How a plan to replace Waters Technology Office Park with a 190-unit housing development could reduce the jobs/housing imbalance in San Mateo was a focus for city officials as they voted unanimously to approve the project Tuesday.
Slated to include a mix of two-story single-family homes as well as three- and four-story attached townhomes and flats on an 11-acre site southeast of the interchange between Highway 101 and State Route 92, the proposal has drawn criticism from neighbors of the office complex concerned about its impact on traffic congestion and the privacy of homes neighboring the property. The developer, Strada Investment Group, is also planning to designate 19 of the units as affordable, which Strada Principal Michael Cohen said could range from $250,000 to $350,000 in price.
Officials commended the developer for designing the project so the edge of the property adjacent to existing homes is lined with two-story, single-family homes so three- and four-story attached townhomes and flats are concentrated toward the center of the property. They also expressed gratitude for the developer’s contribution of $250,000 toward improvements to the intersection of 19th Avenue and South Norfolk Street and willingness to work with neighbors of the project on new fencing and to fund structural reports to ensure the construction project will not cause damage to their properties.
Having had three-story homes built next to his house some 10 years ago, Councilman Joe Goethals acknowledged the concerns of those living next to the project and voiced support for the discussions between residents and the developer yielding several mitigation measures, which he also felt should include a residential parking permit program. But he also noted the reality those who are commuting long hours to work in the region are facing, noting many can’t afford a home near new jobs that have been created in San Mateo in recent years.
“Our region has changed and that’s something we have to recognize,” he said. “Adding homes for people where they’re going to live where they’re going to have a shorter commute means quality of life for all us residents.”
Of concern for several residents was a traffic study prepared by Hexagon Transportation Consultants estimating the project would reduce the total number of trips in and out of the site. Gary Black, Hexagon’s president, acknowledged the change in uses at the project site would result in an increase in trips leaving the site in the mornings as well as an increase in trips entering the site in the afternoons and evenings.
Resident Kari Lusardi was among those concerned about how the project could affect her commute, namely the traffic congestion she sees daily on Fashion Island or Hillsdale boulevards on her way to her home on Claudia Avenue. She wondered about the effect of changing the office complex’s use to residential, noting jobs that could be offered at a revamped office park could be filled by people who live nearby and currently commute to their jobs.
Others, like resident Jordan Grimes, welcomed the project for its promise to help offset the jobs/housing imbalance in the region by replacing offices with 190 housing units. He also commended the developer for offering for-sale units and giving first-time home buyers a chance to purchase their first home.
“These are badly needed housing units,” he said. “They’re at the right place at the right time.”
Though some residents advocated for the developer to grade the edge of the property adjacent to homes on Adrian Avenue so it is level with their backyards, Cohen said the developer could get the ground between 6 inches and 12 inches of that mark. Though the maximum allowable height for a fence separating the properties is 6 feet with a 2-foot lattice, Mayor Diane Papan encouraged the developer to work together with residents to design a 10-foot fence and obtain a special permit to build it.
Though Deputy Mayor Maureen Freschet acknowledged the challenges residents face daily with regard to traffic, she also underscored the regional housing shortage and the uptick in jobs offered in San Mateo recently. With many housing developments proposed for rental units, Freschet was pleased to see for-sale units coming online and was also glad to see the developer provide 425 parking spaces on the site, which is well above the 248 spots required by state law.
Papan thanked residents for voicing their concerns about the project in the months leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, which she felt helped shape a project to better meet their needs.
“I do think this is a balanced approach as it relates to this use,” she said. “In order to make this work, the neighbors really had to be listened to.”
In other business, the council reviewed a proposed ordinance aimed at requiring landlords who don’t properly maintain their units to pay for the relocation costs of affected tenants. Requiring landlords to provide a rental unit or hotel room for a tenant who is temporarily displaced due to poor conditions and paying them up to $1,000 to cover additional costs were among the rules councilmembers considered Tuesday. In response to concerns about how the proposed rules would affect landlords, councilmembers opted to study the issue further at a future meeting.
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