Police officers in San Mateo seek affordable housing

Bay Area

Living far from where you work is a way of life for many in the Bay Area, but the city of San Mateo says it’s costing them good police officers.

Since 2013, 21 officers have left the department, citing a long commute. In an effort to combat the issue, the City of San Mateo has come up with an alternative housing solution.

According to the city, the average commute in the Bay Area is about an hour round trip but three-quarters of the police officers here have a commute double that.

The city is thinking of taking an old fire station on the east side of town and converting it into sleeping quarters. They say doing this would actually solve two problems.

“I’ve been looking for a one bedroom, and they’re going for $4,000 a month here right now,” Michael Haobsh said

Officer Haobsh says he and his fellow officers love working in San Mateo but because of housing costs, three-quarters of them live at least an hour away.

“Housing prices here have left it a little unreachable for us as civil servants to live and work in the same community,” Haobsh said.

“We’ve heard of our officers doing couch surfing,” Maureen Freschet said.

Police officers tend to work 12 to 17 hour days and with law enforcement already ranked as one of the most sleep-deprived occupations, Deputy Mayor Maureen Freschet says the city wants to turn an old fire station into sleeping quarters.

“We are fortunate we own the property were working to obtain control of it again, our hope is to put 12 beds into the station,” Freschet said.

Not only will the building serve as a place for officers to refresh between shifts, but it will also act as a substation, meaning response times to this part of the city will be much quicker.

“San Mateo is separated east to west by 101 and it’s challenging especially during commute hours to go from west to east, so our officers will have a step up, against the criminal element because we’ll already be here on the east side,” Haobsh said. 

“Being close at hand to law enforcement is never a bad thing,” Laurie Picard said.

Laurie Picard lives across the street from the station on South Norfolk. She says the idea is a win win.

“We’re having all kinds of break-ins around here. So, if it became known that presence was close by it might be discouraging” Picard said. 

This idea is still in its very early stages, no official approval has been given.

The old fire station is currently being used by an ambulance company but their lease is up at the end of the year.

The deputy mayor said every time they lose an officer it’s about $125,000 just to train and recruit a new one.

When it comes to retaining officers and in turn saving that money, the city feels like this is the way to go.

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