INFORMED CITIZENS WANT MORE
Majority Support Higher Density, More Regional
Foster City, CA – Is there a critical housing
shortage in San Mateo County? If so, what should be done about it?
An unprecedented scientific random sample of 238 San Mateo County
residents deliberated for two days on housing solutions at Threshold
2008’s Countywide Assembly on Housing Choices. More than two-thirds
of the participants believe that more housing needs to be created in
Threshold 2008, a non-profit organization formed to engage the
public on housing issues in San Mateo County, held the Countywide
Assembly to discuss the pros and cons of different options for
dealing with the county’s future housing needs. The results of the
weekend-long discussion show that 68% of participants think there is
a need for more housing in the county, a dramatic increase from the
38% who held that view prior to the event.
The Countywide Assembly – technically known as a Deliberative PollŪ
- took place March 15-16, 2008 at Caņada College in Redwood City.
Participants were surveyed before and after the event in order to
see how their attitudes changed once they became informed through
presentations of balanced information, small group discussions and
Q&A sessions with experts.
“We want to bring an informed public voice into discussions about
housing solutions,” said Greg Greenway, executive director of
Threshold 2008. “The results show that people are willing to
reconsider their own views when they get new information and talk
in-depth with others.”
Other key findings include:
68% feel that the county’s vital services like
education, fire, police and health would suffer if there
continues to be a shortage of housing, compared to 46% prior to
76% believe that new housing will increase the
economic vitality of the region, as opposed to 61% before the
72% think any new housing should be located in
already developed areas, an increase from 61% before to the
65% believe there should be “increased regional
authority” in housing as compared to 43% before the event.
[Download the report, as well as view photos of the
Participants were paid an honorarium of $200, but the rewards of
getting involved went beyond the money. An overwhelming majority of
participants (95%) believed that the Countywide Assembly was
valuable, specifically citing the usefulness of the small group
discussions and Q&A sessions with experts. More than 90% of the 238
participants want to remain involved in the issue.
Approximately 400 people attended the event, including participants,
discussion moderators, expert panelists, and observers. Policymakers
and opinion leaders observed the action to ensure that people in the
county were presented with balanced information and truly engaged.
“It was inspiring to watch people get excited and involved in
housing issues and policies affecting residents and those commuting
to jobs in our county,” said Duane Bay, San Mateo County Department
of Housing. “Leaders will lead, and as we find out more about what
people really want, they will lead more boldly. This event was a
great step in that direction.”
Deliberative PollingŪ, a public process developed by Professor James
Fishkin of Stanford University, is a technique that combines
deliberation in small group discussions with scientific random
sampling to provide public consultation for public policy issues.
“A representative sample of residents in San Mateo County were put
in one room to think about some hard choices, become more informed
and come to striking conclusions,” said Professor Fishkin. “This
process showed what people think when they really consider competing
arguments and I hope policymakers will pay attention.”
Threshold 2008 will now offer an opportunity for the entire
community to weigh in on these choices in an interactive Online
Dialogue and a series of Community Conversations. People who work or
live in the county can sign up in April at www Threshold2008.org
Threshold 2008 is an unprecedented campaign to build the public
voice about housing issues and options in San Mateo County. It is a
community-driven effort supported by Open Square Foundation, Silicon
Valley Community Foundation, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation,
and W.K. Kellogg Foundation to make the process of developing
housing policies and solutions more inclusive. Please visit
www.threshold2008.org for more information.