Wheeler Plaza For Dummies

This is for those of you who think Wheeler Plaza is a TV western from the seventies.

For those in-the-know, the draft environmental impact report on the development project is out and available for some serious downloading and reading.

Get out your specs. It’s more than 200 pages long, broken into four parts and comes with five appendices.

Why should you care? The introduction sums it up: New development can change – for better or worse – an urban area and how it evolves.

While the environmental impact report isn’t required reading, a thorough skim might be in order if you plan to attend the community meeting on the Wheeler Plaza concept on Wednesday December 7, 7pm at the second floor meeting rooms of the Library. The city is asking for public input.

The Basics

Wheeler Plaza is the parking lot behind Laurel Street and San Carlos Avenue that faces Walnut Street.

The proposed project site is 2.65 acres.

The city owns several buildings along San Carlos Avenue and Laurel Street, including the former Foodville property. These buildings are included in plans to redevelop the area.

All the buildings and space in the site would be removed. That includes, according the impact report, about 17,000 square feet of commercial space now in use, almost 8,000 square feet of vacant commercial space, the parking lot and 12 residential apartment units the city describes as “affordable.”

Who Wants to do What?

The City of San Carlos – along with developer Silverstone Communities – wants to build extra residential units “for downtown living,” more retail space and extra parking, all “designed to enhance and enliven the downtown.”

The city selected Redwood City based Silverstone (tagline: Your Lifestyle is Our Blueprint) in 2009 to create designs and plans to redevelop Wheeler Plaza.

What’s the Plan?

The city breaks the development project into three parts:

The Wheeler Plaza Mixed Use Component: The current parking lot (the one behind Foodville) and retail buildings facing SC Avenue – along with a 6-unit apartment building on Walnut – would be scraped. In their place: a big mixed-use structure that would include commercial space, 108 residential units and a three level parking garage. (Suggested question to ask at meeting: how many parking spaces in garage?)

The Laurel Street Commercial and Plaza Component: The former Foodville building would be razed. In its place would go a two-story commercial building. On the bottom level: 4,500 sq. feet of restaurant use. Above: office space totaling 4,000 sq. feet. The rest of the lot – about 7,000 sq. feet – would become a plaza for the public to gather.

The Cherry Street Affordable Housing Component: The optometrist office (now the Family Vision Center run by docs Hong, Stasko & Lee)  and a 6-unit residential building on Cherry would be replaced by a 31-unit residential development, mostly affordable units.

(The math: a total of 139 extra residential units)

What did the draft environmental impact report conclude?

“No significant and unavoidable impacts have been identified,” according to the report. “All impacts are either less than significant or can be reduced to that level through mitigation.”

Meaning, the Wheeler Plaza development project would have some impacts – most definitely – but with effort and workarounds those impacts can be reduced to an acceptable level. Here’s where community input is needed. What’s acceptable to some people is unacceptable to others.

Just the Highlights, Please:

*Construction would send up temporary dust and vehicle emissions, “posing a potential health risk to nearby residents.” Solution: construction best management practices.

*Construction could disturb birds and the removal of heritage trees.

*It would also mean more noise in the area and “groundborne vibration.” According to the report, those problems can be reduced though “construction noise control measures and construction vibration monitoring.”

*The proposed project would impact traffic at two intersections: Holly & Laurel and Cherry & Laurel. The solution? Activate the signal at Holly & Laurel (now a blinking red) and coordinate it with nearby signals and add stop signs on Laurel to deal with the Cherry & Laurel traffic issue.

You Read the Highlights! Now Read the Full Report

Click here to go to the city’s website to check out the report that took a consulting firm five months to draft.






Filed Under: Column 2San Carlos News


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  1. Cathy says:

    Useful. Thanks.

  2. jj says:

    This supposed project has had at least 4 yrs of plans, drafts, meetings, outreach, imput, feedback, revisions, amendments, drawings, models,comments, etc, etc etc.- and not one shovel of dirt has been turned yet.

    Yes, it is important to get things right, but this is absurd.

    Cant wait for the next update on this planned project in 2015.

    • debramonroe says:

      JJ…I’m curious. What’s your take on the time frame/process?

      I copied the below FAQ from the City’s website:

      “I understand that a similar proposal for Wheeler Plaza was considered approximately 5 years ago—why did it not go forward?
      The City had preliminary discussions with a developer on a proposed residential project. The potential for such a project was the impetus for acquisition of the adjacent parcels. However, a proposal was never formally presented so it is not clear if would have been viable.”

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