The Man Around Town...
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The Man Around Town...

Now that the New Year is in full swing, we have all started to live by the goals we set as the clock struck MIDNIGHT on the 1st…right?? Ahem. Did I really say, "I will go to the gym three times a week…" or "I will work to make sure 2015 is a good year to be a resident in Foster City?" OK, I will take credit for the second resolution. One out of two…

In last month's Council Corner, we started a conversation about my vision to help make sure Foster City is well positioned for its 50th anniversary coming up in just a few short years. The four elements of that vision are: Redevelopment, Transportation/Traffic, Education and Budget. I focused on redevelopment and I promised you more for this month. But before we get to that, I think January is a good time to share with you the goals that your City Council agreed to work toward this year:

A) Support the availability of quality education to everyone living in Foster City
B) Create a viable economic development plan that reflects community interests
C) Develop a transportation system that is bike-friendly, pedestrian friendly, safe for residents and incentivizes people to use alternative modes of transportation
D) Promote managed residential and commercial growth
E) Promote environmentally responsible practices by the City and within the community
F) Expand the regional influence of Foster City in important arenas, including transit, water policy and education
G) Adapt to meet the needs of changing demographics and be proactive in understanding and responding to community needs

Since transportation/traffic is both a key part of the City Council goals and one of the four elements of my 2020 vision, let's take on that topic in this column (it's also at the forefront of my mind since I spend at least 25 minutes every day on what should be a 10-minute commute from the Hillsdale train station to home).

Any discussion about traffic in Foster City should be broken down into three parts: 1) traffic within the city itself; 2) the back-ups our residents face getting out of Foster City in the morning and coming back in the evening; and 3) reverse-commute traffic from non-residents entering the city in the morning and leaving in the evening.

Generally, outside of school zones in the morning and afternoon, we are not overwhelmed by traffic back-ups on our city streets. That's because our actual population has grown very modestly. The census in 2010 showed a population of about 31,000 in Foster City – a 13% increase over ten years from our 2000 population. City leaders estimate that we've added another 1200 since 2010. I think we can all agree this isn't what's causing our headaches (I'd like to table the school zone traffic for a later column focused on education). As for those cars driven by employees of companies expanding into Foster City, they're driven into the city in the morning and out in the evening. This may contribute somewhat to the back-ups we residents experience if we try to leave Foster City in the evening commute time, but again, this isn't really at the heart of the problem.

So what is? Foster City was designed to sit at the hub of the Highway 101 north/south commute and the Highway 92 east/west commute. This is one of many features that attracted us to Foster City. No matter where we work (San Francisco, San Jose, the East Bay, or anywhere on the Peninsula), we are centrally located. Unfortunately, there's a big cost to this location as the region expands around us: we're in the geographic middle of the expansion. Traffic moving out of Foster City in the morning is backed up on Hillsdale to 101, a dead stop on 92 to 101, and sluggish on Third Avenue. Coming home, we sit in nearly stopped traffic north or south on 101, east on 92, and east on Hillsdale over 101. This is not really due to our modest increase in population in 15 years, but to the massive back-ups on the freeways themselves because of the regional job boom in the West Bay and insufficient housing causing people to commute from the East Bay, along with some poor engineering design and traffic signals around the Hillsdale/101 intersection.

I think we can agree that an expanding economy is vastly preferable to the recession we all just lived through. So what can we do to mitigate the problems we face getting into and out of our beautiful city because of that expansion? I plan to work on this issue by reaching out to the elected officials of San Mateo, our State Senator Jerry Hill and our Representative to the State Assembly, Kevin Mullin. I will also use my recent appointment to the League of California Cites Policy Committee – Transportation, Communication and Public Works to come up with possible solutions. Foster City's interests MUST be represented and someone has to take the lead. That should be part of the job of every member of the Foster City Council.

This won't get fixed overnight. But to ensure Foster City's long-term health, we have to start the process now.

Last week we received notice that our Fire Chief, Mike Keefe is retiring to spend more time with his family. I know we ALL wish him success in the future and thank him for his leadership in keeping us safe!

On a lighter note: On January 5th, the Foster City Parks & Recreation department, under the direction of Kevin Miller, director of the Park & Recreation Department and Jennifer Liu, recreation manager held a grand re-opening of East 3rd Ave Park. More than 30 people attended along with city staff and a few of us from the City Council. We are very lucky as a community to have such beautiful and USEFUL parks for all of us to enjoy.

In addition to that new park, Werder and Destination Parks are also being considered for new names. As of the writing of this article, more than 300 names have been submitted to the Parks & Recreation Department. Hopefully by April the new names will be selected by City Council. A rose by any other name…

If you wish to comment or share your thoughts, please contact me at gpollard@fostercity.org or 650-286-3505.

Ribbon Cutting

Council Corner

January 21, 2015
The Man Around Town...

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200