Plans Are Nothing, Planning Is Everything

This is a letter to the editor I wrote which was published on May 17, 2022 in the San Mateo Daily Journal under the title “San Carlos Development Could Have Been Better Managed.” But a better title highlights how planning is a process and, as a process, should be re-done even when major planned-for changes actually occur. Because while they may have been anticipated they are still major, and warrant careful re-consideration.


The article about cut-through traffic in East San Carlos was very interesting (“Residents seek street closures in San Carlos” in the May 11 edition). It makes sense to address residents’ concerns given the unprecedented commercial growth occurring just south of them.

But I was surprised studying the issue was endorsed. Because the community was previously assured all that commercial development was anticipated in, and consistent with, the city’s General Plan. Surely traffic impacts were studied during the Plan’s development? If so, further study should be unnecessary.

Of course, re-visiting plans, even carefully crafted ones, when massive changes are about to occur makes sense. Even if those changes were anticipated. I guess doing a re-evaluation just didn’t occur to the council a few years ago when those new projects were on the horizon.

Wait…re-doing the Plan, or at least the east side part of it, was broached. Staff said it would be too expensive and too time-consuming to do and would risk annoying commercial developers. The council decided not to pursue it. Instead, they took an approach re-affirming all that commercial development.

Too bad. I wonder what other impacts are going to hit us that might’ve been better managed or avoided?

Mark Olbert

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