How a 935-unit residential development proposed to replace the Concar Shopping Center in San Mateo will affect the services and stores members of neighboring communities use was among the concerns residents aired at the Planning Commission’s Tuesday study session.

Passage at San Mateo

Rendering of the proposed Passage at San Mateo, where initial plans suggest redevelopment of the Concar Shopping Center.

In its first review by the commission, a pre-application for the mixed-use transit-oriented development near the juncture of State Route 92 and Highway 101 elicited a cool reception from many of its neighbors, who expressed concerns about its impact on traffic, infrastructure and the loss or relocation of businesses located at the aging shopping center.

Though the project, dubbed the Passage at San Mateo, is set to retain a Trader Joe’s and 7-Eleven on site and also provide a dining hall, park space and a transit hub open to residents of nearby communities, Sunnybrae resident Barbara Niss found the loss or relocation of well-used amenities like Rite Aid, Trader Joe’s and the nonprofit Peninsula Ballet Theatre to be disheartening.

Passage at San Mateo

A bird’s-eye view of the proposed site layout shows the 14.5-acre site near the intersection of State Route 92 and Highway 101.

For Niss, new projects like the 12-acre Station Park Green project — which will add 599 housing units, 2 acres of parks and open space, as well as 25,000 square feet of commercial space and 10,000 square feet of office space across the street from the project — already promise to affect the area. She encouraged the developer to consider how removing the shopping center will change the transportation patterns of its patrons.

“In addition to being so large and fortresslike … this one’s different because it takes away services that we use,” she said. “By taking these services away from us, we’re all going to get in cars.”

Several dancers with the Peninsula Ballet Theatre joined the organization’s ballet mistress Nina Baratova-Amato in advocating for the nonprofit to be included in the development’s plans. Baratova-Amato was disappointed to see the nonprofit, which she noted has been an institution and a cultural hub for more than 50 years, had not yet been included in the plans yet but encouraged the developer to consider it.

“The future of the arts is rocky at best and if we lose this home of ours, we don’t know if we will be able to continue to exist,” she said.

Passage at San Mateo

Renderings of the proposed Passage at San Mateo, where initial plans suggest redevelopment of the Concar Shopping Center into housing and retail space near the Hayward Park Caltrain station.

But others expressed hope for the project’s potential to add much-needed housing units to the city’s stock, with several residents encouraging the developer to offer even more of the units at affordable levels. Though 73 units are expected to be made available to those at a very low-income level, Brian Myers, a partner with the developer California Coastal Properties, said the developer may also consider making more units affordable for those at a low-income level.

Esther Conrad, who lives on South Delaware Street, represented the group One San Mateo in noting the region is suffering from a housing affordability crisis. Given the scale of the development and its proximity to the Hayward Park Caltrain station, Conrad noted offering a larger portion of the hundreds of units at lower cost would make it more accessible to those who cannot afford market-rate units.

“Given the size of this development as it’s proposed and the range of issues that the community at large is going to be adjusting to, it seems that it would be really good to include more affordable housing,” she said.

Looming large for many neighbors of the project was how the new use would affect traffic congestion, which many described as worsening in recent years. Noting the some 5,000 jobs within a quarter mile of the project, Myers said one of the goals of the project was to bring housing closer to jobs and that changing the land use on the site from retail to housing is expected to reduce the number of trips in and out of the site, but others doubted a reduction in traffic would be possible with what’s planned. City planner Lily Lim said a traffic study will be completed once a full application has been submitted.

Acknowledging the increased traffic congestion on her commute to Bay Meadows and picking up her children from activities, Sunnybrae resident Robin Gage said she hoped street improvements could be made to allow for bicycle paths and enhanced traffic flow, while also lodging concerns about its overall size and its effect on air quality and water supply.

“I think that this is just not the right project for the area,” she said. “I don’t think anybody here would disagree that something needs to be done, but this just seems way overkill.”

Commissioner Dianne Whitaker said she hoped the project would come back to the commission with significant changes to account for its impact on the surrounding community, adding that she shared many of the same concerns voiced by residents about the project’s density. Because much of the open space is in the center of the two- to five-story buildings, Whitaker wondered if the paths connecting the project with nearby streets would be enough to invite visitors onto the site and encouraged the developer to increase variation of the building heights and stepbacks.

“The current layout of this site … is definitely an inward-facing assemblage of buildings, which I believe does create barriers to the surrounding neighborhoods,” she said. “Because of that I don’t think it says welcome.”

For Vice Chair Charlie Drechsler, the project marked the right direction in increasing the city’s housing inventory. Acknowledging the challenge of worsening traffic congestion, Drechsler said planning carefully for the site is the only way to avoid even further delays. Though he wished the buildings could be taller to allow for more units and so that they could be stepped farther away from the streets, Drechsler acknowledged the many constraints within which the developer worked to craft the plans.

“We want more than this property can provide,” he said. “Let’s invite them to the community and understand that they’re inviting us to their courtyard.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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(20) comments

Henry Case

We should be thanking, not discouraging, the developer for razing this dump and building something new.

Mr Eddy

This project needs to go back to the drawing board, it's needs to get more affordable housing rather than a small fraction of the nearly thousand units, we're already sick of the construction on Delaware and Concar intersection. The shopping center needs to be renovated with a reasonable size, there still needs to be a drugstore like Walgreens, we need TJ Maxx there has to be a balance for housing and retail for us that live in the Sunnybrae area. There's no need for a small park, it's redundant. I'm glad so many people came to the meeting and showed their support to keeping the traffic down and opposing huge gentrification, this place is an eye sore, but we don't want to replace it with an even bigger eye sore. We already have a housing project that just nearly complete.These developers need to study the traffic with the other housing project first, they already added hundreds of units. Our community is what our city council should listen to, we want to retain the quality of life for our neighborhood.

vincent wei

Hey John...please don't start with the personal attacks...I mentioned the TMA only if you were interested in related City of San Mateo traffic management facts, and further, pointed you to my other comments regarding Hexagon and what would be a better approach to addressing our current traffic problems...but clearly you're not interested...

Cynthia Newton

I have some serious concerns about this proposed project. This area is currently besieged and gridlocked daily by afternoon cut-through commuter traffic trying to get to the San Mateo Bridge, many not having anything to do with San Mateo, just trying to get to the San Mateo Bridge as quickly as possible and looking for shortcuts -- it is a daily nightmare! It isn’t just a question of how this plot of land and the current and future use of it will add/detract from traffic, the cut-through traffic problem needs to be addressed before any more housing should be considered in this area. Everyone agrees that this shopping area needs to be redeveloped and is an eyesore but I think the current proposal with 900+ rental housing units is too much for this part of this part of the city to absorb! I say let's wait and see how the projects currently under construction, 599 units at Station Green, 100+ at the CSAA site, further affect traffic and address the current cut-through traffic problems in the area before beginning to add even more to the mix! Any traffic study conducted before the other 700+ units under construction are completed and occupied won’t be an accurate portrayal of what traffic will look like in the future. It isn’t realistic either to think that these new residents won’t have to drive to go shopping, take their children to school, etc. -- to think that they are going to stay in that one mile area is unrealistic!

kevinburke

Cut through traffic is people getting from their jobs on the Peninsula to their homes in the East Bay. It stands to reason if we build more homes here on the Peninsula, commutes will be shorter, more people will take the bus/Caltrain and there will be less traffic.

Both the developer and the city project this project will take cars off the road.

Ray

So we take cars off the highways, then add them to city streets. Public transportation may get them to work, but not much else.

mfink

The proposed development looks like a great addition to San Mateo. That site is a dump and I'm glad to see it being put to better use. We desperately need housing on the peninsula and this will help out a tiny bit. Next up, 100 more projects like this up and down the entire CalTrain corridor!

ryansbrand

I like the plan overall, although I personally would really like to see a couple of changes:

1) space for the ballet to remain, perhaps w/ a development agreement that the space always be used for performing arts, similar to the Bridgepoint's ice rink requirement.
2) space for Rite Aide or another pharmacy. Makes sense to accommodate one as a critical/basic neighborhood amenity.
3) the developer to pay for upgrades to the Concar and Delaware bike lanes to protected (separated) lanes.

More affordable housing is always nice, but that might only pencil out with an increase in market rate units.

JordanG

It's not mentioned in the article, but points 2 and 3 have been brought up and the developers are totally willing to work on those. I talked with one of them after the meeting on Tuesday and was told they're working on trying to attract a smaller, non big-box pharmacy to the site.

vincent wei

The City needs to require cumulative traffic impact studies, not just individual ones. Require developers to include traffic of all developments approved but not built, as well as all built and occupied developments, and as yet un-built but zoned potential developments in the area, before the submission and approval of a development proposal.

BenToy

Amazingly...agree with you on this...your description is smack on line with the metrics of "Form Based Code Planning"

Current city metrics is based on LOS...albeit Public Works and The Council approved "Sustainable Streets Plan" a few years ago...which is a Vision Zero, VMT and Form Based Code basis

Hikertom

The worse traffic in San Mateo is not caused by too many people living here. It is caused by the tremendous imbalance between jobs and housing that causes large numbers of people to commute from the other side of the bay. That is why Highway 92 is clogged going westbound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon. Getting to my home in the Parkside neighborhood is tricky during rush hours. Building more housing close to jobs and especially close to Caltrain is a step toward reducing traffic congestion. Concar Passage is exactly the right place to build lots of housing. Residents will be able to walk, bicycle, and take the train; and even if they have to drive, they won't have to drive far.

BenToy

Thank you for posting this and is on target of 'why' there is so much 'cut through traffic'

No one else or better said: 'not enough' seems to see that big picture of the SF Bayarea region's layout that creates a localized problem in mot all cities in the whole of The SF Bayarea.

IMHO, most impacted are the cities along the Peninsula and even more impacted are the cities around the chock points where the bridges intersection with 101 & 880.

vincent wei

Hexagon will do the city's/developers traffic study and say there is not impact...599 Station Green residential plus 350,000 plus commercial....now 935 proposed units plus commercial...plus Hines' Concar commercial.....plus the upcoming TOD project south of Delaware and 92....BUT Hexagon, the City and the developers will say no impact...they've been in the bag for developers and a pro-growth business and labor union city council for years...going back to the Bay Meadows and TOD approvals....And to all you Yimby's these are 862 MARKET rate units...units that most folks who really need housing can't afford...Thank you Commissioner Whitaker for your knowledge of planning...while more cliche's from union labor Drechsler...

John Morris

Everyone understands that these are market rate units Vincent. Adding to the supply is the only way to make prices go down. I would also love to see a fact based argument from you as to why Hexagon should not be doing the study. You and others make that claim repeatedly yet I have never seen anyone successfully question the actual methodology behind the reports themselves. This would create at least a hundred affordable units, and the city should push for more. We need this project.

vincent wei

John, it actually says 73 affordable units, not "at least a 100..." as you claim....more magical thinking from the yimby's...AND in terms of Hexagon and traffic methodology please see my comment above...Also you might note if you're really interested that the city has had a Transportation Management Agency (TMA) since around 2009, maybe earlier, that was mandated as part of the transit oriented development (TOD) zoning approvals, along with Bay Meadows phase 2......... The TMA is tasked with producing an annual report to the council, showing compliance with a 25% reduction in traffic from each of the projects that are approved in these zones.........The problem is that, other than the city, the TMA is made up entirely of developers and real estate interests....... The composition of the Transportation Management Association (TMA) needs to include homeowners’ associations........ As it stands, the rubber stamped data (probably done by Hexagon) does not even include any data on Caltrain use (one of the prime justifications used for TOD approvals).

John Morris

If you had been at the meeting Vincent you would know that the developer also proposed a 15% affordable plan under which the number of affordable units would be more than 100. Whether 73 or 100 or more, some units are better than nothing. Your response about the TMA answers no part of my question or point, as usual.

Thomas Morgan

They are considering the 15% not committed, big difference. Rents really did not start going up until they started building, so supply demand argument is not all there is to it. A lot has to do with credit and the application process in the current market higher income earners will take the lower costing housing. Landlords will prefer to rent to tenants with the best possible credit profile, which means lower credit scores/ no credit history will not qualify for the most affordable housing, and will be forced to look somewhere else. At the same time most of the new housing stock is apartments, so the people who could do not have the opportunity to buy, or the housing product that is available is not appealing.

mfink

Hi Vincent, I am glad to hear that you're concerned about the cost of rent in San Mateo! To help out, I would encourage you to build a small unit in your backyard (ADU) and rent it out below market rate. You may have an extra bedroom you could rent out, below market rate of course, as well

vincent wei

I'm all for affordable housing and maybe I'm a renter, mfink? ....I wouldn't assume as much as you sarcastically do...also how about letting me know how you came up with your claim that 40% of Bay Meadows uses Caltrain ???..or is that more magical yimby thinking ?...it is an ACTUAL fact though that Caltrain ridership was down at 19 of their 29 stations last year....

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