The Business of Foster City
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The Business of Foster City

Foster City's reputation is as an upscale bedroom community, safe, family friendly, outstanding amenities, a great place to live. But Foster City is also home for two internationally well-known companies, Visa and Gilead Sciences. IBM, another internationally well-known company, consolidated a group of its offices and has for the past few years proudly shown its logo on the top of Parkside Towers in the center of our City.

In addition to large businesses, Foster City has a lot of medium and small businesses that are essential to our local economy. Foster City, and its central location, is ideally suited for business and more businesses each day are looking to make Foster City their home.

Economically, Foster City has traditionally relied on property taxes and so over its history, new residential development has been encouraged and it has kept Foster City thriving. However, as we run out of new land and areas to redevelop, we need to understand that Foster City's future depends on a good balance between residential and business and looking at ways to increase the existing value of both, without relying on major growth and the impact that comes from major growth.

I have written often about retail. Retail today is very different from the retail we have known for many years. Today retailers are facing the world of Amazons and other online retailers who can now deliver anything directly to your home at prices cheaper than most local retailers can match. Thus, many retail shopping centers, including those in Foster City, now have predominantly service businesses rather than traditional retail.

While services are necessary and vitally important, from a municipal perspective they do not generate sales tax so they are not traditionally looked at as economic engines. In my opinion, however, the service industry and other businesses that do not directly generate revenue for the City are nonetheless vital to the health and value of our City and must be sustained.

A simple example of what I mean by indirect benefit can be seen in our local schools. Why are real estate prices in Foster City so high and why are there so few houses for sale? In part, people move here because families want good schools. But in addition to good schools, people also want the services that our businesses provide. If you had to go to another city for after school care or to get your haircut or for any of the other myriad services that our businesses provide, would that make you think that living in Foster City has somewhat less value? I think that the more services our local businesses can provide, the stronger the desire to live here, the more people are willing to pay for housing here.

I understand that high housing costs is not the be all and end all and that there are significant drawbacks on a societal level to living in an area where the cost of housing is what it is in our City. In fact, we have taken great pains to exceed the State requirements for affordable housing, but the fact is that if we do not build greater value from our existing resources we will have no choice but to add resources. Given that we are getting close to capacity in many areas, that type of growth is clearly not sustainable.

Thus, what we need is a balance and to achieve a balance in today's world, Foster City needs to have an identity, one that shows that we are a wonderful place not just to live and play, but to work as well. While some businesses many not directly generate revenue to our City, they do have tangential benefits that make our City better and more sustainable for the long term.

In its Forty-Three years of life Foster City has grown from a child to an adolescent. Now we must take it from adolescence to adulthood. We need to find a balance between modest and well thought out infill growth, and growth from making our existing assets, our homes and our businesses, worth more. That is not a modest challenge, but I am convinced that so long as we keep our eye on the prize, it is something we can accomplish.

You can help by supporting local businesses. Shop in Foster City whenever you can. You can start small – this week, try a new Foster City restaurant or dine at one you have not dined at in a while. Together we can strike this balance and ensure the long-term financial viability of our City while minimizing the impact from continued growth. I know that it is something I will keep working on so long as I continue to serve our City.

Those are my thoughts. You can always share your ideas with me by email at cbronitsky@fostercity.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.

Council Corner

August 27, 2014
The Business of Foster City

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