Deflated development plans face critical vote 

A new, scaled-down version of the planned subdivision known as Ascension Heights that planners say would be less harmful to neighbors is facing a critical vote by county lawmakers next week.

Late last year, the original proposal to build 25 single-family homes on a steep hill in unincorporated San Mateo that is vulnerable to landslides was rejected by the county’s Planning Commission. Neighbors of the project site have stood vehemently against the project, saying years of construction would create significant health and safety hazards.

The developer, San Mateo Real Estate and Construction, subsequently appealed the Planning Commission’s decision and is now proposing an alternative project that reduces the number of planned homes to 17. Planners say the revision will vastly mitigate construction impacts.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the alternative Tuesday, a decision that could make or break the project.

In the original proposal, commissioners expressed concerns about building on steep slopes, and related erosion and drainage problems due to five years of construction.

Opponents from the Baywood Park Homeowners Association, which has homes neighboring the proposed project, said grading the steep hill would require carting away 6,000 truckloads of dirt — activity that would pose health risks from the dust particles and vehicle diesel fuel.

The alternative plan would reduce grading amounts by 55 percent, according to county Planning and Building Department documents. The new plan would also eliminate the requirement for an emergency access road, the department said.

County planners are recommending that the Board of Supervisors approve the appeal so that the alternative plan can be further vetted.

The new proposal is not set in stone, but will be adjusted based upon input from the Planning Commission and community, county planner James Castaneda said.

If the supervisors approve it, “we are probably looking at another six months” of further planning, environmental review and public outreach, he said.

Project timeline

How the events surrounding the Ascension Heights development have unfolded:

August 2002: Application is submitted for Ascension Heights development
September 2004: Administrative draft environmental impact report is submitted for staff review
March 2005: County fire requires applicant to include a secondary fire access road
July 2007: Revised site plans and updated materials are provided reflecting emergency vehicle access route
September 2008: Second administrative draft EIR is submitted
June 2009: Public draft EIR is published
Dec. 6, 2009: Planning Commission rejects plans
Dec. 23, 2009: Developer files appeal

Source: San Mateo County

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