Development Question-Tall Buildings
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Development Question-Tall Buildings
This is the second part of answering questions regarding our development/redevelopment projects. I hope to answer another one of them here.

The question is: Why are we considering such tall buildings in our development/redevelopment projects?

When development of the 15-acre site is complete, Foster City will be fully built out; that is, we will have no more land to develop.

If you look at history and the population migration from a farming society to an industrial one, people have gravitated to larger population centers. The subsequent need to house the ever increasing population created demand for housing. Those demands were met in two ways, horizontally in the form of housing developments and vertically in the form of redevelopment and taller buildings.

As the metropolitan population centers of San Francisco and San Jose grew, housing was built in the surrounding suburbs. Roadways were built and improved to accommodate transportation between the cities and these bedroom communities. Foster City itself is the product of horizontal expansion by creating usable land from the undeveloped area known as Brewer Island.

Up until the 1950s, the only motor vehicle transportation corridor between San Francisco and San Jose was El Camino Real. US Highway 101 was developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s and Interstate Highway 280 was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The majority of the trip between San Francisco and San Jose seemed to be traveling by the many orchards that lined the roadway with few pockets of housing developments along the way.

Since the 1950’s, housing developments and shopping centers have sprung up along El Camino Real replacing the orchards. US Highway 101 was built and housing developments have been created along that corridor. Interstate Highway 280, State Highway 85, and several Expressways have been developed to ease transportation bottlenecks in the growing communities.

Land is a finite commodity and future utilization will need to be more efficiently designed. Parcels of land once measured in acres have become parcels measured in square feet and that trend will continue with higher densities and shared common spaces.

One answer to the ever increasing traffic congestion is to reduce the distance between home and the workplace which means using elevators instead of automobiles (vertical vs. horizontal).

As neighborhoods become tired looking, modernization and more efficient use of the land must be kept under a watchful eye in order to maintain property values.
The current proposal for the Mirabella project is for buildings up to approximately 152 feet and the current proposal for the Chess Office Building Complex is between 150 and 195 feet. By contract, the two tallest Visa buildings range in height between 165 to 175 feet. While the Metro Center building itself stands 272 feet.

So, the current planning and building methodologies are to go up, not out, in addressing the critical housing shortage. These taller buildings are often part of mixed-use developments (e.g., housing, retail, stores, public plazas, etc.) that can greatly reduce the reliance on automobiles.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at

Council Corner

November 26, 2008
Development Question-Tall Buildings

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200