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The Grand Boulevard Initiative

The Grand Boulevard Initiative (GBI) is a collaboration of 19 cities, the counties of San Mateo and Santa Clara, local and regional agencies, private business, labor and environmental organizations united to improve the performance, safety and aesthetics of Highway 82 on the Peninsula from Daly City to downtown San Jose. The Initiative encompasses 43 miles of El Camino Real, from its northern end beginning in Daly City, where is it is known as “Mission Street” and ends in San Jose near the Diridon Station, where it is known as “The Alameda.”  The study-area boundaries also include ¼ mile on both sides, forming the “El Camino Real corridor.”

GBI utilizes a committee system to assure widespread participation in developing specifics of the Initiative. The Task Force, made up of elected officials and executive-level staff from regional agencies and Caltrans, sets policies and makes policy decisions. The detail work is performed by the Working Committee, made up of assigned staff members from the member agencies.  (Mayor Bob Grassilli represents the City on the Task Force; Planning Manager, Deborah Nelson, represents the City on the Working Committee.)  There are also project committees with staff representation.  Robert Weil, Public Works Director, is the City representative for multi-model design; an effort to regularize the design requirements and permit process with Caltrans. 

A forum hosted by the Grand Boulevard Initiative was held 9:00-2:30 PM, June 20, 2009 at the Fox Theater in Downtown Redwood City. The Forum explored the themes of promoting new uses, improving property values and revitalizing El Camino Real. Renowned Urban Designer Michael Freedman was a featured speaker presenting a vision for what the Grand Boulevard could become. A summary of the proceedings and video of speakers will will be posted on the Grand Boulevard Intiative in July. 

The Guiding Principles of the Grand Boulevard Initiative are:

  • Target housing and job growth in strategic areas along the corridor
  • Encourage compact mixed-use development an high quality urban design and construction
  • Create a pedestrian-oriented environment and improve streetscapes, ensuring full access to and between public areas and private developments
  • Develop a balanced multimodal corridor to maintain and improve mobility of people and vehicles along the corridor
  • Manage parking assets
  • Provide vibrant public spaces and gathering places
  • Preserve and accentuate unique and desirable community character and the existing quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods
  • Improve safety and public health
  • Strengthen pedestrian and bicycle connections with the corridor
  • Pursue environmentally sustainable and economically viable development patterns San Carlos as a Leader

        1.  San Carlos - a Leader in the Region
San Carlos has been a leader by adopting planning documents and making improvements to the corridor that helped define the model for the Grand Boulevard Guiding Principles.
San Carlos has been a leader by adopting planning documents and making improvements to the corridor that helped define the model for the Grand Boulevard Guiding Principles. A recent Progress Report highlights some of the efforts in San Carlos since the Grand Boulevard Initiative was formalized.  San Carlos examples are included in:

Exemplary Projects and Policies – Includes projects completed in 2007.  

  • A Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) planning grant awarded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to the San Mateo County Transit District, in partnership with the cities of Belmont, San Carlos and Redwood City. 
  • $297,620 awarded for Grand Boulevard Improvements undertaken in conjunction with a City project to improve the safety and aesthetics of the intersection of San Carlos Avenue and El Camino Real, where a significant TOD project is planned.
  • Climate Action Plan Grant

Upcoming Projects and Opportunities –Projects related to the Grand Boulevard Initiative slated to be completed in 2009;

  • General Plan Update
  • 1001 Laurel (1000 El Camino site) – 90 residential units, 8,500 square feet commercial/ office, and anticipated to be reviewed in the near future
  • Transit Village – 281 residential units, 34,600 square feet retail/commercial

Summary of Corridor-Wide Achievements – Summarizes important first steps taken by cities to move closer to the vision of the corridor. 

2. Regional Recognition –  FOCUS 

The Executive Board of the Association of Bay Area Governments took action on November 15, 2007 to designate the San Carlos Transit corridor as a Planned Priority Development Area under the regional blueprint FOCUS initiative.  With the designation the City is in position to receive support from regional and State agencies from incentive and assistance programs which support local efforts that accommodate growth as infill development near transit corridors.

3. Urban Land Institute (ULI) – Studies San Carlos  

The City was invited by the San Francisco Chapter of the Urban Land Institute to participate in their annual summer transit oriented development 2008 TOD MarketPlace.  This event provided the City with an opportunity to share plans for the Transit Corridor and learn from experts in the field.  The event was offered free of charge to the City. The MarketPlace included: 

  • TOD Opportunities Tour:
    A walking tour of San Carlos TOD opportunity sites occured Wednesday morning August 20, 2008 from 8:15-10:00 am.  This tour was led by City Community Development department staff.  ULI Technical Assistance Panel included participants in the field of economics, urban design and land use planning.  A briefing book of background information regarding the Transit Corridor was developed and can be found below in the Resources and Links. 
  • Technical Assistance Panelists/Stakeholders Meeting:
    Immediately following the tour, from 10:00 am-12:00 pm, a more in depth presentation for the ULI Technical Assistance Panel was conducted at City Hall.  This session provided the opportunity for the Panelists to listen, ask questions, and learn as much as possible about the challenges facing the city.
  • 2008 TOD MarketPlace:
    The ULI 2008 TOD MarketPlace for all the participating cities was held Friday September 26th, in San Francisco. A 75-minute break-out session included a presentation by City staff and the remaining time devoted to the Panelists providing feedback.
  • Report
    A printed report of the Panel’s recommendations was issued in January 2009.  Recommendations regarding the San Carlos Transit Corridor can be found below in Resources and Links.

4. General Plan Update

The Grand Boulevard Guiding Principles also represent the City of San Carlos goals for the future. The Grand Boulevard Initiative presentation to GPAC helped inform their recommendations. The GPAC proposed Land Use alternatives for the Transit Corridor and the Downtown are consistent with the Grand Boulevard Initiative Guiding Principles. The Draft General Plan reinforce the GBI Guiding Principles. The City Council's Vision for the General Plan is in concert with the Guiding Principles
The General Plan site may be found at the following link:  City of San Carlos - General Plan Update

5. Additional Resources and links

      Grand Boulevard Initiative - Short Version from Peninsula TV on Vimeo.