What is the fuss about Measure P?

Today The Daily Journal published two opposing views on Measure P.


On December 15th, 2004 San Mateo City voters approved Measure P (17,151 / 68.7% Yes votes and 7,826 / 31.3% No votes) below is summary of the impartial analysis of measure that was published on SmartVoter.org.

Measure P extended the allowable height and density standards for new developments in the City of San Mateo that were established by Measure H in 1991. Measure P expires in 2020.

Background on Measure H: In 1991, San Mateo voters enacted Measure H, an initiative amending the City’s general plan. Measure H changed standards concerning allowable height and density for development and added requirements for affordable housing in new residential projects.

  • Measure H reduced allowable heights for commercial and multi-family residential structures. Before Measure H, buildings as high as 120 feet were allowed. Measure H established a 55 foot height limit for most areas zoned for commercial and multi-family projects. Measure H allows buildings up to 75 feet in certain areas with the provision of special “public benefits.”
  • Measure H reduced allowable building density. The prior general plan allowed for floor area ratios in the Downtown up to 8.0 and for multi-family densities up to 124 units per acre. Measure H reduced maximum Downtown ratio to 3.0 and reduced maximum multi-family density to 50 units per acre. Measure H allows for densities up to 75 units per acre in limited acres with special public benefits.
  • Measure H required residential projects with more than 10 units to restrict 10% of the units for affordable housing.

Summary of Measure P:

  • Measure P clarified issues that have arisen in implementing Measure H. After Measure H was adopted, the question arose as to whether the height map described in the measure would prevent the City Council from changing a property’s planned land use to a land use that would allow a range of heights greater than those designated on the map. The City’s past practice has been to allow such changes. Measure P would sanction this past practice if certain findings supporting the reclassification are made. Another clarification authorized the City Council to establish an inclusionary requirement higher than the current 10%, and to authorize the Council to establish a requirement that developers pay a fee in lieu of units for fractional affordable unit requirements.
  • Measure P made limited modifications to the policies established in Measure H. For example, Measure H limited remodels at the Hillsdale Shopping Center to 55 feet, even though some existing buildings are 60 feet high. Measure P authorized building heights up to 60 feet at the center. Measure P also authorized the City Council to establish new land use classifications in the general plan but limited the building heights in such areas to no more than 55 feet.

(Full text is available: Impartial Analysis from Shawn M. Mason, City Attorney – City of San Mateo:

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