By Meghan Hall
The Bay Area’s development story and where investors are placing their dollars continues to evolve and expand. The strong urban cores in cities across the region have been especially interesting for developers over the last decade, as have transit-oriented opportunities next to San Jose’s Diridon Station and along the Caltrain corridor. Yet another busy part along the Peninsula, the El Camino Real corridor that runs from Daly City to San Jose is becoming increasingly popular among developers for mid-rise projects. And for one property owner in San Mateo, Zev Simon, the time is right to redevelop six parcels, totaling 32,500 square feet along El Camino Real into a 44-unit mixed-use building with office space.
“The project is in a good location, and it’s an opportunity, because the parcels are underused,” said Simon, who has been working in development in San Mateo and Burlingame since the 1970s. “There is a definite shortage of housing, both rental and for-sale, in the Peninsula and Bay Area in general. We definitely want to answer to that market.”
The new development will be built on a collection of six parcels located at 1600-1620 El Camino Real and 1541-1543 Jasmine. St. According to Simon, the previous owner was a family who had owned the land for almost 30 years. Simon said he purchased the property, currently developed with three single-family homes and several low-rise retail stores, between $7 and $8 million.
The ground floor of the building, which will total approximately 6,800 square feet and sit right off of El Camino Real, will be reserved for office space and broke into two parts. The upper four floors will be reserved for residential uses. According to project documents, the building will total 61,356 square feet. The residential units will be a mix of studios, each at around 511 square feet, one bedroom units that will average 880 square feet and two bedrooms that will be around 1,160 square feet. 81 surface level and below-grade parking spaces are also proposed in the project plans.
According to Jack Mathews, founder of John Mathews Architects who is working alongside Simon to develop the project, the development is moving forward as apartments with the option to switch to condominiums in the future. Mathews also said a conscious decision was made to move forward with office on the ground floor as opposed to retail, even though El Camino Real is a main transportation artery through the Peninsula.
“It is really difficult to establish retail along El Camino Real,” explained Mathews. “Generally speaking, it is more of a destination than pedestrian-friendly [location]. We think office is an appropriate use of the ground floor, because of the impact of El Camino Real, which is very busy. In addition, elevating the housing gives it an added buffer, which I think is really helpful.”
The project site is a few minutes’ drive from downtown San Mateo and is just blocks from the Hayward Park Caltrain station. A block away is a shopping center anchored by 24-Hour Fitness and CVS, while the surrounding neighborhood to the west of the site is mostly residential.
Mathews predicts, however, that El Camino Real will continue to attract attention from investors and developers looking for value-add opportunities in the Bay Area.
“If you look at the El Camino Real, at least in San Mateo, most of the buildings are two-stories high. That’s just very low-intensity development along a major thoroughfare that has incredible potential for housing,” he explained. “A lot of communities are looking at how they can create more housing that doesn’t negatively impact single-family neighborhoods.”
For more than six years, City officials whose jurisdictions are located along El Camino Real have been working to create the Grand Boulevard Initiative, a collaboration of 19 cities, counties, local and regional agencies to improve the functionality and aesthetics of El Camino Real. The coalition intends to create a “grand boulevard of meaningful destinations” along its length — approximately 43 miles. Estimates by those working on the Grand Boulevard Task Force show that the corridor population will grow by 43 percent and that some 57,000 households will be added along El Camino Real by 2040.
“I think part of the future for creating the housing we need is to develop it along El Camino Real; that would also increase the vitality of the corridor,” said Mathews. “The Grand Corridor would also link the cities along El Camino Real together through common infrastructure requirement and amenities that make it a unified whole. Development is happening all along that spine, because that is where there is a lot of opportunity.”