San Carlos CA Specific Plan Presentation

Very interesting San Carlos CA Downtown Specific Planning meeting on 3/4/2023.

Representatives of the City’s Advanced Planning Division put on a presentation and answered questions afterwards on March 4, 2023. The City is trying to put together a vision for itself regarding how it will be developed over the next 10-20 years. San Carlos CA has an over general plan, but then Covid changed the way downtown functioned with the closing of the of Laurel Street’s 700 block plus the parklets installed for outdoor dining – downtown suddenly became different out of necessity.

San Carlos Ca Downtown March 2023 Meeting 13

Three Subjects Covered

The presentation focused on three subjects:

  1. What to do with the downtown public spaces? This included the Frank Harrington Park and the Wheeler Plaza outdoor parking lot. How could these spaces be transformed so that downtown visitors could better enjoy these spaces? Lots of photographs of different plazas were shown from various places in the US plus China and Spain too.
  2. Whether to close the 700 block of Laurel Street permanently and maybe even close the 600 and 800 blocks too?
  3. Should the alleyways on either side of Laurel street be cleaned up so that they can also be put to better use? Mostly folks thought this was the last thing anyone should take on.

The San Carlos CA is scheduling multiple events to get public input regarding how it should move forward with these three different planning categories.  It has also hired consultants at a cost of $800k to assist the City with the planning. Their goal is to have a final plan by March 2024.

San Carlos CA already had a general plan for the City, but it now wants a specific plan for downtown. This specific plan will supersede any zoning regulations controlling downtown development. The specific plan is meant to dela with mobility, streetscapes, beautification, alleys functions, infrastructure, and the urban design of the downtown.  Plus, the City also wants to study how it can streetscape the Civic Center area to give it the same feel and vibe as the downtown area.

For private buildings there is no requirement that they be upgraded to match the City’s new vision, however, new construction would need to conform to the new specific plan guidelines. Also, the City claims that the downtown and Civic Center improvements would not be paid for with new taxes on its citizens, but the presenter was vague about where the funds would be coming from.

Meantime, there were business owners for and against closing the 700 block of downtown. This subject dominated the Q&A after the presentation. A resident complained that the 700 block has just become a giant food court and that it lacks unique shops. Others said that their non-restaurant businesses have been hurt by the inability of patrons to park in front of their stores. One restaurant owner complained that closing only the 700 block hurt his business. He made the point the people preferred eating in restaurants in the closed off section of Laurel Street and that the 600 block where his restaurant is located should also be closed.

Representatives of San Carlos CA stated that they are not claiming to have all the answers at this time. They are studying what residents want against what business operators need and trying to balance it all out. They intend to have more future events to get more input from residents and local business operators. I hope they will again serve free coffee and pastries!

Let’s see what the City concludes next year? It will probably still take a few more years after that before the construction is completed, so it may be 2030 before any of us see the new downtown vision come to fruition.

More Info

The Event

Poster Boards at Presentation

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