How a 35-unit townhome development proposed to replace Fred’s Market and eight residences can help improve pedestrian paths and traffic flow in San Mateo’s North Shoreview neighborhood was a focus for residents and city officials at the Planning Commission’s Tuesday meeting.

Slated for the southwest corner of Monte Diablo Avenue and North Kingston Street, the project proposed by the San Mateo-based developer Regis Homes Bay Area aims to provide 29 four-bedroom units and six three-bedroom units, with four of the units designated for low-income households earning no more than 80% of area median income, said city planner Wendy Lao.

The project site is south of a three-story apartment building, adjacent to a three-story motel and near the eastern end of the Monte Diablo Avenue pedestrian bridge over Highway 101. The development’s building height will range from three stories on the front and sides of the property to four stories toward the back of the property, said Lao.

Chair Mike Etheridge joined his fellow commissioners in voicing support for the development’s overall design and its potential to boost the neighborhood’s housing stock. Acknowledging the site was pegged as underutilized in previous planning efforts, Etheridge hoped the project could spur other neighborhood improvements, such as pedestrian and landscaping updates.

“It is really … exciting to see this development on this specific space in a neighborhood that a few of the speakers mentioned they feel is forgotten by the city,” he said, according to a video of the meeting. “I see a lot of beauty in the pictures of that block, it would be great for the city to be able to extend some elements of that throughout that neighborhood.”

North Shoreview resident Charlie Dreschler also expressed enthusiasm for the development, which he expected to be a positive addition to a neighborhood he felt has been largely overlooked by the city, noting much of the land in the neighborhood facing Highway 101 has been underutilized.

But Dreschler voiced concerns about the number of four-bedroom units included in the project plans. He said he wasn’t sure how many families would need units that large and also underscored the need for more housing for families feeling the stress of the city’s rising cost of living.

“I would love to see more two- and three-bedroom [units],” he said. “I think that’s what this community needs if we’re going to be sustainable in the future.”

Dreschler was also among the residents who advocated for officials to take the opportunity to explore improvements for the pedestrian overpass offering passage over Highway 101 at Monte Diablo Avenue. With San Mateo High School students using that overpass to get to school, Dreschler hoped officials could consider ways to make the route more inviting and safe.

Travis Duncan, project manager for Regis Homes Bay Area, said the developer expected the development to enliven an empty lot on one of the parcels included in the project site and help enhance the safety of the pedestrian overpass.

Duncan added the availability of street parking was a concern raised by residents at a July 22 neighborhood meeting, and said plans to provide two to three parking spots per unit — for a total of 85 parking spots provided on the site — were aimed at reducing the number of cars parking on the street.

He noted the developer also worked with city staff to reduce the number of driveways leading into the project site, which is expected to make 17 additional public parking spots available near the site.

Because the units are designed in large part for families, Etheridge wondered if the developer could consider designating more than two parking spaces in the development for visitors. He also advocated for the developer to explore how the site could accommodate deliveries of items purchased on Amazon, especially since the project would take the place of Fred’s Market. Though he acknowledged two other small markets operate within a short distance of the proposed development, Etheridge expected many of the townhome residents will order household items online.

Commissioner Ellen Mallory joined Etheridge in encouraging the developer to think about package deliveries, and also noted the lack of a neighborhood schools near the project was a concern. She advocated for the developer to notify those considering moving into the development about where the closest schools are to the project.

Though she also felt the project would also be beneficial for the neighborhood, Commissioner Margaret Williams hoped the developer could explore ways to reduce the massing of the development, especially on the neighborhood-facing portions of the project. Because the developer qualifies for the state’s density bonus, it is allowed to request waivers of the city’s development standards and is requesting exceptions to the city’s rules on setbacks, change in roof height and building transitions, according to a staff report.

Williams also commended the developer for designing the development so the garages for each unit are hidden from street view, which, combined with the 58 additional trees the developer expects to plant along the streets, she felt would improve the pedestrian experience.

Though he also hoped the neighborhood could become more pedestrian-friendly with the new development, Commissioner Ramiro Maldonado voiced some concern that planting several trees in the front of the development could reduce the sidewalk and open green space available to pedestrians. Maldonado also supported the project’s overall design, and hoped the play structure and other open spaces to be provided on site could be open to other community members to use.

“I do want the applicant to incorporate some open spaces that can be used by the community,” he said.

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