San Carlos Transit Village gets more environmentally friendly

The San Carlos City Council has its final review of the Final Environmental Impact Report for the San Carlos Transit Village scheduled for January 14, after an initial meeting on December 10.

The San Carlos Transit Village, to be built between El Camino Real and the Caltrain railroad tracks, includes 280 high-end apartment units in a series of four story buildings, 38,000 square feet of retail/office use, preservation of the existing historic train station, a new public plaza, and a new SamTrans transit center.  SamTrans owns the land, and Legacy Partners is the developer.

The version of the San Carlos Transit Village project that was referred by the San Carlos Planning Commission to City Council on November 19 was more environmentally friendly than the version the Planning Commission started to review.

On the evening of November 19th, after four public meetings and 16 hours of discussion, the San Carlos Planning Commission officially advised City Council to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report  for the San Carlos Transit Village, which incorporates the City’s responses to comments from the public.  The planning commission heard from neighbors on the east side of San Carlos, who were concerned that the project would be noisy, and would cause parking overflow in the residential neighborhood.

Building developments near transit have the potential to increase transit use and reduce driving, but the devil is in the details of the specific development.  The Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter Sustainable Land Use Committee reviewed the development, found a host of ways that the development could be improved, and shared those suggestions in writing, and public comments at the Planning Commission meetings.  The San Carlos Planning Commission accepted many of the recommendations, creating a list of ”improvement measures” for the developers to consider before returning the project to the Commission for Phase II review.

The accepted recommendations from the Sierra Club included improvements that will help residents, workers, and shoppers at the project use the nearby transit resources more and drive less, including:

* transit incentives
* bike friendly paths within the project
* bike parking within the project
* on-site telecommunication center
* on-site daycare facility

Other improvements to make the development more environmentally friendly included
* use of green building materials
* installation of solar facilities
* and sustainable landscaping
* electric car charging stations

Not all of the Sierra Club’s recommendations were approved. There will be more opportunities to add improvements that make the project more environmentally sustainable during the “Entitlements Phase.”

If the City Council approves the FEIR, the project will move to Phase II, Entitlements, where the city needs to grant permission to build the development, and the developer may need to contribute additional “Public Benefits” and meet other conditions of approval.

Other improvements that the Sierra Club recommends during the entitlements negotiation includes adding 15% affordable housing onsite (instead of an in-lieu fee), unbundled parking, which helps reduce cost for carfree households, low impact development to reduce water use, and a Community Benefits Agreement outlining what the developer will give to the city as public benefits in exchange for project approval.

The development had previously planned for 15% affordable housing, but this provision was removed after the State ended the Redevelopment program which contributed funds for the affordable housing.  Instead, the city wants to use the affordable housing funds to pay for building of affordable housing on other property near transit.

The Sierra Club’s recommendations come from Sierra Club’s Sustainable Land Use guidelines, which provide a set of recommendations for station area plans – developments and zoning plans within a half a mile from a transit hub.

If you are interested in learning more about how to give feedback on the San Carlos Transit Village, or on other Station Area plans in the cities where you live and work, sign up to Adopt Your Station.


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One Response to San Carlos Transit Village gets more environmentally friendly

  1. Pingback: Green Caltrain | Getting Caltrain station areas ready for electrification in 2013

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