The County of San Mateo is evaluating all employee housing provided on lands in the unincorporated areas being used for agricultural or ranching purposes. This effort is to ensure that any such housing complies with essential health and safety standards, and to work with operators and landowners to improve employee housing conditions in situations where these standards are not being met.
Frequently Asked Questions
This section includes both general interest questions as well as a number of specific questions asked during various community meetings regarding this effort.
How is the County reaching out to operators and property owners with employee housing?
What will inspections look like?
County inspectors will visit lands to evaluate whether minimum habitability standards are met (e.g., safe construction, water, power, basic heating and plumbing, waste disposal for each unit). Inspectors will also evaluate whether the location of temporary structures and waste disposal meet appropriate setbacks from water bodies and if landowners/farm operators obtained all required permits from both the Planning and Building Department and County Environmental Health Services.
For more information on what to expect when consenting to an inspection, see our Farm Labor Housing Compliance Task Force Inspection Information Sheet.
How can an unpermitted landowner/farm operator become compliant?
Cooperating landowners and operators with unpermitted employee housing on their property will be eligible to receive technical assistance from the County to determine if and how any necessary permits can be obtained. In addition, landowners and/or operators interested in meeting habitability standards and permitting requirements may qualify for a low-interest farm labor housing loan administered by the Department of Housing. For more information, please see the Farm Labor Housing / Agricultural Workforce Housing page.
What if I have other questions or want to report possibly unsafe or unhealthy employee housing on agricultural or ranch lands?
Please email FarmWorkerHousingSupport@smcgov.org or leave a message at (650) 363-4404.
What if operators do not complete the preliminary survey sent to all operators?
Any operator who fails to complete the survey by the deadline set out in the survey materials sent to that operator will be contacted for follow-up. While it is the Task Force’s hope that operators will cooperate in the process and provide all requested information, if needed the Task Force has the authority to compel compliance through legal remedies.
Will the Task Force focus on the maximum number of individuals residing in farmworker housing units?
Generally, no. However, the Task Force may take action if the degree of overcrowding presents a significant safety hazard based on the specific conditions observed.
How do the Task Force inspections differ from the annual inspections conducted for permitted farmworker housing?
The annual inspections are conducted exclusively by Environmental Health Services and are limited to permitted employee housing sites. Task Force inspections occur on all sites with employee housing, both permitted and unpermitted, and are conducted by a team of inspectors from Environmental Health and Planning and Building with a focus on minimum habitability and environmental standards, for example, the availability of safe drinking water, safe electricity and gas systems and basic fire safety features, to name a few.
What if Task Force inspectors find conditions that do not meet minimum habitability standards?
If Task Force inspectors find that any essential safety standards are not met, they will provide the operator a list of required corrections and a timeline in which to perform those corrections, which timeline will depend on the risk(s) posed by the condition and the time required to correct the issue(s).
Is the Task Force taking steps to avoid potential displacement of farmworkers and their families?
Yes, it is the Task Force’s express goal to minimize displacement of residents as much as possible, and orders to vacate housing units will only be issued where the risks to human life and safety from a hazardous condition are so great that no one should continue living in those units until the necessary repairs are complete. Nevertheless, the ultimate determination of whether residents may continue to occupy units in need of repair will depend on the specific conditions at issue and the operator’s plan for repair.
Please note that if residents are required to vacate housing provided by an operator due to substandard conditions, the operator may be responsible for relocation payments pursuant to County Ordinance 3.108, et seq. and applicable State law.
Further, in the event of displacement, outreach staff will provide direct referrals to the local core service agency, which will provide residents with financial support and assist with alternative housing. If housing alternatives are not available, displaced workers and their families will be assessed for placement in our shelters. The County will also work through the core service agency to provide displaced farmworkers with financial assistance for transportation to and from their farm work sites.
Will the Task Force inspect housing on a farm if the residents of that housing don’t work on that farm?
The primary objective of the Task Force is to inspect employee housing on all farms and ranches located in the unincorporated areas of the County and in the City of Half Moon Bay. This includes all residential units not occupied by the property owner/operator, even if the residents do not work on that property. Irrespective of location, all housing that may be unsafe is subject to inspection and enforcement by the City’s and the County’s code compliance divisions.
Will Task Force inspections confirm whether residents’ indoor heating units are actually working?
During the course of their site inspections Task Force inspectors will focus on whether the method of heating is safe and will not generally confirm whether a specific heating unit is operational. However, if the Task Force receives information that heaters are non-operational, we will follow up with the responsible party regarding their repair/replacement.
How will information about the Task Force be continued to be provided to the community?
As new information becomes available, the Task Force will update the Frequently Asked Questions on this page. Please continue to monitor this site for updates.
The Task Force is also committed to provide periodic updates to the Farmworker Advisory Commission. The Farmworker Advisory Commission is an advisory body to the County Board of Supervisors, that addresses the unmet needs of the farmworkers in the County. The Commission meets on the 2nd Wednesday of every other month (January, March, May, July, September, November) at the Half Moon Bay Library from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm. View more information about the Farmworker Advisory Commission, including meeting dates and agendas.
How long does it take to get a permit for farmworker housing?
There are a number of permits required to install farmworker housing, all of which require the submission of detailed plans and property information. The time it takes to fulfill permitting requirements depends on site specific conditions, the amount of development proposed, the completeness of the submitted applications, and the potential for appeals. It generally takes a minimum of 6 to 9 months to process a completed permit application, provided that the project complies with all relevant standards and no appeals are filed. If you are housing 5 employees or more, you will need an operational permit from Environmental Health Services.
Are there ways to expedite the permit application process to construct farm labor housing?
The best way to minimize permit processing time is to carefully develop plans, in a strategically sequenced manner, so that all relevant requirements are understood and addressed prior to application submittal. View more information about these requirements.
How does the Task Force plan to use the data collected from surveys?
The data collected from the surveys will be used to schedule Task Force inspections and to inform ongoing efforts to address farmworker housing needs in San Mateo County.
Will site inspection results be available to the public?
Inspection reports are considered public records subject to the California Public Records Act and available upon request, subject to potential exemptions authorized by law.
Can the County allow farmworker housing to connect to CSA-11 in the Pescadero area?
Only permitted units within the CSA-11 service district can be connected to CSA-11.
Can the County connect schools to CSA-11?
The County is currently seeking the approvals required to allow the extension of CSA-11 water to the Pescadero High School.