These are the remarks I delivered on December 9, 2019 as I was wrapping up my year as chair of the Council (aka mayor).
This year’s been a great reboot for the Council! I also hope you all had some fun along the way. No job is so serious that you can’t enjoy doing it at least part of the time!
For me there could be no better end to my year as chair than the strategic planning meeting held last Friday. We had a great, and intense, discussion about the key long-term challenges facing our community. While no decisions were made we did start defining where we want to go.
San Carlos is in the early stages of the largest wave of commercial development in its history. Jeff Maltbie got it right a few years ago when he said “We’ve been discovered, and there’s no turning back from that.”
It’s clear from Friday’s discussion the Council understands this. I am confident it will do what it takes to manage our future rather than have events, and developers, manage it for us.
Because the challenge is more than just millions of new square feet of office space, and thousands of new jobs, significant as those are. It’s also housing. And the traffic caused by widely separating jobs and homes. And a host of other things, like the increased need for childcare.
The CEO of a San Carlos biotech company recently told me they rejected building their manufacturing plant here. Why? Because they couldn’t pay enough to the college and graduate school level people they need to provide them with a decent quality of life. They’re building it outside of Philadelphia instead.
That’s both startling and disturbing. The housing crisis is usually described as driving out waiters and childcare providers and store clerks and elder-care providers and teachers and firefighters and public works staff and police. All whose jobs are vital to any healthy community.
But we’ve gotten to the point where high-paying private sector jobs are at risk as well.
This isn’t because of a nefarious plot. Or mismanagement. It’s the result of the enormous success the Bay Area, and San Carlos, have achieved over the last twenty years.
Tremendous success always brings tremendous challenges. The prior Councils responsible for our current success could never have foreseen the rapid changes impacting us today. Because, with the possible exception of the post-World War II era, they are unprecedented in San Carlos’ history. Dealing with them is the most important task currently before us.
Particularly because most San Carlans have reservations about the future we are heading towards. We don’t want to see our vaunted public schools or city services undermined due to a lack of qualified staff. We don’t want to see employers, even major ones, relocating elsewhere. If nothing else that would harm us as individuals in many ways.
But it’s more than self-interest. We want a vibrant community that offers a home, and a life, to people of all sorts of backgrounds and interests. We want a place where our kids can choose to live without having launched the next Facebook or Google. We want a thriving, vibrant, living community.
Figuring out how to do that will not be easy. It will require hard work and compromise.
It will also require changes in the tools we use as a community to regulate and manage growth. Because having embarked upon this new phase of San Carlos’ journey the old ways of doing things must be critically examined, and likely changed, if we are to mold the future into something that achieves our desires.
But we can do it. This Council is poised to build a future for San Carlos that the people living here today and those who come after us will enjoy.
Thank you very much for the privilege of chairing the Council this last year. It’s been far more interesting, and rewarding, than I expected.
I look forward to working with all of you as we figure out how to use the marvelous opportunity presented to us by having been discovered – and make no mistake about it, it is a wonderful opportunity; despite its challenges – as we work our way towards the undiscovered country.