After more than 30 years and several attempts to create a marina in Foster City, a wealthy landowner seems willing to build one as a tradeoff for large-scale residential and commercial buildings along the Bayfront.
The City Council and public met Monday to discuss a preliminary proposal to develop land at Beach Park Boulevard near Halibut and Swordfish streets that’s owned by Sam Runco, an entrepreneur known as a pioneer in the field of televisions and home theater systems.
The site’s applicant, Foster City Marina Center, proposes 273 residential units spread between four- and five-story buildings, 27,500 square feet of commercial space and 665 parking spaces. It is also proposing a public pier, 214 boat slips and a harbormaster building that would include a restaurant and restrooms, according to a city staff report.
The development is proposed in two phases, with the residential and commercial component first. The hook, according to the proposal, is that a marina would only be built if the residential and commercial buildings are successful enough to financially support it.
As a large-scale Bayside development, the center will have to undergo an extensive environmental review phase. A litany of 11 different federal, state and local agencies will be involved in the environmental review and permitting process, Community Development Director Curtis Banks said.
It’s still very early on and Monday allowed the council and public to provide feedback on conceptual plans prior to the developer refining formal ones, Banks said.
Some councilmembers envision new revenue as a benefit to the proposal while others are concerned about traffic and visual impacts as well as the toll on the city’s beloved Bay Trail.
Councilman Herb Perez is encouraged by a never-ending stream of property tax income assuming it’s in the best interests of the community and neighbors.
“You have to balance responsible development with the desired quality of life and the impacts to the community. So that is the challenge with the marina,” Perez said. “The question is does it enhance or detract to the quality of life in the city?”
The city has made five attempts to create a marina since 1973 and the city’s Master Plan allows for one.
However, the undeveloped land proposed for the marina and housing complexes is zoned waterfront commercial, not residential. Most of the council’s control is tied to its willingness to provide a land use variance permit for the site, Perez said.
Louise Simson, a resident of the Bayfront neighborhood, said she has grave concerns about the impacts to the environment and the ability for the city to withstand another large development.
“That’s just environmentally such a sensitive area,” Simson said. “And putting a five-story apartment or condo building right on the Bay, it’s an eyesore. Foster City didn’t have that in the Master Plan … That’s not what the community is about and it [would be] a blight on our beautiful Bay Trail.”
Concern with phased approach
Mayor Charles Bronitsky instructed the developer to work with the community to gain support and said he would be unwilling to accept the two-phase construction proposal.
“I would not be amenable to a phased project where the marina comes second as I feel it is likely that it would never get built given the environmental burden and approvals required,” Bronitsky wrote in an email.
Perez said he agreed and cited the Peninsula Jewish Community Center, which promised a cultural center that it apparently abandoned. The marina likely won’t generate much income for the developer or the city but, if the marina center proposes one, it must follow through, Perez said.
Another aspect that needs fleshing out is the amount of affordable housing the development would yield. The proposal indicates it will provide affordable housing units at a level that is economically viable for the project, Banks said. But the city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation and its Housing Element calls for about 20 percent to be affordable and the center will need to qualify what it’s willing to do during the formal application phase, Banks said.
Although the city needs more housing, there are other locations and marring the Bay Trail isn’t appropriate, Simson said. Allowing large residential buildings on the Bayfront would destroy neighbors’ views, add to traffic and put a burden on the city’s water resources and school system, Simson said.
Finding a balance
Perez and Banks said they’ve received positive and negative feedback from neighbors and the developer has been encouraged to continue reaching out to the community. If a solid balance can be made between the developer, the community and environmental impacts, Foster City could finally have it’s long-awaited marina, Perez said.
“There are people with visions and there was the vision of what the marina was going to be. Is there an individual now that has the wherewithal and the passion to make it happen? And it sounds like there is,” Perez said. “The other question is … is this a reasonable development and will it continue to allow us to have the quality of life we want for our citizens?”
If and after the Foster City Marina Center returns with a formal application, there will be future study sessions, Planning Commission meetings, scoping meetings and a long environmental review phase, Banks said.
A representative for Foster Center Marina Center, LLC did not return a phone call for comment.
For more information visit www.fostercity.org.
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