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Much-needed East Palo Alto developments stalled by sewer system

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 2022

“[M]ore than a dozen East Palo Alto developments [including 136 units of affordable housing and a large family health center are] indefinitely on hold because of disagreements with the East Palo Alto Sanitary District, which critics say is refusing to provide service unless developers cough up millions of dollars that would pay for the modernization and expansion of the 1939-era sewer system.

“Rather than increase rates for homeowners in the traditionally blue-collar neighborhoods, the solution is to make developers pay for it, [East Palo Alto Sanitary District General Manager Akin Okupe] has said.

“In April, the San Mateo Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCO, published a … report on the sanitary district, contending that ‘lack of EPASD sewer collection system capacity is an impediment to development in the City.’

“Duane Bay, executive director of EPA CAN DO, a local affordable-housing builder … said the district seems to be taking an overly cautious position on the threat that development poses to the current sewer system. He also pointed to a state law that requires special districts to give priority to affordable housing.

“While some of the victims are larger nonprofits, the inability to get a sewer system hookup is also creating a crisis to small mom-and-pop developers.”

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