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City faces conflict: charm vs. growth
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Source: San Jose Mercury News

Published Saturday, July 8, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News

City faces conflict: charm vs. growth

For 75 years, residents of San Carlos have dealt with the constant challenge of preserving its small-town charm while accommodating rapid growth.

During those years, the otherwise close-knit community has become divided over bitter battles between preservationists and developers.

``There's always a tension between wanting to keep something the same and wanting to maximize the value of your property and also respond to the ongoing need for housing,'' said local historian Linda Garvey.

Garvey is the author of the recently published ``San Carlos Stories: An Oral History for the City of Good Living.'' ``If there is one lesson to learn from the past, it's that we live in a place where people want to do what's best for the community, even if what they think should be done is different,'' Garvey said.

Over the years, the city has chosen to limit sprawl to the west, raise its train tracks to ease traffic flow and restrict the kind of growth that does take place.

The skyrocketing cost of housing on the Peninsula has served to further complicate the challenges presented by growth, Garvey said. ``Even up into the '60s, people just starting out in life could get a foothold here,'' Garvey said. ``People like that can no longer find a place.''

Like many communities in the Bay Area, San Carlos is finding it harder to attract and keep teachers, firefighters and those who work in the service industry.

The town's shortage of affordable housing is reaching into the high-tech industry as well. It may cost San Carlos its young, dot-com mayor, David Buckmaster.

``There is no way we will ever be able to afford to buy a house in San Carlos,'' Buckmaster said. The company for which he works will be moving to Sacramento in September, forcing him and his wife to decide whether to follow the company and give up life in San Carlos.

``I was born and raised here. It's an incredible place,'' said Buckmaster, 28. ``But now we've seen places where you don't have to spend all of your time earning money just to afford housing. You can spend more time with your family enjoying life.''

-- Camille Mojica Rey

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