Each vying for one of three available seats on the San Mateo City Council, six candidates debated on Sunday October 1 how to fix the city’s housing and transportation woes. One San Mateo hosted the event at the Congregational Church of San Mateo at 225 Tilton Avenue.
Candidates Rick Bonilla, Chelsea Bonini, Charlie Drechsler, Joe Goethals, Rob Newson, and Eric Rodriguez participated, while candidate Mark DePaula was absent.
“Future generations are going to look back and judge us by how we react to our [housing] affordability crisis,” said Rodriguez. “I’m also the son of immigrants. My father immigrated here from Mexico.”
“It has always been my mission to reduce carbon emissions, and provide a clean, green, and healthy future in San Mateo,” declared Bonilla, who was appointed to the City Council in January 2015 and then elected to a two-year term in November 2015. “We have a downtown train station here, it’s a perfect setting for transit-oriented development,” said Bonilla. “I think we could find a way to designate some areas of downtown where we can build a little taller, a little denser, and build affordable apartments along El Camino Real.”
“We don’t really need a lot more office space at this time,” said Bonini. “We need to prioritize affordable and workforce housing for teachers, fire fighters, police, and service workers in the city.”
But only Bonini and Drechsler were willing to state they supported a rent stabilization ordinance. Bonini backed up her position by pointing out that the California Democratic Party now stands in favor of rent stabilization as part of their electoral platform.
“Everyone deserves to live in a safe place,” offered Goethals.
Rodriguez called for longer term leases, an expansion of where Section 8 housing vouchers are accepted, and relocation assistance paid for by landlords when residents are priced out of their apartment homes, but not rent control.
“I’m not sure that rent control is the magic bullet,” said Newsom bluntly. “What happens in the San Francisco market is that you have people who are grandfathered in and comfortably able to stay there, and then you have young people who are trying to grow their families are priced out.”
“The real focus needs to be building more low-income housing,” said Newsom.
“We need a Tenants Bill of Rights!” declared Bonilla, who also said the City Council is discouraged from considering a rent control ordinance given that voters in San Mateo rejected 2016 Measure Q by a 60 – 40 margin. Measure Q would have established rent stabilization similar to the successful 2016 Measure V in Mountain View.
“We need to improve bus and train service, we need to have more service,” said Bonilla. “Our trains don’t run often during for people during the day. The fares also need to be adjusted so people with low incomes can afford to ride our transit.”
Public transportation must be “safe, reliable, convenient, and affordable,” said Goethals, who also lobbied for Senate Bill 797, which passed the California Legislature on September 11 but still awaits the Governor’s signature. “When you see the measure on the ballot that says we’re going to increase by an 1/8-cent the sales tax in order to save Caltrain and save SamTrans, you have to support that,” insisted Goethals.
Rodriguez concurred, and stated that “it’s very important to not overlook our bus system, that buses make more frequent stops. People need to be able to walk safely across on El Camino Real and other busy streets to catch the bus.”
“Companies will pay for transit solutions,” said Newsom, cousin of Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. “We also need to make sure we make technology better. We should be able to pay for our [bus or rail] ticket right on our smartphones.”
By Tuesday November 7, voters in San Mateo will choose three city council candidates from among the seven running, each to serve two-year terms. City Council member Joe Goethals are Deputy Mayor Rick Bonilla are running for re-election.