Locals of North Fair Oaks gathered at Garfield Elementary School Saturday to participate in the third and final community workshop of the draft plan for the Community Plan for North Fair Oaks before the plan is presented to the Planning Commission.
The draft plan, which intends to make major developments to the community over the next 30 years, has created concerns of transportation, community character and city funding.
The existing community plan for North Fair Oaks was adopted in 1979.
“It’s out of date,” said William Gibson of the San Mateo County Planning and Building Department. “The community has changed and its needs have also changed.”
More than 50 community members provided input and criticism on the draft plan that began development in December of 2009.
San Mateo County city planners and members of the draft plan’s steering committee presented a short lecture about the goals of the proposed plan and the process of implementation.
“If we just make a few changes on Middlefield Road it will be better for pedestrians, bicyclists, and definitely automobiles,” said steering committee member Manuel Ramirez. “It can turn into a hub where people want to go.”
However, numerous community members questioned the potential negative affects of high-density housing and commercial buildings. This included the possibility of increased and unavoidable traffic to the area.
Steve Monowitz, Deputy Director of the County of San Mateo Planning and Building Department, said that neighborhoods must have a certain population in order for transportation agencies to have incentive to create routes to those areas.
“We want to create a community more apt to use transit services,” he said,
The draft plan includes a trolley line from Redwood City, increased bike and pedestrian routes as well as expansion of the Dumbarton Rail.
“There is a plan to bring the Dumbarton Rail here, but whether that will be funded or not is up in the air,” Monowitz said.
Residents also voiced concern that the unique character of North Fair Oaks would become vulnerable with massive development.
Franciscan Father Rigoberto Calocarivas, Executive Director of the Multicultural Institute and steering committee member, assured that the style that cultural foundation of the community would remain unchanged.
“The Latino population here is close to 70 percent,” Calocarivas said. “We not only want to keep that character but we also want to be inclusive to everyone else.”
Though development would ideally create a more attractive location for permanent residence, the planners hope this will not become problematic to existing locals.
“We want to minimize the displacement of current residents,” Monowitz said.
A key component of the draft plan is to create safe, healthy and affordable housing to current and future residents.
“It’s no secret that we lack affordable housing here,” Calocarivas said.
Residents of Redwood City sought clarification as to how the development would affect their city.
“North Fair Oaks is within the sphere of influence of Redwood City’s sphere of influence,” Monowitz said. “It is eligible to become part of Redwood City.”
But the draft plan, Monowitz said, only addresses issues that are under the jurisdiction of San Mateo County.
The plans include developments that border Highway 84 to Marsh Road and El Camino Real to Bay Street.
The draft plan does not have an estimated cost at this time, but Monowitz commented that with a community plan that has not been updated in 30 years, county, state and federal funding would become more accessible.
The planners and members of the steering committee encouraged the community to continue participating.
“As we move forward there will be additional opportunities for public input,” Monowitz said.
The public has the ability to provide comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report until September 23 as well all public meetings.
The Planning Commission will review the draft plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report of the Community Plan for North Fair Oaks September 14. A second meeting, scheduled for September 28, will decide the Planning Commission’s recommendation before the Board of Supervisors makes a final decision October 18.