How 164 affordable apartments at two redevelopment sites in San Mateo’s downtown could incorporate landscaping and public art, affect traffic and parking and be affordable to residents at varying income levels was top of mind for residents as they got another glimpse of MidPen Housing’s proposal Thursday.
Slated to include a mix of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom units in a five-story structure at 480 E. Fourth Ave. and more than 700 parking spaces planned for a five-story parking garage just south of the housing at 400 E. Fifth Ave., the nonprofit developer’s plans for what is currently publicly-available surface parking lots and the Worker Resource Center have been taking shape since MidPen was selected by city officials as the developer nearly a year ago.
With plans to include a public plaza aimed at connecting the residential building to downtown and an opportunity for public art on the parking garage, the nonprofit developer asked community members to weigh in on design elements aimed at tying it in with nearby downtown retail establishments as well as neighboring single-family homes and industrial uses. Mollie Naber, a project manager for MidPen, noted an open space in the middle of the residential building will also be accessible from East Fourth and East Fifth avenues to connect residents of the building to the surrounding neighborhood, and added a repurposed rail car will serve as a pedestrian bridge over East Fifth Avenue to connect them with the parking garage and community space planned for the garage’s ground floor.
“We envision that this development will serve as a gateway to downtown,” she said. “We’re taking into account our existing neighbors as we work on the design for this development and we want to create space for people to stop by and feel part of the community.”
With nine studios, 70 one-bedroom units, 46 two-bedroom units and 39 three-bedroom units available in the development, the rents of the units will depend on the income level of the families who apply, which Naber explained would fall largely within 30 percent to 120 percent of the area median income. According to the 2018 San Mateo County Income Limits posted on the San Mateo County Housing Department’s website, the area median income for a family of four is $118,400.
Depending on a family’s income, monthly rent for a 475-square-foot studio could range from $700 to $2,000 while rent for a three-bedroom apartment could range from $1,144 to $3,774. Naber added families living or working in San Mateo may qualify for the workforce housing, and preference for public employees would be applied to a portion of the units available to families at the moderate income level.
In response to questions about the selection process for residents of the development, Nevada Merriman, MidPen’s director of Housing Development, said applications for the housing likely wouldn’t be ready until the development is six months from completion. She said applications would be accepted over the course of two to three weeks after which point they will be put through a lottery, adding that preferences for certain types of candidates would be applied before a list is compiled.
As the owner of a home at East Fifth Avenue and South Delaware Street, Gustavo Hornos said he hoped the developer would consider moving the location of a public plaza planned for the corner of the residential building at East Fourth and South Railroad avenues to an alternate location, such as one farther away from the train tracks along South Claremont Street. Though he acknowledged the plaza near the train tracks could get more sunlight, he felt the noise of the train could deter people from using it.
“We can withstand the shade, but it would be a much more inviting location for the plaza since the noise of the train is really strong,” he said.
Hornos also expressed a hope for resident input on the public art planned for the development, and Heather Stewart from San Mateo’s Community Development Department explained residents are welcome to attend the city’s Civic Arts Committee meetings to weigh in on specific public art projects.
In response to questions about how the developer would help mitigate its effect on traffic and schools, Naber and Jan Lindenthal, the nonprofit’s chief real estate development officer, explained the developer will pay traffic and school impact fees and is also prepared to offer bus passes and explore any other traffic mitigation measures that could be identified through a traffic study. Naber noted some of the children living at the development may have attended San Mateo schools before their families move there, and Lindenthal noted the developer has been collaborating with school officials to account for any changes to enrollment and also to scope its potential to house teachers.
“I fully expect that we’re going to pay our fair share … and we’re going to work collaboratively with the [school] district,” she said. “I think they see the benefit of this project because of the opportunity to house their teachers.”
For Central Neighborhood resident Laurie Watanuki, the possibility of temporarily housing the Worker Resource Center in a modular unit on one of the existing surface parking lots while the parking garage is constructed was a concern.
Councilmembers earlier this week voiced support for relocating the nonprofit-operated facility aimed at connecting day laborers with local jobs in the community space planned for the development, as well as where the center will be temporarily moved as construction takes shape. Watanuki wondered if officials would consider closing the center during the construction of the development out of concern downtown visitors searching for parking at the existing lots might park in the Central Neighborhood.
“We do have concerns if that is temporarily moved there because of the parking overflow,” she said.
Assistant City Manager Kathy Kleinbaum explained temporarily housing the Worker Resource Center in a modular unit was an alternative that could be considered if officials aren’t able to find another temporary site for the facility.
City Planner Roscoe Mata said MidPen’s proposal for 480 E. Fourth Ave. and 400 E. Fifth Ave. will go up for review at the Planning Commission’s April 23 meeting, and the developer is expected to submit a formal application as early as the fall.
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