Call it D Day.
Actually, today in San Carlos is more like “TV” day — Transit Village, that is.
Nine years after SamTrans first raised the idea of a mixed-used development around the existing train station, the City Council will begin the long-awaited discussion of whether the eight-building complex is the right project in the right location.
Councilmembers queried anticipate multiple meetings to reach a decision which, with Election Day looming Nov. 5, has made the Transit Village a hot campaign topic.
Ben Fuller, president of the Greater East San Carlos neighborhood association that has largely battled the plan, is certain developer Legacy Partner’s plan is having the City Council vote on the project in that window after the election and before the installation of new councilmembers.
But Vice Mayor Mark Olbert has a different idea. If the election results show a change on the council, he plans to ask that a vote be postponed until after the new faces are aboard.
“The decision is supposed to reflect the will of the people and the people may choose to change the council,” Olbert said.
That aside, councilmembers said many of the issues they are facing are the same ones that have come up time and time again with the project like height, mass and screening.
For Fuller, the answer is straightforward: make it smaller.
“The issue is that it’s too large so all the other impacts are also large. The noise, the shadowing, the traffic. All those things get proportionately worse,” Fuller said.
Councilman Matt Grocott, who has publicly stated his opinion that the project is too big for the location, wants the community not just to hear about its size but see it.
“I’d like to see story poles put up to help us make a decision about it,” he said, adding the visual aid that show project height is particularly key because the buildings are of differing size.
The project is currently proposed as 280 residential units spread over eight buildings with four stories although some of the top floors have already been reduced by developer Legacy Partners in response to community outcry. The developer has also used the reduced size as reason to sidestep the city’s 15 percent below market rate unit requirement in favor of in-lieu fees.
Fuller said he understands Legacy’s economic rationale on the affordable housing trade-off but is unwilling to give the bigger size a seal of approval to secure the units.
“We’re totally cool with below market rate housing. We just don’t want it to come at the expense of us,” he said.
He said the GESC would be happy with the project knocked down to 245 units, with 18 units from the fourth floor and another 10 elsewhere.
Olbert said he also prefers affordable units but city officials need to remember they have been collecting in-lieu fees from other projects for years so it may not be equitable to expect all the below marking rate housing to come from this one development.
“We have some ownership of that problem, too, and I hope we remember that and make the commitment,” he said.
Along with the residential units, the project calls for 36,319 square feet of commercial space. A transit center and 226 commuter parking spaces are also included. The project would sit on a 10.53-acre site containing the existing historic train station and commuter parking lots, a vacant auto dealership building and vacant lots.
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102