General Plan Comments from GESC (GESC Letter Two)

Attn: San Carlos City Council
City of San Carlos
600 Elm Street
San Carlos, CA 94070

Last week, we were able to meet with Community Service Director Al Savay and Planning Director Deborah Nelson to go over key facets of the General Plan detailed in a GESC Letter regarding the General Plan (GESC Letter One) and how they relate to the GESC neighborhood. This meeting was extremely informative and further instructed our comments. Soon after, we received a response in writing. We would also like to say that we appreciate their letter (Staff Response One) clarifying General Plan policies and capturing some of our input. The Staff’s response has enabled us to fine tune areas where we believe City Council policy clarification is required for consideration. So please find this letter (GESC Letter Two) as a detailed response to comments that have been made by City Staff. Thanks again to Mr. Savay and Ms. Nelson.

GESC Key Comments by section (GESC Letter Two):

1) Fine Tuning Land Use Around the GESC Neighborhood North and South of Holly Street

We look forward to participating in the City’s Zoning Code Update particularly for those areas directly around our residential neighborhood. In particular, we would like the City to create a buffering transition for areas within a couple hundred feet of the GESC Neighborhood to encourage less invasive uses and create a smoother transition between our neighborhood and industry (An example of this might be to encourage office uses on the South Side of Taylor while still enabling industrial uses on the North Side, since the South side abuts the GESC Neighborhood Street of Northwood. Another example would be to discourage a future firewood company from being located next to the condominiums on Old County Road, which could have burned down a few years back during a fire there.)

2) Park Opportunities in East Side

While staff have recommended a change in Park access standards from within ¼ mile to ½ mile from the nearest park facility, the GESC Board believes that the city council should recognize and formally designate GESC as an underserved neighborhood, particularly north of Holly Street. We are in support of Land Use Policy 9.15 prioritizing use for in-kind benefits or bonuses offered by a project developer, so that uses benefitting the neighborhood in which the development is occurring shall be considered. This policy is important to our neighborhood because the East Side provides much of the revenue for the City and is the main game in town for future developments. New developments and improvements greatly impact our neighborhood but do not benefit us (e.g. Palo Alto Medical Foundation $1 million check for soccer fields on the West Side). The current lack of pedestrian accessibility of Holly Street also discourages use of Laureola Park for many GESC residents located north of Holly. As you consider placing a variety of park uses identified in the City’s Park Master Plan in San Carlos, we would like the City Council to go on record that it will consider placing those facilities on the East Side north of Holly Street. Facilities identified in the City’s Park Master Plan include:

  • Community Swimming Pool/Aquatic Center
  • Performing Arts Center
  • Additional Athletic Field Space
  • Community Center/Community Gathering Space
  • Indoor Gymnasium
  • Dog Park
  • Outdoor Skate Park
  • New Playground

3) In Support of a Park Impact Fee

We’d like the City to consider adoption of a park impact policy on residential/ industrial/commercial/office land uses to raise funds for these recreation facilities near where the impact is. Policies such as this have been developed by the City of Palo Alto, and are currently under consideration by the City of Redwood City. We understand that the locational benefit of the park in lieu fee was discussed by the GPAC and Park and Recreation Commission but was not included in the General Plan update. As the residents most impacted 24-7 by East Side developments and as the residential group that has historically and who currently does not receive any of the benefits of these developments, we would like the City Council to reconsider and adopt a park impact fee that is locational in terms of its benefits. This is very important to us especially in light of the Transit Village’s proposed addition of 1,000 residents adjacent to our neighborhood and park, needed improvements at Laureola Park as identified in City’s Park Master Plan, and as described in detail in the previous section of this letter (#2).

4) Gateways on the East Side

We would like the City Council to direct staff to work closely with the City of Belmont to improve the recognition of Industrial and Old County Road from Harbor Blvd as “gateways” into San Carlos. These roads serve Eastside businesses and residents and are in need of significant beautification and more welcoming signage than is currently present. These roadways and related creeks are strewn with garbage and create a “down-trodden” appearance for thousands of visitors entering our City via Old County Road and Harbor. Director’s Savay and Nelson agreed these areas require improvements, but stated that it would be a policy decision for the City Council. Furthering mutual cooperation and improvement to areas between neighboring jurisdictions seems like “low hanging fruit” that benefits everyone.

4) Representation on the Planning Commission and Traffic and Transportation Commission

We appreciate that your staff has recommended the Limited Growth Alternative, which will facilitate land use improvements that minimizes impacts to the East Side; however, we still believe there is much work to be done to implement this General Plan Update as well as traffic and transportation improvements on the East Side. In the recent past GESC residents have applied for positions on both the Planning Commission and Traffic and Transportation Commission, and have been routinely turned down. The feeling in the community is that the importance of our voice is not recognized or welcomed by the City Council. We strongly believe that as the City adopts this General Plan which will impact the East Side, we have an opportunity to represent these areas by including those most affected by future land use changes. We would like the City Council to formally identify a GESC resident representative for both of these Commissions. We pledge to work with the City to recruit seek GESC applicants.

We appreciate your consideration of these issues and look forward to discussing these further with you at your meeting October 12, 2009.

Sincerely,

Ben Fuller, President, GESC

Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood

Sam Herzberg, Board Member, GESC

Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood

C: Al Savay, Community Services Director

Deborah Nelson, Planning Director

GESC Board