San Mateo Mixed-Use Project Gets Tweaked After Extensive Review Process

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By Jacob Bourne

A mixed-used residential project called Hillsdale Terraces located at 2700 South El Camino Real in San Mateo has undergone three years of planning review process due to community concerns and complex design guidelines. Following recommendation of the project by the Planning Commission last October, discussion including ample public commentary continued at a City Council hearing on January 17. No decision was made at the hearing due to the absence of Mayor David Lim, and deliberations are set to continue on February 6 without further public comments.

“This has been a very complex project; we’ve had to look at all of the City codes, City plans, specific master plans — and there are many of them,” said Tricia Schimpp, contract planner. “Many of the plans have specific design criteria, so it isn’t just one set of design criteria that the applicant has to comply with — they’ve had to comply with many, so it does get complex and it gets very confusing to people if you just see one design criteria here and another one there, and you don’t see the whole picture.”

The project is subject to the General Plan, El Camino Real Master Plan, Rail Corridor TOD Plan, Hillsdale Station Area Plan, Climate Action Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, Sustainable Streets Plan and the Grand Boulevard Initiative. The hefty assortment of design guidelines coupled with public concerns about building height and the amount of onsite parking, delayed the project that may be headed towards approval as it is in compliance with all criteria and no significant environmental impacts were found.

If approved, Hillsdale Terraces will be a five-story condo building with 13,462 square feet of ground floor commercial retail. The 68-unit housing component will be spread out over floors two through five and include six affordable units. The residences and retail will sit above three floors of below-grade parking offering 158 spaces for dwellers, shoppers and visitors. Following the October Planning Commission meeting, the project was altered from its original plan iteration to have six fewer units, more three bedroom units, two fewer designated affordable units and a reduction of 10 parking spaces. As part of an agreement to increase the height of the building from 40 feet to 55 feet, the developer will contribute $400,000 to the City for offsite development upgrades. Onsite amenities include several public plazas with an adjoining paseo that cuts through the center of the building, roof top garden, public art installations, and 10 to 20 foot wide sidewalks along El Camino Real to foster a social atmosphere.

“Since 2010 San Mateo has added over 54,000 jobs yet only 2,100 units of housing in this same period,” claimed Winnie Lam, project applicant. “Where do these employees go? They’re commuting and exacerbating traffic problems and worse yet greenhouse gas emissions. Our transit-oriented development across the street from a relocated Caltrain station at 28th Avenue fulfills a vision embodied in the City’s golden policies.”

The project is owned by Hillsdale Terraces, Inc. and designed by Costa Brown Architecture. The building features a pronounced setback for the upper stories to diminish appearance and prominent vertical design elements to ease the horizontal massing.

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