Commissioner Madigan Proposes Inclusionary Zoning Players Put Proverbial Cards On Table

I congratulate Commissioner Madigan on her effort to have developers/bankers produce amendments they would like to see to the inclusionary  zoning proposal and sit down with Sustainable Saratoga for a public discussion of their  differences.  Here is her email to Chris Mathiesen.

From: “Michele Madigan” <> To: “Christian Mathiesen” <> Cc: “Brad Birge” <>, “John Franck” <>, “Skip Scirocco” <>, “Joanne Yepsen” <>, “meg kelly” <>, “Maire Masterson” <>, “frank coppola” <>, “Michael Veitch” <>, “Eileen Finneran” <> Sent: Thursday, June 22, 2017 9:44:17 AM Subject: IZ Workshop with Planning Dept.

Commissioner Mathiesen,

After a brief email exchange yesterday, (but many discussions) with Commissioner Franck and hearing from the public, we both believe that another IZ workshop is required and would be beneficial.

An additional way to handle the IZ ordinance is to have both the Developers/Bankers sit down with Sustainable Saratoga (the original sponsors of the IZ ordinance).  This should be directed by Planning Dept. (and yourself as sponsor) and attempt to resolve the differences that I believe still exist in order to bring IZ to a successful vote. While I can redline the document, I can’t say that I can accomplish this in the allotted two weeks from the last workshop.  I may need an additional two weeks or more and even then I’m not an expert on such an all encompassing zoning ordinance.  I’m working on other fairly high-level projects on behalf of the City, just one of which is Parking. and it looks as though you would like a public update on Parking so that is where my energies will like over the next few weeks.

If the developers and bankers are negotiating in good faith (and I believe that they are) they will draft the changes they require to make this work.  If the proponents have a problem with these then they need to draft the reasons why and how their approach will address the issues.  After that the Council and the public will have clarity and the Council can weigh in on IZ. [JK: My emphasis added]

Thank you,

Commissioner Michele Madigan



23 thoughts on “Commissioner Madigan Proposes Inclusionary Zoning Players Put Proverbial Cards On Table”

  1. I’ll go on record to say it probably won’t work. Chris and Sustainable Saratoga are just unwilling to bend. And even if it does, where’s the ‘win’ here? The city doesn’t win a damn thing, as none of the three issues we need to solve for the housing problem are even addressed. The only people standing to win here is a special interest group that understands trees but not housing and a couple of politicians that get to slap each other on the backs and say ‘Yay! We did something for affordable housing here!”

    Except they really didn’t. They’ll have made the situation even worse.

    I’ll still stand against this ordinance. People need to understand that this does NOTHING to help those that really need it most. Am I the only person in this city standing up for the vast majority of people working their asses off here that just keep getting sand kicked in their faces?


    1. I should have added “Chris and Sustainable Saratoga are just unwilling to bend *and listen*. That has been my experience anyway. There are VERY valid concerns that shouldn’t be blown off, yet they are.

      That said, I hope they vote at the next meeting, because bad legislation like this deserves to go down in flames.




      2. Merlin! You couldn’t be further from the truth if you tried!

        The builders are hardly ‘delighted’ by ANY of this. There is a VERY real and sincere desire by them to create affordable housing here, yet they are shut out at every step to do so.

        But zoning has no problems allowing condos, McMansion-type zoning and such. Why is that? The developers do NOT control zoning!!! People need to understand that. If they did, we would have all kinds of housing here, but we do not. The NIMBY’s here are a MUCH bigger problem than the developers ever were here!


  2. Bottom line Dave…..Saratoga has affordable housing did you know that??….Why does this goofy city want to get involved in something we already have and as for you and all your knowledge on this subject it couldn’t blow up an ant hill…Here’s another one for yous’….who the hell elected the sustainables to anything?


    1. Many consider Geyser Crest ‘affordable’. The home next door to me sold for $265k. I guess if you work eight fulltime jobs downtown you’ll have a shot at it anyway…

      And I agree COMPLETELY on ‘sustainables’. I HATE doing this crap. I really do. But you know what? Someone’s gotta stand up and call ‘bullsh*t’ when they see it. Might as well be me…..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And by the way…I’m glad you are your two cents is needed, this can be complicated and at times feelings will be hurt but when the shortcomings are known the finished product I believe should be achieved, Good Luck!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Low-income housing has been regulated to Jefferson and Vanderbilt Terrace as well as Stonequist housing. Those people are on public assistance and don’t contribute anything positive to the community. They are unlikely candidates for volunteerism. That kind of demographic perpetuates the stereotype about anyone who makes less than 70K a year is a stain on the community. Poor people like any group is not monolithic . We don’t have the same views or share the same core values. Developers and the powers that be continue to believe that non-working individuals will be taking up space in the community if new ‘workforce’ housing is builit. Not true. Reward those who work and provide adequate and affordable housing. Anyone receiving public assistance should have to contribute at least 20 hours a week doing community service.


      1. Nancy,

        First, no one likes someone ‘on the dole’. Yet I find it hard to fault someone who is working their @$$ off and still can’t afford a decent place to live. When FDR passed the minimum wage bill, it was to assure that no one who earned a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work wouldn’t live in poverty.

        The last year that happened in our country was 1968.

        Back then, one could work a full time min. wage job, and afford an apartment for themselves, and a car to get back and forth to their job. They didn’t need public assistance to make ends meet.

        It’s not like that now, as you well know. We have people working 2-3 jobs (and I was one of them for years in fact) simply trying to keep a roof above their head. These are ‘lazy, shiftless people’ at all – they are hard working people (legal or not I may add). I made a point a couple decades ago to our city council that didn’t understand what our country had created: a choice of whether to work your @$$ off for no gain at all or ‘go on the dole’ and actually have a life. I told them to look at it from a different perspective: what if you have a family of four. Mom and dad are each working two jobs. No one is watching the kids, who then get into trouble because their support system disappeared. They need $$ for kid’s clothes, books, ect. So do they work a third job, or get govt. assistance? What do you do?

        While too many are ‘on the dole’, this country has forced people into a situation like the above. It’s hard to faulty them because we’ve went WAYYY past the tipping point not only here but nationwide. Saratoga just made it worse because of the greed and NIMBY-ism that is so prevalent here. Everyone loves that their property values are sky high, but on the other side their kids can’t afford to stay here and move away. The solution is either lower property values or move away. Not a great choice to make, is it?

        I’m all for volunteers. Hell, that’s basically what I do because I don’t get paid for all of this political stuff. Yet I don’t see a LOT of ‘well to do’ people volunteering either – many of which are simply fortunate to have gained wealth in some form or another. Shouldn’t these people be ‘forced’ to volunteer too?

        We have serious problems in this country. We’ve truly got away from the values we grew up with. But I won’t fault someone who is working their tail off either, because I’ve been down that road before. We had a great system here at one time, and greed tore it apart and created the prototypical stereotype we now have of lower income. We need to work to get back to those ideals, not force more people to be ‘on the dole’.


      2. Nuts…. I meant to finish with this:

        Note this too: it’s pretty hard to volunteer when you are already working 60+ hours a week.

        The best way to find people ‘on the dole’ is to make things fair again – a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. People WILL work if they see a way up. They don’t have that now. Once they are, those that are left not working? Well, now you’ve found the REAL ‘slackers’, haven’t we?


    3. Merlin, Just where is this affordable housing you refer to? And, not section 8 low cost housing but for those that are working but can’t afford to pay upwards of $ 2,000 or more of a two bedroom apartment?


  3. John,

    As I told you when you called me during the week, we are hoping to sit down with one of the developers as well as Suatainabe Saratoga and our Planning Department so that we can go over some of the more contentions issues that were raised during the last Worhshop. I have no desire to rush this process. Another workshop might be necessary as Commissioner Madigan states in her E mail but such a meeting is pre-mature at this point in time. I know that Sustainable Saratoga is doing more research on this in light of the objections raised by the developers (John Witt and Sonny Bonaccio) and the bank raised and I will be doing so too. I think that both Commissioiners Franck and Madigan were correct when they stated that we are ‘85% there’ . The time and effort necessary to solve the problems associated with the remaining 15% will be invested earnestly. This is an important amendment to our ordinance which could help bring housing diversity back to our City.

    Chris Mathiesen


    1. Please substitute the word ‘we’ for ‘bee’. My spell checker does odd things at times.

      Chris Mathiesen


    2. Chris,

      Sustainable Saratoga has completely ignored anything regarding actual developer facts and figures. Why would they start now?

      And there is NO WAY this brings diversity to this city at $44,300 (to appease Geoff there, who was aggravated at my rounding of $45k) when it spits directly in the face of the majority of our workforce with this farce of an ordinance. Do you realize that the vast majority of minorities are left out? Are we to face yet another lawsuit for discrimination for our city with this? Do you understand that only 25% of the people applying for help actually get it via Section 8? And that it gets WORSE when a city like ares is what – 50 YEARS behind in workforce housing now?

      I’m sorry Chris, but you got this one wrong. VERY wrong. It will set housing back another decade. I’m all for the other projects, but not this disaster in the making. You can blame the developers all you want, but they are NOT at fault here. The zoning and such creating all of this is bad enough, but this ordinance can only make the situation even worse.

      How anyone for real affordable housing here can back this is beyond me. I’m saddened you brought this to the table as well. I truly thought you understand this issue. Obviously, I was wrong.


  4. Hey Guys!

    Good reporting, John…good discourse!

    What about these new smartphone-fueled realities?
    Like these new air-bee-and-bee’s; “air bed and breakfasts?”
    How is this new paradigm affecting the mix?

    Some say AirBnB’s infiltrating Toga will solve the housing problem.
    And: THERE IS NO CODE with which to to regulate them new-ol’ buggers!

    So, will all new housing will include a bath with every bedroom?
    Just look at the new boarding houses at 23 Murphy Lane and 138 Lincoln Avenue.
    5 bedrooms & 6 baths? Or is it 6 bedrooms & 5 baths?
    That’s rich. This is all BS.

    Just like the sidewalks to nowhere at the Toxic Springs on Weibel Ave.
    One way in and one way out…no egress!
    Who approves all this BS?

    This town is like some weird dream out of a future sci-fi novel coming to life.
    I said hello to a couple looking at their phones having coffee on Broadway the other morning.
    They ignored me. I made a shallow comment about the weather and the fact the Skidmore girls are no longer on Broadway and how you know when it’s springtime in Toga…it’s when the Skiddies take off their jackets (ha-ha-ha). But again…no response.

    Then I muttered; “A**holes.” THAT got their attention.
    This plausible deniability and lack of civil discourse will be the cancer that kills the downtown ambiance that makes Saratoga and especially the open porches on our old house so special.
    My brides asks me why I bother.

    I said; “When we stop spontaneously interacting and engaging in abstract observations with the fellow rabble, that’s when we become disconnected from reality and become prey to control of outside influence; not noble to our common cause.” That disconnect sows the seeds of alienation and isolation! (I reluctantly added.)

    As usual…my wife says: I think to much! Ugh!
    Ugh (again)!
    A typical example of the latest retort from a member of the non-participatory, Presbyterian peasantry of which I’ve been happily shackled to for sooo many years!

    Life is not to be seen, but through the gaze of hand-held devices of virtual reality.
    The real Saratoga is happening right in front of our eyes.
    Should we be brave enough to take a chance and glance up 3 or so inches?
    Cowards among us. So sad.

    And Uber, AirBnB; the lack of affordable housing and exceptional development; is all happening because of our lack of spontaneous, civil discourse. “Talking to strangers.”
    Wow. What a concept.

    I’m feeling so old these days.
    And, sorry fellas, I do not own a smartphone.

    I think I’m going to pick up my corded wall phone in the old kitchen and dial-up mom.
    She’s always good for a good commiseration session.

    Enjoy the sun whilst we can,



      1. I’ve followed you for quite some time and take your reply as a compliment.
        Puhleeze check out my award-winning buddy in NH.
        His name is John.
        He’s the genuine article.
        You’ll like him!
        You are, like, that ‘Black Irish” he’s always warning us about (lol).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Get some Federal money, build another Stonequist behind the one we have now.
    Affordable housing.
    Done. 10-4
    p.s. Note to CM: Your spellcheck isn’t your only problem.


    1. Please educate yourself on the difference between low-income housing (Section 8) and affordable “workforce” housing. There is a big difference!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave,

    I am not blaming developers or anyone else. We are trying to work out a solution that will work as well as possible for the entire community. Inclusionary zoning works in other communities that have housing challenges similar to ours. It may work here. It can help the many people who make too much to qualify for section 8 housing but still make too little to be able to live in our City.
    I understand your opposition to this and we will have to continue to disagree. At least you are not resorting to snarky remarks unlike Henry 37 (whoever that person is).

    Chris Mathiesen


    1. Chris,

      If I had ANY reason to think this MIGHT work, I’d support it. But I can’t find anything. I really can’t. The more I look at it and the situation here, the more it makes me side against it. We don’t have much buildable land here now because of the zoning, which makes it virtually impossible to hit the projected number of units they claim it will unless we do another ‘urban renewal’ here. Our infrastructure downtown is already stressed beyond belief – and we want to ADD to that? The entire plan of cramming more people downtown (which will NEVER work anyway because zoning won’t allow a developer to go high enough to make it happen) is just insane anyway. People are not sardines. They want a home they can afford. The American Dream Chris – not to be stuck paying (ridiculously high) rent for the rest of their lives here. They want to gain some equity for their hard earned money.

      For the life of me I can’t understand why it is so hard for you and Sustainable Saratoga to understand that you’ve shut out the vast majority of our workforce with this. Geoff keeps pointing me to Article, but what everyone seems to miss here is those at the lower end of the spectrum are forced ABOVE 30% of their income to ‘afford’ these units at 60 AMI. That is NOT what they need. That income level can LEAST afford it (and the less they make at the bottom, the higher they will go above that 30% too. Where’s the ‘win for them?

      It’s also a major fail to not understand that even with the three projects in the works (S. B’way, Stonequist and West Ave, which I DO support btw) we will STILL be short on workforce and senior housing below $44,300k. As I have noted previously, most applying for section 8 do NOT get help anyway (25%) – and that doesn’t even include those that don’t bother or stopped trying. These people are the least likely to be able to afford a vehicle and drive 20+ miles to work, NOT those making $60k and up – and yet we are helping them instead? That’s beyond wrong Chris. And please understand that my own son works for the city and would be ‘helped’ here too, but the last thing he wants is an apartment downtown – and I get that from a LOT of people. We need to find a way to subsidize land cost to build small starter homes, and open up some land to do it to solve for the ‘big three’. It is THE missing component in all of this, and it’s being completely ignored.

      There is one other point that needs to be made here too. “Discrimination”. The city already lost one lawsuit because of it. Are we going to go for a second with this?

      I’ll say this straight up, and I don’t care who it offends: this ordinance will STIFLE housing efforts here, not help it. I don’t give two hoots about greenbelt or bike trails UNTIL we have housing for our workforce and seniors that is safe, clean and affordable. THAT should be the priority, period. But this is NOT the way to solve for it, or even help it for that matter. This is nothing more than jumping on a plan concocted by a special interest group because the council thinks ‘we have to do something’. But what SHOULD be done is the RIGHT thing – not something just to say the council ‘did something’.


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