Back in January, I wrote about the start of the process to put together our first economic development plan for Foster City, dubbed Sustainable Foster City. In this article I would like to begin to share some of my ideas and hopefully solicit some ideas from you.
By way of background, last year our City turned 40 and along with the fact that just about all of our developable land is or will likely soon be sold, we are no longer in a growth mode. As a result we need to take a fresh look at our City and find ways to grow and still maintain the hometown feel that most of us love.
The economics of the City are such that most of our revenue comes from property taxes. It is also a fact that most of the residential property in Foster City is part of a Homeowners’ Association (HOA). Thus, it is crucial to sustainable economics in Foster City that properties are well maintained, improvements are encouraged, and that we look at public/private partnerships, perhaps starting with the HOAs, for ways we can work together and create win-win scenarios.
At the same time a group is forming, bringing together many of the HOA boards to see where they can create synergies and help one another. I believe that the City can be an enormous help to and great partner with that group. We have been talking with the leaders on an informal basis and are looking for a project to get this started. The possibility that is currently being explored is in the area of water and wastewater.
Some of our multi-family developments do not separately meter landscaping water from domestic water and others do not separately meter water service to the individual units. Without any ability to have direct feedback in the form of a water bill, these multi-family developments are lagging behind in their conservation efforts. This is not because they do not care to conserve, it is just because it is harder to know whether you are conserving or not, when you do not know how much water you are using because you do not get that information. Thus, we thought this might be a great start-up project to look at how and in what ways the City could help the HOAs get better at water conservation. We did make a loan to the Admiralty to help them separate the landscaping water from the domestic water, so we know that there is at least one way the City can help, but I think there are other things we can do and, importantly, should do to help in this area.
There are other issues that I think the HOAs and the City can work on together. Streamlining the permitting process, pre-approving material types for those HOAs who do not already have that, increase rebates for green construction and green products, low interest loans to make improvements, I am sure that there are many others as well. The key is to work together and to approach things as partners. Well maintained, high quality homes, condos and apartments are highly desired and help both the residents and the City by maintaining and even increasing property values. Increased property values in turn increase revenue to the City when the properties are sold. It is truly a win-win way to grow from within without having any adverse impact on the quality of life in our City.
Working with the HOAs and other residents is just one of many facets of a sustainable economic plan and in the months ahead I hope to share more of my ideas with you. I also hope that when you have ideas you will share them with me as we work together to keep our City strong and a beautiful place to live and work. Share your ideas with me by email at email@example.com or call me at (650) 286-3504.