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Public Meeting Tonight on San Carlos Wheeler Plaza Project.

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Still Alive.

The Wheeler Plaza redevelopment concept is something that has been discussed in quite a bit of detail on this site over the past two years.   There have been several posts, lots of comments, and even a poll that gauged the public’s opinion on the concept (most were positive on the idea.)  There’s even an entire sub-category dedicated to Wheeler Plaza on this site.

Even though there hasn’t been much in the news about the Wheeler Plaza concept lately, don’t think that work hasn’t been going on behind the scenes.   The City of San Carlos along with their development partner Silverstone Communities have been working diligently to create an Environmental Impact Report, and has now drafted up potential options for redeveloping the entire Wheeler Plaza parcel.  If you’ve read through the EIR, there are some very interesting graphical renditions of how the project may look when it is completed, like this one (elevation from San Carlos Avenue)…

Wheeler Plaza conceptual sketch - Laurel Street/San Carlos Avenue

Public Meeting Tonight.

Tonight, the City of San Carlos is holding a meeting to solicit public feedback on the project.  If you have strong feelings one way or the other on the proposed project, or just want to find out more about what’s planned, this would be a great meeting to attend.  Here are the details:

Wheeler Plaza Development Concept Meeting
When: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Where: San Carlos Library, 610 Elm Street, Second Floor Meeting Rooms
Time: 7:00 PM

Funding Challenges.

One challenge that is likely equally as large as all of the design considerations is how this project is going to be funded, and the purse strings for this extend all the way to the California Supreme Court.   According to Mark Sawicki, Economic Development and Housing Manager for the City of San Carlos, the pending Supreme Court litigation on AB26 and AB27 will play a significant role in funding options for this project.   If the decision does not result in the San Carlos RDA being dissolved, then the Planning Commission want to have consideration of the Wheeler Plaza project ready to move forward as soon as possible.  If the San Carlos RDA is dissolved (if AB 26 stands while AB27 is struck down) the City and the developer will have to look at alternative options for funding, and determine if the project is even financially feasible.
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Wheeler Plaza Development in San Carlos: 3 Reasons Why it Needs to Happen.

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Time for a Change.

The other morning while I was making my normal run for sourdough bread at Le Boulanger (if you haven’t tried their fresh sliced sourdough, it’s out of this world), I was struck by how much of an eyesore the rear parking area behind the building has become.  Sure, during business hours it serves a valuable purpose as a main downtown parking area.  But during non-business hours, it’s just vast sea of empty parking spaces that’s sometimes strewn with litter on windy days.  For those of you who may not know, that very area on the corner of Walnut Street and San Carlos Avenue (including many of the buildings), is a city-owned plot of land known as Wheeler Plaza.  And for the past couple of years, the City has been investigating different ways that it might re-develop that entire site.

I hope the City will be able to take one of those solutions beyond the idea stage and actually re-develop this prime area of San Carlos, because there are three key reasons why it needs to happen: >>> Click Here to Read the Full Post
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Public Input Sought on San Carlos Wheeler Plaza Redevelopment.

Wheeler Plaza

Community Meeting.

It has been a while since the San Carlos Wheeler Plaza redevelopment concept has been in news.  But the City of San Carlos, along with development partner Silverstone Communities, has been steadily working on concepts of what to do — if anything — with the existing Wheeler Plaza site in downtown San Carlos.  The most recent concept that I saw being discussed was for a multi-story, mixed residential/retail complex where the parking lot is currently situated.    But that may have changed…

A big part of Silverstone’s involvement in the early stages of conceptual development is to gather ideas and feedback from San Carlos business owners and residents about what should be done with this location.   As such, they are holding a community meeting next week to solicit input from those stakeholders.   Here are the details of the meeting, as outlined on the City website:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
San Carlos Library, 2nd Floor, Conference Rooms A & B

The City of San Carlos has been working with Silverstone Communities to explore the potential for redevelopment of the downtown surface parking lot known as Wheeler Plaza. Several city owned buildings adjacent to the parking lot would also be included in the site area.

This meeting will be an opportunity to brief property and business owners, community leaders, neighbors and interested citizens on the project and to hear and understand the issues and concerns of various stakeholders.

For those of you interested in what our downtown may look like in the next decade, this should be a very interesting meeting!

 
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Important Meetings This Week in San Carlos.

Mark your calendars! If you’re interested in the future direction of San Carlos schools or the downtown development, or if you just need a reason to procrastinate your holiday shopping even more, there are a couple of important meetings that are happening this week. I’ve already highlighted them in their respective posts, but it’s worth reminding you of them again:

Town Hall: San Carlos Schools.

Tonight – November 30. This meeting is being hosted by San Carlos School District Superintendent Dr. Craig Baker to discuss the District’s proposal to re-draw the school boundaries in order to alleviate the chronic over-enrollment problems. All of the elementary school principals will be in attendance at this meeting as well. Here are meeting details:

Monday, November 30
7:30 PM
San Carlos Library: 610 Elm Street
Conf Room A, Second Floor

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Wheeler Plaza Community Forum.

The City of San Carlos would love to hear your input on what should be done (if anything) with their Wheeler Plaza parcel, which we know better as the parking lot behind Wells Fargo Bank and Le Boulanger.   This meeting is an integral part of the “listening phase” of the Wheeler Plaza concept, so if you have any ideas about what should be done, including leaving it as-is, be sure to attend this meeting.  Here are the meeting details:

Wednesday, December 2
7:00 PM
San Carlos Library: 610 Elm Street
Conf Rooms A&B, Second Floor

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Community Meeting on Wheeler Plaza: December 2nd…

The City of San Carlos announced that it will be holding its first community-wide forum to get feedback from residents on its Wheeler Plaza development concept.  For those of you not familiar with Wheeler Plaza, it’s the city-owned parcel that’s right behind the Wells Fargo and Le Boulanger on Laurel Street — see the map above.   The idea being kicked around is to develop the existing parcel into a retail/residential complex that will There’s an entire category on this site that’s dedicated to the Wheeler Plaza concept — click here to read those posts and corresponding comments.

Like every development idea that has been proposed recently in San Carlos, Wheeler Plaza has evoked some pretty strong opinions both for and against the idea.   But it’s important to remember that this is just a concept right now — there are no plans in place, nor is it even an approved project.  But if you have an opinion about the City’s ideas on Wheeler Plaza, or you’d like to find out more about the idea,  be sure to attend this meeting.  Here are the details:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
Conference Rooms A&B, 2nd Floor
San Carlos Library, 610 Elm Street

For additional information on the meeting, visit this page on the City of San Carlos website.
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San Carlos Wheeler Plaza enters the “Listening Phase”….

Wheeler Plaza

Aside from posts that I’ve written on San Carlos Schools, the proposed Wheeler Plaza project is easily the most read and commented topic on this site. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Wheeler Plaza is a city-owned parcel that’s outlined in the picture above. You’ll recognize this area as the parking lot behind Le Boulanger and Wells Fargo, and it includes some surrounding structures. Last year, the City of San Carlos started the wheels turning (no pun intended) to gather ideas on how to develop this area into a mixed retail/living complex.   To see all of the posts on this site about Wheeler Plaza, click here.  There’s also some good info on the City of San Carlos website.

The latest development happened earlier this year when the City chose Silverstone Communities as the design and development firm.   Silverstone has lots of experience with projects like these, as they recently completed similar high-end projects in Millbrae and Los Altos.    Silverstone was a smart choice — they’re based in Redwood City, so they’re local and they understand the unique vibe that makes San Carlos what it is.

This past week, I sat down with Jeff Gilman, Silverstone’s Director of Acquisitions.  Jeff is spearheading a project to gather community feedback on how Wheeler Plaza could best serve the City of San Carlos (more on that below.)  From his research, which includes all of your comments on this site, Jeff is keenly aware how sensitive this topic is,  and he also understands that there are misconceptions that surround Wheeler Plaza.   So part of the information-gathering phase is also to set some of these perceptions straight.

Here are my notes from my meeting with Jeff…

It’s an idea, not a project.

This is probably the most important point that the City and Silverstone are trying to get across.    Right now, the  renovation of  Wheeler Plaza is just an idea that the City is considering.  No plans have been made, and nothing has been committed to this idea to date, short of Silverstone’s involvement to gather information.   The City could very easily decide to do nothing at this point… But it’s obvious that whatever they do, they want community input and consensus, which is good.

Vision and Design

In it’s most basic form, the city envisions Wheeler Plaza as a multi-level residential/retail complex.   Even though no plans have been drawn, there are some parameters that will likely be adhered to:

  1. Condos, not apartments.    Most likely, the residential side of the complex will be “for sale”, not rentals.  Current figure is approximately 100 units.
  2. Parking.  There are currently 187 parking slots in the existing parking lot.  Any new project will need to preserve this number, at a minimum.
  3. Asthetics.  Key consideration will be made to blend the structure in to the surroundings, such as intelligent use of setbacks and gradual height increase, so that it will not be a huge, looming structure.
  4. No change to Laurel Street.   Since the existing buildings that face Laurel Street (WFB, Le Boulanger, etc..) are not part of the project, there will be no change to the storefronts on Laurel.

What about the Schools?

In light of the enrollment crunch this fall with several San Carlos elementary schools, the impact on adding more living space will likely be one of the biggest objections to this idea.   But according to demographic studies that Silverstone has conducted, it’s only expected that 8-10% of these units will be occupied by families with school age children.   So if these calculations hold true, the impact on school enrollment should be minimal.  And if you factor in the school fees that this structure will generate, there may indeed a silver lining for the San Carlos School District.

What’s next?

Over the next 90 days or so, Silverstone will be conducting some community outreach exercises to get input on the future of Wheeler Plaza — a listening phase, for lack of a better term.   If you’re interested in expressing your opinion on Wheeler Plaza, Jeff welcomes you to send him an email at this address:

As always, feel free to post your comments on this site as well.    I’ll be sure to keep you posted as things progress…

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2 Reasons Why You Should Attend Tonight’s San Carlos City Council Meeting…

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If you have ever considered attending a San Carlos City Council Meeting but were waiting for a compelling reason to go, tonight’s meeting might just be the opportunity you have been waiting for.   In this meeting, which begins at 7:00 PM in the City Council Chambers, there will be two topics discussed that should be on interest to you:

What’s on tap?

Among the normal agenda items that are covered in a Council Meeting, here are the two specific topics that I thought would be of interest.  I copied this excerpt directly from the Agenda:

9.

PUBLIC HEARING

a.

Consideration of introducing an ordinance authorizing an increase in sewer rates by seven percent for Fiscal Year 2009/10 (Proposition 218 public hearing).

10.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

a.

Consideration and selection of development partner for potential development of Wheeler Plaza (Generally bounded by Walnut, Cherry, San Carlos Avenue and Laurel streets).(Continued from February 12, 2009).

Why is this important?

Sewer Rates

The City is looking to raise approximately $500,000 in additional revenue by raising the sewer rates by 7%.   This will likely pass unless there is significant vocal opposition.    Based on the resistance to pass a School Bond Measure in San Carlos, I would imagine any sort of property tax assessment increase should generate the interest of the citizens.

Wheeler Plaza

The Wheeler Plaza Development has unwittingly become the lightning rod for the anti-development sentiment in San Carlos.   It is hands-down the most highly commented topic on this site, and there are other sites that have zeroed in on this development in there efforts to enforce responsible development of the downtown area.    Tonight’s agenda item will be to choose a development partner to for the project.

So if either of these topics is near and dear to you, or if you just want to see the how the political machine works in San Carlos, tonight might be a good night to catch an early dinner in downtown San Carlos and then get involved in the political process.

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UPDATE: Wheeler Plaza Development…

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Of all the topics that have been discussed on this site, none have matched the impassioned response of the initial post on the Wheeler Plaza Development in downtown San Carlos.   Between the direct comments to the site and the emails that I have received, it’s clear that the City’s plans for this site have struck a nerve with San Carlos residents.   Some are overwhelmingly positive, welcoming a change to the downtown scene;  others are equally negative, and are worried about the impact on parking and schools.   Here’s what has happened since the original post.

Recent Developments:

In October of 2008, the City issued an RFQ to qualified contractors to re-develop the Wheeler Plaza location (see map above.) The guidance on the RFQ required that the development needed to include housing atop ground floor commercial, and the developer would need to replicate the parking on the current site as well as parking spaces needed for the proposed development.

The City received 10 responses to this RFQ, from which two finalist firms were selected after a thorough review by the selection committee.  The City Council interviewed both of the finalist firms at their January 26, 2009 meeting,  and took the matter under advisement.    That’s where we are as of today…

What’s Next?

Directly from the City website:

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the selection of a firm to enter into an agreement with the City to develop designs and plans to redevelop Wheeler Plaza and to partner with the City on an extensive public participatory process about this site at the February 9, 2009 City Council Meeting.

Translation

What does that statement mean?  According to Housing Development Manager Mark Sawicki, once the winning firm is picked by the City Council, they will embark on the aforementioned “extensive public participatory process.”   This entails interviewing neighboring businesses, and residents of San Carlos to better understand what the best usage for the site should be.   The details of this process, and the dates for any meetings where the public will be able to voice their opinion have yet to be announced.

What Can You Do?

If you’re interested in keeping informed about developments in the Wheeler Plaza process, here’s what you can do:

  • Attend the City Council Meeting on February 9, 2009.
  • Check back on the blog.  I will endeavor to keep you updated on this topic.   If you haven’t already done so, I’d recommend that you subscribe to this site (of course I’m going to say that.)
  • Check the Wheeler Plaza section of the City of San Carlos website for updates.
  • Subscribe to the City’s E-Notify email subscription service.   My experience with this service is that it’s a bit erratic on the timely delivery of updates, so I don’t rely on it exclusively.

Stay tuned…this should be a very interesting process!

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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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