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SamTrans details TODs at Colma BART, San Carlos Caltrain

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  • 2/1 Transit California
    Published January/February 2008, by Transit California TOD projects result from creative approaches to land acquisition By Brian Fitzpatrick Real Estate
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 17, 2008
      Published January/February 2008, by Transit California

      TOD projects result from creative approaches to land acquisition

      By Brian Fitzpatrick
      Real Estate Manager, San Mateo County Transit District

      David Miller and Michael Conneran
      Partners, Hanson, Bridgett, Marcus, Vlahos and Rudy

      It should not surprise anyone familiar with the San Mateo County
      Transit District (SamTrans) to learn that ingenuity and creative
      business thinking constitute the underpinnings for its successful
      transit-oriented development (TOD) program.

      After all, since its creation in 1974, the District has been at the
      forefront of many innovations resulting from forward thinking by
      its management team and board, including:

      * A door-to-door paratransit program, Redi-Wheels, launched more
      than a decade before the Americans with Disabilities Act;

      * Leadership in acquiring, together with its transit partners, the
      Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the City and County
      of San Francisco, sizable portions of the land holdings of the former
      Southern Pacific Transportation Company for future commuter rail,
      light rail and rapid transit rail extensions on the San Francisco

      * A growing program of shuttle connections between major employment
      centers and commuter rail and rapid rail stations.

      In keeping with its tradition of innovation, the District also has
      plowed new ground in redeploying excess property into successful TOD
      projects. In this article we will illustrate how excess property can
      be used for innovative TOD through two case studies—one involving a
      fully constructed TOD project adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Area
      Rapid Transit (BART) station in Colma, California, and the other
      involving a TOD project currently being processed through the
      entitlement phase in San Carlos, California. These two projects have
      a common denominator: TOD has been facilitated by the retention of
      real estate that had been acquired to support major transportation
      projects and otherwise would be deemed surplus once the projects were


      The La Terrazza Project is located in Colma, just to the west of the
      Colma BART Station. La Terrazza is the result of a public-private
      partnership under which the District leases the land to the developer
      as part of a ground lease with a 75-year base term. The developer
      constructed and owns the buildings on the site, manages the facility
      and pays the District an annual ground rent payment of approximately
      $380,000, with annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index
      and periodic adjustments to match market conditions. Because the
      District's interest in the property is not subordinated to any other
      parties, the income stream is virtually guaranteed.

      The project consists of 153 residential units and approximately 3,000
      square feet of transit-supportive retail. The units range in size
      from one bedroom/one bath to three bedroom/two bath and include six
      live-work lofts. The project includes 31 units (20 percent) reserved
      for very low income tenants. To maximize transit accessibility, the
      project features a direct connection to the adjacent BART station by
      means of Nevin Way, a pedestrian pathway that connects El Camino Real
      and the station property. Residents of La Terrazza can stroll from
      their apartment to the door of a BART train in less then five minutes.

      The La Terrazza project was the outgrowth of the District's
      ambitious "Century Plan," which laid out a program of significant
      transit improvements, including the purchase and operation of the
      Caltrain commuter rail line linking San Francisco to San Jose and
      Gilroy and the extension of BART's rapid transit rail system beyond
      Daly City. The Comprehensive Agreement negotiated with BART to
      implement the Peninsula extension designated the District as lead
      agency for all real estate acquisitions. The Colma Station Extension
      was the first project implemented under the BART/District agreement.
      One of the 29 properties needed for that project was the former
      Millett Motel, a roughly 210,000- square-foot parcel that had been
      slated for residential development. After negotiations failed to
      result in the voluntary transfer of the needed land, the District
      filed eminent domain action to acquire the property.

      Among the differences that arose was the land owners' contention that
      the District's plans called for using only half the parcel—rendering
      about half the remaining land, about 102,000 square feet, less
      valuable for development. The owners contended that this amounted
      to a taking of their property and they claimed about $500,000
      in "severance" damages. They also held an elevated opinion of the
      value of the property.

      These differences gave rise to an innovative settlement strategy
      -- the negotiated acquisition of the remainder parcel that was
      unnecessary for the station project. This approach facilitated an
      agreement to a reduced unit price for all of the land and completely
      avoided severance damages. The Federal Transit Administration, in
      turn, approved the entire package with the understanding that the
      District would pay 100 percent of the cost of the remnant parcel
      and in turn would obtain sole ownership unencumbered by any federal
      interest. As a result of this arrangement, the District obtained
      2-1/2 acres of valuable property, with frontage on a major
      thoroughfare and immediate proximity to a transit station, with
      significant potential for future TOD.

      The District then solicited interested developers to submit proposals
      to develop the remnant parcel. A substantial feature of the
      advertised development opportunity was the fact that the District,
      along with the County of San Mateo (which exercises the land use
      authority over the property) and the City of Daly City (within whose
      sphere of influence the property was located) had funded the
      preparation of the Colma Station Area Specific Plan, a land use tool
      that authorized increased densities in the vicinity of the new BART
      station. This action meant that the La Terrazza project did not
      require a separate discretionary zoning approval and made the land
      more valuable.

      In addition to increased riders for BART trains and SamTrans buses,
      the District now receives regular rental payments from the project
      and, as a result of specific terms negotiated as part of the deal,
      also will participate in any profits resulting from sales or
      refinancings of the project.


      The proposed San Carlos Transit Village Project will be located on
      approximately eight acres of property adjacent to the San Carlos
      Caltrain commuter rail station. Of these eight acres, four acres are
      vacant land of optimal size and width for development, while
      approximately two acres are currently used for transit parking, and
      another two are too narrow to support potential development. The
      development itself will include approximately 280 residential units
      and approximately 35,000 square feet of commercial space.

      The focal point of development will be a pedestrian plaza directly in
      front of the San Carlos Caltrain Station building, which is listed on
      the National Register of Historic Places. This plaza will be a public
      gathering space and will be flanked by the majority of the commercial
      space, which may feature one or more destination restaurants that
      will use the plaza for outdoor dining. The frontage of the project
      will be a series of courtyards and widened sidewalk with streetscapes
      designed to provide a connection between the station and downtown
      San Carlos, creating a vital link between Downtown San Carlos and
      its Caltrain station, effectively bridging the gap across the wide
      roadway artery of El Camino Real, itself a critical transit corridor.

      The property on which the development will be constructed is
      comprised of the San Carlos Caltrain Station parking lots, plus six
      acres of property that were purchased from Union Pacific Railroad to
      support the construction of a grade separation project at Holly
      Street. In order to keep the railroad operating during the
      construction of the grade separation, the designers rerouted railroad
      traffic off the main line onto a "shoofly" located on the property
      now slated for development. The railroad operated on this shoofly for
      three years while the new railroad bridge was constructed over Holly
      Street. At the completion of construction, rail traffic was re-routed
      back to the new grade-separated mainline tracks, freeing the property
      for development.

      Typically when a transit agency requires property during construction
      for a defined, temporary period of time, the agency will rent the
      property from the property owner or will acquire temporary
      construction easements. In this case, while planning for the grade
      separation, the District also decided to take into account its long-
      range vision for the Caltrain corridor, which included an expanded
      right of way to accommodate the potential for additional tracks.
      Initially, the agency considered the minimal property requirements
      for the grade separation, including the potential expansion of the
      rail operation, and concluded this would require the purchase of an
      approximately one-acre strip along the back of the development site
      and a five-year temporary construction easement over the entire
      remaining property. After considering the overall costs of such an
      acquisition, including the potential for severance damages being
      asserted in the context of a partial land take, the District decided
      to recommend the purchase of the entire property. As a result, upon
      the completion of the grade separation project, a vacant site
      suitable for development and located on prime property proximate to
      both a rail station and El Camino Real, was in public ownership.

      Following a formal public solicitation process, the District selected
      Legacy Residential Partners, LLC to develop the project and entered
      into an agreement to exclusively negotiate a transaction with that
      firm. Anticipated benefits from the proposed project include a
      healthy economic return on investment for the District, as well as
      enhanced transit system ridership (both bus and rail). The project,
      along with planned improvements to El Camino that will be funded
      by both the project and by other grants, will serve to create a
      pedestrian linkage between downtown and the development. In addition
      to bringing the agency approximately $1 million per year in rental
      revenues, it is anticipated that with approximately 500 people living
      at the door of a transit stations, ridership on Caltrain and SamTrans
      will increase significantly. The District also will participate
      financially in the gross profits of the project and in events such
      as sales and refinance. It is anticipated that 15 to 20 percent of
      the project will provide affordable housing.


      The District is excited about its transit- oriented development
      program and is hopeful that the success of the program to date will
      inspire similar projects at other locations within its service area.
      In addition, the District hopes these examples will encourage other
      public agencies to seek innovative opportunities to use acquired land
      that previously may have been regarded as surplus, suitable only for
      disposal. As always, the District will continue to look for new and
      creative ways to maximize its resources and to increase the level of
      service to its community.

      [BATN: See also:

      Plans unveiled for TOD on Samtrans land at San Carlos Caltrain

      SamTrans TOD at San Carlos Caltrain includes 280 units

      San Carlos touts mixed-use TOD on SamTrans land at Caltrain

      Mountain View may replace auto shops near Caltrain with TODs

      TOD condos at Colma BART to displace mobile home park

      SamTrans unveils 350-condo TOD at San Carlos Caltrain station

      San Carlos NIMBYs worried by SamTrans' TOD plans

      TOD developer favors condos over rentals at San Carlos Caltrain

      SMCo. aims to build 130-unit low-income TOD at Colma BART

      San Carlos man aims to replace his house near Caltrain with TOD

      SamTrans approves negotiations for San Carlos TOD project

      Samtrans weighing San Carlos Caltrain TOD proposals

      SamTrans proposes TOD right at San Carlos Caltrain (5 Jul 04)

      Colma OKs 63-unit TOD near BART (16 Aug 01)

      Samtrans planning a $28M TOD at Colma BART (17 Feb 01)
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/678 ]
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