Summerhill on El Camino Real: Watch Out – your Home Might Be Next

“I live at 1 Laurel Street, I’m a neighbor, and I have a few concerns. One of my concerns is protecting trees… We should try to save the trees that have been growing for years. Personally I enjoy those trees, and the view from my balcony, but 6 stories – that’s gonna block my whole view of sunrise, moonrise, everything. At the time I moved in two years ago I was told by management that I would not lose my view because of the code not to build more than the allowed number of floors. When the code was change, I’m not sure.”

Yoko Watanabe, San Carlos Resident – Public Comment during the 18th September 2023 City Council Meeting

“My view of the bay will be obliterated, there’ll nothing left of it. I find that frustrating. You move into a place and you’re told 4 story / 3 story buildings was as high as anyone can build, and BOOM it was changed. And there was one sentence in Good Living that said (I don’t know when it was, months ago?) it was changed from 4 stories to 6 stories and I did not even realize it until we got flyers about this new place that’s coming… I lose my whole view. You have to think about when you’re putting things like this… You’re affecting everybody who’s already been there. That’s frustrating. Maybe in your neighborhoods no one is building across the street from you. But now it is happening to me.

If our whole point is to make more places for people to live in, which is a good goal, why are we making a 6-story building that has a blank interior when you can put a whole bunch more people in it? Yes the building should be pretty, but you can put in so much more units in that one building. And if you’re gonna affect that many people, and there are only two of us here which is surprising me, people who live on our side of the road still don’t realize what’s going on.”

– Coleen, San Carlos Resident – Public Comment during the 18th September 2023 City Council Meeting

These concerns from San Carlos Residents were ignored during the Council Meeting dated 18th of September 2023, supposedly outweighed by the recreational benefits the new 6-story building might bring. You may watch the whole proceedings on a Youtube Video below.

On Monday, 18 September 2023, the Planning Commission of San Carlos unanimously approved the construction of a 242-unit Apartment Complex by Summerhill Homes on El Camino Real in San Carlos. While the Committee claimed the project as being part of the San Carlos Housing 2040 Initiative, certain questions have to be raised.

First of all, the goal of the San Carlos 2040 Initiative is to ensure that an excess of 2,000 new homes will be built in San Carlos by 2031 – a majority of which will be designated as below-market-rate (BMR) units. To achieve this, the initiative calls for changes in development regulations for different zones, including the maximum allowed floors of buildings in San Carlos.

Concerning the 6-story apartment building to be built in 11 El Camino Real, with 242 units and only 36 of them designated as BMR – how is this a majority? If building permits would be released to companies such as this, how much land would it require for us to reach our goal of even at least 51% majority of 2,735 units by 2031-2040? This one only accounted for about 2.5% of the goal..

“I would like to agree with the residents of Spring Street. As a San Carlos resident myself, I can tell you that what a building looks like is really subjective, and you can make it lower and leave these people their views, and nobody would care. You can fill in the lower levels with apartment, and get more housing altogether. You’re gonna trade off height for some open space and call that public benefit. It doesn’t make sense but thank you.”

Patty, San Carlos Resident – Public Comment during the 18th September 2023 City Council Meeting

Summerhill Apartment Map

The Curious Case of Summerhill Homes

SummerHill Apartment Communities, the company responsible for the project, first proposed the construction of a six-story building on a 2.2-acre lot at 11 El Camino Real, in January 2023. A community workshop was supposedly held by Summerhill on 4 April 2023 – the attendants and the results of which are still to be determined. Oddly enough, a Public Notice via flyers and media announcement was only released September 5-7 to property owners within 300′ of the property, only about ten days before the final approval of the Committee – which probably gave the affected people little time to react. 

The building will consist of 242 units, including a variety of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments. Out of the total units, 15% will be offered at below-market rates. Among the 36 below-market rate units, 24 will be designated for very low-income individuals or families earning 50% of the area median income (approximately $124,000 annually for a family of four), while 12 units will be designated for low-income individuals or families earning 60% of the area median income. Again, where is the “majority housing should be BMR” ideal on this?

The site will feature roof decks, two central courtyards with a pool, storm water planters, fire pits, and lounge areas. Most of the units will have balconies, and there will be a total of 297 parking stalls, including 14 guest parking spots equipped with electric vehicle charging stations. Additionally, streetscape improvements will be made. The new building will replace a CVS store and parking lot and will be conveniently located within walking distance of both the San Carlos and Belmont Caltrain stations, as well as SamTrans bus stops.

Imagine how beautiful the view of the bay and the trees would be, on the balconies of these 6-story condos… Come to think of it, they didn’t really block out the view of the bay… they only took it from San Carlos Residents who previously had it. 

Summerhill Apartment Photo

Although there were some people who candidly supported Summerhill’s project: representatives of the Chamber of San Mateo Businesses, Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, the SCEF who thanked Summerhill for their generous sponsorship of San Carlos Education.. the questions begs to be asked of whether this project was indeed for the benefit of the people, the housing initiative, or for something else.

On the other hand, in order to reduce the overall perception of height, certain sections of the upper levels will be set back, a feature that the commissioners found favorable. Commissioner Rick Hunter appreciated the building’s ability to provide significant housing along El Camino without creating a tunnel-like atmosphere. However, six “Heritage Trees” 7-8 stories high, will be taken down, according to Coleen, a resident of San Carlos.

Before this blog ends, here are the zones in San Carlos where the Building Construction Height Limit has been increased. Please feel free to check if your home will be affected in a few years to come. For San Carlos Residents who have invested their lives into the homes they love the most, please feel free to participate in the coming Council Meetings in order for our voice to be heard as a group.

Proposed Zoning Densities

San Carlos Zones

Summerhill Photo Web Mercantor Auxillary Sphere


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