San Marcos issued long-awaited permits to move forward with Creek District project

City officials announced today that they have received the environmental permits necessary to move forward with the highly anticipated San Marcos Creek District, a comprehensive 214-acre “downtown” specific plan between San Marcos Boulevard and San Marcos Creek.

The district will include mixed-use development, a 73-acre habitat preserve, environmental enhancements and infrastructure improvements like roadway, bridges and flood control. Its valuation at build out is estimated at $1.25 to $1.5 billion.

The project has been in the works in various forms for more than 28 years.

“This is fantastic news for the community,” said City Manager Paul Malone. “It’s also a testament to the efforts of those from the city and various resource agencies who have been working for so long on this important project.”

Three permits were issued by various resource agencies: The United States Army Corps of Engineers (Clean Water Act Section 404 Individual Permit); California Department of Fish and Game (Fish and Game Code Section 1602 Streambed Alteration Agreement); and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification).

Starting mid-February, vegetation clearing will begin in order to prepare a portion of the site for upcoming Phase 1 public infrastructure improvements between Bent Avenue and Via Vera Cruz. Construction of those improvements should get under way by late summer or early fall and will include the first portion of habitat restoration/expansion, installation of a flood wall and linear park along Discovery Street, widening of Discovery Street, construction of Creekside Drive, and construction of the Creekside Promenade.

Funding for Phase 1 improvements has already been set aside and was not fully dependent on future redevelopment dollars, which was eliminated by the Governor as of February 1. A large portion will, however, be funded by redevelopment bond dollars earmarked for this project before the move was made to do away with redevelopment. Grant funding, drainage impact fees and TransNet dollars will also help pull the necessary funding together.

“We have been preparing financially for this day for quite some time, and we’re ready to move forward,” explained Malone.

Future phases of public infrastructure will include bridges to replace the frequently flooded Bent Avenue and Via Vera Cruz creek crossings, further expansion/restoration of wetland habitat, extension of the Creekside Promenade, and construction of a new bridge at SR-78 at San Marcos Creek. These improvements will occur over roughly a five-year period following the Phase 1 projects.

While the City will pay for about $50 million in backbone public infrastructure improvements, it will rely on private developers to build the mixed-use commercial and residential portions of the district.

The first private development will be The Residences and Shoppes at Creekside, which is slated to begin construction in late fall and open about a year later. This project will be located at Grand Avenue and Creekside Drive, south of San Marcos Boulevard, and will include approximately 100 affordable apartments, 26,500 square feet of commercial space, a community garden, meeting space and small public park.

The San Marcos Creek District plan was adopted in 2007 following extensive analysis of environmental conditions and input from city decision-makers, landowners, neighbors and the community-at-large. The plan provides a comprehensive vision for “Downtown San Marcos” along with goals, policies and development standards to guide future public and private actions relating to the area’s development and conservation of open space and natural resources.

Full build out of the San Marcos Creek District is expected to take about 15 to 20 years.

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