Essex Proposes 80-unit Apartment Development in Downtown San Mateo

Essex Property Trust, Multifamily, San Mateo, Bay Area, Palo Alto, San Mateo Central Park

By Michael Hopek

Palo Alto-based Essex Property Trust is seeking approval from the City of San Mateo to construct a five-story, 80-unit apartment building in downtown San Mateo. Though in the beginning stages of approval, the proposal brought minor concerns from San Mateo residents and the city, but the development’s future looks promising.

Essex submitted a formal pre-approval proposal for review by the city planning division in October 2013. The city replied with suggested changes to the proposal based off of city regulations and community concerns.

[contextly_sidebar id=”90phyilK1ZcoFQfbxuYX6ZtoHt6ihk5h”]The initial pre-application proposal outlined a seven-story building with 117 units but after a consensus reached by local residents, the city, and Essex, the building has been reduced to five stories with 80 units.

Currently the space is a surface parking lot located at San Mateo Drive and Fifth Avenue. The proposal aims to fill that space with a mixture of residential housing on the top three floors, retail on the first and second, and a basement floor for tenant parking. The number of square feet is yet to be determined.

It is “premature to say” said John Eudy, Co-Chief Investment Officer for Essex. With reluctance about saying too much in the approval stages, Eudy said that he expects a “spread” of younger high tech and younger people in general to occupy the building. We are “within eyelashes” of approval and “anxious to get started” he added.

City planning official Gavin Monahan expressed similar enthusiasm about the project. “We are always excited when we are replacing a parking lot with something visually pleasing.” Monahan also praised the housing the project would provide to an impacted part of the Bay Area.

The project proposal sits in the middle of a contentious discussion over affordable housing and lack of housing in general for the city’s growing population. As Essex’s Eudy sees it, “San Mateo is way under-supplied like every place these days.” Monahan admits that while 80 additional apartment units will help, “It’s a drop in the bucket,” compared to what is needed.

Essex has to meet high city expectations because of the property’s location across from San Mateo Central Park. This requires the project to have additional public benefits such as support of local retail and service businesses in the area.

In coming weeks Essex will re-submit a project proposal aiming to get past the pre-application phase by meeting additional city standards. Once the project is submitted the city will review the plan for issues with height density, parking, and additional environmental requisites. The complete process should take 6 to 12 months according to a city planning official.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News