By Dan Smith
A developer and veteran realtor in San Mateo claims the city has given incorrect information and changed policies as he tries to get project approval for a four-story, 15-unit condominium project in the city’s Gateway area near downtown.
“It’s ridiculous! It’s simply not conducive to do infill housing, below-market housing. It’s almost counterproductive,” fumed Victor Catanzaro, president of San Mateo-based Wall Street Properties, about the development application to build on slightly more than one-third acre he owns at 210 South Fremont St. “Working with them seems to be a continual revision.”[contextly_sidebar id=”GiTmLKueCyTMP1JqENImIrE1iEGfvTKK”]Catanzaro submitted his initial proposal last May, although he said discussions with city staff started in mid-2013. He has worked in commercial real estate on the Peninsula for 40 years and is developing under a separate entity, Fremont Terrace Associates, Ltd.
“It’s stepping a little bit out of what I do day-to-day, but it’s not that far off,” he said of his development proposal, which includes on-site parking for 31 cars and has two below-market-rate units of about 950 square feet each. The largest of the 15 are two three-bedroom condos at 1,765 square feet, along with 12 two-bedroom units ranging from 944 to 1,738 square feet, and a single one-bedroom at 905 square feet.
The city responded to his first application in June, indicating incomplete code compliance. He revised and resubmitted in October. Protracted discussions have followed since the city’s response in November.
“There’s a fundamental difference of opinion about the code,” said Simon Vuong, associate planner for the city, regarding requirements of San Mateo’s Gateway Specific Plan. “For us, it’s more of a yes or no.”
“The stepback is the main issue,” Vuong said regarding a required recession of eight feet by the third and fourth floors from the exterior perimeter of the first two floors. Catanzaro says this requirement causes him to lose 320 square feet on each of the top two floors and makes 15 units unfeasible.
“He’s mentioned that before … He’s made his case multiple times,” Vuong said of the developer’s suggestion that he would be better off cutting to 10 units, where no below-market units would be required. “I don’t think either party will be completely happy [with that].”
Vuong denied that there has been inaccuracy, vagueness or inconsistency in the city’s dialogue with Catanzaro, stating firmly, “The fact of the matter is, he has not responded to all our ‘incomplete’ [compliance] items in the November letter. … Our policy hasn’t changed.”
Catanzaro said he was hoping to break ground last October on what he projects to be a year-long construction period, but now it seems like next October is a likely start date.
“This process has been going on for over two years,” he alleged, stating that he is working on his fourth proposal, though Vuong contested both figures. “For a project this size, that’s a little onerous.”
“There’s a difference of opinion as to what has taken place,” responded the planner about the project application. “There’s certain things that don’t meet the code requirements. We’re still waiting for him to resubmit.”