Pilgrim Triton – Issue #2

This post will address the second issue on the list of issues posted by a member of NextDoor.

Issue 2. Many Foster City residents are angry now that they see the Pilgrim Triton construction rising to the sky behind the Chevron station at the corner of Hillsdale and Foster City Blvd’s.

Question: 2-a: If elected, what would you do to mitigate the impacts of the Pilgrim Triton master plan?

Question: 2-b: Will you oppose or support similar construction anywhere in the City?

Here is my response:

  1. I dispute the premise. Initially I dispute the premise that “many Foster City residents are angry seeing Pilgrim Triton construction.” I think that Foster City residents are, like I am, sick of the traffic we have recently had to endure. They believe, which I do not, that the Pilgrim Triton project is to blame for that traffic. (To date Pilgrim Triton has added only about 300 residential units to our City). Otherwise the question is why were they not angry when the City allowed Port-O-Call to be replaced with residential housing and why were they not angry when the City allowed Marlin Cove to be redevelopment with mixed used including residential housing. Both of those projects have buildings of about the same height and density as Pilgrim Triton yet when those were built and occupied there was nary a peep. I think that if Pilgrim Triton went up when the economy was not booming like it is and regional traffic was not as bad as it is, then there would have been nary a peep. In fact, when the first building was completed just a few years ago, there was nary a peep. Thus, I believe that the issue is traffic and to a lesser extent school classroom space not housing that people really are angry about. Thus, the question should be what should the Council do about traffic and schools.
  2. When Pilgrim Triton was approved, it was done correctly and the project was seen to be in the best interest of the City. When the Pilgrim Triton project was approved by the City Council back in 2006 – 2007 (yes that long ago) the efforts to study the project were given to the Planning Commission. I was on the Planning Commission back then and at my urging we did two things of relevance to this discussion: 1 – we had the first ever City-wide traffic study done to look at the impacts not only of the Pilgrim Triton project but also of the 15 acres and Chess Hatch; and 2 – we wrote a letter to the San Mateo Foster City School District and asked whether these new developments would have impact on their schools in Foster City. The first effort came back with a number of suggested internal changes to Foster City streets some of which have been done (widening of Chess Drive) and some of which will be done (left turn lane extension from Foster City Blvd to Chess Drive). One of those changes was to add an additional lane getting on to Westbound 92 from Chess Drive. Initially CalTrans said we could do it, and then after we began moving forward from that they changed their minds. However, by that time the entitlements were in place. Where we see that impact today is in the evening commute getting onto westbound 92. The second effort resulted in the School District writing us back a letter saying that the new developments would have no impact on their schools. I was surprised at the time but I had to think that they knew what they were saying. Now this all needs to be put into context that it occurred eight and nine years ago when the economy was different than it is today, as was the development environment. At the time Pilgrim Triton was seen by the Council as a brilliant move to create the final residential neighborhood in Foster City. At the Planning Commission we probably had 25 – 30 public hearings on Pilgrim Triton and there was pretty much no opposition. Everyone felt that the impacts would be relatively minor and this would create a new and vibrant neighborhood with shopping, office, park and residential facilities all within the neighborhood.
  3. The impact of the Pilgrim Triton master plan need to be understood before they can be addressed. One of the impacts of the currently approved plan is that it calls for an office building that will impact traffic by adding 500 or more trips per day commuting into the City in the morning and out of the City in the evening – work based commuting. The developer is proposing to change that to remove the office building and build 50 additional town houses which would impact traffic by about 100 trips per day leaving the City in the morning and returning in the evening – residential commuting. Thus, on a net basis the traffic would, if these numbers are proven to be true, be much less. Is that mitigating the impacts? However, if we allow a change from commercial development to residential development we may significantly effect the businesses that are in the neighborhood that went there expecting a significant daytime population with whom they could do business. Is that mitigating the impacts? My point is that one first needs to understand what the impacts are, and then to make a choice because reducing one impact may increase another – the rule of unintended consequences. So before you can ask how someone would deal with the impacts, you should ask what they understand to be the impacts and then you can evaluate their solution and their understanding of the issue.
  4. Anyone who will pre-decide hypothetical development issues does not belong on our Council. I wrote about pre-deciding issues in the form of moratoria and edicts in my prior posts so I’m not going to repeat it here, you can read it there. I would be very wary of anyone who would say without knowing any specifics that they would never approve some hypothetical development at some unknown time. If we predecide everything, then we don’t need leadership, but I can assure you that we will eventually fail without it.

Many of the issues behind mitigating the impacts of Pilgrim Triton are decisions already made many years ago that cannot be undone. I agree that efforts to continue to mitigate impacts should continue and you have seen me ask our new and growing businesses to work with us to mitigate these impacts by, for example, agreeing to commit to using some of the housing being built for their local employees (which would take those folks out of the commute). While it is important to continue to do that, this is not a key issue, the key issue is regional traffic and planning for additional classrooms should the school bond fail. In that context, traffic and schools are among the key issues for this coming election and are the questions I would ask of the candidates.


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