As cities throughout the Bay Area determine how to address the region’s housing needs, multi-sector collaboratives are helping to guide the way.

Over the past two and a half years, Common Knowledge has walked alongside members of Home for All, a county-wide collaborative, as they work to improve the climate for housing decisions in San Mateo County. Through their Community Engagement Program, we’ve provided direct coaching and support to seven different cities and towns, to implement a new approach to inclusive community dialogue.

These cities and towns are building new relationships, reaching more broadly into their communities and hearing from residents who have historically been less likely to participate in formal city processes.

During the program’s first year, Common Knowledge provided support to four pilot cities: Burlingame, Half Moon Bay, Portola Valley and Redwood City. In the program’s second year, five additional cities were selected to receive support from Home for All and Common Knowledge.

Brisbane, Pacifica and San Mateo completed their engagement projects this spring. Each city found creative ways to reach “new” residents, who had not participated in previous conversations about housing. They also helped bridge real and perceived divides, bringing together community members with different views on how best to address the housing challenge. These cities also identified many common themes, community values and principles that will help guide upcoming planning efforts.

View meeting summaries and reports for each participating city on the Home for All website to read more about what has been learned.

We will soon begin helping Home for All work with two additional teams – Foster City and Hillsborough – who will be launching their engagement efforts this summer. Both cities will benefit not only from what has been learned by each of the previous cities, but also from the ongoing exchange at the Learning Network Home for All sponsors for all cities and towns in the county.

Across San Mateo County, cities are learning new ways to engage residents by going where they are and creating additional opportunities for public input. City staff are holding “pop-up” events, engaging residents at coffee shops, grocery stores, train stations and community gatherings. They’re reaching out to nonprofits, clubs and community service organizations, forming new relationships that will endure well into the future. They’re also using outreach efforts to identify community information needs and developing more responsive communications that address the topics residents want to know more about.

From Pacifica and Half Moon Bay on the Coastside, to urban centers, such as Redwood City and San Mateo on the Bayside, CK and Home for All are helping to prove that inclusive engagement has the power to shift the housing conversation in all types of communities. Since working with CK and Home for All, cities have reported increased resident engagement, decreased opposition to specific housing developments and greater understanding about each community’s housing needs.

In the coming months, CK will be posting additional updates and highlights from the growing body of work with Home for All and cities in San Mateo County. To see some of our work with Home for All, visit our recent presentations page.