Builders poised to enliven east San Carlos 

The city’s east side is seeing major action as developers bring new retail and residential projects to the table — and raise questions about the area’s economic future and traffic.

Plans to demolish the empty 141,000-square-foot Breuner’s store at 1133 Industrial Road and build 95,000 square feet of new retail space head to the Planning Commission for a vote at the end of January, according to Planning Director Liz Cullinan. Meanwhile, developer John Baer is proposing a mixed-use project with 35,000 square feet of retail plus 150 residential units at 767 Industrial Road, the former Praxair site.

Both projects will be heard by the city’s government affairs committee Friday. They come at a time when San Carlos is weighing the merits of allowing the Palo Alto Medical Foundation to build a new medical center on 18 acres on Industrial Road at Holly Street. The trio could represent a major shift for the formerly industrial region of the city.

"[The area] is really becoming something else, with businesses like Velocity Gym, the boxing studio and new office and retail," Baer said. "Once you bring in the medical center, why call it Industrial Road anymore?"

Many see the region east of El Camino Real as a prime spot for "regional retail," such as the Best Buy and REI stores there now. Adding more should create additional revenues for the city at a time when its residents appear to be shopping elsewhere, according to Planning Commissioner Alex Phillips.

A recent countywide study showed that while San Carlos residents provide 6 to 7 percent of the county’s income, its businesses provide only 4 percent of county sales taxes.

An examination of eastside development by the city’s economic commission has been put on hold until the city makes its decision on PAMF, according to resident and commissioner Scot Marsters.

Marsters likes the Breuner’s proposal, but says the city needs to resume looking at the bigger picture for the east side.

"Everything is still up in the air," Marsters said. "There needs to be an update of the eastside specific plan but that can’t be done until the PAMF decision has been made."

However, many in the city have questioned how much traffic the region can absorb, and environmental reviews of the PAMF and Breuner’s projects have shown they are likely to boost traffic significantly.

"Once capacity is reached we won’t be able to develop [on the east side] any more," Phillips said.

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Beth Winegarner

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