The San Mateo Planning Commission Tuesday approved site modification plans for Kiku Crossing, a downtown residential housing building and East Fifth Avenue parking garage that now needs City Council approval.

Planning Commissioner Chair Ellen Mallory thought the changes made were positive and thought the increase in multibedroom units would help families.

“I think that is a positive step for families that have children, and that’s always a good thing,” Mallory said.

The city-owned Downtown Affordable Housing and Parking Garage Sites Project, now known as Kiku Crossing, will redevelop two sites into an affordable seven-story multifamily residential building at 480 E. Fourth Ave. and a separate five-level private and public parking garage on 400 E. Fifth Ave. The development will also have a pedestrian bridge connecting to the residential building that will be constructed. The city approved the original site plan in 2020, but the applicant, MidPen Housing, identified site constraints following the approval process that required design modifications for the building setbacks, floor area and floor plan program, design of the exterior elevations, landscaping and open space design of the residential building.

MidPen reduced the residential building’s total floor area from 234,350 square feet to 211,970 square feet. The building is also being pulled back from the property lines at all four sides to allow for additional sidewalk space, deeper landscape buffer from the railroad tracks, accommodate proposed underground utilities and avoid overhead high voltage power lines. There are now more large-family, two-bedroom units and an increased ADA unit count. Other changes were made to the building’s exterior design and landscaping. The building height would remain the same, as would the 225 units.

However, there would be an increase in two-bedroom units from 53 to 59 and a decrease in one-bedroom units from 48 to 41. The studio units will also increase from 65 to 66. The average dwelling unit size would also decrease from approximately 820 square feet to 680 square feet, city staff said. The average square footage of a studio will be 380 square feet. The one-bedroom unit will be 529 square feet, the two-bedroom unit will be 784 square feet and the three-bedroom size will be 1,029 square feet.

The site plan and architectural review modification will appear before the City Council May 17 for formal review. Phillip Brennan, an associate planner with San Mateo, said the project met the staff’s requests and conditions for approval.

“Staff’s view is that the proposed modifications are consistent with the originally approved design intent and remains compliant with all the required findings, policies and code requirements,” Brennan said.

Mollie Naber with MidPen Housing said it would submit building permits in June and has secured county and state funding for the project.

Sheraden Nicholau, the regional manager Bay Area Office of the State Council on Development Disabilities, supported the recommendation because it supports low-income families and includes eight apartment units with preferences for people with developmental disabilities. Nicholau said San Mateo is home to more than 1,600 residents with developmental disabilities and that inclusion would help those residents.

“The lack of affordable housing is the single greatest barrier to achieving the goal of independent living for so many people with developmental disabilities,” Nicholau said.

Resident Laurie Watanuki asked for speed humps and proper lighting in the area, given its proximity to downtown.

“We’d like to make sure we have the proper lighting and the proper traffic calming [options] since this is the natural route to the downtown,” she said.

Some public comments expressed concern about trees being cut down for the development and asked for further consideration about what it would mean for the sustainability in the area.

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