SamTrans moving ahead with development designs 

The San Mateo County Transit District is chugging ahead with plans to build housing, retail and office space near the downtown train station, despite east side residents’ fears that the design will wall them off from the rest of the city.

SamTrans’ developers at Legacy Partners are proposing eight new buildings on the 7-acre site, a narrow strip of land between Holly Street and the Caltrain corridor. Conceptual designs submitted last November propose 208 residential units, 29,500 square feet of retail and offices and up to four stories in height, according to San Carlos Planning Director Liz Cullinan.

While early designs make the project look good from downtown, the back side presents a nearly 50-foot-high wall, according to Scot Marsters, president of the Laureola Neighborhood Association.

"We held all these meetings with the city and the Railroad Land Use Committee and raised concerns about making sure it looked good from both sides of the development," Marsters said. "Somehow that message didn’t get to the developers."

The development firm has already met once with Laureola neighbors and heard mixed responses from the residents, according to Project Manager Jesse Couch. They plan to return to the neighborhood association’s next meeting March 8 to discuss final designs for the development Caltrain leaders have indicated could be a model project for future construction along the railway.

Although Couch said residents made it clear they do not want to be cut off from downtown, most of those concerns stemmed from past decisions, such as the installation of grade separations at Holly Street and Brittan Avenue.

SamTrans’ plan for this site has been more than 10 years in the making, according to Cullinan. It comes at a time when east side residents are inundated with other developments, including proposals to build a new hospital and mixed-use project on Industrial Road.

Legacy is preparing to submit a formal application to San Carlos planners, though it’s unclear how long it will take to finalize the documents, Couch said. The company is surveying the site to see what utilities will needto be removed to build on the 140- to 250-foot-wide strip.

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