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San Carlos takes another step toward plaza development ? eventually
November 16, 2012, 05:00 AM Daily Journal Staff Report

The city of San Carlos continues not letting the state dissolution of redevelopment agencies stymie its hope for the eventual development of several downtown properties into one mixed-use project known as Wheeler Plaza.

The City Council has already certified the final environmental impact review. On Monday night, the Planning Commission will discuss if the project conforms with the city’s general plan and, if so, recommend the City Council follow suit. Neither move kick starts development into immediate motion but will position it for the eventuality.

"It’s yet another step down the path,” said Assistant City Manager Brian Moura.

The proposed project by developer Silverstone Communities concerns the parking lot behind Laurel Street and San Carlos Avenue, fronting Walnut Street, and several city-owned buildings along San Carlos Avenue and Laurel Street. One is a six-unit rental housing building and another the former Foodville Market. The entire space is approximately 2.65 acres, sitting roughly 300 feet southwest of the Caltrain station, two blocks from City Hall and straddling areas of both retail and multi-family housing.

Right now, the project is split into three components: the Wheeler Plaza mixed-use plan to replace the parking lot and retail with 9,855 square feet of commercial space and 108 residential units above a three-level parking garage; the Laurel Street commercial and plaza component which includes the public space and a two-story 4,500-square-foot building for restaurant and office space; and the Cherry Street affordable housing component which would include a 31-unit building.

The problem is that several of the city plots were owned by the now-defunct RDA. The question is if the oversight board of the successor agencies agrees that the land is a better benefit to the city as part of the bigger Wheeler Plaza project. The developer could still go ahead with a smaller project but it might not deliver the same payoff, Moura said.

A disposition and development agreement is being prepared for consideration by the City Council at its Jan. 14 meeting. The agreement will call for the city transferring five parcels to Silverstone Properties for development. At the end, the company will transfer to the city the public parking garage, the reciprocal easement agreement for cars and pedestrians through the site and vacant property on Laurel Street for use as an outdoor public plaza.

The Planning Commission on Monday is asked to find that the idea is in line with the general plan’s guidelines for density and goals for economic vitality and public parking.

The idea for Wheeler Plaza dates back to the late 1990s when the redevelopment agency envisioned a parking structure with 60 residential units and 120 bedrooms. In November 2010, the RDA paid $2.8 million for the 7,400-square-foot former Foodville parcel at 1245 San Carlos Ave. adjacent to the Wheeler Plaza parking lot to expand the project’s dimensions.

The San Carlos Planning Commission meets 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.

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