Revised San Carlos transit village set for development

The long-debated San Carlos transit village project has cleared the last of its regulatory hurdles and could begin construction in 2015.

Located between El Camino Real and the San Carlos Caltrain station, the mixed-use development will be built on 6 acres of land owned by SamTrans and contain 202 residential units in a three-story building. The Legacy Partners project will also house 25,800 square feet of commercial space and a public plaza adjacent to the train station. The San Carlos station, originally built in 1888 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, will not be altered.

Also constructed adjacent to the train station will be a multi-modal transit center providing parking for Caltrain riders, dedicated shuttle, bus and taxi areas, and a drop-off point for kiss-and-ride commuters that can be used for valet parking during nonpeak transit hours.

Developer Legacy Partners will pay SamTrans a $750,000 annual rent for the first five years of operation, after which SamTrans' compensation will be calculated as a percentage of the project's revenues. In addition to receiving $1.5 million in one-time fees from the developer, San Carlos will receive property-tax revenues from the project. In its current form, the SamTrans lot generates no property taxes for the city.

San Carlos City Councilman Mark Olbert noted that the land parcel in question has been underutilized for more than a decade.

“It will be nice to see something besides dirt there,” Olbert quipped.

The councilman said the project is a welcome response to San Mateo County's shortage of housing inventory, and its location along train and bus transit corridors is bound to keep some cars off the road. However, Olbert said the development could still bring some traffic impacts to the area, as many of its residents are likely to own cars despite living next to a train station.

“One can not live in a suburban community like San Carlos without some mode of transportation,” Olbert said.

SamTrans officials say the project is consistent with their goal of fostering transit-oriented developments that allow occupants to rely on public transportation. In 2014, however, there was some question as to whether the project still met the transit agency's density goals after the City Council's December 2013 vote to reduce the development's height from four to three stories.

That was one of several revisions the project went through as the developer sought approval. At one point, Legacy Partners proposed including 453 residential units, and a later revision scaled the project down to 320 units before the final 202-unit version was agreed upon.

The Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood Association originally opposed the project, but the revisions in scale, culminating in the reduction to three stories, resulted in the association dropping its opposition.

Legacy Partners could not be reached for comment.

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