring rent control or other stabilization to the area are being mislead. They are jumping on a bandwagon that is heading down another path, without knowing it.

fred

The city of Burlingame can't give their property away fast enough. Are people supposed to think there is no cost associated with giving up some of the most prime real estate in the country?

From this morning's San Mateo Daily Journal:

Burlingame seeks developer partner for new City Hall

Burlingame officials finalized its wishes to ask a developer to construct a new City Hall on a downtown public parking lot in exchange for title on the current property at 501 Primrose Road, which is zoned for high-density, multi-family development, according to the city.

The city released a request for proposals last Friday for the plan which would increase housing downtown while eliminating the need to retrofit the current City Hall site. A city report revealed that there is $11.5 million in needed seismic improvements and the removal of asbestos. The city owns 20 parking lots downtown, according to the city.

“We are looking for a public-private partnership that will enable us to have a City Hall, that will allow us to better serve the public, because that is our ultimate goal,” City Manager Lisa Goldman said in February.

Staff has already issued a request for proposals from developers willing to build more affordable housing on a city-owned parking lot south of Howard Avenue, so long as the company would also be willing to construct more parking spaces on a neighboring lot.

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2015-04-22/burlingame-seeks-developer-partner-for-new-city-hall/1776425142054.html

Jennifer

And tangentally related, did anyone see this, yesterday's Chron?
http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Drought-is-making-fake-lawns-into-a-real-6212434.php

I have long had the impression that industry is way too quick to introduce the latest greatest "whatever" at our expense. Seems like a decade or so ago, recycled tire fields were the way to go. Only now are we actually seeing consequences of too little information and too quick installation. This way, municipalities are also forced to keep up with the latest trends. Thank goodness generally, Burlingame didn't jump on the fake field bandwagon, though Washington Park play area I think has or had a tire finish where sand used to be. When it was first installed, it emitted horrible fumes. My kids were getting out of the "park age" and we began going infrequently. Nothing like good old silica, though admittedly messy.

About 3 years ago, there was a company that went around spay painting brown lawns, green. Was that hokey? Well, I'm not so sure. There probably isn't enough money in it to make this a more widespread industry, but what if the "green" paint could be made of real chlorophyll and no plastics or pollutants that stayed in the environment. What if there were ground birdseed mixed in, too, and something for the worms so the "fake" lawn actually had life in, and on it. I'm far from a chemist, but it seems like this could be a nice niche market, with touch-ups necessary each spring to "refreshen". This fake stuff is a toxic mess that has not been properly vetted IMO for the long haul.

lala

The Council also seems to think that high density housing, brings with it less cars, less traffic. I'm getting sick and tired of hearing that as I sit on 101 trying to get home. There is no way to reach my office via mass transit as it doesn't exist. A ten mile commute that use to take 15 minutes, now takes over 45 minutes. I watch helplessly as Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Mateo and now Burlingame, build more and more high density housing and not one is addressing the traffic concerns. I won't even get into the lack of water for these developments!

At a recent meeting on the development of the new proposed Rec Center, I listened as two council members voiced concern about keeping Washington Park as green as possible. Both stating that we will need it as a get away after all the high density housing that will be developed in Burlingame. Implying that the town that we know and love,will no longer exist if we aren't careful about who we vote into office.

They seem to think that we are all going to give up our cars, hold hands and sing songs as we all walk to the train or bus station to get to work. Not going to happen.

Bruce Dickinson

“I’d like a number two combo, cheeseburger, fries and a drink”

Sure coming right up

“oh, and also a five dollar shake”

Yes, sir, coming right up

“Oh, also can I have 500 new apartments with 1500 new water hookups”

Yes, of course, one question sir, are the apartments’ windows wood clad or aluminum clad”?

“No, I want them in vinyl”

Sir it is against our policy to have vinyl, but you can have as many wood clad or aluminum clad windows as you want, and of course we offer free drinking water refills with all the water hookups

"What!? what, what kind of place is this..either you give me vinyl or I’ll go to Millbrae to build MY burger MY way”

Sir, my manager has just notified me we can accommodate your request. Is there anything else we can do for you?

Guys, that is pretty much what our city government is relegated to, if what Jennifer and Lala are saying, that is they are order takers, except the customer, instead of being your typical D-bag, is actually ABAG. . And of course, within the confines of ordering fast food, the employees will sweat you on the details such as “if you want cheese that’s an extra 25 cents”, without looking or caring about the bigger picture and what is being asked of them. “Above my pay grade”, which is namely, minimum wage.

If that is the skill set required for city government, why even have one? No one is focused on the big picture, the large strategic decisions. Rather than taking burger orders they need to be thinking, “If people are eating healthier, do we offer salad options”? “Do we disclose the calorie count on the double cheeseburger to help move customers to our single cheeseburger, which has a higher profit margin?” “Will a veggie burger cannibalize our beef burger sales”?

Rather than a bunch of order takers that say yes to housing quotas, we need some real people with vertebrae to just say “no, you can’t” or “no, we won’t” “we’re not San Francisco, Millbrae, or Fremont, we're Burlingame and we’ve done it our way for over a century!" Why does Hillsborough seem to escape all these issues?

Friends, Bruce Dickinson says it’s time to hire and elect some people with the right skills, knowledge, power, and strategic thinking that is worthy of Burlingame and frankly all of you. We deserve representation to the highest of Burlingame standards.

Lala, if I may ask, who were the city council members who said that Washington Park should be preserved as much as possible? I ask because the other 3 who were silent on the matter are about to be Dickinsoned. Let me just tell you as a little preview, it ain’t gonna be fun for them.

Joe

Here's a pertinent update on the County Section 8 numbers and usage from the DJ:

As housing prices continue to skyrocket in the region, more individuals are asking the government to help them pay the rent.

More than 22,000 applications from individuals seeking rental assistance have flooded into the San Mateo County Housing Authority after it decided to expand a voucher program in 2013, according to a report released Wednesday.

Another 7,500 families already approved for support remain on various waiting lists for vouchers, according to the county’s housing indicators report for March.

The county, however, has a limited number of the vouchers, about 4,300, that are almost all entirely in use.

Trouble is, however, fewer landlords are accepting Section 8 vouchers as the rental market continues its climb.

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2015-04-23/thousands-seek-housing-help-wait-list-for-vouchers-growing-fewer-landlords-accepting-them/1776425142144.html

Jennifer

Editorial: An opportunity for downtown Burlingame
May 06, 2015, 05:00 AM Editorial

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/opinions/2015-05-06/editorial-an-opportunity-for-downtown-burlingame/1776425142850.html

Jennifer

The above Op Ed is not mine. The piece appears in today's SM Daily Journal and the author is not named.

Joe

Here is a pertinent letter to the editor of the Daily Journal:

July 01, 2015

Editor,

I appreciate the passion with which Ms. Cynthia Cornell recently (May 29, 2015) wrote about rent control. Passion, however, does not relieve one of the obligations to be accurate. Ms. Cornell stated that: “The San Mateo County Association of Realtors … frighten landlords by telling them their property values will plummet if they don’t increase rents like everyone else.” This is simply false.

While Ms. Cornell would have been correct to say that many economists and academic studies have chronicled the harms of rent control including stunted property values, exacerbated shortages of available units and increased deferred maintenance issues, the San Mateo County Association of Realtors has never made the statement she attributes to us above.

First, as our name indicates we represent Realtors not landlords. Second, as a not-for-profit, we are not in the business of telling anyone how they should run their business: this includes suggestions on rent.

SAMCAR has a long history of supporting quality affordable housing on the Peninsula. We oppose rent control because it is counterproductive to that longstanding objective. Ms. Cornell’s efforts to enact rent control — if successful — could actually harm the populations she purportedly wishes to assist.

San Francisco, for example, has had rent control in effect for 36 years and it is the supposed model for other jurisdictions. However, as of February 2015, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was $2,987. Various published reports place our county’s average rent for a comparable space at roughly half of that. How, then, has rent control helped provide affordable housing solutions?

Steve Blanton

San Mateo

The letter writer is the Chief Executive Officer of the San Mateo County Association of Realtors.
--------------------------
To reiterate the gem in the middle:

"many economists and academic studies have chronicled the harms of rent control including stunted property values, exacerbated shortages of available units and increased deferred maintenance issues".

Bruce Dickinson

Guys, why is anyone giving this Cornell person the time of day dignifying anything she has to say with a response? She is way out of her league on these issues, and sadly other renters hear this message and latch onto it without realizing there is a lot more eduction required on the subject. Bruce Dickinson gives the following advice: take an economics 101 class at a local community college, take good notes, and pass the final exam. Rent control "benefits" have been debunked in theory, practice, and in every single instance known in the history of civilization, cause housing shortages, lack of supply and skyrocketing property values. Show Bruce Dickinson an example where rent control does not have these consequences. I've asked this in the past and the only thing I hear is crickets chirping. Case closed, let's move onto reality.

Obvious

If the woman less time on social media and more time working she would be able to afford her rent on her own instead of asking for handouts from property OWNERS.

Joe

Sorry I missed posting this from last week's DJ:

A meeting intended to discuss potential ways to relieve the burden on Burlingame renters turned into a debate over the merits of an ordinance guaranteeing eviction protections for tenants during a City Council study session.

(Long discussion, click through to read it all)

Ultimately, the council opted to gather more information before moving forward toward any of the potential protections.

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2015-07-15/renter-protection-talk-exposes-community-rift-landlord-and-tenant-tensions-flare-over-eviction-regulation/1776425146742.html

Joe

Commenter Timothy Hooker found this article and posted it to one of the other rent control posts, but it is so clear and concise that it deserves to be on this thread as well.

https://mises.org/library/unintended-consequences-rent-control

Thanks, Timothy!

Joe

For Alex Kent-

I hear there was a lively discussion at Rotary today about Rent Control in B'game. Since you were the sponsor, would you recap the back and forth for us here at the Voice?

"Candidate Forum" this Thursday at 6:30pm

Joe, as a board member of the Rotary Club of Burlingame, we presented the candidates in a neutral manner. It was a "sold out" ballroom, and we had many local (and former) politicians and there to listen to the discussion. I'll let the candidates or other attendees post their positions / observation here.

For those who missed the discussion, please check out the League of Women Voters "Candidate Forum" this Thursday at 6:30pm at the Burlingame City Hall Chambers.

Live Video Feed: https://www.burlingame.org/index.aspx?page=1306

Joe

I would think you could be as explicit on our local candidates as you are on Jerry Brown. Why not give us your perspective?

if the rent is too high - you might have to move...

The United States of America has thrived by respecting the individual rights and responsibility of its citizens. This includes the protection of personal property rights, including when you own investment property.

Neither society, nor the government owes anyone the guarantee to live in the same apartment or house forever, unless you own it.

If you rent, as my family did for 8 years on El Camino Real in a 2,000 sf townhouse, then you are choosing to make trade-offs. When the market went down, some people lost money on their house investment, but I did not.

In our case, we had down payment money, but wanted to have flexibility in case we had to move with my wife's Ph.D. process - flexibility was a benefit of renting.

All of us could choose a less expensive place to rent or own our homes, but we choose the Peninsula. It's convenient, it has good schools - those are benefits of "free market" premium pricing.

And, those that choose to invest in an apartment or townhouse do so, no different than they do when they invest in stocks.

Even as a former renter in Burlingame, even as a former city council candidate that focused on rallying the 52% that rent - I do not believe that any town in our country should impose rent controls.

In a strong demand area like Burlingame, it simply reduces the supply of rental units available, even to the point of nothing being available. This might benefit the "first ins", but it doesn't benefit society in the long run, except for to preserve who lives in the neighborhood.

Some major cities like Chicago do have a landlord-tenant ordinance, which focuses on the right of each party above and beyond the lease documents.

A compromise might be a rent increase cap of...20% per year, for example.

Ultimately, if you rent, and you only do a 1 year lease, and the new rent is too high - you might have to move.

And, when our rent went up too high on El Camino, and we were really ready to pay a premium for a nice yard, we moved to Belmont (local school 10/10).

Joe

You changed the topic, but I'm sure someone who isn't afraid to state their observations will weigh in.

Just an observer

The Rotary lunch was very enlightening. Mike asked about rent control and Nirmala gave a middle of the road answer that didn't really say anything. Then Emily Beach asked why her answer was different from what she said somewhere last week. Then Nirmala crumbled like a stale Saltine cracker. She must have said something very different wherever they were because she lost it. It was uncomfortable.

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