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Council begins Transit Village talk, withholds vote
December 11, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Rendering of proposed Transit Village in San Carlos.

The San Carlos City Council last night began the weighty task of deciding whether the environmental analysis of the proposed Transit Village provides an adequate basis on which to consider whether the luxury rental and retail complex is a good fit around the existing train station.

However, the council must wait until a future meeting to actually begin discussing whether to certify the environmental impact report. The council had heard two hours of presentations laying out the project in an early special meeting before reconvening at the regular time to talk amongst themselves and take public testimony. However, with several presentations still left to hear in that second half, the council did not have the opportunity to do much more than ask a few questions of the experts who laid out details over parking, traffic and transportation.

Several of the council’s inquiries tried to understand how a housing project that would add roughly 500 new people can actually reduce vehicle trips by 22.5 percent. Transportation expert Gary Black of Hexagon said that figure is in comparison to adding 500 people in a non-transit oriented development. He also pointed out that there is no way to avoid increasing traffic in the area because the site currently houses vacant lots which, by their definition, have no traffic.

As with most other public hearings on the project, the audience was filled with dozens of red-shirted residents of the Greater East San Carlos neighborhood who believe the development will bring undesirable levels of noise, shadowing and traffic. Other concerns include adding children to already overcrowded schools, the amount of extra parking spaces to accommodate residents and how many toxins could be disrupted and spread into the air. Neighbors are also worried that high-speed rail could lead to eminent domain of Old County Road and their property to accommodate extra rails. SamTrans, the agency that owns the land proposed for development, has said that is unlikely.

As currently proposed by Foster City-based developer Legacy Partners, the Transit Village plan would convert a 10.53-acre strip of land within the existing Caltrain station and running parallel to the railroad corridor. Legacy’s proposal envisions eight four-story buildings with 281 housing units among a mix of 407,298 square feet of residential, 23,797 square feet of office space and 14,326 square feet of retail space. The project would also include 667 parking spaces and a new SamTrans Transit Center on 4.29 acres.

In November, the Planning Commission held four lengthy public hearings before hesitantly recommending the City Council certify the EIR even though several members said they did not agree with some of its conclusions. If the City Council ultimately follows suit, the fleshed-out project will then begin the trip through the city’s commissions and the council for discussion of its actual merits.

The Planning Commission also recommended the City Council impose 13 improvement measures to help mitigate the possible impacts, including that the developer prepare a landscape design plan for the vacant railroad corridor property, contribute funding toward a residential parking permit program and more thoroughly study noise before and after construction.

City staff has concluded that the project’s potential to reflect train noise can’t be considered a significant impact because the noise already exists and is caused by transportation rather than the buildings themselves.

In other business, the City Council agreed to raise solid waste collection rates beginning Jan. 1. Customers with 20 and 32 gallon carts will see a 9 percent increase while 64-gallon customers receive an 8 percent increase and 96-gallon customers receive a 6 percent hike.

The split rate is an effort to end the practice of larger cart customers subsidizing service for smaller carts and is similar to Hillsborough which charges by size along with a flat $25 monthly service charge. The growing number of customers moving to smaller carts also means that more waste is being recycled but that translates into annual revenue shortfalls.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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