Item 5.1 San Antonio Center
The atmosphere was tense as the developer expressed their desire to start construction immediately; they clearly wanted the project approved as designed. However, even before the developer’s presentation and public comment, council was apprehensive to approve the project and several members stated they had concerns about the design and affordable housing units on site.
When the developer presented their project to Council, there were several surprising changes to their project proposal. First, the developer stated they would be subsidizing transit passes for the employees of the tenants on the site. Second, they agreed to dedicate 3% of the total residential units on site as affordable units. Third, they said the Rite Aid was now out of the project, and the building edge was now moved to the street, but entrances were still facing away from El Camino. Finally, the developer offered to dedicate the Hetch Hetchy park space as public space, but through some sort of agreement, the developer would pay the maintenance costs associated with the park space.
After the developer outlined the list of new civic benefits, they turned to proposals made by staff that they felt should not be required to implement. For example, they felt requiring solar powered water heaters was inappropriate and should be scratched. They listed many other items they disagreed with, but council was baffled by their request to approve the project anyway since some this list of changes was alien to some councilmembers. Because of the many last minute changes, council decided not to vote on the precise plan amendments, EIR, or project proposal but instead review the proposed design of the project and give their recommendations to staff. Staff would then implement the changes and the project would come back to council at a later date.
After this, the meeting took on a form resembling a study session. Public comments began. A variety of points of view were expressed. Workers from Safeway corporate and retail were present to express their support for the new Safeway design along with the new jobs the store would require. Several speakers expressed doubt over transforming El Camino to a more people friendly space and felt the project should be passed as-is. Doug DeLong and another person commented on the need for a greater number of affordable units on site.
When public comment closed, council commentary started with Tom Means. He felt it the developer knew their market best and should be allowed to build what they think will work on the site. He was skeptical of the grand boulevard initiative features including wide sidewalks, and storefronts facing the street. He felt stores with two entrances were vulnerable to crime and made the space difficult to lease. However, he did request for a more refined bike treatment from Fayette Dr. to the greenway bike path. He suggested a special signal phase for bicyclists to comfortably cross the street.
Laura Macias was next, and she echoed Means’ call for the special cyclist signal phase. However, she went one step further and specifically asked for a dedicated bike signal. For the grand boulevard features, she didn’t explicitly call for storefronts on the street, but she asked for wider sidewalks and the landscape buffer to go between the sidewalk and the street, rather than between the buildings and the sidewalk. Additionally she specifically asked for the corner of El Camino and San Antonio to be tightened to slow car traffic down.
Mike Kasperzak echoed the sidewalk comments and suggested that they should be wider than staff’s proposed 10’. He debated the merits of providing storefronts on both sides of the buildings, but he believed it was possible and directed staff to find a workable solution. Kasperzak definitely supported at least 10 percent of the total units to be BMR units. The city attorney said that, due to the palmer decision, the only way to achieve this was to enter into a development agreement with the applicant.
Ronit and Margaret held similar positions on BMR units and the design of the project. They both suggested a 15’ sidewalk for the El Camino Frontage and expressed support of the characteristics of the Grand Boulevard Initiative. They both challenged the assertion that El Camino was a lifeless corridor, condemned to the exclusive use of automobiles.