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Tuesday November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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City of San Mateo
Measure R - Majority Approval Required

To learn more about measures, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.

Election Results


21,085 votes yes (46.12%)

24,631 votes no (53.88%)

51,247 ballots counted

Shall the proposed ordinance to amend the City of San Mateo General Plan to extend for ten years the expiration date for voter-enacted policies limiting building heights and intensities, but to authorize the City Council to approve increases in heights and intensities in designated areas that are close to major transit and to make other specified amendments to affordable housing policies in the plan, be adopted?

What is this proposal?

Details — Official information

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Shawn M. Mason, City Attorney

In 1991, San Mateo voters enacted Measure H, a citizens' initiative that amended the city's general plan for future development. Measure H amended the general plan to lower limits on building heights, residential densities as measured by the number of housing units per acre, and nonresidential building intensity as measured by the ratio of building floor area to the size of the parcel.  Measure H also established an inclusionary housing program requiring residential developments to provide at least 10% of the project's units at rents or prices affordable to low- or moderate-income households.

As a voter-adopted initiative, the policies established by Measure H could not be amended by the City Council without subsequent voter approval while the measure was in effect. Measure H contained an expiration provision. By its terms, Measure H would no longer be in effect after December 31, 2005.

In 2004, the City Council proposed Measure P, a measure to authorize limited modifications to the policies established by Measure H and to extend the expiration provision until December 31, 2020. The voters approved Measure P.

In 2017, the California Legislature enacted a law that authorizes cities to adopt inclusionary housing ordinances; however, this law requires such ordinances to provide developers of rental housing projects with alternative means of satisfying the inclusionary housing requirement.

The current general plan provides for tiered building height and intensity limits at certain locations in the city. Lower height and intensity limits apply to projects meeting code requirements, and higher height and intensity limits apply to projects providing public benefits beyond code requirements.

If approved by the voters, this measure would extend the expiration date of the general plan policies concerning building heights and densities established in Measure P to December 31, 2030, with certain exceptions. The measure would prohibit the City Council from increasing heights and densities above Measure P limits in most of the city without voter approval. This measure would allow the City Council to amend the general plan to permit heights and densities that exceed the limits established in Measure P in specified areas near the Downtown, Hayward Park, and Hillsdale CalTrain stations without voter approval.

This measure would also maintain the Measure P inclusionary housing requirements but would amend the general plan to allow alternative means of compliance that may include in-lieu fees, land dedication, off-site construction, or acquisition and rehabilitations of existing units. 

This measure would also allow mixed use or residential projects that comply with the city's inclusionary housing policy to be developed at the higher height and building intensity limits allowed in those areas with tiered limits without providing additional public benefits.

If passed, this measure will go into effect on January 1, 2021, and will remain in effect through January 1, 2031.

A YES vote approves the measure.

A NO vote rejects the measure.

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

Arguments FOR

Measure R was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the San Mateo City Council. If approved, it will allow San Mateo to address some of the biggest issues facing our community - creating new affordable housing for the heroes who have risked their own health for us and generating opportunities for the City and our business community to recover and grow economically without additional tax burdens on residents. Measure R also continues the height and density restrictions for the single-family neighborhoods of San Mateo.

We urge a YES vote on Measure R.

Measure R means the City can create new affordable housing opportunities near the three San Mateo train stations on industrial and commercial lands for our heroes - nurses, teachers, lab technicians, retail clerks, public safety personnel, park rangers, health care workers, and more. Yes on Measure R.

Measure R continues the height and density limits against tall buildings in the single-family neighborhoods of San Mateo, Yes on Measure R.

Measure R allows San Mateo - our City and business community - to recover economically without additional tax burdens on residents. Yes on Measure R.

Conversely, we don't need the flawed and antiquated Measure Y. Vote No.

Measure Y offers no solutions to create needed affordable housing. Vote No.

Measure Y provides no help funding essential city services and economic recovery. Vote No.

Measure Y restricts our ability to address traffic solutions and climate change. Vote No.

The San Mateo City Council took a unanimous position to oppose Measure Y. They recognize that the flawed Measure Y impedes the creation of affordable housing and restricts the economic recovery we need for families, businesses, and the City.

Vote Yes on R - it's a path forward.

Vote No on Y - it's a dead end.


/s/ Joseph Goethals, Mayor, San Mateo

/s/ John Tastor, Board Member, Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County

/s/ Shara Watkins, Trustee, San Mateo-Foster City School District

/s/ Richard w. Hedges, Delegate, San Mateo United Homeowners Assn.

/s/ Cheryl Angeles, San Mateo Area Chamber of Commerce

Arguments AGAINST

Vote No on R - Developers' dream. Residents' nightmare. A blank check, it removes voter control of height limit protections now in Measure P. It opens the door to unrestrained growth in Downtown, Hillsdale, and Hayward Park station areas, 25th Avenue, and much of El Camino Real.

Measure R was written by real estate development interests to exempt themselves from the city's rules. It's designed to confuse and deceive, pretending to protect neighborhoods and champion affordable housing. In reality, it spurs market rate development and more luxury housing, accelerating gentrification.

Measure R hinders production of urgently needed affordable housing. It provides a loophole for excluding affordableh ousing from market rate developments - a "buy out" with no guarantee affordable units will ever be built.

Measure R undermines the General Plan. It allows critical changes to heights and densities in key development areas without voter approval. Even after a new General Plan is adopted, the City Council can override any agreed upon development standards, effectively rendering the update process irrelevant with years of public input wasted.

Measure R rewards developers and eliminates public benefit. It allows maximum building heights yet takes away community benefits currently required for these larger developments.

Measure R fails to accurately identify targeted development areas. The map is illegible and in conflict with the boundary descriptions. Both are seriously flawed. Inadequately defining the very crux of this measure, it misleads voters and grants final power to determine boundaries to City Council votes.

Measure R is an all around bad deal. Measure R is not about neighborhood protection or affordable housing. Don't be fooled by the slick mailers to mislead, confuse, charm, or alarm you. It is about money and power. Bankrolled by real estate development interests, it's a self-serving power play. Money talks.

Vote NO on R.


/s/ Keith Weber, Affordable Housing Professional (ret)

/s/ Dianne Whittaker AIA, Former Planning Commissioner

/s/ Thomas Morgan, CPA, Member, Measure S Oversight Committee

/s/ Virginia McIsaac, Board Director, San Mateo Park Neighborhood Assoc.

/s/ Garrett Rice, Former Public Works Commissioner

Replies to Arguments FOR

Why did the City Council put Measure R on the ballot since it was written by development interests to exempt themselves from city rules? Flex your voter power and reject special influence. Vote NO on R.

Measure R blows the lid off height limit protections, paving the way for high-rise buildings with no ceiling on heights, bringing more traffic into your neighborhood. Flawed boundary map and text descriptions leave interpretation of contradictory boundaries to the Council, not voters.

Measure R hamstrings affordable housing production. It gives developers a "buy-out" loophole to avoid building affordable units within their developments, thereby crippling affordable housing production and accelerating gentrification. In contrast, Measure Y requires affordable housing as part of every market rate development with affordable units equitably located throughout the city.

Measure R is not needed to create affordable housing. Measure Y continues Measure P's standards which have a proven track record of having doubled the number of affordable units built since 1991. New affordable housing projects are underway at the Downtown and Hillsdale train stations.

Measure R is not needed to help businesses recover; may even increase rents for small businesses. For over thirty years, Measure P policies have helped San Mateo thrive and prosper. Essential city services have improved and expanded. Measure Y continues these proven policies.

Measure R is funded by powerful real estate development interests. The Bohannon Organization, owners of Hillsdale Mall and adjacent properties, has poured over $300,000 into an attempt to dominate this election.

Vote No on R - Big $$$.  No Limits.


/s/ Maxine Terner, Founding Member, Home Assoc. of North Central San Mateo

/s/ Dennis Murphy, President, San Mateo Glendale Village Neighborhood Assn.

/s/ Laurie Watanuki, Former Public Works commissioner

/s/ Linda Yates, Charter Member, San Mateans for Responsive Government

/s/ Taso Zografos, President, Gracmery Mounds-El Cerrito Neighborhood Assn. 

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

Yes on R - ensures voter mandated height limits remain in all San Mateo's residential neighborhoods. Extends existing height limits while allowing flexibility to meet future needs around transit centers. Vote YES.

Measure R - placed on the ballot unanimously by San Mateo City Council. Designed to protect neighborhoods and expand affordable housing, opportunities for our local heroes - teachers, nurses, firefighters, park rangers, retail clerks, healthcare workers, and more. Vote YES.

Measure R - the only way to build enough affordable housing. Counter Measure Y continues the restrictions limiting new affordable housing. San Mateo is decades behind fulfilling our need for this new housing. Vote YES.

Measure R enables the General Plan. Allows professional planners to smart address San Mateo's future - concentrating new housing near San Mateo's three train stations. Vote YES.

Measure R establishes community benefit for housing. For decades San Mateo has been unable to advance affordable housing proposals as the language of counter Measure Y prohibited affordable housing to be seen as a community benefit. Measure R fixes this language. Vote YES.

Measure R - a path forward. Benefits are less traffic from the East Bay, reduced greenhouse gases, protection for residential neighborhoods. Vote YES.

COUNTER Measure Y - a dead end. VOTE NO.

Extending Measure Y continues our community's biggest housing challenges. Extending it means less affordable housing, dense four-plexes in our neighborhoods, and more traffic on neighborhood streets/freeways and obstructs our opportunity for post COVOID 19 economic recovery.

YES ON R. NO on Y.


/s/ Brian Kelly, San Mateo Fire chief (retired)

/s/ Rosa E. Rivera, Attorney, Former Human Relations Commissioner, City of San Mateo

/s/ Alexis Lewis, Board Member, NAACP San Mateo Branch

/s/ Mike Etheridge, Planning Commissioner, City of San Mateo

/s/ Jim Sell, Retired Small Business Owner 

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