Foster City ponders possible land uses

Farmers markets, movie theaters and shelter from strong winds were hot discussion topics at a recent Foster City Council meeting, as the city got a first look into the future of its last plot of unused land.

During more than four hours of presentations, questions and public comments, three groups of developers presented their plans Monday night for the 15-acre lot south of City Hall between Foster City and Shell boulevards. The city asked for proposals from the three groups on a project that incorporated senior housing, the proposed four-acre charter high school and retail spaces.

And although the council seemed pleased with the proposals, neighborhood concerns came out in the public testimony, which started after many in the audience had gone home.

The idea of a 12- to 14-screen movie theater on the site — proposed by the team of Bridge Housing, the Pacific Union Development Company and Retail West — concerned a number of residents, who suggested that blockbuster movies and large, noisy crowds were not the right fit for what could become the heart of Foster City.

Foster City resident Rochelle Goldman said the idea of a theater so close to senior housing “frightens her to death,” and that it would be “a disaster.”

Belle Shayer said that a smaller boutique theater, specializing in foreign and independent films, would better suit the community. Along with that, smaller specialty stores, not mall shops, would add to the atmosphere.

“I don’t mind spending my money in Foster City,” Shayer said. “But there has to be a reason for me to do so.”

And although pedestrian and traffic flow was the focus of many presentations, the council seemed more concerned with the flow of Foster City’s ample winds through the project. All but one — the A.F. Evans project — oriented their buildings to block the visitors from the wind.

The first group at the meeting was composed of Pacific Retirement Services, Inc., the Jewish Home of San Francisco and Sares Regis Group of Northern California. The second was Bridge Housing, Pacific Union Development Company and Retail West. The last group to present was a partnership between A.F. Evans Company and Crosspoint Realty Services.

At the core of their projects, all three development groups promised the same things to the city: a variety of senior housing and retail spaces, outdoor space for city events and public gatherings as well as a 500-student charter high school integrated into a corner of the property.

Mayor Ron Cox said that although the council could make a decision on a developer by May 21, they would wait until the entire group felt all input had been gathered and all questions had been answered.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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