Redwood City planning commissioners, admitting they wouldn’t want a 750,000-gallon water tank across the street from their own homes, sent the plan back to the drawing board rather than recommend the City Council go ahead with approving it for Emerald Hills.
The Planning Commission Tuesday night declined to approve the project’s environmental documents and asked city staff to come back with alternatives to the proposed above-ground tank, pump station and pipelines. The commission — and the numerous residents who spoke in opposition — agreed the mitigated negative declaration might be legally complete but that it doesn’t adequately address what neighbor Jay Parnes called the “human impact.”
“The report masks the true impact on the neighborhood and residents,” Parnes said.
The commission agreed the report needed to dig deeper into aesthetics and suggested that now that the city has the money to replace the previous tanks removed in 1999 it take the time to do it right.
“I’m very concerned there could be an opportunity for making this project even better than the mechanical or very functional needs of the city and area which is water safety and all those good things,” said Planning Commissioner Randy Tabing.
City staff will now look at possibilities like building the tank into the hill or even fully underground. No specific date was set for the next review.
As proposed, the tank would sit at the intersection of California Way and Tom Suden Way. The design included a berm to give the impression the tank sits a little below grade, green paint to blend into the hillside and a reduction in size from 28 to 23 feet.
The proposed project would also replace the existing pump station and pipework and provide a new water transmission line along Jefferson Avenue to bring water from a lower water reservoir at Lakeview Way.
City staff said the new facility will improve water storage for firefighting and emergencies and house an emergency generator, both needs that speakers Tuesday acknowledged.
“The residents are not in conflict with the city in terms of the general plan of enhancing fire response capacity. We disagree with the current plan to build at grade level in an established neighborhood,” said Elizabeth Albanese who lives near the site.
Opponents delivered a petition with 185 signatures to the city prior to the Planning Commission public hearing.
Along with aesthetics, opponents cited concerns about property values, vandalism, ongoing maintenance and the loss of open space. They pointed to water tanks in other cities like Palo Alto and Menlo Park that had been built underground as examples of what Redwood City should consider.
Yesterday, resident Gabi Holzwarth said she and other residents are thrilled with the commission’s decision and are hoping to work with the city on the alternatives.
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