San Carlos is expected to welcome thousands of new homes over the next decade, which will require the city to improve the city’s residential neighborhoods to achieve this goal, according to staff who are ending a multi-year housing planning process.
“I am pleased that not only are we able to submit a plan that meets the [Regional Housing Needs Allocation] numbers, but you’ve given yourself a big buffer in case that doesn’t happen,” Planning Commissioner Ellen Garvey said at Monday’s commission meeting.
Commissioners reviewed a draft of the city’s housing component, a state-mandated document intended to outline how the city plans to reduce barriers and facilitate new housing development over the decade.
In the upcoming cycle, San Carlos is expected to help drive the development of 2,735 new units, a substantial increase from its goal of 596 new units in the most recent cycle. Because the state might reject some of the city’s proposed sites and projects can vary in size, staff decided to plan a goal of more than 3,200 units.
To achieve the city’s RHNA, staff identified eight long-term goals with 20 policies and 35 actions aimed at preserving existing housing, streamlining the development of new units, from multi-family projects to secondary suites, preventing displacement and to make the city easier to live in. .
Of the proposed policies, those calling for higher height and density allowances received the most resistance from the community. As proposed, the city would zone areas intended for mixed-use and multi-family developments that are largely along busy roads like El Camino Real and San Carlos Avenue and near the heart of the city.
Residents who have taken part in city-run workshops on the housing element have said they would be comfortable with the proposals, said planning official Lisa Porras, but others are concerned that the higher building heights have negative effects on the character of the community, especially multi-story buildings if placed. too close to single-family residences and the environment.
Speaking at Monday’s meeting, resident Debbie Baldocchi encouraged staff to protect the city’s waterways by preventing development too close to creeks and to be more transparent about how the density bonus of the State will allow developers to build beyond the city’s maximum building height limits.
“Zoning has to give us some certainty,” Baldocchi said.
Commissioners broadly supported the housing element project and staff’s approach to achieving state goals, but also suggested that staff find a way to define how the state’s density bonus could increase. the size of a development.
“It’s not easy to do but, on the other hand, leaving it undefined lets you imagine that these buildings could be twice as tall as you say,” Commissioner David Roof said.
And while acknowledging the community’s concerns, Roof also shared his own concerns that the isolation of places where greater density might occur in the city could lead to class segregation in the future.
The decision to use the state housing bonus is a difficult one, said community development director Al Savay, who noted that taller, denser buildings can be more expensive to build. The city only recently saw a developer take the option, he said.
Porras also noted that rezoning was not an approach used in previous cycles of the housing element, as the city was able to accommodate much smaller state purposes in land use designations. lands. But faced with a much larger goal, she said rezoning was a must.
“We had the right zoning in place to meet the need at the time, but given the greater need for housing, the increased importance of housing and the fact that we need to build more housing, we know we have to adjust our zoning in order for that to happen,” Porras said.
Additional measures outlined in the housing element include the implementation of a no-net-loss clause that would require the city to find land where additional units can be housed if a developer is notified they cannot build up to the maximum number of units allowed on a parcel, remove the requirement that developments have ground-level non-residential uses along parts of El Camino Real, Old County Road and East San Carlos Avenue and the removal of private space requirements like patios and balconies.
Garvey praised the goal of accelerating the development of ADUs and said the staff had done a good job of creating a document reflecting the community’s wishes for smart growth. President Jim Iacaponi also praised the plans and identified goals to make child care more accessible as key initiatives.
“More places for working moms and dads to have easy access to safe child care in the city will be great, so I’m really happy for that one,” Iacaponi said.
The community will have additional opportunities to weigh in on the plan, Porras noted. City Council will discuss the issue at a study session on Monday, September 26, followed by a 30-day public comment period.
Staff aim to have the plan submitted to the state for an initial review by Oct. 17, which will likely lead to additional changes. Formal adoption must take place before January 31.