Major Strides Towards New Farmworker Housing on the San Mateo Coast

Farmworkers on the San Mateo coastside. Photo credit: Joaquin Jimenez

January 23, 2024 marked the anniversary of the tragic mass shooting of seven farmworkers at two farms in the Half Moon Bay area, which focused public attention on the disgraceful living conditions for many farmworkers. A year later, while there is still much to do, we are heartened by the significant progress that’s been made towards building new, safe, affordable, farmworker housing on three sites in the Half Moon Bay area.

Existing Farmworker Housing Is Unsafe and Inadequate

Most of the existing housing for farmworkers and their families is located on the farms where they work. However, many of these units are overcrowded and do not meet basic health and safety codes; and others were built without benefit of county review and approval. Farmworkers who rely on employer-based housing may be reluctant to speak up or complain about unsafe or unsanitary conditions for fear of losing both their job and their housing.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors launched a task force in February 2023 specifically to improve living conditions for these workers and families, including those displaced by the mass shooting in January. We look forward to seeing major improvements in living conditions in existing housing for these essential and often overlooked workers, but there is also still a dire need for new housing that is affordable for farmworkers.

Three New Sites for Farmworker Housing

The past year has demonstrated that where there is political will and available funding, great strides can be made. We’re excited to see progress on these three new farmworker housing proposals:

880 Stone Pine Road: The City of Half Moon Bay is partnering with San Mateo County to install 46 manufactured homes for low-income families plus a manager’s unit on five acres at “Stone Pine Cove” by this coming fall or winter. To help expedite this critically needed project, the city issued an Emergency Coastal Development Permit in December 2023, which will allow the county, a co-sponsor of the project, to seek construction bids on an expedited schedule. The county has received two major grants for this project: $5 million from the state’s Joe Cerna, Jr. Farmworker Housing Grant Program, and $1 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

555 Kelly Avenue: A recent proposal by Half Moon Bay nonprofit ALAS (Ayudando Latinos a Soñar) and partner Mercy Housing will turn a longtime vacant single-family house and adjacent parking lot next to the Half Moon Bay Community Center into 40 units of housing for 100 older farmworkers. ALAS, which provides social services to the Latinx community in the greater Half Moon Bay area, plans to include community space where residents can be connected with social services, cultural programs, and other needed resources.

2265 Cabrillo Highway: On January 9, 2024, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors authorized an option to purchase the former Bay City Flower Company’s 50-acre nursery located at the south end of Half Moon Bay for $9 million. Bay City, which had been owned and operated by the Higaki family since 1960, closed the business in 2019 and the property has not yet found a viable buyer. San Mateo County has a 6-month option to purchase the property, which allows time for more detailed investigations of site conditions and potential costs of repurposing the site and extending city sewer utilities. We have been urging the city and/or county to acquire this property, as it can provide a significant number of housing units for farmworkers as well as other compatible land uses.

We’ll continue following these exciting new initiatives and will update you periodically on the county’s progress toward improving farmworker housing.

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