Costco: Northgate Mall

Address:Northgate Mall, Corner of Northgate Dr &
Las Gallinas Ave
Project Numbers:CDR19-004/ PA19-008
Applicant:Costco Wholesale Corporation, Michael Okuma
(714) 978-5023
Project Planner:Raffi Boloyan
(415) 485-3095
Costco Proposed Entry

Project Description

Costco has applied for a Pre Application and Conceptual Design Review for their proposal to demolish the existing multi story Sears building Sears along with the two out buildings (former Sears catalog building and automotive center building) at the southern portion of Northgate Mall.  In it’s place, Costco is proposing to build a new 146,9858 sq ft Costco Warehouse Center, including a 141,773 sq ft warehouse, 5,185 sq ft attached tire center, along with a detached fueling station. The proposal also calls for 2-3 levels of rooftop parking on top of the proposed Costco warehouse.

Public Comments

To view all public comments received through October 14, 2019, please click here. As comments are received they will be periodically added to the Public Comments page.

Current Status

The purpose of the Pre Application is for an applicant to receive: 1) preliminary feedback from the City, including code requirements, 2) capacity review from utility providers, and 3) roadmap for any subsequent permits or processes required by the City to process the formal application.

In addition, the Conceptual Design Review is a process required by the City for major projects to have preliminary design level plans reviewed by the City’s Design Review Board (DRB) before they are developed too far.  The purpose is for the City through a public process to provide preliminary feedback on the proposed design direction. The City's Planning commission will review the preliminary application on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at 7:00. In addition the DRB meeting is Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM. Staff reports for both of these meetings will be available the Friday before each meeting at 

Once these preliminary review processes are completed, the applicant will need to submit their formal applications for the City.


Stay Informed

Sign Up for Public Notice Mailing

The City will provide mailed notice to property owners, residents, businesses and any Homeowners Associations within 500 feet of the Mall site, 15 days prior to the meeting. If you are outside this area and would like to be added to the mailing list, please submit your name, mailing address and email address with the subject line “Add to Costco Mailing List.

Register for Agenda Notifications

Sign up to receive agenda notifications for the Design Review Board and Planning Commission:

Frequently Asked Questions

On July 26, 2019, Costco filed a Pre Application and Conceptual Design Review application with the City of San Rafael. For major projects, the City requires the submittal of a Conceptual Design Review as a first step to allow the public and the City’s Design Review Board an opportunity to provide early comments on a preliminary plan/concept. The requirement for Conceptual Review was initiated in 2005 as a means to allow both the public and the City early input on a project, before plans are fully developed. It is meant to allow an applicant to hear both public and City comments on a project before fully developing required plans and materials. As a Conceptual Review, plans are preliminary in nature and are not as fully developed as would be required for formal submittal. In addition, technical studies (i.e. reports on traffic, air quality, etc) required for formal submittal are not submitted during conceptual review.

Conceptual Design Review involves a public meeting with the DRB. Conceptual Design Review is meant to provide an informal critique and evaluation of a project’s basic design approach.  It gives the DRB an opportunity to work together with the applicant to achieve a quality project.  The Board will identify relevant issues and significant concerns, and provide comments on the appropriateness of the conceptual design and its compliance with design review criteria and guidelines. No binding decisions are made as a result

Given the public interest in this project, the City has also suggested that the Planning Commission review the Conceptual Design Review application in order to weigh in on land use matters,  (ie. noise, traffic, parking, appropriateness and compatibility) before the project is further developed

The Planning Commission meeting on the Conceptual application is scheduled for October 15, 2019. The Commission’s focus is on land use matters (ie traffic, noise, parking, land use compatibility).

The Design Review Board meeting on the Conceptual application is scheduled for October 22, 2019. The DRB’s purview is solely on design matters, so comments should be related to design, such as site plan, architecture, bulk and mass, colors and material, landscaping, etc. ion.

Following the conceptual review by the Design Review Board and Planning Commission, the applicant will be provided with all the comments and decide whether to pursue the project and if so, how to revise the plans.

If the applicant decides to pursue the project, their next step would be to formally submit any required applications to the City for formal review. At this point, a Major Design Review Permit, Master Use Permit amendment and Sign Program amendment would be required. Submittal of formal applications would include more detailed, plans and all require technical studies.  In addition, the City will review the project for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and determine if the project is exempt from CEQA or prepare an Initial Study and Negative Declaration, mitigated Declaration or Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

The City’s Design Review Board and Planning Commission will then hold public hearings on the applications.

At the time of submittal of formal applications, the City requires a complete traffic study to be prepared by a licensed traffic engineer. The traffic study will be reviewed by the City’s traffic engineer, along with a 3rd party traffic engineer hired by the City.

The traffic study will evaluate the generation, distribution of all vehicular trips and analyze addition of the new trips on nearby roadway segments and intersections. The current standard used for evaluating significance of traffic impacts is Level of Service (LOS) standards, which is the seconds of delay at signalized intersections.  The City’s current General Plan identifies LOS standards for both AM (weekdays 7-9am) and PM peak hours (weekdays 4-6pm).  The traffic study will also look at traffic safety in relation to pedestrians and bicycles.

Although not yet required by State law, the traffic study will also evaluate the project in terms of Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT), a new methodology established by the State to be used as the metric for evaluating traffic in CEQA documents, starting in July 2020.

The traffic study will evaluate existing traffic conditions, along with previously approved, but not yet built projects, including the recently approved Northgate Walk and other approved, but not yet built projects in North San Rafael.

Costco and Merlone Geier (owner of Northgate Mall) have applied for a Conceptual Review/Pre Application to solicit preliminary feedback from the City and the public for a Costco at this location. This is not a city-sponsored project, therefore the City does not decide where to propose new projects.  The applicants have applied for this proposal on their property and the City will evaluate the proposal for consistency with the City’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance and evaluate whether the proposed project is consistent with the current City regulations required for this site.

The current zoning for the property does allow housing, in addition to commercial development. The Mall ownership has not proposed housing at this time.  The owner of the Mall, Merlone Geier has indicated that housing is still an option that they will consider in the future. At this time, the mall ownership is focused on stabilizing the commercial viability of the mall to ensure it’s long term economic viability and the Costco application is the first step.

The City does not have any criteria for over concentration of land uses, like gas stations. The current zoning for the mall property (General Commercial), allows gas stations in the zone, subject to a Conditional Use Permit. The appropriateness of a gas station and evaluation of any potential impacts will be considered through the public review process.

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