San Mateo Working Families Win Major Victories

The Raise the Wage Coalition has scored its first victory in San Mateo County. On August 15, by a 4-1 vote, the San Mateo City Council adopted the first minimum wage increase in the County. Low-wage workers will see their wages go up to $12 dollars starting in January 2017, $13.50 in 2018, and $15 in 2019. Subsequent annual increases will be adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area region. Nonprofits will have an extra year to adjust to the changes.

But the adoption of a higher minimum wage was not the only victory for San Mateo working families. The Council also voted to move ahead toward adoption of a commercial linkage fee to raise revenues for affordable housing development. The ordinance includes an incentive for developers to pay area standard wages to construction workers. The second reading of the ordinance is planned for September 6, and if adopted, the City will be able to collect close to $3 million dollars for the development of affordable housing. Foster City also had its first study session on the impact fees and their process is moving forward.

And if adopting a higher minimum wage and raising affordable housing funds were not enough items for one night, the Council took on the discussion of renters’ protections. The San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR) has been lobbying the Council to derail, delay, or entirely stop the rent stabilization ballot initiative that was put on the ballot by San Mateo residents, who collected close to 11,000 signatures. But SAMCAR failed once again. The Council voted 3-1-1 to not write an opposition argument on the ballot initiative and to allow the democratic process takes its course.

Activists, some who stayed past midnight, left the chamber with big smiles on their faces. It is not often that we get to celebrate so many victories in one single night. What is even more promising is that San Mateo is just the start. Labor and community-based organizations will continue to move a progressive multi-issue agenda across the county. The affordability crisis is energizing progressive organizations to work together strategically to improve the standard of living for all working families, and we are excited about all of the opportunities on the horizon.

Community Activists Help MTC Take a Step in the Right Direction.

At their July 27 meeting, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) took a step toward linking the One Bay Area Grant 2 program (OBAG 2), a transportation fund of $350 million dollars, to anti-displacement policies.

MTC voted unanimously to direct Congestion Management Agencies (CMAs), which distribute OBAG funds to their respective local jurisdictions, to develop a scoring methodology that will reward jurisdictions that have adopted effective anti-displacement policies. MTC also included a requirement that general law cities should be in compliance with the Surplus Land Act (AB 2135) in order to qualify for OBAG 2 funds.

At the meeting, the 6 Wins Network delivered a petition with nearly 500 signatures from across Bay Area communities; the petition demanded that commissioners take substantial action to mitigate displacement. In addition, San Mateo County Union Community Alliance along with other 6 Wins Network members testified to the importance of leveraging regional transportation dollars to reward cities that are adopting effective anti-displacement policies and raising the wages of low-wage workers. Over a dozen community members from Causa Justa, the North Bay Area Organizing Project, and the East Bay Housing Organizations provided personal testimonies that illustrated the incredible magnitude of the affordability crisis.

While the MTC could do even more by linking all OBAG funding to the mitigation of displacement, their decision is a step forward in ensuring that CMAs (C/CAG in San Mateo County) begin to understand the importance of using transportation dollars to incentivize local jurisdictions to adopt anti-displacement policies such as rent stabilization, just cause eviction, and minimum wage increases.

Quality Jobs Network Moves Forward with Regional Campaign

QJ-Briefing-upEconomic justice and labor organizations and economic development and public health agencies from seven Bay Area counties gathered in April to strategize about how to ensure that billions of dollars in transportation investment result in quality jobs.

Plan Bay Area 2040 (PBA 2040) is the regional long-term transportation and land use plan that includes $287 billion in transportation investments. After years of advocacy from the Quality Jobs Network (QJN), in November 2015 the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments voted to include a performance target that seeks to align billions of regional transportation dollars with the creation and retention of family-supporting jobs.

Workshop participants brainstormed and discussed ideas across multiple industry sectors to materialize the quality jobs performance target. Among the ideas proposed:

  • Increase transit operations funds and ensure labor standards apply to all transit operators
  • Upzoning should be linked to quality job standards
  • Highly subsidized regional projects must ensure quality construction and service jobs, improved access to those jobs for disadvantaged residents, and increased apprenticeship opportunities for disadvantaged youth and residents
  • All development projects or plans receiving public funding should adhere to basic job standards.
  • Regional funds should support access to quality jobs for people with disabilities
  • The regional agencies could provide technical assistance and help convene cities to coordinate on issues such as enforcement of wage and hour protections.
  • Resources and incentives should be made available to help local communities develop projects that incorporate strong policies to support growth of quality, family-supporting jobs and worker protections.

In the coming months, the community, equity, and economic justice organizations collaborating through the QJN will be working to develop and advocate for regional policy recommendations to make the new “good jobs” target real.

If your organization is interested in joining the coalition, please contact Belén Seara at

Town Hall meeting on “Renting in San Mateo County”

Join Congresswoman Jackie Speier at a Town Hall meeting:

Renting in San Mateo County

Monday, February 22, 7 to 8:30 pm

St. Batholomew’s Auditorium,

600 Columbia Drive in San Mateo

On her website, Ms Speier writes, “Skyrocketing rents are squeezing too many of our neighbors. Many of them are forced to leave the Bay Area or even the state. I hear rental horror stories on a daily basis . . .”

The event is free, but the auditorium only holds 230 people. Given the magnitude of the affordable housing crisis, the event is likely to fill up quickly.

Register for the Town Hall on Renting in San Mateo County, and join Congresswoman Speier for what she calls “a civil and productive conversation about this very difficult issue.

Download the flyer for Speier’s Town Hall Forum [PDF].

Regional Planning and Transportation Agencies Seek to Incentivize the Creation of Quality Jobs

This week equitable development activists are celebrating. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments voted to include two important goals in Plan Bay Area 2040 that seek to align billions of regional transportation dollars with the creation of middle-wage jobs and the retention of low- and moderate-income families.

Plan Bay Area 2040 (PBA 2040) is the regional long-term transportation and land use plan that includes $287 billion in transportation investments. Until now, PBA 2040 ignored the economic impact that transportation investments and land use decisions were having in our communities. For the last three years, SMC Union Community Alliance and the Quality Jobs Network documented and testified about how regional transportation investments were exacerbating the growing economic divide by intensifying gentrification and displacement of underserved communities and not leveraging quality jobs (but rather low-wage ones). These new PBA 2040 goals are a great first step toward ensuring that regional transportation dollars result in equitable development.

Much work is ahead of us to materialize this major win. SMC Union Community Alliance and our coalition partners will continue to advocate so the regional agencies adopt policies and programs that will incentivize communities across the region to:

  • retain and create middle-wage jobs with career pathways and benefits;
  • increase apprenticeship opportunities for disadvantaged youth and residents;
  • and improve access to quality jobs by underserved communities.

For more information, please contact Belén Seara at

Redwood City’s Impact Fees is a Win for Affordable Housing and Quality Jobs.

On October 26, the Redwood City Council adopted an Affordable Housing Impact and Commercial Linkage Fees program. This decision is a great step forward in ensuring that all residents are able to benefit from Redwood City’s recent and continuing economic growth.

Our communities need both affordable housing and quality jobs. The lack of affordability is a complex problem that needs to be addressed by building more affordable housing and protecting tenants’ rights as well as providing quality jobs for the local workforce. While many cities in the Bay Area have adopted housing and commercial impact fees to finance much needed affordable housing units, the program in Redwood City is unique in that it includes an incentive for projects that pay family-sustaining wages and benefits (Area Standard Wages) to construction workers. The City Council adopted the fees shown on the table below and requested staff to come back with the details on the incentive program at a future City Council meeting.

This innovative policy is a testament to the power of labor and affordable housing advocates working together. The San Mateo County Union Community Alliance is looking forward to continuing working with the San Mateo County Building Trades, the Housing Leadership Council and the Development Impact Fee Coalition to replicate and improve this model policy across the county.

Adopted Housing and Commercial Impact Fees

Unit Type Fee / Sq. Ft. Minimum Project Size
Condos and Apartments $20 5 or More Net New Units for Residential Projects
Single Family $25
Townhome, Duplex and Triplex Developments $25
Office $20 More than 5,000 square feet of Net New Construction for Commercial Projects
Hotel $5
Retail and Restaurant $5

Source: RWC staff report (October 26, 2015)

For more information, please contact Belén Seara at

Jobs Performance Target Proposed for Plan Bay Area

On September 11, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) voted to add a performance target focused on jobs and wages to Plan Bay Area 2040 . This is great news for social equity and labor organizations that have been advocating for over three years to get the regional agencies to recognize the economic impacts of their transportation investments and land use decisions.

The regional agencies are hosting a public workshop on October 6 to discuss the new proposed target. The meeting will be from 1pm to 3 pm at the MetroCenter, 101 8th St., Oakland. Here is a link to the MTC staff report with the language proposed for the new target: A final vote on all the performance targets is expected in November.

Social Justice Subject of San Mateo Candidates Forum

Ross Weir of SFOP-PIA introduced the candidates running for the San Mateo City Council. Photo: Bradley Cleveland

Ross Weir of SFOP-PIA introduced the candidates running for the San Mateo City Council. Photo: Bradley Cleveland

St. Saint Bart’s Social Justice Committee and SFOP-PIA sponsored an election forum on September 28th, for the five candidates vying for three seats on the San Mateo City Council.

Incumbent Rick Bonilla emphasized the need to build affordable housing near jobs and transit lines to serve the city’s seniors and diverse workforce. He supports efforts to hike the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, and raise job standards and establish local hiring of trained apprentices for new developments.

Diane Papan spoke of the need to add housing and improve city infrastructure to handle the area’s growing population. “We want to be a community that houses its teachers and nurses.” She also supports a $15 minimum wage, and efforts to raise wages and job standards for development projects within the city.

As mayor Maureen Freschett has convened a task force to address the city’s housing crisis; “our diverse community is in peril” due to rising rents and evictions. She too supports a city minimum wage ordinance, and strategies to ensure that local residents benefit from new development through impact fees and community benefits agreements.

Challengers Thomas Royal Morgan II and Karen Schmidt also attended the forum.

This year’s election will be conducted through a mail ballot. The county’s Office of Elections will mail ballots to all registered voters in early October. The mailing will include instructions for returning the completed ballot. For more information, contact the Office of Elections.

If you are not registered to vote at your current address, you can register online. Deadline to register to vote is October 19, 2015.

New South City Residential Project Undermines Community Planning

20150903_185621On September 3, South City’s Planning Commission approved the 211 Airport Blvd project without substantial community benefits. This decision undermined a 2-year plus community-planning process and set a bad precedent for subsequent downtown projects.

This project does not align with the vision of the Downtown Plan. The City and the community spent over two years to come out with a vision to help South City’s downtown to become a vibrant and inclusive place that caters to the needs of existing and future residents. With 69 market-rate rental units and no substantial community benefits, this project only caters to new, high-income residents and ignores the needs of the existing downtown community.


Despite the Commissioners unwillingness to negotiate for meaningful public benefits, the voice of the community made a difference. Downtown residents spoke about facing eviction or getting priced out of their own community, high school teachers discussed the difficulty of being unable to afford to live where they work, and local union members highlighted the benefits of creating quality construction jobs for local workers; eventually the commissioners and the developer, Pinefino LLC and Edwin Law, negotiated the inclusion of 2 units for moderate-income families out of 69 market-rate rental units and the contribution of $15,000 for public art and $20,000 for another “community benefit.” These benefits are better than nothing, but they fall far short of balancing the interests of the community and the developer.

Ignorant of the magnitude of their power and responsibilities, the Commissioners favored the developer with this decision. Even with these community benefits, the developer will still be able to make a large profit (around 30% according to the developer) at the expense of the residents of South City. The Commissioners Alan N. Wong, Aristides Ruiz, Carlos Martin, and Daina Lujan voted in favor of this project and community benefits package, and Mark Nagales was the only commissioner that opposed the project, citing the building’s design. Commissioners Norm Faria and Alexander Khalfin were absent from the meeting.

The Coalition will ensure the Downtown Plan does justice to South City residents. Partners will continue to organize the community and work with decisionmakers so future downtown projects adopt programs that encourage the use of transit, provide quality jobs to local residents, offer apprenticeship opportunities for local youth, and include a significant number of affordable units.

For more information on the Coalition, please contact Belén Seara,

Coalition Demands Community Benefits for South City Downtown Development

The Coalition for Community Benefits submitted a letter on August 19 to the South San Francisco Planning Commission urging commissioners to negotiate a robust community benefits package for the 211 Airport Blvd. proposed residential development.

Since the adoption of the Downtown Specific Area Plan (SAP) early this year, the City of South San Francisco has experienced growing interest from developers to build in downtown. The most recent proposal comes from the developer, Pinefino, LC, who is proposing to build a residential project of 83 units with 134 parking spots.

But this proposal does not include any of the community benefits laid out in the SAP.

The Coalition letter [PDF] calls for the developer to hire local construction workers and pay them family-sustaining wages, provide a meaningful amount of on-site affordable units, and adopt programs that encourage the use of transit.

The proposal, which is for all market rate rental housing, ignores the burgeoning need to build more workforce housing for existing residents who live in overcrowded conditions. Despite the site’s location next to the Caltrain station, the developer is including more parking spots than required by the City. Moreover, the proposal doesn’t guarantee that the construction jobs created by this project will pay family-sustaining wages for local construction workers.

Planning commissioners have the tools to ensure this project benefits existing and future residents of South San Francisco, but in the absence of any guarantee of quality jobs and workforce housing for local residents, this project will contribute to the gentrification of downtown and the displacement of downtown residents, who are already being priced out of their City.