A proposal to turn Foster City’s Edgewater Place Shopping Center into a mixed-use waterfront housing development is on hold after Edgewater Holding Corporation decided to first reach out to the community for support, Community Development Director Curtis Bank said this week.
The redevelopment would require a zoning and general plan amendment and, per the city’s new gatekeeper ordinance, the City Council would be the first to review the project’s pre-application.
Councilmember concerns about the postponed proposal range from impacts on schools to the loss of services to current residents. However, there is some sympathy with EHC wanting to remain profitable, particularly with housing becoming more desirable in Foster City.
“I think it’s a fine line on growth as to, do you just redevelop every part of land for the profit from what can be driven on it, versus what’s good for the residents,” Councilman Gary Pollard said.
The shopping center on Edgewater Boulevard at Beach Park Boulevard currently covers about 123,300 square feet split between about 35 stores and businesses, which includes a Lucky Supermarket, a nail salon, two tutoring centers, two dry cleaners, a bank and several restaurants. EHC declined to comment, however, city officials said most businesses, if not all, would have to vacate should the site be redeveloped per the proposal turned into the city earlier this month.
The pre-application proposes a total of 52,700 square feet of ground floor retail space, which would be anchored with a 33,600-square-foot grocery store, according to the application. The remainder of the site would be made up of a total of 154 townhomes and flats, according to the application. The townhomes would be against the waterfront, according to the application.
The application also outlines 235 retail parking spaces and 308 residential parking spaces.
A proposal to redevelop the Charter Square site on Shell Boulevard was also put on hold after it was heard by the City Council and received negative community feedback at a meeting last month. The developer sought to turn the existing 55,000-square-foot shopping center into 96 townhomes and 10,000 square feet of retail space.
Retail versus housing
Foster City has struggled to create a strong retail presence while competing against San Mateo’s Bridgepointe and Hillsdale shopping centers, Councilman Art Kiesel said.
With developers adding retail at the 15-acre site at the city’s center and the Pilgrim Triton development with housing and offices, Kiesel said he questions how much retail Foster City can support. And location is key, Kiesel said.
“Do you want retail buried so into the city? The further into the city you go, the less viable success. The further into the city you go, your clients are going to be limited to residents of Foster City. Somebody from San Mateo, there’s a low probability, unless it’s just a super niche kind of retailer,” Kiesel said.
Ranch 99 Market and ABC Seafood Restaurant are draws, but there are only so many options, Kiesel said.
Councilman Herb Perez owns Gold Medal Martial Arts, one of the businesses located at Edgewater Place. Perez said viable retail requires smart planning and doubling up similar stores or services in the same shopping center is bad for business.
“The other challenge I believe in that center is overuse of certain categories,” Perez said. “The city as a whole needs to look at conditional use permits. Because we’re cannibalizing the businesses. … We need a more comprehensive approach to our retail and community spaces.”
Kiesel said Foster City does earn some decent sales tax out of Costco, but it’s proving harder to generate, especially when a one-bedroom apartment is averaging about $2,100 a month. In 2013, for the first time the number of permits issued for multi-unit developments surpassed those issued for single-family homes, Kiesel said.
“So we’re seeing this huge explosion into multi-unit dwellings because it pencils out. So I can understand why shopping centers, if retail is marginal, they’d go with multi-unit dwellings,” Kiesel said. “It’s going to be a better return for the property owner.”
But Councilman Steve Okamoto thinks approving more housing developments needs to be about more than the bottom line.
Okamoto said after the failure of the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District’s Measure P bond proposal last November, the city doesn’t have much to reinvest in the school system right now.
“With all these new residences, I think it’s a great idea because we like to attract as many residents as possible. But until we solve the overcrowding of the schools situation, I can not approve any more residences,” Okamoto said.
If the site is redeveloped, many of the current tenants would be displaced and, if they wanted to return, it would likely be at a much higher rate, Okamoto said.
Okamoto agrees the city’s shopping centers need to be more coordinated and said having three similar restaurants at a single location isn’t going to provide a solid retail base.
Based on the impacts it would have on the residents, EHC likely postponed its pre-application to get more community input before presenting it to the council, Okamoto said.
Banks said when the developer returns to start the pre-application process, the public and council will be given ample opportunity to participate.
“This process is set so the City Council and public can get an early input into the project before [the developer] starts the formal process,” Banks said. “It also gives them, the applicant, some initial feedback before they go and further refine the project and go before the Planning Commission to start the approval process.”
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