New plans for a long-delayed housing project that would add a dense development in a transit-rich section of San Carlos may be on track to move ahead after an initial vetting by city officials and residents, though concerns still exist.
Plans for the San Carlos Transit Village call for 10.5 acres to the north and south of the Caltrain station to be redeveloped for residential, office and retail space.
After hearing the community's concerns, Legacy Partners, which is developing the land owned by the San Mateo County Transit District, presented the city Planning Department with a proposal that includes several changes to the eight-building development, including reducing each building's height. The revision keeps the 280-unit total, but reduces the size of some units and the ground-floor commercial space, officials said.
The concerns over height were brought to the attention of planners and Legacy by city residents who live east of the Caltrain tracks, said Jeff Byrd of Legacy. He said Legacy has been sensitive to the community, holding numerous meetings with nearby residents, city officials and staff.
Representatives from the group Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood, which opposes the project, did not respond to several requests for comment.
Housing advocates in the county said the project, which has been in the works since the early 2000s, is particularly important because of the apartments, especially as the cost of real estate booms in the region.
Mark Moulton of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County said the current housing problems didn't happen overnight, but resulted from the city and county restraining new housing for the past 40 years.
“People protected their values and their communities with unintended side effects,” Moulton said. “They've left us with a little bit of a quandary.”
The 407,298 square feet of housing near Caltrain and El Camino Real also makes the project the type of dense, transit-friendly infill development that is being pushed in the region and statewide.
City Councilwoman Karen Clapper said she expects the project to be an example for the entire region of how to build a top-notch transit-oriented development, which is one reason the city is analyzing potential impacts carefully.
“It's a very large development for our city,” she said.
Despite the steps forward on the project, the developer faces challenges. Byrd said Legacy has faced issues with the project's timeline. While officials selected Legacy's plans in 2004, the company has yet to break ground or even finalize a plan.
The city is working with Legacy to complete its application — several components are missing, such as the below-market-rate housing responsibilities and transportation demand management — and hopes to make a recommendation at the July 15 Planning Commission meeting.