The Man Around Town!
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The Man Around Town!

Once again the holidays are upon us. It's hard to imagine that a year has gone by since I took the oath of office to be your representative on the city council. As we begin another year, I look forward to working hard as your Vice Mayor on tough policy issues that will be important to us all in Foster City.

In my last Council Corner I told you that I would share with you my vision for our city as we look to its 50-year anniversary in 2021. I believe there are four major topics that a responsible city council must deal with to ensure that Foster City is an even better place to work, live and play in preparation for its golden anniversary. Those four topics are: Redevelopment, Traffic, Education and Budget. In this Council Corner and continuing throughout the year I plan to cover these issues one at a time – providing you with information that I hope will open up a dialogue and help us all work together on a Foster City 2020 plan.

I'd like to start with the issue of Redevelopment – which is important to so many of us as evidenced at the council meeting a month ago!

When Foster City was planned in the 1960's, it was laid out as a primarily residential community with neighborhood shopping, schools and parks. The problem we're facing today is that we want to continue to live up to the ideals of a beautiful planned community, but key aspects of our city, such as residential areas, business parks and shopping centers, are all privately owned. So the city council has a difficult task: it must balance the needs of residents and the larger community good with the reality of limited authority over private property.

What the City Council does have the authority to do is approve/not approve modernization and redevelopment plans for the privately owned shopping centers and business parks within the city. In that regard, we heard loud and clear at last month's city council meeting that making one-off decisions related to approving shopping center redevelopment/ modernization plans is not going to fly with the people we represent. Those decisions need to be part of a larger "Foster City 2020" vision.

As we develop this picture of what we want Foster City to look like and be like by 2020, one of the most important priorities is to ensure a stable revenue stream from property and sales taxes to fund the quality of parks, police and fire services and infrastructure we want. This is where I need to be honest with you: Foster City's revenues come primarily from property tax and from retail sales tax. Service businesses don't generate sales tax. Increased property taxes come in part from new housing that is built (selling for high prices that generate high property taxes) and current housing that is resold for higher prices (and therefore higher property taxes). Successful retail shopping that generates sales tax should, of course, be part of our revenue plans and vision for the city. But for retail sales tax to replace property taxes, we'd have to create a competitor to Burlingame Avenue, or be willing to live with multiple large retail enterprises on the order of Costco or multiple large car dealerships.

So where does this leave us as we look to the year ahead and to developing a vision of Foster City in 2020? Redevelopment will focus on the remaining older shopping centers and the shape they are in. The private property owners appear to only want to spend limited money for cosmetic repairs and are unwilling to do major redevelopment unless they can have residential units built which would make the overall project financially feasible The city has a vested interest in allowing that housing, as I noted earlier. However, more housing is an extremely sensitive subject with current residents and must be balanced against quality of life issues that arise with increases in population density.

This will be one of the most difficult issues facing us and I look forward to working with you all to find a middle ground.

Since 1988 when my wife and I moved to Foster City, we have developed close friendships with lots of people also raising their families here. I've been personally involved with the community by way of scouting, youth sports and serving on citizens advisory committees. I look forward to serving you in the year ahead on the City Council.

Now, on a more holiday-ish note… I recently had the great fortune to see the fantastic production of "White Christmas" currently running at Hillbarn Theatre. The musical is completely sold-out (and has been since opening night!), so I hope you were able to get a ticket to this heart-warming and absolutely delightful night of theatre. I love being able to support the arts – particularly in our own local community – and I encourage you to do the same! Now, if I could only get those catchy tunes out of my head…

From my family to yours – HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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

Council Corner

December 17, 2014
The Man Around Town!

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