What will Bob Grassilli do?
With a four-fifths majority needed to override any protests of the city’s plan to rezone its North Crestview site and swap it with the school district, the councilman is looking to be the deciding vote.
Mayor Mark Olbert is the loudest proponent of the idea and is joined by Councilmen Ron Collins and Cameron Johnson. Councilman Matt Grocott is on the other end of the spectrum, illustrating his disagreement with any rezoning of the parcel by refusing to participate in negotiations between the city and the San Carlos Elementary School District. He also opposed the idea of closed door negotiations.
That leaves Grassilli.
“Bob looks to be the guy on the fence,” Grocott said.
Grassilli didn’t respond to inquiries for comment but in May indicted a leaning toward an election as a way to keep the future open.
“I always like options. The more options the better,” he said at the time.
The City Council last month agreed to abandon the land as park space but the law requires it to hold a protest hearing. If even one resident submits a written protest of the plan, the City Council can only override it and go forward with calling an election by a four-fifths majority.
The decision Monday night isn’t whether to actually go ahead with the tentative deal struck between the city and district this week but rather, in essence, whether voters should be given the chance to weigh in. This means Grassilli could actually be against the plan but still feel an election is warranted on the zoning issue.
Resident Andrew Taylor predicts Grassilli’s business background will lead him to vote against an override because of the strong litigation risk.
“If Bob votes no, this issue dies and goes away and there might be some pissed off soccer moms and dads for a little while,” Taylor said. “If Bob says yes, then that’s going to trigger [California Environmental Quality Act] litigation and this thing is going to rip the city apart for another two or three years.”
Rezoning the land paves the way to ultimately let the city give the San Carlos Elementary School District the Crestview site for the Charter Learning Center currently housed on the Tierra Linda Middle School Campus. In return, the district will give the city approximately 4 acres on the backside of Tierra Linda, a 2.9-acre open space piece adjacent to Heather Elementary School currently used as a dog park and $1.5 million to invest in a city-owned athletic field at Tierra Linda. If any of the three parcels in play are ever used or sold for development, the city and school will split the profits.
There is no question the council will have a protest to consider. As of Wednesday afternoon, the city had received 431 written protests, said City Clerk Crystal Mui.
The Committee for Green Foothills is further chumming the waters on behalf of plan opponents, sending its own protest letter and providing a template online for others to do the same.
The Committee for Green Foothills has “long-standing interesting” in the North Crestview park which was created in 1974 to mitigate surrounding housing density, legislative advocate Lennie Roberts wrote in its protest letter.
Roberts suggests the space could be a site of more active recreation and is an important wildlife corridor. As the population grows, the need for nearby green spaces will become even greater, Roberts wrote.
She also references a sticking point for Grocott — the city’s general plan and the land’s existing zoning in it.
Grocott believes the city is working backward and should first update its general plan on zoning in the entire area rather than spot zone parcels. But regardless, Grocott doesn’t think any change is legally allowed because the park was created as a mitigation measure and not, for example, due to a donation of land. This, he said, is why he won’t decide Monday night to override the protests and let an election determine the land’s fate.
“Ethically, I don’t think it’s right to take that to the voters,” he said.
The San Carlos City Council’s protest hearing is 7 p.m. Monday, June 30 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102