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Transit Village Referendum

Transit Village Referendum

Interesting thread going on at the San Carlos Patch.  It looks like Ben Fuller has been investigating getting a referendum on the ballot for the San Carlos Transit Village Project.

Lot’s of interesting discussion and comments to his blog post on Patch.  I’m pasting it below for your convenience:

San Carlos Transit Village: Do San Carlans Deserve a Vote?

Is Mark Olbert’s question of whether the San Carlos Transit Village “fits the character of San Carlos” something that we deserve to vote on? It has been 6 years and the San Carlos Transit Village is still massive. It is still 281 units. It is still 8 driveways pouring onto an already crowded El Camino and Holly Street which backs up every day around 3-6 PM even before PAMF has opened. It is still 55 feet in most places. And we still have a General Plan that advocates gentle transitions between buildings (not 55-foot buildings across the street from 12-foot homes) There are still no solutions for the extra noise the project will reflect onto Greater East San Carlos. There is no solution for affordable housing for this property made up of luxury rentals intended to rent for $3000-$3,700 per month. And, of course, there is no guarantee that Old County Road won’t be eminent domained by the State when High Speed Rail comes in, now that the rail yard intended for train tracks is being used to generate extra income for the well-heeled executives of SamTrans including their CEO, Mike Scanlon who designed this project, offering an empty promise of community involvement.

Very recently, however, I learned of a referendum likely happening in Palo Alto on an unpopular project called Maybell. Instead of paying lawyers thousands of dollars to fight lawsuits on complex legal interpretations such as the Environmental Impact Report, Palo Altans just want the right to vote for or against the Maybell project. It will be interesting to see what they decide. I can’t really tell you the details of that project, but I applaud the Democracy at hand.

Well, I too have decided that I should trust other San Carlans to help us figure out whether this 99-year lease for 4-and-a-half story buildings through the center of town makes sense (Yes, they are even proposing a half floor of parking on top of 4 floors of residential). I emailed my neighbors and received dozens of heartfelt responses encouraging me to help launch a referendum if the current project passes our City Council without addressing important concerns of traffic jams throughout San Carlos, as well as many specific concerns of Greater East San Carlos, the most affected neighborhood. If Palo Alto can have a referendum on an unpopular project, why can’t San Carlos? Better yet, I have figured out a way to get the 2,000 signatures we are going to need to make the referendum happen. And better yet, it’s affordable for citizens (I could pay the entire bill myself actually) and the work supply is finite to get it on the ballot within 88 days of the 30-day petition circulation period during which time I’ll need 2,000 signatures. Crazier things have happened in Democracy.

Now of course, SamTrans and the Developers have very deep pockets and will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting this project in a colorful, patriotic election campaign. But San Carlans are pretty smart, I believe. And what looks like a … and smells like a …, is probably a …

Now I realize that many of you have been in San Carlos a long time and that a lot of us voted FOR the berm during that referendum. But the berm was really different. The berm was necessary for the exact reason the San Carlos Transit Village is not. The berm relieved massive traffic flow problems brought about by the at-grade railroad crossing (and also improved safety among other things). Meanwhile, the San Carlos Transit Village is going to add incredible traffic congestion on San Carlos Avenue, El Camino, Holly Street all the way to the 101 interchange. Even the EIR couldn’t lie its way out of the traffic impact. There were “no mitigations” available admitted the traffic expert. There is a lot more to say about the referendum, but I just wanted to announce my intention to call a referendum if this project does not receive a major haircut down to 3.5 stories along existing neighborhoods. I mean how would you feel if someone was building a 40-foot house across the street. Isn’t that bad enough? Well imagine 55!

Expect to hear much more about this as the date approaches, but let me just say whether one likes the project or not, San Carlans deserve a vote on the San Carlos Transit Village.

23 Comment 11 Recommend

Bob Winters July 9, 2013 at 07:26 am
If 1001 Laurel is any indicator, it took a few years to unload ~90 units. 281 units, asking $3,000 – $3,700 per month RENT? I can hear the conversations with potential renters, “Ignore the train running through your backyard, their horns are hardly audible”. I’m sure the banner printers are salivating, the market for, “HURRY! ONLY 98% OF THE UNITS ARE STILL AVAILABLE!” will be hot for quite some time.
3 Recommended

Brenda July 9, 2013 at 09:41 am
I would love to see a “pros and cons” published on this project, just like they do for propositions in major elections. The citizens of San Carlos need to know all of the details. Personally I agree with you and I support your referrendum idea. Who in their right mind would pay that sort of rent to live next to the Caltrain tracks, anyway?
3 Recommended

Holly girl July 9, 2013 at 10:51 am
Read Open Forum in today’s SFChronicle to see what will be in store for the whole Peninsula not just San Carlos if this group is able to do whatever they want without the citizens approval.
4 Recommended

betty torrez July 9, 2013 at 11:18 am
It is time that this project is put up to the electorate.
2 Recommended

Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 11:22 am
Hi everyone: Very vibrant discussion. You all bring up very good points and it is so nice to hear from other San Carlans, not just the GESC Community. The pros and cons idea is a good one. And actually there are some pros to the project such as the development of a tired area, but the solution being proposed is out of scale with our town and very similar to 1001 Laurel as the gentleman Bob Winters correctly mentioned above.
2 Recommended

Judi July 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm
Any input from Belmont residents?
1 Recommended

Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Hi Judi, I do not believe there has been any outreach to Belmont even though it is going to seriously impact Belmont in terms extra traffic being routed through, views, and transit.
1 Recommended

Bob Winters July 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm
Good point, if Holly gets any worse, people will be drawn to Harbor and Ralston.
2 Recommended

Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 01:00 pm
Bob, that is actually built into their plan. For buildings 1-4, which houses more than 200 housing units, all traffic is being routed via 3-4 driveways down El Camino through Belmont. There is no left turn onto El Camino towards Holly from the drawings we have seen.
1 Recommended

Becky July 9, 2013 at 01:34 pm
I doubt anyone would be willing to pay the high rent, will there be an additional maintenance fee?
Please put this project up for a vote.
1 Recommended

Kris Robinson July 9, 2013 at 01:45 pm
Bravo for doing this, Ben. It absolutely should go to a vote. I don’t think most people in San Carlos even have this on their radar. Much education to be done.
1 Recommend

Becky July 9, 2013 at 01:50 pm
Yes, the people in San Carlos need to know about this transit village project. It doesn’t make sense to put housing next to the railroad tracks, who would want to live there?
1 Recommend

Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 02:43 pm
Dear San Carlans. Thanks so much for your financial contributions to save our City. We have raised $1,300 just in the last hour to put this referendum on the ballot!
1 Recommend

RM July 9, 2013 at 02:58 pm
Where can we donate to the cause? I’ve been here 40 years and my family has been in San Carlos for 70 years. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this project is a huge, HUGE mistake, and of course, of COURSE it should be put to a vote, regardless of who thinks they own the land. This is OUR CITY. Do you really think we’re going to let this crap get built? Get real (and get ready).
2 Recommended

Bill Bohlen July 9, 2013 at 03:34 pm
Ben,
If you are raising money have you filed paperwork with the City? This is a political campaign and you have to file the necessary paperwork or you are illegally raising money.
Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 03:37 pm
Hi Bill: I haven’t taken any money yet and if this is an issue, I’ll fund the entire thing myself. We have requested a meeting with the City Clerk to talk about our referendum which has so far been denied. The City supports this project, just not its citizens.
Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 03:39 pm
To Bill’s point, I will not accept any money for this referendum at this point until the City decides whether they are willing to provide the rules and regulations that govern this process. It is like pulling teeth to get them to stop dragging their feet, however, so I am not hopeful of getting any assistance from them. I am however happy to talk with anyone interested in supporting this project and can be reached at voteontransitvillage@gmail.com
David Fish July 9, 2013 at 03:43 pm
I do not support this project in any form. It will be a blight on the neighborhood – a monstrosity relative to the surrounding area, clog traffic from Belmont to Redwood City, essentially move traffic from already clogged Holly Street to Ralston & Harbor & Brittain & Old County & El Camino, provide housing for those that can afford luxury housing and actively seek nearly constant noise & vibrations & extreme close proximity to unhealthy gases/fumes from multiple transportation exhaust sources – residents whom most likely will be solo commuters in their Lexus and Mercedes, rather than commuting via the train as touted.
1 Recommended
Bill Bohlen July 9, 2013 at 03:48 pm
I am sure you can request a meeting with the City Clerk and City Attorney, they would be crazy not to meet with you. That would be awful PR on their part.
1 Recommended
Tim Hilborn July 9, 2013 at 03:53 pm
I live about 300 feet from where this project is being proposed. I strongly feel that something needs to be developed there, but not this monstrosity! It will look like eight 1001 Laurel Street buildings, and we all know how well those fit the character of our city!? To Debra’s point I think it would be a great idea to see the pro’s and con’s of this development. A lot of us have been doing research on the various impact including height, density, noise, traffic and financial. One thing to keep in mind, the only money that will come from this project is one time impact and housing fees. The ongoing funds will be revenue neutral or run the city a deficit. Please, please, please come to the planning commission meeting this Monday night and make your voices heard! We need support from all members of the community. Thanks for everyone’s great comments!
1 Recommended
Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 04:04 pm
Hi Bill: I just placed my second call in 2 days to the City. They have still not agreed to meet us. They did not expect this referendum and expect business in San Carlos to go like it always has where they tell us what they are going to build and serve us cake and coffee.
1 Recommended
Bill Bohlen July 9, 2013 at 04:11 pm
You should send an email to the City Clerk, City Attorney and City Manager. If they don’t respond to you, you should post the email here on patch.
Recommend
Ben Fuller July 9, 2013 at 04:47 pm
Here is the City Attorney’s response. Note how he does not respond to my request for meeting with City Clerk. Note also the preposterous assumption that we are asking him to represent us. These vague responses are typical and common. The City does not make our life easier and has not represented its citizens on this project. We have wasted thousands of man hours and gotten next to zero results. And the City and Greg stood by as a fraudulent EIR was approved stating that there were no significant impacts of this project.
Ben: Thank you for your e-mail. I will review your request in the next day or so. A formal opinion can take some time, as there may be other cases on this point. Moreover, I represent the City, so I am not in a position to represent you or any particular resident or neighborhood association. I do recall this case vaguely from the petition we received in 2010, that was later withdrawn. Gregory J. Rubens, Esq. City Attorney, City of San Carlos 939 Laurel Street, Suite D San Carlos, CA 94070 Telephone(650) 593-3117 Ext. 202 Facsimile (650) 637-1401
1 Recommended

Ben Fuller  July 9, 2013 at 06:11 pm

Email sent to the City requesting meeting and info on referendums:
From: Ben Fuller Sent: Monday, July 08, 2013 1:55 PM To: Greg Rubens Subject: SCTV Referendum / Circulators / Mtg. w City Clerk Hi Greg: As a citizen, I am working on a referendum initiative for a “no” vote on the San Carlos Transit Village that will allow San Carlos voters to decide for ourselves on the ordinance that is passed by the City Council. I have analyzed the options, and this is the most efficient, affordable method I have been able to find to improve the chances of creating a livable San Carlos for myself and others who choose to join me. As you know, I am not against the project per se, but just feel its size is out of scale for the neighborhood and that there are not sufficient impact mitigations or extrinsic benefits that justify the project. I have not seen any documents detailing what the benefits to the neighborhood are going to be to make me want to stop this process but I will certainly consider this as the process continues in the hopes of a good resolution. But I think we all agree that the mere fact there have been meetings with City, SamTrans, and the Developers does not signify real progress – in fact these meetings are being trumpeted by the lobbyist John Ward in dog and pony shows sanctioned by our City to shroud the real lack of progress on impact reductions and extrinsic benefits. Legal Opinion on Outside Circulators / Request for Meeting with Crystal Mui In addition to informing you of my actions, I am writing you for your legal opinion, which I have been advised to get from my political consultants. Below is an important legal case in California: Shorecliff Homeowners vs. City of San Clemente whose ruling allowed a petition to move forward in spite of a legal challenge to the petitioners by an anti-referendum group. I have been advised to get a ruling from you on what the City will allow as a process for using circulators to gather signatures. In particular, section 9238 and 9209 of elections code are what I need an opinion from you on. Basically, I need to know if you are going to rule that circulators of the petition be residents from San Carlos even though: “in 1999, California’s Attorney General concluded that section 9209 is unconstitutional in its restriction of circulators to the relevant city.” Greg, I hope that you are going to allow us the same level of leeway on circulators that the Attorney General rule in 1999 meaning that circulators need be registered California voters but not necessarily from San Carlos, but I am not sure if you are aware of this precedent-setting case? Can you please answer us in writing what you are going to rule on the use of outside petition circulators so I can map our strategy accordingly? Also, I have been advised to hold a meeting with the City Clerk, Crystal Mui before the SCTV is approved, so that I can hit the ground running to gather our signatures within 30 days. I called her and she mentioned she would discuss with you about whether she is able to hold a meeting with me on this issue. I have been advised to hold this meeting by experts in the field to properly follow San Carlos rules. Can you please respond in writing on whether you are approving that I hold a meeting with Crystal Mui?

Best, Ben Fuller

4 Comments

  1. Dear Ben,

    I sent Joe Carcione Jr. a reminder email. Please send me
    your personal email address. I really like your website,
    Ben.

    Set up a consultation with him; documents included in your
    meeting.

    My phone number is 637-9616. Please keep me posted, Ben.

  2. I am a new home owner here on Holly St and would like to become involved in the TV project. My concern is very high.
    How can I become more involved and help support our community and make our voice heard?
    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Rita

  3. I’m a 20+ year resident of west San Carlos and I’ve only recently become aware of the scope and scale of this project. As many have stated above, this project will be a disaster for maintaining the type of city we all moved to San Carlos to begin with. I fully support any efforts on the East side to scale back, or completely stop, this foolish development.

    I was recently involved in efforts to turn back proposals by the city staff to turn Crestview Park into a synthetic turf sports complex, much to the dismay of nearby residents. The city staff and design consultants portrayed the issue as a “done decision”. However, by organizing like minded neighbors we demonstrated to the city council the great majority of San Carlos residents do not want to see our neighborhood parks converted into synthetic, single purpose sports complexes. We gathered 2500+ signatures and made our voice present at Hometown Days and at the weekly farmer’s market.

    I mention this to encourage folks opposed to the Transit Village plans, even if it looks like it’s a “done deal”, to get active and make your voice heard. There is a city council election coming up. This is an excellent opportunity to amplify your voice. Force the city council candidates to take a position on this — and let them know significant votes hinge on them opposing the Transit Village. Elections in San Carlos are won and lost by 100 or 200 vote margins so getting candidates on the record and making it clear their election is on the line is the best bet to stopping this monstrosity. Gathering signatures and getting this issue in front of all San Carlos residents is the best way of making this happen.

  4. Ben,

    I fully support the referendum & believe we MUST be allowed to vote on the Transit Village (TV) matter. The TV issue has been forced upon us. The city manager and (majority) of council members aren’t truly listening to our concerns. The term of “dog & pony show” accurately describes the process.

    As a resident of East San Carlos for 20 yrs. I have attended several of the so-called community meetings and have seen first hand that city management is not living up to their motto for “City of Good Living”. The project is full of poor design & bad decisions. The project needs to be scaled back dramatically to be a benefit to this community. Driving down my street while staring at a multi-story building is not my idea of “Good Living”.

    The San Carlos City Council seems to have lost their way and Legacy Partners appears to have more clout than its local citizens. I am tired of hearing the colorful tales and half truths…..If the city manager & council have nothing to hide and they feel so strongly that the Transit Village is a good plan for our community then they must stop ignoring your request for a meeting to ensure that the referendum is presented properly.

    A few of my neighbors believe that there is nothing we can do to truly amend or halt this project – They believe the council has already decided & we are powerless against the SamTrans & Legacy Partner “Goliaths”. I obviously do not share that sentiment and have stated to those neighbors that inactivity on our part only indicates support for a bad idea. I don’t appreciate feeling bullied by members of our council.

    The council needs to go back to the drawing board or they need to stop wasting valuable community resources.

    I will call you soon & discuss how to join the referendum process.

    Thank you for being such an advocate for our city!
    R.E.

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