Estero Municipal Improvement District 50 Years Old
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Estero Municipal Improvement District 50 Years Old
On May 11, 2010, the Estero Municipal Improvement District celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Long time residents recall some of the issues that arose from the early days of the City. Newer residents who chose Foster City as a place to live might find interest in some of the City’s history.

On May 11, 1960, the State Senate of California passed a ‘special act” (Senate Bill 51) that created the Estero Municipal Improvement District (EMID) one of only two such districts in the history of California. The District was established as a self-governing body authorized to issue bonds retiring them from local property tax proceeds. The District could incur a bond indebtedness amounting to $85 million which was approved by the voters via the election process between 1960 and 1967. The proceeds from the bond sales were to provide financing to develop an infrastructure for the City of Foster City.

On August 1, 2007, the Estero Municipal Improvement District made the final payment on the bonds making the District “debt free”. The District continues to receive revenue, making up about half of the General Fund which is used to provide services to Foster City residents.

The land beneath our homes was named Brewer Island, reclaimed from the Bay circa 1900. With a dike built and the area was allowed to drain, it became a dairy farm owned by Frank Brewer, where cows grazed in ankle deep mud. No one at the time ever thought that this area could be developed into the planned community that it has become; that is until visionary T. Jack Foster arrived on the scene. He saw the potential for the 2,600 acres of mud and hay to be developed into a community of homes, apartments, and shops being intermingled with lagoons and parks.

It was very obvious from the start that Brewer Island’s soft mud would not be able to support the weight of buildings and being below the Bay waterline, the land would be susceptible to flooding during winter storms. A plan was developed to add an additional six feet of elevation with engineered landfill and the creation a central lake for water collection to be pumped back into the Bay.

The only access to Brewer Island was from Third Avenue which served primarily as access to the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. The original feasibility was to have the San Mateo County provide fire protection and policing services through the Sheriff’s Department until the city could become self-sustaining. Planning and zoning remained in the hands of the County.

The original General Plan identified a population of 35,000 by the completion date of 1976 consisting of nine neighborhoods. The General Plan was amended in May 1972 which indicated that Foster City would have a full development population of over 36,000 which we are somewhat short of that figure by today’s count. The first homes were available in 1963 with prices ranging from $22,000 to $40,000 and by the following year, the waiting list had grown to 2,000. Foster City incorporated in 1971.

Early residents managed to survive the “sandstorms” caused by the afternoon winds. Blowing sand raised havoc with the paint on automobiles and left daily piles of sand on walkways and at front doors. When front doors were opened, the sand became an uninvited guest.

The early Estero Board was governed by the developers which served well for the development of a city. By the mid 60s, residents began demanding a larger voice in local issues. But between 1963 and 1970, it was not known whether the residents would opt for maintaining the Estero Municipal Improvement District, annex to San Mateo, or incorporate into a separate city. Because it did not want to assume the indebtedness of the District, San Mateo rejected a proposal for annexation. Foster City residents then voted overwhelmingly to incorporate and on April 27, 1971, Foster City became an incorporated city.

Today, 50 years after the Brewer Island was purchased for development by the Foster family, Foster City through continued redevelopment efforts remains one of the most successful planned communities in the country.

More historical information may be obtained from the Foster City Historical Society and the Foster City Chamber of Commerce.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at

Council Corner

May 19, 2010
Estero Municipal Improvement District 50 Years Old

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