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San Marcos Struggles With Changing Development Realities

A map of the San Marcos Creek District development showing the difference between the 2007 and 2017 proposals was on exhibit at a community workshop, Sept. 19, 2017.
Alison St John
A map of the San Marcos Creek District development showing the difference between the 2007 and 2017 proposals was on exhibit at a community workshop, Sept. 19, 2017.

San Marcos residents are grappling with major changes proposed for the future of their urban core: plans for the Creek District call for fewer shops and retail, and denser housing.

San Marcos’ Creek District was planned 10 years ago as a dynamic, mixed-use urban center. Then the Great Recession of the late 2000s hit and plans did not materialize.

At a public workshop Tuesday night, Creek District Oversight Committee Chair Steve Kildoo, said because people buy online now there is much less demand for shops and retail.

“We started at a million square feet of retail," Kildoo said. “And we’re looking at roughly 200,000 square feet is what we think we can support — and that’s a huge change. I don’t know that we were wrong in 2007, but it isn’t 2007 any more, so we know we can’t do that in today’s world.”

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The reduced retail space in the plan is what could be supported by the planned residential density. The new plan also radically reduces the amount of required office space from almost 600,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet.

Demand for housing is escalating all over the county. The original 2007 Creek District plan called for 2,300 residential units as part of the mixed-use development. The 2017 plan does not include a higher number, but maps of the project reveal larger ground floor areas that could be developed as housing, rather than commercial storefronts.

Kildoo said he hopes the new plan will create the same kind of dynamic urban environment that would attract people to spend time in the Creek District.

“We envision people coming here just to spend time,” he said, “coffee shops, restaurants, interesting retail, arts and crafts, lot of parks, walking along the creek that would make people want to spend time here, and we really thought this was exciting. We don’t want to lose all that.”

Part of the planned area cannot be developed until a major culvert is installed to divert water from an area that is prone to flooding. Kildoo said that culvert could cost as much as $30 million.

While few buildings in San Marcos are more than two stories, both the 2007 and 2017 plans set some building height limits to five and six stories.

The total number of residential units will not exceed the original plan, according to Dahvia Lynch, development services director for San Marcos. The overall footprint will likely be smaller, and building heights may be lower in some areas, allowing for the potential of more ground floor residential units which could then be turned into commercial later, she said.

Some residents who commented at the meeting were concerned about higher density affordable housing, traffic and crime.

Residents are invited to respond to an online survey about the plan.

San Marcos city council will adopt a new specific plan for the Creek District next year.

This graphic shows the results of some questions asked in poll taken at the San Marcos Creek District Community Workshop Sept. 19, 2017.
City of San Marcos
This graphic shows the results of some questions asked in poll taken at the San Marcos Creek District Community Workshop Sept. 19, 2017.

San Marcos Struggles With Changing Development Realities
San Marcos residents are grappling with major changes proposed for the future of their urban core: plans for the Creek District call for far fewer shops, less retail and denser housing.

Corrected:
Editor's note: This story was updated on Sept. 25 to include comments from Dahvia Lynch.