A neighborhood group is mobilizing for a referendum targeting the San Carlos Transit Village project if plans are not amended before the City Council approves it.
In an opinion article published last week, Greater East San Carlos President Ben Fuller signaled the organization's intent to gather the necessary 1,800 signatures to hold a citywide referendum over Legacy Partners' proposed development.
"The deck is stacked against us," Fuller said. "The referendum is an affordable way for us as citizens to participate in a democracy."
Plans for the Transit Village project include building 281 housing units on a 10.53-acre strip of land — owned by SamTrans — adjacent to the Caltrain tracks near downtown San Carlos. The development would also include offices and retail space.
"We're not against a development here, we're for a development here," Fuller said. "We're only going to do a referendum if the project isn't given a haircut."
The developer says calls for a referendum are unnecessary ahead of approval, which will likely occur in September.
"The referendum discussion is premature. We don't have an approved project yet," said John Ward, a spokesman for Legacy Partners.
Fuller believes a referendum will force the city and developer to address long-standing concerns with the project, including density and height.
"I've lost sleep over what the project will do to the neighborhood," said Marnie Perini, who lives in eastern San Carlos.
Legacy said it has held many meetings and mediation sessions about the issues, and that any further changes would make the project financially unviable.
"The application for the project is complete, and that will be the subject of debate going forward," Ward said. "At this point we're not willing to make any changes."
Any referendum must be called within 30 days of the council vote it seeks to nullify, City Attorney Greg Rubens said. The idea, Rubens said, is to give the electorate an opportunity to have a check on council actions.
A referendum would cost taxpayers a minimum of $11,000 — if consolidated with the Nov. 5election, said David Tom, registration and elections manager with the county. A stand-alone election could cost $140,000 for an all-mail ballot and $220,000 for an election with polling sites, Tom said.