How a plan to build a 961-unit, mixed-use development at the 14.5-acre Concar Shopping Center will affect local traffic congestion, use of public transportation, parking and infrastructure near the juncture of State Route 92 and Highway 101 were among the project’s environmental effects residents and officials pegged for further study at a San Mateo Planning Commission meeting last week.
One of the largest developments proposed in San Mateo in decades, the Passage project is slated to include a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, nearly 40,000 square feet of retail space and a new Trader Joe’s, a transit hub, dining hall and more than 4 acres of public open space where Rite Aid, TJ Maxx and Ross Dress for Less stand. Some 1,343 residential parking spaces and 255 retail parking spots are proposed for the site and 73 of the units built in the five-building project are expected to be available at below-market rates, according to the project plans.
Set to retain Trader Joe’s and 7-Eleven as well as provide space for the Peninsula Ballet Theatre and a child care facility, the project has — since it was proposed by California Coastal Properties in 2017 — raised concerns among residents worried about the loss of existing stores operating on the site and the impact of the massive project on local traffic and parking patterns.
Many of those questions surfaced at the March 26 meeting aimed at gathering community input on an environmental review planned for the project, one of several steps gauging the potential impacts, including those on greenhouse gas emissions, traffic patterns, use of utilities and water as well as the student population at schools near the area, explained Pooja Nagrath and Akoni Danielsen with the firm the city contracted with to conduct the environmental assessment, David J Powers & Associates.
For 22-year resident Naomi Preston, the project’s effect on already-congested streets near the project was a focus. Having observed traffic worsen with the construction of the 599-unit, mixed-use Station Park Green development at 1700 S. Delaware St. and continued construction at Bay Meadows, Preston felt the site where Passage is proposed is already negatively affected by existing developments and noted she hasn’t heard of any plans to mitigate the existing traffic congestion.
“It is really hard for me to conceive of how the area in question will not be significantly and negatively impacted,” she said, according to a video of the meeting. “Traffic is already horrible in the area.”
Laurie Wishard was among those who hoped the environmental assessment could include an analysis of the forms of public transportation available near the site and what more might be needed to meet the demand of the development’s residents and visitors. Situated less than half a mile from the Hayward Park Caltrain station, the project is expected to be accompanied by a transportation demand management plan aimed at reducing car trips to and from the site.
“I think we’ve designed and we set up San Mateo now with a plan that really relies on people using public transportation,” she said. “That hasn’t happened, so what do we need in a transportation system so that this influx of new people all over doesn’t make our community totally unliveable.”
Danielsen said the environmental assessment would include an analysis of the morning and afternoon commute hours as well as traffic counts on the site now so a comparison between the current uses on the site and its proposed future uses can be made. He added intersections and freeway off- and on-ramps near the site will be studied to determine the project’s impact on queuing and delays, and calculating the vehicle miles traveled for those cars going to and from the site will also shed light on whether it will reduce commute times.
For resident Rebecca Shepler, how bicycle and pedestrian routes will be maintained near the site during and after construction was a concern. Having seen the Station Park Green project affect routes near the site, Shepler wondered if an active transportation plan could ensure residents will have options for taking other forms of transportation besides cars.
“This is really important as we are encouraging people in our communities to begin using more forms of active transportation,” she said.
Commissioner Ellen Mallory and Chair Dianne Whitaker hoped the geology of the site could be closely studied out of concern for allegations the construction of the two four-story office buildings across South Delaware Street from the shopping center caused the land upon which the Ross Dress for Less store stands to sink.
Commissioner John Ebneter said he hoped a study showing the possible reduction in water use if graywater is used for on-site irrigation could be done, adding he would also like to see a comparison of the use of traditional energy sources and 100-percent clean electricity on the site. Whitaker also hoped a shade and shadow study could be completed given the size of the project.
Once the draft environmental report is released, Nagrath noted a 45-day comment period will follow to gather comments to be addressed in the final report, which requires approval by the City Council before the project can go up for review.
Email city planner Lily Lim at email@example.com or send mail to San Mateo’s Planning Division at 330 W. 20th Ave. before April 12 to submit comments on the supplemental environmental impact report to be prepared for the Passage project.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106