In unanimously approving a proposal to build 73 residential units where the AAA insurance office building currently stands at 1650 S. Delaware St., San Mateo officials and residents weighed how the apartment building would contribute to the changing aesthetic of the surrounding area and provide housing near one of the city’s Caltrain stations.
Located just north of the 599-unit, 12-acre Station Park Green apartment complex and south of the post office at 1630 S. Delaware St., the new residential building’s site is less than half a mile away from the Hayward Park Caltrain station and a 935-unit, mixed-use development dubbed the Passage at San Mateo that would take the place of a shopping center southeast of Concar Drive and South Delaware Street.
Having reviewed the project last year, Chair Dianne Whitaker commended the developer during the Tuesday, Aug. 15, meeting for improving the design of the five-story building in the months since the commission’s meeting last year. The building’s architect Jonathan Ennis said the project’s design was inspired by examples of Spanish colonial-influenced architecture in San Mateo, and noted the project features a large archway on the facade facing South Delaware Street.
Whitaker said she shared the sentiment of residents concerned about the design disparity on recently-constructed or proposed buildings near the project site with more modern looks, which also include a 300,000-square-foot office complex at the corner of Concar Drive and Delaware built by developer Pearlmark Hines.
“I am pleased with the evolution of the design and where we are at tonight,” she said. “I don’t believe [the buildings] should all look alike, but in this particular case there is quite a jarring difference between the looks of the Hines office buildings, Station Park Green and this particular project.”
Several residents stepped forward in support of the project’s design as well as its provision of dozens of housing units near the city’s Hayward Park Caltrain station. Citing the imbalance of jobs and housing on the Peninsula, longtime Parkside resident Tom Taber predicted the project would reduce traffic congestion stemming from State Route 92. Because many working in San Mateo contend with long commutes, the project offered employees of San Mateo businesses and offices an opportunity to live close to their jobs, said Taber.
“I would suggest that the best way to reduce traffic congestion is to provide more housing here on the Peninsula,” he said. “This project is in exactly the right place … more housing on this side of the Bay is going to reduce traffic.”
Commissioner Ramiro Maldonado was also supportive of building housing near public transit, but voiced a concern shared by residents and other commissioners that the project didn’t provide enough affordable units. By providing six units at a very-low income level, the developer qualifies for a state density bonus, said city planner Roscoe Mata.
“My only hesitation and my only reservation is that yes, six [below-market rate unit]s are [nice], but I believe we should have more than six,” said Maldonado.
Jeff Warmoth, a representative of the developer, said the developer aimed to maximize the number of affordable units the project could offer to residents at a very low-income level after learning how great the need is for units affordable at a very-low-income level and how challenging it can be to build them.
“We felt like that’s a real benefit to the city,” he said. “There are six families who at a very low-income level will be able to qualify to live in this wonderful place.”
Though Commissioner John Ebneter commended the project for contributing to the diversity of building designs in the area, he noted he still had lingering concerns about the effect the slate of new and upcoming developments would have on traffic in the area. He looked to ongoing monitoring of developments like Station Park Green as it is leased out to new residents to shed light on whether initial traffic projections have been accurate.
“I have a concern, as I have mentioned in the past, with this whole area and the traffic impacts,” he said. “I think it’s going to be quite telling over the next 12 to 16 months to see how this neighborhood and the traffic situations evolve.”
In other business, the commission postponed a vote on a proposal to build a five-story, 80-unit apartment building with 7,000 square feet of retail space just north of Central Park. The developer, Essex Property Trust, submitted plans to build an eight-story development with 117 units some five years ago, and resubmitted scaled-back plans last fall. Though public comment on the project was heard Tuesday, commissioners voted to continue a discussion of the project at its Aug. 28 meeting because the meeting lasted past 11 p.m.
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