City of San Carlos Begins forming New East Side Innovation District Plan

San Carlos, East Side Innovation District Plan, Alexandria, MBC BioLabs, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Black Mountain Properties

By Meghan Hall

In recent years, the City of San Carlos has seen a boom in growth, and now the City is taking steps to carefully plan how development will shape the jurisdiction in the future. This year, the City initiated the East Side Innovation District Vision Plan to explore San Carlos’ development potential and collect community feedback as to what projects residents would most like to see in town.

“Over the past decade, San Carlos has experienced significant private sector investment in the areas of housing and commercial construction,” states a newsletter regarding the project. “East San Carlos is home to a well-established single-family residential neighborhood located north and south of Holly Street, but it has historically been home to low-intensity commercial and industrial businesses. In the coming decade we anticipate ongoing change. During this transformative era, new land uses, such as biotechnology, life sciences, and high-tech offices will provide the foundation for renewal and improvement of this area.”

The City intends for the East Side Innovation District Plan to focus on a more concentrated geographical area and only incorporate the land between Old County Rd., Highway 101, Holly St. and Brittan Ave. into the initiative. The City states that the plan will not consider any changes to the adjacent, single-family residential neighborhoods, although how development will impact these already-existing homes will be taken into account.

The City of San Carlos held its initial stakeholder meeting in February of this year, and over the past two months has held two separate community outreach meetings. Thus far, the City has three main goals: explore existing policies pertaining to development standards and potential, further understand existing development and infrastructure, and conduct community outreach.

Over the course of the summer, the City Council Economic Development Subcommittee will create a draft plan, after which a final plan will be put together and placed in front of the Planning Commission and City Council. Officials hope to have a final plan created by September of this year.

Officials hope the plan will help San Carlos accomplish a number of goals, including sustainable land use and development catering to high-tech, life sciences and biotech tenants, along with supplemental retail and community facilities. The framework will also provide guidelines for streetscape amenities, public open space, transportation management and mobility and green infrastructure.

One aspect of development, however, is noticeably absent from the City’s outlines: housing. According to public records regarding the East Side Innovation District Plan, aside from a single-family neighborhood surrounding Holly Street, “there are no other existing residential areas in the City’s East Side to address the expected demand [for housing].” 

In an effort to accommodate this need, the City of San Carlos is working to tie in the East Side Innovation District Plan with the San Carlos Focused General Plan Update to figure out where the City can accommodate around 2,700 new housing units. The City, however, is not looking to change any zoning just yet. Instead, officials are looking to residentially-zoned areas to see where housing density can be increased before rezoning commercial districts to residential.

In recent years, San Carlos has seen a flood of commercial activity and has become for life sciences, high-tech and many other firms. Last year, Pasadena, Calif.-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities purchased a 12.7-acre site for $113.25 million. The company plans to develop up to 700,000 square feet at the site. Black Mountain Properties has also submitted its own proposal to develop 210,000 square feet at 888 Bransten, while MBC BioLabs submitted plans in the fall of last year to build its third incubator space in San Carlos. Located at 1030 Brittan, the development is expected to total just over 108,000 square feet. 

As these projects come to fruition, it is expected that a flurry of development–especially in the life sciences sector–will continue, as San Carlos strengthens its place as a hub for innovation.

As of this writing, the City of San Carlos has yet to respond to The Registry’s request for comment.

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