The San Carlos City Council will soon be considering the merits of the San Carlos Transit Village, the largest development in the city’s history. Although there have been many meetings to review the Environmental Impact Report, the city so far has taken developer needs more seriously than community input, but the community is hoping this will change.
Several factors regarding the EIR and its passage by City Council raise major concerns.
Height/Density: The SCTV will bring eight 1001 Laurel St. type buildings to the city. Discussions with city officials revealed the majority of them agree that the 1001 Laurel St. development was a mistake in how it fits with the “character” of San Carlos.
The city is pushing to implement more than 130 percent of the ABAG mandated housing for San Carlos through 2022 on this small parcel. The city needs housing but why so much so soon before major impacts to traffic, noise, schools, city infrastructure and services become so significant that we can’t address them? Although state law mandates impact fees from the developer, they will not come close to mitigating these impacts created by SCTV, especially in light of the cumulative impacts from other current and future developments.
Noise: The EIR states that there will be no significant noise reflection from this development because trees and exterior sound absorbing materials would mitigate the noise impact. The sound expert hired by the developer later admitted that there are no such materials that exist and that trees only create a “psychological” sound barrier without any true sound absorption. Because of the mass density and lack of open space, this development will essentially act as a wall to reflect more noise into the existing neighborhoods.
Traffic: Existing traffic conditions on Holly Street and Brittan Avenue are over capacity at every major intersection in the development area at peak commute hours. The development is projected to add 150-200 new cars during peak hours. This is a best-case scenario for a development of more than 600 people. The impacts to traffic will warrant a new traffic signal at Cherry Street and El Camino Real. Both the right- and left-hand turns from northbound El Camino Real onto Holly Street will be removed. Although there will be some traffic impact fees paid by the developer, they will not come close to mitigating all these impacts.
The Bottom Dollar: SamTrans is becoming the Peninsula’s largest real estate investor. It makes sense, as they are leasing public land to developers of which both entities will not be paying any property tax on the parcel. Not one cent! The developer will pay a possessory interest tax at a fraction of what would be paid had the development been on a private parcel. The developer will not be held to paying the same increases such as the 25 percent sewer rate increases that all city residents are currently experiencing.
The developer is also currently requesting a complete waiver for the $8 million in below-market rate fees paid to the city and even threatening to sue for this waiver.
Transportation: Currently, there are no bullet train stops in San Carlos. A Caltrain official told the Planning Commission that there would be no change to the schedule even if this development gets built.
Most San Carlos residents would like to see some type of development on the SamTrans parcel. Is the current proposal the right choice and does it fit with the character of the city? It is up to every resident to make their voice heard at these meetings so we can get this done the right way.
Tim Hilborn is a resident of San Carlos and board member of GESC, Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood Association.