The long-disputed Transit Village development in San Carlos has undergone yet another unanticipated change in plans, the results of which remain to be seen.
The project — reduced in size from its initially proposed dimensions — is awaiting developer Legacy Partners' assessment of recent changes that could compromise the business viability of the long-awaited development. Last-minute revisions to the design will likely require Legacy to re-think plans for the SamTrans-owned property.
“We want to work with the land owners [SamTrans] to create a great, attractive, successful project there,” said Jeff Byrd of Legacy Partners, adding that his office still needs to evaluate the City Council's changes.
The San Carlos City Council recently voted 4-1 to remove the fourth story from all the proposed buildings, a decision that will result in a development that will “look better and impact the neighborhood a lot less,” Mayor Bob Grassilli said.
Plans for the oft-revised project include constructing the residential units on a 10.53-acre strip of SamTrans-owned land near the Caltrain tracks in downtown San Carlos. The development would also include offices, retail space and parking.
The Greater East San Carlos neighborhood association — a longtime critic of the project — supports the changes and has halted its opposition to the development.
“I feel like we got as good a deal as we were going to get,” said spokesman Ben Fuller. But he maintains, “The processes could have been better.”
Fuller believes that SamTrans, which owns the parcel, is overcharging for the lease and those costs could be one of the reasons Legacy may end up passing on the deal.
SamTrans spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann said the proposed lease, which was negotiated in 2008, is based on market rates for the property. “It's up to Legacy to decide the return versus the lease payment.”
Byrd declined to discuss specifics before his company had the opportunity to thoroughly scrutinize the City Council's changes to the project.
The council's vote occurred after the November elections, a fact Fuller suggested may have been due to political maneuvering.
Often called lame-duck sessions, such situations are common in politics.
“[Lame-duck sessions are] commonly used at the federal level as a way of often times dealing with issues that are really uncomfortable for all sides,” said political scientist Jason McDaniel.
But Grassilli said that such considerations didn't impact the council's decision and, in fact, it was likely more beneficial to residents that outgoing Councilwoman Keren Clapper was able to vote on the project because of her familiarity with it.
“We don't want to start over, and go over times we've already been through,” Grassilli said.
McDaniel agreed with that assessment — so long as the November election wasn't seen as a referendum on the project.
“It's legitimate to criticize them [lame-duck sessions] but they aren't automatically dishonest.”