A small group of individuals, under the banner of the San Mateo Heritage Alliance, is advocating for a historic designation in Baywood. Incredulously, this group has preemptively applied for this designation with the State of California (and potentially nationally) without sufficient awareness among the nearly 450 affected homeowners.
The prospect of unelected people unilaterally imposing costly restrictions on an entire neighborhood without their knowledge or consent is deeply troubling.
More than 150 San Mateo residents have signed a petition to oppose the proposed historic district. There are imminent and long-term implications of such a designation for the neighborhood and the City of San Mateo as a whole. This unwanted Baywood historic district not only infringes on property rights but also creates unnecessary obstacles for those seeking to invest in their homes to become safer, more climate resilient, and adaptive.
Increasing Costs: Many Baywood houses, built several decades ago, may not meet the safety standards and needs of modern families. Issues such as knob and tube wiring, outdated plumbing, sewer systems, and the presence of asbestos necessitate updates and renovations. However, if a property is deemed a "contributing resource" in the historic district, the renovation process becomes prohibitively difficult, expensive, and sometimes impossible. Remodeling restrictions on “historic” homes may discourage investment in the area, and it can be more difficult to obtain financing and insurance for historic properties. This, in turn, could adversely affect the appeal of Baywood homes to potential buyers.
Barrier to Sustainability: One of the primary concerns is the significant impact on the cost and time associated with remodeling historic homes. Based on estimates, these expenses could increase by 2X-5X, making it financially burdensome for homeowners who wish to enhance or adapt their homes to meet evolving family needs or adhere to eco-friendly standards.
Infringement of Property Rights: Furthermore, historic districting is akin to a "forever tax" on our homes. This imposition strips decision-making power from homeowners and puts it into the hands of an unelected committee that may not share the same values, priorities, or urgency as the property owners themselves. Homeowners should be free to modify their properties within the bounds of city building codes without facing subjective judgments and onerous red tape.
Loss of Local Control: Efforts to abuse historic resource law and exploit loopholes to avoid state housing mandates could jeopardize San Mateo’s local control over land use policy and open the door to Builder’s Remedy. We do not want San Mateo to come under the scrutiny of State Attorney General Rob Bonta and further delay the certification of the Housing Element.
The San Mateo Historic Alliance is pushing a divisive and exclusionary agenda that undermines our City’s vision of inclusivity and diversity, and exacerbate socio-economic and geographic inequities. Baywood was founded as a white-only neighborhood, explicitly banning all people of color from ownership, and the legacy of racist zoning continues to divide our east and west neighborhoods. The Baywood historic district attempts to skirt state law designed to overcome historic segregation and address our affordable housing crisis. Banning the production of affordable housing in Baywood effectively shifts the state-mandated housing production to other neighborhoods in the City that are already doing their fair share.
We cannot allow the San Mateo Heritage Alliance to cement divisions between San Mateo’s east and west communities by pushing the responsibility of growth onto other neighborhoods. It is essential to protect the rights of homeowners to make decisions about their properties while ensuring the growth and development of our neighborhood align with the needs of the current generation.
I call on the San Mateo Heritage Alliance to immediately withdraw the Baywood Historic District application and abandon this effort. Please stand with our Baywood neighbors to oppose this infringement of property rights. Learn more: www.lessredtape.com
Mayor Amourence Lee
November 27, 2023