After saying only good things about a proposal to redevelop the 51-year-old Creekside Apartments at 151 Calderon Ave. and add 154 units to the city's much sought-after supply of housing, City Council members rejected a "gatekeeper" request Tuesday for planning department staff to work on the proposal with the aim of bringing it to a council vote.
"I'm really torn about this," said council member Mike Kasperzak of the apartment project, which could have created one of the largest complexes in the city. The proposal called for replacing 294 units in aging two-story buildings with 448 units in four-story buildings with underground parking, leaving 104 units along Dana Street untouched. "Given the age, the location and what surrounds it, this is actually a perfect candidate for intensification. The light rail station is right across the street. But considering staff time and the fact that this is not in a 'change area,' I'm struggling with that."
Council members also rejected a gatekeeper request for a new "Terra Bella precise plan" that would zone for 1.1 million square feet of office space on 23 acres just south of Highway 101 — on both sides of Shoreline Boulevard and along the north side of Terra Bella Avenue. No actual project was proposed.
Both 151 Calderon and the Terra Bella precise plan are also outside of "change areas" identified in the recently approved general plan. Council members said they had a "blood oath" not to go against the general plan for at least five years.
Council members said both proposals were too much for planning department staff to handle on top of the current workload. There's been a flood of development proposals in the city, along with intense planning work to develop the San Antonio, North Bayshore and El Camino Real precise plans this year to guide future growth in those areas. Planning director Randy Tsuda said the city could add contract planners, but ultimately there wouldn't be enough oversight of the work. "There's only of me and only one planning manager," he said after the meeting.
Council member Margaret Abe-Koga said of the Terra Bella precise plan proposal from Mark Calvano: "We probably could have added this into the North Bayshore precise plan we are doing but he just came in too late. He should have done this a year ago."
Addressing concerns about adding an overwhelming number of new jobs in a city where housing development has not kept pace, Calvano suggested that the 1.1 million square feet could be subtracted from the 3.4 million square feet of office space council members are discussing for North of Highway 101, which by itself could mean 15,000 to 20,000 new jobs for the city.
Calvano contended that a new Terra Bella precise plan "will solve more congestion problems than it causes" by eliminating a traffic bottleneck on Shoreline Boulevard between Terra Bella Avenue and Pear Avenue by widening the street from four lanes to six, saving the city $30 to $40 million in land purchase costs. Abe-Koga said after the meeting that council members didn't understand how Calvano could promise that when he doesn't own all of the land that would be needed.
Council members voted unanimously to reject the Terra Bella precise plan but still study the possibility of widening Shoreline Boulevard for bus lanes. Only council member John Inks opposed the rejection of the Creekside apartment redevelopment, saying that "I think we need to figure out how we can get these projects through. The city should be responsive to what the community needs."
There was one gatekeeper request that got through Tuesday night, a proposal for about 200 apartments at 2268-2280 El Camino Real, potentially replacing three single family homes and the Olive tree shopping center near Rengstorff Avenue. Developer Ty Bash said in a letter that the project needed to be developed ahead of the precise plan for El Camino Real because the owner of the Olive Tree shopping center needed to decide whether to rent vacant spaces in the shopping center.
Council members Jac Siegel and John McAlister opposed the project, with MacAlister saying "I'm not going to support it because we already have seven other (housing) projects going on down El Camino and they are all sort of cookie cutter to me."