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The San Mateo study was about general land use issues, but there was no study about whether housing pays for itself. The paragraph Bob posted even says: "Although this kind of fiscal analysis has not been performed specifically for the City of San Mateo..." It provides general conditions where housing might be expected to pay for itself, without anything to back up those statements. I would also argue that those conditions don't apply in Pacifica: (1) housing prices here are among the lowest in the county, (2) the cost of city services is known to be high, and (3) there's a lack of retail to capture sales taxes.

The Harmony @ 1 project will likely pay for itself, since the home prices are so high. But that project is not the norm in Pacifica, and it's certainly not going to make a dent in the city's deficit.

Regarding the number of units, there are 10 luxury homes, but there are supposed to be a number of affordable units built as well. The FEIR has a statement from the original developers about this and the other proposed CCRs:


"Pacifica cannot continue to exist as it does..." Yep. True enough. Did you know that Pacifica provides free services through Parks, Beaches, and Recreation. All you have to do is move here. Who's funding that? Um. The TAXpayers?

If the City of Pacifica does declare bankruptcy, the locals who own property here will still be on the hook to pay the bills.

So it is time for City Council to start being honest about the money it is asking to spend: untold, unpayable future pension costs for city employees, with no end in sight to the financial commitment.

Why is it always the bedroom-community industry? Housing fairly reliably costs a community something very like and often more than what it provides in taxes. The illusion of it being a revenue source comes in an identifiable tax bill showing money coming in while the "externalized" costs of the development happen in many and various ways that often can't be proven to have been caused by the developments that caused them. I believe that Pacifica's financial woes are caused to a great extent by our longstanding concentration on the bedroom-community industry, which is, of course, not an industry at all.

Jennifer, I'm an acquaintance of the local man handling the Harmony @ 1 subdivision development. He tells me it will be 16 lots with 16 units of housing. To get the permit to cut the road cost his money people more than 700K, which also allows him to have an APN number assigned each lot, which allows him to sell these lots to whomever will buy them. The subdivision's Conditions of Approval, a city gamebook for each lot, dictates an enormous number of restrictions on what can be built. This local assures me that they will be followed to the letter without requesting any exceptions or variances to the Conditions of Approval. I've also checked with our Planning Department, and during the Rhodes/White/Ritsma years, none of the Conditions of Approval have been altered to favor the land owner, the subdivision development, or any structures that each lot would be allowed to construct. For better or worse, this proposal did work its way through every regulatory issue it faced or was asked to face, including working with a narrowly focused local environmental interest.

Again, here's the study done by the City of San Mateo which found that housing can pay for itself under certain conditions. Extremely high taxes on multi million dollar houses would be one of them.

"City of San Mateo Housing and Land Use Study Report
Fiscal Impacts of New Housing
As new homes are built in the community, a number of one time revenues are generated to local and state governments through sales taxes on construction materials, transfer taxes and construction related fees. The question arises whether these revenues offset the ongoing costs to theCitytoprovideadditionalservicesforthenewresidences. Thetraditionalperspectivehas been that housing increases the burden of services for cities and does not “pay for itself”. A number of recent studies have challenged that perception, but the scope of the studies have been quite general and are inconclusive when it comes to specific localities. According to the City’s economic consultant on this study, who has performed these types of studies for several jurisdictions, the answer is “it depends”. Housing can "pay for itself" if the home values are high, as this generates high property taxes and typically high sales taxes as well, as long as there is a reasonable supply of retail in the jurisdiction to capture those sales. Housing can also pay for itself if the municipal expenses are low. Housing does not tend to "pay for itself" when the values are low and/or municipal service costs are high. Although this kind of fiscal analysis has not been performed specifically for the City of San Mateo, there are several factors that may indicate that there is a positive fiscal impact:
San Mateo property values are high, so property taxes would be high, San Mateo has a reasonable retail base to capture spending and sales taxes from high- income residents of new housing development, and San Mateo is largely built out and has an established physical and organizational infrastructure that would likely require marginal rather than substantial increases to serve new residents.


I oppose any development that covers a scenic hillside with housing. We need to preserve our irreplaceable open spaces. But I especially resent luxury homes taking over open space that should be available to the public for hiking, biking, and enjoying Pacifica's natural beauty. I do not understand sacrificing open space to accommodate wealthy private-property owners. But beyond the environment, I do not accept that more housing helps the city financially. As most experts agree, housing is a drain on city services. Property taxes are not the solution. They do not offset the cost to the city (i.e., we the taxpayers) of providing more services and infrastructure (traffic, police, roads, water, sewer, etc.). Guess who benefits from more housing on the hill?

You wrote:

Hey, just what this town needs, 17 multimillion-dollar homes on Roberts Road and Fassler. Whoopie! Get the gruesome details posted right now on http://pacificariptide.com

John Maybury
Editor and Publisher
Pacifica Riptide

And I responded:

Dear John:

I'm curious why this is so gruesome. Doesn't Pacifica have enough low-end homes? Wouldn't some high end homes help with the $4 mil deficit we have? Maybe there's something here I'm not seeing. You know I'm against the expanded freeway and building a development in the quarry of 300+ homes, but 17 (or 10—is it 10 with views, 7 without?) custom homes all sitting on 1-2 acre lots will not increase traffic significantly but will help pay for infrastructure and schools, etc. This is much better than massive development. This would actually help stop Caltrans because if more economically powerful people see Pacifica as a destination rather than a thoroughfare, they wouldn't be able to railroad this concrete nightmare through here. People need to see Pacifica as a place to preserve. I think this is the kind of development you want in Pacifica: big homes on huge lots because then you have less people living here but you still have property tax dollars to support the schools, Pacifica Resources, the beach, etc.

I would love some more info about this. I couldn't find much detail on the link. Any insight you have I would be interested in. I think if we don't have some kind of financial investment here (and one that doesn't use much land or pollute the environment), Pacifica cannot continue to exist as it does. We need money, but we don't want to sell much land to get it. This could be one solution. Please tell me more. Maybe I don't know all the problems with this.

Thanks a bunch,


And you asked me to post it here, so I am.

I've since heard that it's only ten houses. I'm hoping that's the case.

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