Mid-Peninsula residents’ top concerns: Housing, traffic, regulating commercial development

Daily Post Correspondent

Creating affordable housing, reducing traffic congestion and regulating commercial development are the three top issues for residents across the mid-Peninsula, according to a series of community surveys.

In separate surveys conducted in Palo Alto, Redwood City and Los Altos, residents listed those issues as their top three concerns.

But in San Carlos, residents had a different set of worries. Limiting growth and development was a top concern among survey respondents. It was cited by 22.4% of respondents. That was followed by parking issues, named as the top concern by 17.3% of respondents; and reducing traffic congestion, in 15.1% of responses. Providing affordable housing ranked sixth highest in the San Carlos survey, chosen by 7.1% of respondents. The survey by True North Research took place in January and included 560 residents. Many cities use community surveys as a tool to gauge resident satisfaction with city services. Local cities including Redwood City, Los Altos, Menlo Park and San Carlos have hired the same consultant, Godbe Research, to conduct the surveys.

The surveys typically start out by asking residents to rate their satisfaction with quality of life in the city. Consultants can also customize the surveys to ask about particular topics of interest for the city, such as an issue being considered for a ballot measure.

Downtown Los Altos rated

In Los Altos, for example, Godbe asked residents how often they go downtown; 23% said daily and 40% said once a week. Three-quarters said they drive alone to get downtown.
And when asked to rate the vibrancy of downtown on a scale of one or not at all vibrant, to seven, extremely vibrant, the largest number of respondents rated downtown’s vibrancy a “four.”

Eleven percent listed the need for downtown revitalization as the most important issue for Los Altos. The Los Altos survey was conducted in December and included 446 respondents.

But the top concerns for Los Altos residents were affordable housing, listed as the top issue by 28.5% of respondents; followed by traffic congestion in 24.4% of responses; and controlling growth at 19.8%.

Priorities change in Redwood City

In Redwood City, Godbe surveyed 832 residents in July 2015. When asked about important issues facing the city, residents’ responses were markedly different than in earlier surveys.

In a 2010 survey, for example, improving the quality of education was the top issue, followed by the economy and reducing crime.

But in 2015, 26.5% of Redwood City residents surveyed said creating affordable housing was the top issue, compared to 7% who gave that response in 2010.

The 12.6% who said traffic congestion was a top concern was a substantial increase from 3% five years earlier. Regulating development came in third in 2015, with 10.3% of responses.

In Menlo Park, Godbe’s survey was designed to gauge the overall quality of life in the city and determine voter support for a bond measure or utility tax increase to build new libraries. Support for a new parking structure was also assessed. Respondents weren’t asked about their top concerns for the city during the late 2017 survey, which included 808 participants.

Palo Altans sound off

In a survey last year of 614 Palo Alto residents, housing issues, such as the amount of housing or affordability, was named as the top issue by the most respondents, 23%. That was followed by traffic concerns, at 17%; and development other than housing, at 10%.

A report on the survey findings last month by Palo Alto City Auditor Harriet Richardson also includes residents’ comments on the issues. Although many simply said the city needs more affordable housing, one respondent added that affordable housing that allows pets is needed. A few suggested rent control.

“Stop pumping (south Palo Alto) with hotels; we need housing,” one respondent said.

Another respondent was concerned about some of the city’s mansion dwellers.

House rich and cash poor

“Offer financial counseling to residents who appear to be house-rich/cash-poor — their million dollar homes are falling apart, some of them dig through trash bins for recycling. How can we help?” the respondent said.

On the issue of traffic, a few respondents singled out traffic snarls at the Town & Country Village. Several suggested better timing of traffic signals. Some asked for traffic enforcement.

“Stiffen your approach to flagrant speeders!” one respondent said.