The downtown San Mateo parking lot envisioned for an eight-story residential complex across from Central Park was purchased by Essex Property and Trust, Inc. for $10.35 million earlier this month.
Prior to securing the 1.2-acre site at the corner of East Fifth Avenue and South San Mateo Drive, Essex turned in a pre-application to the city proposing a 75-foot tall mixed-use complex atop the current publicly accessible 95-space surface parking lot.
The Essex at Central Park proposal received a fair amount of pushback from neighboring residents who voiced concerns about the loss of downtown parking, shadows and traffic during a Planning Commission study session in February.
Planning commissioners and the public suggested offering more parking and retail, creating a better pedestrian experience and using an architectural design that complements the neighboring Central Park.
“We got a lot of feedback from that and we’ve been working with staff on refining the plan and addressing issues that had been brought up by both neighbor groups and staff,” said John Eudy, executive vice president of development for Essex Property Trust. “I wouldn’t have closed escrow if I didn’t think we’re going to get past the issues. And I think we’re addressing many, if not most, of the concerns that were brought up.”
Eudy said there isn’t a clear timeline as to when Essex will turn in a formal application and he couldn’t specify what changes would be made, but it’s exciting to move forward.
However, the pre-application outlined a 117-unit building with 3,500 square feet of retail space and a path through the building connecting Fourth Avenue to Central Park. It also proposed 260 parking spaces, 95 of which would be accessible to the public, spread between one level of underground, ground level and above ground parking, according to a staff report. The development would also maintain the ramp that extends to the rooftop portion of the Central Parking Garage.
Because the proposal is for a 75-foot-tall building, Essex will be subject to Measure P requirements. A voter-approved extension of Measure H, Measure P requires developments taller than 55 feet to provide a public benefit and an affordable housing component of 10 percent below-market rate units.
The determination of a public benefit will ultimately be left for the City Council’s approval.
The site’s unique proximity to Central Park will play a significant role in its approval as the formal application will be reviewed by the Parks and Recreation Commission, Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council.
Essex is in the process of developing Park 20, a 190-unit residential development on Elkhorn Court and 20th Avenue, and owns the Hillsdale Garden Apartments on Edison Street in San Mateo.
Eudy said Essex is thrilled to have secured what it envisions as a desirable transit-oriented development site.
“We’re excited about doing another deal in San Mateo and I think this is one of the best locations in San Mateo from a resident’s perspective,” Eudy said. “Today’s tenants like to be close to services, whether it’s restaurants, grocery stores or what have you. So they can get on a bike or walk versus getting in a car. And this site has everything and then some.”
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