Tv council ltr 10-24-13


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Tv council ltr 10-24-13

  1. 1. Loma Prieta Chapter serving San Mateo, Santa Clara & San Benito Counties October 24, 2013 Honorable Mayor and Members of the San Carlos City Council C/O City Clerk San Carlos City Hall 600 Elm Street San Carlos, CA. 94070 Re: Comments on the San Carlos Transit Village for October 28, 2013 hearing Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council: Since Council’s previous hearings on the Transit Village DEIR in December 2012, it appears that progress has been made in addressing some of our concerns about this project, but we still cannot endorse it at this time. As advocates for well-designed Transit-Oriented Development, there are many things we like about the Transit Village, but we think there is still room for improvement. Based on what we know, or have been told by the city or the developer, the project includes the following positive attributes: a. Plan conforms to the City's General Plan and zoning standards. b. Residential density is slightly more than 40 units per acre, which we consider to be the minimum density for any TOD development. For a TOD to be successful it must bring in enough people to support local businesses, add life to the street, and support public transit. c. Pedestrian friendly sidewalks and intersections to encourage walking. d. A Mixed-Use component of more than 15,000 square feet seems appropriate for the project's location and will add life to the plaza. e. Site has more than a 90% Walk Score which puts it within walking distance of many retail shops, restaurants, public transit, and business services which will encourage people to walk. f. Adjacent to a shuttle stop which can link residents and commuters with businesses east and west of the railroad tracks. g. Preservation of the existing CalTrain station and provision of a public plaza in front of the station which reinforces the pedestrian and bicycle connection between El Camino Real and Old County Road. Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club  3921 East Bayshore Road #240, Palo Alto, CA 94303  650-390-8411 
  2. 2. h. A public-private partnership with both SamTrans and CalTrain which includes a new multimodal transit station. i. Designed in conformance with the vision of the Grand Boulevard Initiative that supports a more dense and attractive El Camino Real. j. Will include Traffic Demand Management strategies to reduce automobile use and mitigate green house gas emissions. k. Buildings to be constructed to meet a minimum of LEED Silver standards. We feel that these positive elements are a solid basis for the City Council to approve the general project at this time so it can move forward to design review where further refinements and revisions can be made. Any decision by the Sierra Club to formally endorse this project in the future will be based on how the developer approaches making the following revisions and refinements that we feel would improve the project: 1. Community Benefit Agreement. The developer and the city should enter into a Community Benefit Agreement which is a negotiated legal document that spells out exactly what the developer promises will be his contribution to the community (the community benefits). This document assures that the developer receiving the benefits of the TOD zoning will be held accountable for in fact including the promised community benefits into the project upon completion of construction. 2. Minimum of 15% BMR Units on-site. We are disappointed that the developer has elected to pay the in-lieu BMR fee rather than including 15% affordable units on-site. This location within a 1/2 mile walking distance to the Caltrain station and along a major bus route is the perfect location for BMR units since less affluent workers are more likely to benefit from easy access to transit. It is not clear to us where the city intends to invest the in-lieu BMR money. Is the fee adequate to build enough BMR units to equal or exceed the 15% that should have been built at the Transit Village proper? And has the city secured a suitable site within ½ mile of the Caltrain station? We urge the City Council to ask staff to report on how many BMR units could be built using the in-lieu fee and where those units will be located. 3. Commit to a strong Traffic Demand Management program (TDM). Legacy’s current TDM plan is quite minimal. Council should ask for a more robust plan to reduce traffic congestion. 4. Unbundled Parking. Legacy has made no commitment to unbundled parking and has stated they will include one parking space per unit in the base rent of each unit. The Zoning Code, Section 18.20.030, General Provisions, requires new multi-family projects of 10 or more units to include unbundled parking under para. E as follows: “E. Unbundling Parking from Residential Uses. A minor use permit is required and the following rules shall apply to the sale or rental of parking spaces accessory to new multifamily residential uses of ten units or more unless waived by the Director as infeasible: Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club  3921 East Bayshore Road #240, Palo Alto, CA 94303  650-390-8411 
  3. 3. a. All off-street spaces shall be leased or sold separately from the rental or purchase fees for dwelling units for the life of the dwelling units, such that potential renters or buyers have the option of renting or buying a residential unit at a price lower than would be the case if there were a single price for both the residential unit and the parking space.” Staff says this section does not apply, but we feel it does because there has been no waiver by the “Director”. Why is Legacy not required to meet this requirement? Please revise the Conditions of Approval to require 100% unbundled parking to reduce unit rents and auto use. The east side neighborhood can be protected from overflow parking by approving a permit parking program as already anticipated under Condition of Approval B,9. 5. Provide incentives for transit use. It appears Legacy has offered to provide transit passes for a discounted rate of $20 per month for up to 100 new residents per year if they ask for it. This is totally inadequate. The reason to offer passes is to encourage residents to try transit so, hopefully, they will like it and continue to use it thus reducing auto traffic. Residents of all 280 apartments should get free transit passes for at least one year to encourage transit use. SamTrans has an R- Pass program for buses that costs $8.67 per month per tenant. Caltrain is expected to approve a residential Go Pass in December similar to their employee Go Pass which costs $13.75 per month per employee. We ask City Council to revise the Conditions of Approval to include free transit passes to tenants of all 280 apartments for at least one year. 6. Car Share. We are pleased that the developer has offered to provide three dedicated car share stations and five dedicated taxi spaces at the multi-modal station parking lot. 7. Bike Share. The developer has offered to purchase eight bicycles for a Bike Share program. This is a positive benefit and would be even better if the developer designated a dedicated bike share station on-site to serve Caltrain and SamTrans passengers and apartment residents. 8. New pedestrian walkways and crosswalks. The project includes a wide sidewalk with street trees along El Camino Real plus the station plaza. The developer agrees to improve pedestrian crossings at El Camino Real at Holly, San Carlos Avenue, Cherry, Arroyo and Olive Avenue. The precise design for these crossing is yet to be determined and must be approved by Caltrans. The Conditions of Approval should state that both the City and Caltrans must approve the final design of the pedestrian crossings before construction can begin. This will give the City some control over the aesthetics and safety of the design. 9. San Carlos Avenue Improvements. The project design does not take into consideration how the last block of San Carlos Avenue between Laurel and El Camino Real may be reconfigured to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. The proposed reconfiguration of San Carlos Avenue was included in the Transit Village Draft EIR, pages 3.4-55 and 3.4-56. This section under “Roadway Network Under Cumulative Conditions”, starting with second paragraph, outlines a proposal for “San Carlos Avenue Improvements”. This proposal by the Traffic Commission in 2009 is pretty much described on the two referenced pages. It was proposed to make the last two blocks of San Carlos Avenue more pedestrian and bike friendly for people moving from the Transit Village Plaza to downtown and vice versa. Obviously, this proposal was taken seriously enough by the EIR consultants that they included it in their analysis. Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club  3921 East Bayshore Road #240, Palo Alto, CA 94303  650-390-8411 
  4. 4. a. The problem is that city staff has done nothing to advance this proposal in the past four years and doesn’t seem to be inclined to do so now, blaming lack of funding. We at Sierra Club feel that this improvement plan should be brought back to life, reevaluated, and prioritized in anticipation that the Transit Village will be approved in some form in the near future. These improvements were visualized as a direct compliment to the Transit Village project and the design and construction documents for these improvements should be undertaken simultaneously with construction of the Transit Village. This will allow the city to apply for a construction grant to build the improvements at the same time, or shortly after, the Transit Village is built. The cost for this work should be borne by the city (hopefully through grant funding), not by legacy or SamTrans. b. This is a first step in looking at the big picture – what we call a Station Area Plan (SAP). For too long, the Transit Village has been reviewed in isolation as a standalone project when, in fact, it should be reviewed in context. How do pedestrians get to downtown? Where are the bike lanes that connect it to the city’s bike master plan (if there is one)? What is needed to make the pedestrian crossings at El Camino and San Carlos Avenue safe? c. Please ask staff where the city stands in regard to the San Carlos Avenue Improvements proposal, and if nothing is happening, ask what it would take to get this proposal back on track. It’s an essential piece of the puzzle. 10. Bicycle Improvements. The developer has agreed to include designated bicycle travel routes within the development, especially from the northern edge of the site to the CalTrain station, but it is not clear where those travel routes will be located. Please ask the developer to clearly delineate on-site bike routes on their plans, especially how a bicyclist who lives in Building 1 would take their bike from their unit to the station. Also, please ask city staff to clearly delineate just how the project site will be connected to the city’s existing and proposed bike lanes and where gaps exist that should be filled in. Most of our comments can be addressed by the developer, SamTrans and Caltrain, but some will also require Caltrans and City participation to complete (such as filling gaps in bicycle and pedestrian access routes and improving pedestrian crossings along El Camino Real). We urge the City Council to work with the developer and the city to incorporate our comments in the final project proposal so both the developer and the City can hold up this project as the standard for sustainable transit-oriented development on the peninsula. Thank you for your consideration of our recommendations. Respectfully Submitted, Gladwyn D’Sousa Chair, Sustainable Land Use Committee, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club  3921 East Bayshore Road #240, Palo Alto, CA 94303  650-390-8411 
  5. 5. Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club  3921 East Bayshore Road #240, Palo Alto, CA 94303  650-390-8411 
  6. 6. Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club  3921 East Bayshore Road #240, Palo Alto, CA 94303  650-390-8411 