City of San Carlos - FAQ Section
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San Carlos Transit Village


Can there be more retail?
The retail analysis commissioned by the City states that the amount of proposed retail is appropriate for the project location and size. (Click here to view the retail report.)

How can I participate? Where can I voice my concerns?
There are many opportunities to participate. Study sessions will be held at Planning Commission and City Council meetings to review the project, where you can speak out about your concerns. Upcoming meeting information will be posted on the City's website.
You can also get involved during the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. The EIR process is explained in more detail in the answers to questions below.

How will the project affect overall vehicular traffic in San Carlos?
Analyses of the project impacts on transportation are found in the Draft EIR and Final EIR. Mitigation measures for mipacts are found in the Summary Table S-2. The developer is also responsible for payment of a traffic impact mitigation fee.

How will the project affect the proposed high speed train service?
The project will not affect the proposed high speed train service because the project site design already incorporates the necessary space for the future high speed rail service.

An analysis of the current High Speed Train proposal can be found in the Final EIR, Master Response 4, pages 3-42 through 3-61.

How will the shadow of this project impact the surrounding neighborhoods?
The Draft EIR and the Final EIR include an analysis of shadow impacts. As illustrated in figures 3.3-15 through 3.3-18 in the Final EIR, shadows would extend onto several residential properties for up to two hours in the winter months and one hour in autumn months.

How will this project impact neighborhood schools?
The EIR for the San Carlos Transit Village concludes that the impacts to the local schools resulting from the San Carlos Transit Village that the Developer is required to pay prior to obtaining a construction permit. Under current City requirements, the San Carlos Transit Village is expected to generate over $950,000 for the local elementary and high school districts.

The school generation rate for kindergarten through eighth grade is 0.03 for multi-family units, as reported in the 2009 San Carlos General Plan. The 280 new residential units of the San Carlos Transit Village are projected to generate eight to nine elementary and middle school children the the San Carlos School district.

Is the Historic Depot part of the project?
No. The Historic Depot will remain as it is today. The historic depot is outside of the project and parcel boundaries, and the design of the development is required to "reflect and complement the architectural style of significant buildings within the community (such as the Train Depot...)," as mandated by Resolution 2003-79. Protection of the Historic Depot during construction is addressed in the Environmental Impact Report.

Is the underground parking feasible due to the high water table?
The garages will not go below the water table.

What are the Below Market Rate (BMR) units regulations that the project is required to comply with?
The Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 18.16 - Affordable Housing Programs) requires a residential rental developments, if an affordable housing impact fee has been adopted, it shall be paid upon issuance of a building permit for each dwelling unit, unless an alternative is approved. The affordable housing impact fee was established by Resolution 2010-030 of the City council. If the builder chooses to provide below market units rather than pay an affordable housing impact fee, then at least fifteen percent of the total units shall be blow market rate units, of which five percent shall be affordable to low-income households and ten percent affordable to very low-income households. To ensure compliance with the Costa-Hawkins Act., the City may only approve a proposal to rent the below market rate units if the builder agrees in a below market rate housing agreement to limit rents in consideration for an incentive provided by the City, such as the incentives provided in Section 18.17.030, which is a form of assistance specified in Section 65915 of the Government Code.

Per 2012 San Mateo County Income Limits, as defined by HUD and the State of California , the median household income in the City for a family of four is $103,000.

What are the density regulations that the project is required to comply with?
The density of the project is governed by the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 18.10 on Planned Development District), which states that the developer needs to submit a PD plan, which will include a tabulation of resultant densities of persons and dwelling units. This PD plan, if approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, shall become part of the zoning map of the City. However, the density of the development must still be within the limitations of the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinance. The General Plan designates the site with a land use designation of Mixed Use, Medium Density with densities of 21-50 dwelling units per acre allowed.

The density of the current proposal is 46 dwelling units per acre. (This is calculated using gross parcel area: 280 units / 6.24 acres. This is the area for the residential portion of the project. The entire site is 10.53 acres including the retail and Caltrain parking). The density may be adjusted slightly as the project goes through the review process.

What are the design regulations that the project is required to comply with?
The design of the project shall comply with policies of the General Plan, the San Carlos Municipal Code (Title 18, Zoning), Resolution 2003-79 and the City’s Downtown Urban Design Guidelines. When the application was first submitted, the City hired Van Meter Williams Pollack (VMWP), an urban design consulting firm, to review the design proposal of the project. The consultant's role was to assist the City in ensuring the proposal addressed the City's design goals and objectives, maintained an exceptional level of architectural design and fit into the fabric of the community. The Planning Commission and City Council will review the final design of the project in a public hearing process to commence after the EIR.

What are the existing land uses on the property?
The land is partially vacant, with a former automobile dealership building and some building foundations and site paving on the north side of the property. The existing Caltrain parking lot stretches from Holly Street to approximately Cherry Street.

The Historic Train Depot is not part of this project.

What are the height regulations that the project is required to comply with?
The project site falls under the Mixed Use- Station Area Zoning District that governs the building height to 50 feet.

What are the parking regulations that the project is required to comply with?
The parking is governed by the Zoning Ordinance, Chapter 18.20 Parking and Loading and Chapter 18.25 Transportation Demand Management. Also, parking will be retained along El Camino Real but is not formally counted toward on-site parking requirements.

The parking requirement calculations required for the current project proposal can be found on page 6-19, Table 3.4-16, Parking Requirements of the FEIR.

What are the uses surrounding the site?
The Project Site is bounded to the north by Taco Bell and to the east by the Caltrain tracks and its berms. Further east is Old County Road and the Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood. To the south is Arroyo Avenue and a thin vacant strip of land along the train tracks. Land uses to the west of El Camino Real across from the Project Site include commercial and retail uses with some residential units above the ground floor.

What are the zoning districts surrounding the site?
North: MU-NB (Mixed Use-North Boulevard)
West: MU-N (Mixed Use-Neighborhood) north of Holly Street
MU-D (Mixed Use-Downtown) south of Holly Street
South: MU-SB (Mixed Use-South Boulevard)
East: RS-6, MU-N, IH beyond train tracks and Old County Road

What building techniques will be put in place to control noise from passing trains?
Noise inside the apartments will be mitigated in several ways. Windows and doors rated for high noise level environments will be used such as sound rated walls, acoustical caulk and special insulation. Mitigation measures for the proposed Project would require a project-specific acoustical analysis to be conducted once project plans and residential strutural components are finalized and prior to building permit submittal to insure that interior noise levels would be maintained at 45 dBA Ldn or lower and that single event noise levels generated during train pass-bys would be maintained at 50 dBA or less in bedrooms and 55 dBA or less in other occumpied rooms. To mitigate exterior noise for the proposed Project, locating noise-sensitive on-site, outdoor common areas as far as possible from adjacent transportation-noise sources and shielding noise-sensitive common areas with on-site buildings or walls will be achieved wherever possible. This measure is accomplished in the proposed project's final design and site plan and the effectiveness of these barriers shall be completed before the final grading plan is submitted to the City for approval.

What environmental impacts will be studied in the EIR?
The EIR analyzes impacts on all relevent environmental parameters identified in the CEQA Statutes and Guidelines, including aesthetics and urban design, air quality and noise, population and housing, traffic and transportation, cultural and historic resources, biological resources, geology and soils, hazards and hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and planning policies, recreation, public services and utilities. The EIR will also evaluate the project's potential to induce additional growth and development. 

What is the City’s role in the proposed project?
The property is within the City of San Carlos and therefore the City has the responsibility to review and consider the application proposed by the developer. As part of the review, the City analyzes the environmental impacts from the project, resulting in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The City also considers the design of the project and has hired an architectural consultant to evaluate the plans and provide the City with feedback. The City utilizes an economic consultant to peer review any fiscal impacts from the project. The project will be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council in a public review process.  In sum, the City's role is to review and coordinate input on the various impacts of the development on the City.

What is the current and future zoning?
Currently, the site is zoned under the Highway Service Commercial Zoning District (CS-H). Section 4.920 (Implementation Goal) of the Resolution 2003-79 states that “Implementation of the project shall be accomplished by rezoning the entire study corridor to the Planned Community Zoning District pursuant to San Carlos Municipal Code Section 18.104.050”. The project site is not “open space” as defined by zoning law.

What is the difference between the Draft EIR and the Final EIR?
The Draft EIR (DEIR) will include descriptions of the projects, an identification of the environmental effects of the projects, measures to mitigate or avoid the environmental impacts of the project, and an analysis of alternatives to the projects. The DEIR, as described above, is circulated to responsible and trustee agencies and the public for their review and comment on the adequacy of the analysis. The DEIR was distributed for a review period December 16, 2009 through February 2, 2010. The Planning Commission held a Public Hearing on the DEIR on February 1, 2010. After receiving comments on the DEIR, the City prepared written responses to each comment and made any necessary changes to the DEIR. These responses and revisions are provided in the Responses to Comments as part of the Final EIR (FEIR).

The FEIR is comprised of: the DEIR; the City’s written responses to all comments on the DEIR that were received during the public review period for the DEIR; the City’s written responses to eight comments received after the close of the comment period as of approximately October 2010; and revisions made to the DEIR to correct, clarify, and amplify the environmental analyses for the proposed Project.

What is the General Plan Designation?
The General Plan Land Use designation is Mixed Use, Medium Density (21-50 DUs/Ac). The density of the current proposal is 46 dwelling units per acre.

What is the purpose of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?
The purpose of an EIR is to provide public agencies and the public in general with detailed information about the effects a proposed project is likely to have on the environment, to list ways in which the significant effects of the proposed project might be minimized, and to identify and analyze alternatives to the proposed project (CEQA Statutes and Guidelines 21061, 2007).

What is the reason for proposing rental units rather than condominiums? How will this impact property taxes paid to the City?
SamTrans owns the land and will enter into a long-term ground lease with the developer, Legacy Residential Partners, Inc., who will own the improvements. While it is legally possible to sell condominiums under a land lease, Legacy’s and SamTrans' analysis show that the market is not receptive to a condominium project on leased land. Furthermore, it is SamTrans' intention to develop a high quality product with transit-oriented development (TOD) features. SamTrans believes that creating a long-term rental partnership with a developer, as opposed to selling the land, is the best mechanism to achieve this goal.

The calculation of property taxes for a rental project is different than the calculation for a condo project. A rental project will be initially assessed upon completion of construction, typically based on construction cost. The owner of the entire project will be assessed.  Condominiums are assessed as each unit is sold, at the sales value, assuming an open market sale, with each individual owner responsible for the property tax on his/her unit. In either case, growth in assessed value of property is limited to a 2% annual increase unless there is a sale or significant improvements made. A rental project is unlikely to have a significant reassessment unless the entire project is sold by one investor to another. However, individual condominium units are reassessed with every subsequent resale by homeowners. (Sources: San Mateo County Assessor's Office; City of San Carlos Economic Development and Housing Manager)

The City had a Fiscal Impact Analysis of the proposed project prepared by Rosenow Spevacek Group (RSG) updated as of July 2012.

Fiscal Impact Analysis

What project is being analyzed in the EIR?
The City will prepare an EIR that analyzes the proposal that Legacy Partners has submitted to the City. Project design will continue to change and be refined throughout this process.

  1. Four-story residential buildings over parking garages, including four buildings north of Holly Street, and two buildings just south of Holly Street. There are a total of 280 rental residential housing units, including 93 one-bedroom units, 132 two-bedroom units, 55 three-bedroom units.
  2. 38,123 square feet of commercial space housed in three buildings. 14,326 square feet of retail proposed on the ground floor, while 23,797 square feet of retail/office is proposed on the second and third floors.
  3. 431 total residential garage parking spaces, at a parking ratio of 1.50 spaces/dwelling unit. These garages will be under ground. An additional 66 spaces are provided for commercial uses consisting of: 10 dedicated retail and office spaces, nine (of the 431 residential) spaces shared with residential uses and 47 time restricted spaces to be shared with Caltrain commuters. In addition, there are another 170 Caltrain parking spaces provided. In total, there are 667 parking spaces for the project. 
  4. A multi-modal transit station and drop-off point is proposed just south of the historic train depot, in the parking lot. A pedestrian plaza and public gathering space in front of the historic depot are also proposed.

The Environmental Impact Report also analyzes a No-Project Alternative, a Reduced Intensity Alternative (of 240 units and varying heights) and a Revised Massing Alternative (of 250 units and varying heights).

When and how can the public get involved in the EIR process?
As required by CEQA, the City issued a Notice of Preparation (NOP) at the outset of the EIR process. Upon issuance of the NOP, federal agencies involved in approving or funding the project as well as trustee agencies responsible for natural resources affected by the project were asked to give their responses and comments within 30 days.

The City held a scoping meeting; and all comments from the Open House (1/23/2008) and comments from the meeting with the former Laureola Residents' Group (now the Greater East San Carlos Residents' Group, or GESC), as well as information from the GESC website was taken into account for the analysis in drafting the EIR. Public agencies and members of the public were provided an opportunity to comment on the Draft EIR upon its publication, during and after the review period December 16, 2009 through February 2, 2010 and at the Planning Commission Public Hearing on the Draft EIR on February 1, 2010. The Final EIR was released on July 12, 2012. The Planning Commission Study Session on the Final EIR is scheduled for July 30, 2012. A Public Hearing is scheduled for October 1, 2012. The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the City Council on the Final EIR. The City Council will also hold a Public Hearing on the document. The public hearing(s) provide for public agencies and members of the public to orally provide comments on the Final EIR. Please see the question below on "how to obtain copies of these documents."
The date, time, and location of the additional hearings will be announced.

When are the NOP, Draft EIR and Final EIR documents available for public review, and how can I obtain copies of these documents?
Please click on this link to view the Environmental documents.

The Notice of Availability of the Draft EIR and the Final EIR will be sent out via local newspapers, online, and via mail to neighbors and businesses within a 500 foot radius of the project. For the Final EIR, notice was also sent to all individuals, organizations and agencies that commented on the Draft EIR or provided input or were included in mailings on the NOP or Draft EIR. Notices are also made available to those who request it in writing. The Draft EIR and the Final EIR as well as supporting technical documents for the EIR are posted on the City's website, and available in a hard copy at City Hall and he City Library.

Please send your request for receipt of Notices in writing to:

Whitney McNair, Consulting Planner
City of San Carlos Planning Department
600 Elm Street
San Carlos, CA  94070

When is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required?
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a state law that requires lead agencies (such as the City of San Carlos) to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a proposed project when it determines that the project may have one or more significat adverse impacts on the physical environment.

When the project is constructed, will the frequency of train and bus service be increased?
The frequency of train and bus service is entirely dependent on ridership levels, not the San Carlos Transit Village itself. According to the Nelson/Nygard "Transit Ridership Impacts of the Proposed San Carlos Transit Village" study dated 3/27/09, the project is expected to increase SamTrans bus ridership 10-13% and Caltrain trips to and from the San Carlos station by 5-9 %.

When will the design of the project be reviewed? 
Design review for the project ongoing and the design is not yet yet finalized.

The Planning Commission held a study session to review the design on February 19, 2008, at 7:00 p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers, 600 Elm Street, San Carlos, CA 94070. Formal Design Review of the proposed Project will occur when the Planning Commission considers entitlements for the proposed Project.

Who owns the proposed project site?
SamTrans and the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board own the proposed project site. The City does not own the property nor is the proposed project site available for sale to the City. The party who may develop the property is the property owner, SamTrans. The developer, Legacy Partners Residential Inc., has submitted an application on behalf of the property owner to redevelop the property into a Transit Village.

Who ultimately decides on the project?
The project is reviewed by the Planning Commission, which makes a recommendation to the City Council for a final decision.

Who will prepare the EIR?
The EIR was prepared by the City of San Carlos, which is the lead agency responsible for approving the proposed projects. The City has contracted with a team of third party, independant consultants to assist in the preparation of the EIR. The EIR consultant was selected through a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) and interview process. The City's primary consultant fo this EIR is Atkins (fermerly PBS&J).

Will certification of the EIR mean that the proposed projects will be approved? 
No.  Under CEQA Guidelines Section 15093, a lead agency must balance consideration of adverse environmental impacts with economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits in deciding whether to approve a project.  Thus, once certified, the EIR will be one consideration of the City Council in deciding whether or not to approve the proposed projects. A project may be denied or modified even though an EIR is certified, but a project may not be approved without certification of the EIR.

Will there be adequate parking for residents, shoppers, employees and commuters?
The San Carlos Transit Village will provide the same number of parking spots for the Caltrain station as currently exist (226). A total of 66 commercial spaces will be provided. Approximately 47 of the Caltrain spaces will be short-term parking and will be shared with retail users. An additional 10 spaces will be dedicated solely to the commercial surrounding the plaza. Nine spaces for commercial uses will be shared with residential spaces. A parking and transportation demand management program is a mitigation measure of the FEIR to assure that the San Carlos Transit Village will provide an adequate parking ratio for the retail users to encourage patronage of the new businesses.

A total of 431 parking spaces will be provided for the 280 apartments, resulting in a ratio of 1.50 parking stalls for every apartment. This parking ratio is in line with average parking ratios of similar transit oriented apartment communities around the Bay Area, and compliant with the City’s Zoning Ordinance.

Will this project have a negative financial impact to the City?
No, according to a Fiscal Impact Analysis for the San Carlos Transit Village perfomed by RSG in July 2012, the project is forecasted to generate over $290,000 to the city annually through taxes and fees, while only costing the City about $163,000, for a net general fund revenue of more than $127,000 per year at build-out. In addition, the project will generate ver $11,700,000 in one time development impact fees and charges to offset City processing costs, and mitigate impacts on schools, parks, traffic and the demand for affordable housing.