On May 6, 2019, the City Council of the City of Burlingame filed its objection to the manner in which the CASA Compact was prepared and issued without input from local municipalities. Their letter to State Senator Scott Wiener is as follows:
Dear Senator Wiener:
Burlingame residents and officials recognize the critical nature of housing availability issues in our city and the entire Bay Area. We understand that a healthy, diverse, and economically dynamic region critically depends on our collective ability to address our housing challenges. While we appreciate that MTC and ABAG are focused on housing issues, we also believe that the vast differences among areas of a state as large as California require appreciation for local characteristics in geographical features, the built environment, and local economies and histories.
For these reasons, we are adding our voices to the large number of local municipalities that object to the manner in which the CASA Compact was prepared and issued without input from local municipalities.
No representative from San Mateo County was included in the process. As the governmental bodies created by the state to regulate land use at the community level, it is imperative that local cities and counties have proper representation at any regional policy and planning forum dealing with this issue.
There are many areas of the Compact and related legislation that we will be engaged with over the coming months. For the purposes of this letter, we will focus on our fundamental opposition to a "one size fits all" approach to land use planning. Compact Element #5 and its companion legislation, SB 50, propose minimum building heights and densities near fixed rail stations and high volume bus lines in a way that prevents communities from adopting general plans and zoning standards that concentrate high density housing according to local conditions and goals.
The premise for such a proposal is that since local communities are not addressing critical housing needs, the powers of the local jurisdictions must be removed by the state. This premise is incorrect in many communities and certainly in Burlingame. Some recent developments in Burlingame that support our point include:
- The City of Burlingame adopted a comprehensively revised General Plan in 2019 and a Downtown Specific Plan in 2010 resulting in increased transit area and retail corridor area housing density and mixed-use development in former commercially zoned areas. While the General Plan and Downtown Specific Plan share a number of objectives with the proposed SB 50 legislation and CASA Compact (particularly locating housing near transit) , the General Plan is the culmination of a highly-involved , multi-year community planning process. The plan accommodates adding nearly 3,000 new housing units by 2040, representing a population increase of more than 23 percent. Adjusted for population, this would be equivalent to San Francisco adding 86.000 new units. San Jose adding 101.000 new units. or Oakland adding 41 .000 new units.
- The City of Burlingame is not just planning for new units, it is approving them. To this point, Burlingame and other suburban communities have been inaccurately characterized in the press and by politicians as being resistant to approving housing development proposals. In San Mateo County, this could not be further from the case; Burlingame and the vast majority of jurisdictions in San Mateo County have been approving new housing developments at unprecedented levels. In Burlingame, the housing development pipeline has grown to more than 1,200 units (either under construction, approved, or actively in the entitlement process), greatly exceeding the City's RHNA obligation for total number of units in the current planning cycle. Adjusted for population, this would be equivalent to San Francisco reviewing or having approved 34,000 new units, San Jose adding 40,000 new units, or Oakland adding 16,000 new units.
- Understanding that the housing construction market alone cannot accommodate the lower-income ranges, even with incentives such as density bonuses, the City Council issued a Request for Proposals for an affordable housing development on City-owned land. A 132-unit affordable housing complex for low-income families is currently under development as a result
- The City of Burlingame adopted affordable housing impact fees for commercial development in 2017 and residential development in March 2019. Over time, these fees will provide a dedicated source of funding for programs supporting workforce housing in Burlingame
- The City of Burlingame led an extensive community engagement process in 2018 called "Burlingame Talks Together About Housing" designed to build trust and consensus for solutions related to the City's housing obligations. We have strong concerns that SB 50 with its resulting impact on a broad segment of our neighborhoods, will erode trust in the system and incite community backlash.
In closing, we would like to emphasize the following with regard to any future regional plans and state legislation related to local land use:
- Allow more time for the various 2018 housing related bills to be activated throughout the state before adopting further changes
- Provide the maximum amount of flexibility for communities to design their futures in ways that account for local conditions and nuances, provided they meet the overall objectives of providing a fair share of housing at a range of income levels. The Burlingame General Plan provides an example of a robust community planning process that meets the intent of providing significant housing production, but with accommodations for local geographical factors
- Allow exemptions for localities that are meeting broad goals such as their Regional Housing Needs (RHNA) obligations, as Burlingame is doing
- Reward successful local efforts with additional funding to help us provide homes at lower affordability levels and emphasize incentives rather than punishments.
 Based on US Census 2017 population estimates of 30,686 for Burlingame, 884,363 for San Francisco, 1.035 million for San Jose, and 425,195 for Oakland.
 For reference, the RHNA for the current planning cycle is 863 for Burlingame, 28,869 for San Francisco, 35,080 for San Jose, and for 14,765 for Oakland.
The City of Burlingame recognizes that there is a housing shortage in California, and has demonstrated its commitment to doing its part. Furthermore, the City of Burlingame is in support of the "Calls for Action" outlined in the CASA Compact, including Redevelopment 2.0, addressing homelessness, and growing a stable construction labor force. However, it is crucial that the hard work of local municipalities be recognized, and that accommodations be provided for responsible governments that are planning and approving housing in a proactive, meaningful manner.
Donna Colson (Mayor), Ann Keighran, Michael Browning, Emily Beach (Vice Mayor), Ricardo Ortiz
cc: SB50 Coauthors:
State Senator Anna Caballero, State Senator Ben Hueso, State Senator John Moorlach, State Senator Nancy Skinner, State Senator Jeff Stone, State Assembly Member Autumn Burke, State Assembly Member Kansen Chu, State Assembly Member Tyler Diep, State Assembly Member Vince Fong, State Assembly Member Ash Kalra, State Assembly Member Kevin Kiley, State Assembly Member Evan Low, State Assembly Member Kevin McCarty, State Assembly Member Rob Riva,s State Assembly Member Phil Ting, State Assembly Member Buffy Wicks, Brad Paul, Metropolitan Planning Commission, State Assembly Member Kevin Mullin, State Senator Jerry Hill, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley, CASA Legislative Task Force, City of Brisbane Councilmember Cliff Lentz, CASA Legislative Task Force, Seth Miller, League of California Cities, City of Burlingame City Council.