San Carlos Places Black Mountain Bond Measure on the November Ballot.

August 14, 2015

The Future of the Black Mountain Property.

In their meeting on July 27, 2015, the San Carlos City Council voted unanimously to place the fate of the former Black Mountain Water land in the hands of the San Carlos residents. On November 3rd, San Carlos taxpayers will asked to approve a $45M bond measure to allow the City of San Carlos to purchase, enhance, and secure the property as open space to be enjoyed as a park.

The land itself is a combination of several parcels that add up to approximately 25 acres in the hills of San Carlos, which makes it the single-largest remaining open space in the city. For those of you not familiar with the location of the Black Mountain parcel, here's an aerial shot of its relative location in San Carlos. Many will be surprised to realize that they probably drive by this site numerous times every during their normal travels about San Carlos:

San Carlos Black Mountain Parcel Boundary (approx)

San Carlos Black Mountain Parcel Boundary (approx)

In terms of housing development, the land could be zoned for as many as 100 single family residences. The San Carlos City Council has clearly shown its preference for the future of this land by pushing forward with the bond measure to preserve this land as open space.

Here is a quick informational video that discusses this relatively little-known gem in San Carlos:

The bond measure would tack on $20 per $100,000 of assessed value of every property in San Carlos. The assessed value is what your current property taxes are calculated from, and is not the same as the market value.  But on average, the bond measure will cost the average San Carlos household somewhere between $200-$400/year.

The City of San Carlos has created an FAQ page that answers most of the basic questions about the land and the proposed purchase. You can see the FAQ's by clicking here.  There's also a complete page on the City of San Carlos website that discusses the land, the history, and the bond initiative in more detail.

I will update the blog with more details about the actual bond measure as we inch closer to the election. In the interim, what are your thoughts about the initiative? Feel free to comment below.

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  1. Scott on August 14, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Just because it is zoned for 100 houses doesn’t mean you could actually build 100 houses on this property. Given the price of homes in San Carlos the last few years you would think a developer, which so happens already owns some of the property, would build these 100 homes. Also, the city has no idea what this will ultimately cost. They haven’t even agreed on a price with the various owners. $45MM today could turn in to much more later. And who will foot the bill? The already overburdened tax payers of San Carlos. I will be voting no.

  2. Bankim on August 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    As someone who is closing on a house in San Carlos soon and spent months trying to get a starter home in Bay Area, I’m all for more housing in the Bay Area. I understand keeping housing supply low helps keep up home prices but that’s not sustainable. Moreover any further increase in property tax will be hard on cash flow of new residents like us in San Carlos. I’ll vote no.

  3. Economist on August 14, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    Price is a function of supply and demand. That’s basic economics.

    Demand will fluctuate over time – right now there’s high demand. But some day it will be low demand.

    The only thing you can really control is SUPPLY.

    If you care about your home value, and having something to pass to your children and their children, you should vote Yes on this to turn this land into a park so they cannot build more homes in San Carlos.

    Yes, it will hurt in the short term, with additional $200-$400 per year in taxes. But in the long run you will be better off.

    Just imagine if the city created 5 high rises that can fit 1000’s of families and turn San Carlos into Manhattan. Just imagine how choked San Carlos will be with 4000 new residents, all demanding parking, schools, water and services. Just think about how your home value will drop as there is so much more SUPPLY.

    Vote Yes. Lock up that land into a park. Don’t let the city do something stupid and allow more homes to be built.

    Vote Yes if you care about your home value and you care about your children.

    Vote No if you want to throw away your house.

  4. Economist on August 14, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    I hear you Bankim. You just paid a lot. So did I.

    Imagine if what you just bought lost 50% of its value.

    How devastated would you be?

    It’s possible! What if the city allows 5000 new homes to be built there – by building 5 skyscrapers.

    As a homeowner, why would you ever want supply to go up and prices to go down? Remember – you are a homeowner now.

    Vote Yes. Sure the additional taxes will be painful, but can you afford the risk? Don’t you want to have something to pass to your children?

  5. foo on August 14, 2015 at 10:27 pm


    That is incredibly short-sighted. The very demand that causes the home prices to go up will rapidly disappear as people and companies realize this is not sustainable. This need for preserving the property value is what has resulted in the disproportionate supply/demand, which is clearly unhealthy in the long term.

    I bought in SC recently too, and will always vote for more development. Long term our property value will suffer more if more development is not allowed to happen on the peninsula.

  6. Guy on August 14, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    The land in that area has been for sale for quite a while, right? If the land were easily developed it would have been bought and built by now, right?. I’m wondering if this is just some elaborate move by the seller in conjunction with folks in the city to get an otherwise useless parcel of land sold to the willing taxpayers of San Carlos at an above market price, because no one will buy it. Plus, what kind of park is it going to make with all that roaring traffic echoing up the canyon from ADP? I’m a no.

  7. Economist on August 15, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Atherton proves that I’m right. You don’t need your city to solve the Bay’s housing problems. You just need other cities to solve it for you.

  8. foo on August 16, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    I sincerely hope the city considers Redwood City as a model rather than Atherton. NIMBY-ism of the type you describe can offer short-term benefit, but is rarely healthy for the economy or the society.

  9. ba on August 17, 2015 at 7:51 am

    As a resident of a surrounding community I do hope SC takes up the bond measure. Just as SC home prices have benefitted from other cities opening up their land to house residents and companies to create jobs, it makes perfect sense for SC residents to foot the bill for the enjoyment and leisure of surrounding communities that don’t have as much open space. It’s the least they can do to payback. I’m with @economist on this one 😉

  10. Penny on August 18, 2015 at 4:36 am

    So why isn’t anyone suggest we move SC Charter School over there?

  11. Betsy on August 21, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Now that most San Carlos homes are selling for $1M and up, $200/year is frankly a drop in the bucket to pay for a beautiful park that would have some of the best views in San Carlos. A woody place to walk and sit and play in would benefit all of us — and to the complainers, don’t you think that a good park adds to the property value? As for the noise coming up from Alameda, it’s a suburban park, not a National Forest. We have small parks all over town that are surrounded by traffic.

    As for high-density housing — all those of you who think one of those would get past the Planning Board (no matter how good an idea it might be), think twice. No, it’ll be wall-to-wall McMansions.

  12. Tom on August 23, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    The property taxes aren’t really that high. Sorry… They just aren’t compared to other places in the country. Has anyone heard of a state called New Jersey? =) $200-400/yr? That IS a drop in the bucket like others have said and it will not be the reason why anyone could no longer afford to live in the area. There are other factors at play that drive that. Give me one example where an open-space preserve forced someone out of an area or bankrupted someone. No, it made them wealthier if anything.

    Everyone’s all so happy to run off and buy that new iPhone for a couple hundred bucks, right? But they sure don’t want to put it into something meaningful because God forbid it increases their taxes. Priorities people. Priorities.

    Economist and Betsy are right. It’s simple supply and demand – this blog has all the data one would need to make that determination.

    If the space is a source of water, I’d think residents would be EXTREMELY interested in protecting it.

    For the life of me I can not fathom why anyone would be so nonchalant about something like this. Losing these spaces hurts your land value and your environment.

  13. Anonymous on September 15, 2015 at 2:58 am

    “San Carlos household somewhere between $200-$400/year.”

    That’s on the high side. Not many people in San Carlos h e an assessed home vie over $1M

  14. Chuck Gillooley on September 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, there is a certain number of Prop-13 protected homes in San Carlos, but every time one of those homes sells (outside of direct family), the County re-assesses the property at the new sales price. So that number will continue to dwindle over time.

    Even homes that have sold in the past 7-10 years are all likely above the $1M mark in assessment. I don’t have an accurate count of the average assessment in San Carlos, but I have to believe there are quite a few homes above the $1M mark.

  15. Michael on October 1, 2015 at 5:48 am

    I can’t express how confused I am that the city would go to these lengths to put this on the ballot. While they have made every effort to choke the one and only north/south off ramp from 101 with every conceivable business, make el camino real unnavigable with the massive transit village and also make leaving the city via San Carlos avenue to the north almost impossible by expanding the Tierra Linda campus, they want to preserve this site for a nice-to-have almost impossible to develop park…the city needs housing and while this would unlikely become affordable by any standard, the added homes that could be built here would add to the community and provide much needed tax revenue.
    They sure pick and choose (and brainwash the public) about what is right for the community. Bad idea, this land should be sold and developed.

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