A new life science development was approved for construction in San Carlos’ growing East Side Innovation District, receiving strong praise from the city’s Planning Commission for its design features and preservation of some of the existing building’s infrastructure.
“You’ve taken a rather massive unattractive building, frankly, and concrete slab structure and provided us with a facade of light and clean materials,” Commissioner Don Bradley said during Monday’s Planning Commission meeting. “I congratulate you on that. Pulling that off is not easy.”
The life science building would replace an existing Honda dealership at 777 industrial Road. Much of the current three-story building’s footprint will remain the same with the developer, 777 Industrial Owner LLC, proposing to retain the foundation and second floor of the structure.
Commissioner David Roof said preserving some of the building in the redesign was a “smart approach,” with Chair Ellen Garvey noting doing so would cut down on construction noise and negative effects on the community.
Once completed, the structure would stand four stories tall, amassing 122,455 square feet. The exterior of the building will be made of glazed glass rather than the concrete featured on the existing building. Brushed aluminum slabs and cement plaster will also be used while a protruding stair tower on the north side of the building will feature perforated metal and backlighting.
“The building is extremely attractive. The design is outstanding and I really commend you on the glazed glass. … It’s going to be so much better than the concrete,” Garvey said.
A total of 47 trees will be placed across the 2.8-acre site, up from the 41 trees required based on the proposed number of parking at 198 stalls. While commissioners wanted to see additional trees included in the landscaping plans, Principal Planner Lisa Costa Sanders said fire department access limited where trees could be placed.
The site is still expected to be “lush,” said Cyrus Sanandaji, managing director with the real estate development firm Presidio Bay Ventures, which acquired the 777 Industrial Road lot in partnership with Kinship Capital, a private real estate investment firm.
A 4,000-square-foot roof deck will also be featured on the structure, including additional landscaping, lounge furniture, a fire pit and an outdoor kitchen.
“That roof deck is going to have the best view and look so neat. That’s just a wonderful design feature,” Garvey said.
Pushing for community benefits, Commissioner Kristen Clements requested that the building occasionally be open for use by nonprofits and fundraiser events. Agreeing with Clements, Sanandaji said the agency would be open to the idea, suggesting events like cocktail hours could be hosted on the roof deck given improving health conditions.
“We set out project objectives primarily with a focus on achieving a win-win with the city and to demonstrate a long-term commitment to the community,” Sanandaji said.
Located in the city’s East Side, the project is one of many proposed developments in the area. In light of the influx of development interests in the Innovation District, particularly by life science developers, the city has slowed down its planning review process to allow for the staff to complete an East Side Innovation District Study, set to be done by September.
Sanandaji said the 777 Industrial Road development could bring between 500 and 600 new employees to the area. While the mix of research and development uses would require the project to include 229 parking stalls, the developers submitted a Transportation Demand Management Plan that found vehicle trips could be reduced by 20%, reducing the parking requirement to 183 stalls.
Concerned for parking and traffic congestion, public commenters requested the commission not approve the TDM and to require the additional spaces. Ultimately, the commission approved the TDM, which will encourage employees to take public transportation by offering bicycle parking, a repair station, shower and changing facilities, an on-site gym, commuter benefits, and trip planning resources.
The new tenant could also implement a shuttle program from the nearby Caltrain station to the site, about a 12-minute walk. Sanandaji said any lease agreement would require routes not travel down residential roads, appeasing a concern expressed by community members.
“We as a firm are really committed to ensuring that we’re a long-term member in the community and look to ensure that as part of any planning process we’re listening to and trying to address as much of the concerns that may be directly related to our project but also may have further implications to the neighborhood,” Sanandaji said.
Staff also noted the TDM found that trips to and from the site would not primarily occur at peak traffic hours, instead being spread out during the day.
Typically, TDMs are reviewed five years after occupancy of the building is confirmed but, with the anticipated growth of the district, the commission agreed to require an additional review of the document three years after occupancy to ensure compounding issues are addressed early.
Development of the site will likely take about a year with construction slated to begin the start of November.
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