We know that a number of people were not able to attend on Wednesday due to some of the schools having an open house.  Nonetheless we had a good turnout and had 4 city council members present.

After 5 years and countless hours of mediation between the GESC board, Legacy, SamTrans, and City Staff the only change in plan was cutting back a mere 7 percent on the square footage of the massive complex and a few additional trees.

There were no changes proposed to the retail/office space buildings and no additional landscaping proposed for any buildings south of Holly.  The southernmost building #8 is nearly 50 feet high, spans almost the entire block between Montgomery and East San Carlos, is right next to the train depot, and will bounce additional train noise when the trains are entering, picking up passengers, and leaving the platform.  The residential buildings are all still 4 stories high and the train noise and countless impacts to the community well documented in the hundreds of pages of feedback on this project remain.

At this point it is obvious to all involved that Legacy and Samtrans will only make cosmetic changes unless forced to by the Planning Commission and City Council.  One has to ask why would anyone in San Carlos want a developer that has been so tone deaf to neighborhood concerns become our neighbor?

If this project does not receive a massive haircut in Height and Density it will destroy the character of this town, create irreparable harm to the GESC neighborhood and create an enormous burden on city services.  Be prepared for increased parcel taxes and bond measures to fund the school district, police, and fire departments; since this “public/private” partnership gives all profits to SamTrans and Legacy while burdening this community with all of the costs.

The Daily Post and San Carlos Patch ran articles on the meeting.

Click to read the Daily post article below:

Transit Village Revisions Don’t Please Neighbors

The San Carlos Patch article is linked below and also copy and pasted in its entirety from the Patch Website.

4 Story Buildings on OCR will not be acceptable 

GESC: ‘4-Story Building on OCR Will Not be Acceptable’

GESC residents spoke out Wednesday night on what they say are less-than-adequate revised plans for the Transit Village Project.

Posted by Joan S. Dentler (Editor)
GESC meeting at Laureola Park  Photo credit: Joan Dentler

GESC meeting at Laureola Park Photo credit: Joan Dentler
Citing roofline heights, traffic, landscaping, density, and lack of true affordable housing as their main concerns, a group of about 60 residents from the Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood Association (GESC) gathered Wednesday night in Laureola Community Center to speak out on revised plans for the city’s Transit Village Project. 

In a notice to residents of the GESC neighborhood, which is comprised of the area west of US 101 and east of Old County Road, board members encouraged residents to attend the meeting to let their concerns on the project be heard.

Joining the members of the neighborhood group at the meeting were several city staff members and four city councilmembers, representatives from the project, including Jeff Byrd of Legacy Partners, the project developer.

Byrd and the project architect presented an alternative to the original plan, which called for, among other things, four-story rooflines, extensive landscaping, and high-density housing. Following the developer’s presentation, Fuller opened the floor up to discussion.

“This needs to be smaller all the way around,” said GESC board president Ben Fuller.

Fuller and the GESC board have worked for months on their quest for modifying the project. He reiterated during the meeting that the group understands the possibilities for transit-oriented development on the site, but the current scale is too large.

“The challenge is how much we are willing to develop. The impact to the community gets reduced as the size of the project gets reduced,” Fuller said.

Throughout the meeting neighbors spoke out with questions and concerns that centered on the projects scale and the height of the buildings.

Miles Hampton, who has lived in the neighborhood on the east side of Old County Road for 45 years says he doesn’t know why anyone would want to build housing units so close to the train tracks.

“I don’t think even triple-paned windows will keep that train noise out,” said Hampton, who said he worked for years at Putnam Buick alongside the tracks.

“There’s no three-day refund on a house once you move in and realize the train noise,” he added.

Legacy Partners representatives presented a Power Point slideshow with the modified buildings and landscaping plans, but that didn’t satisfy many of the GESC residents.

“This project is like rotten cheese. We don’t even know if it will work,” said one neighbor.

Referring to the recent development at the corner of El Camino and Morse Avenue, a member of the association said, “We do not want the council to approve the full massing and density option as we feel it would create eight 1001 Laurel Street buildings right next to each other destroying this community’s character and feel. Not taking the community’s character and feel was a significant oversight in the EIR review process.”

Another concern raised by the group was the increase in traffic that would come with the 280-unit residential complex.

“I can’t imagine getting down Holly Street once you put 500 more people in this space,” said a member of the neighborhood association.

Shuttles and taxis that service the Caltrain station are also a big concern of the group’s.

Board member Dimitri Vandellos says the shuttles that park on the side of the GESC neighborhood are problematic and the city needs to work with SamTrans to have them moved to the west side of the station.

“If you want those shuttles moved, you have to push on our city representatives,” Vandellos said.

Neighbors say the multi-modal transit center would also require improvements to traffic signals and pedestrian crossings adjacent to the proposed development, including El Camino Real and Holly Street, and the Caltrain parking lot.

Fuller says the developers didn’t follow the wishes of the group for lowering the heights of the buildings.

“They (Legacy Partners) said verbally during negotiations there would be three stories in buildings one, two and three along Old County Road, but they violated that by putting a four-story building in the area near Sylvan and Springfield drives.

“Any four-story on Old County Road will be unacceptable,” Fuller said.

San Carlos Community Development Director Al Savay, who was in attendance at the meeting explained the complexity of the project.

“There are a dozen different issues with this project. You can see why it’s taken five years to get to where we are today,” said Savay.

“Even though it’s been challenging, it’s been a thoughtful process. We’ve dealt with a variety of factors: economic, legal, zoning laws, financial and housing,” he added.

Savay encouraged GESC members to visit the fiscal impact and housing plans on the city’s website, www.cityofsancarlos.org.

The discussion on the Transit Village Project is far from over, and the GESC board is encouraging members to reach out to city council, who they say are still on the fence about the project.

One neighbor says she hopes the city council will listen to the community’s concerns about the Transit Village Project.

“I’m hoping the city council says ‘enough is enough’—our city IS the City of Good Living. We are thriving and we welcome new families and will provide good housing for them. Let’s look at how we can maintain that,” she said.