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Redwood City looks at hillside building rules
August 25, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

As the desire for hillside homes in Redwood City grows, city leaders are seeking ways to balance development with preservation of the area’s character and aesthetics.

The city is in the beginning steps of drawing up new design guidelines or zoning regulations by inviting the public next week to a community workshop about construction in the hilly areas.

“We’ve had a couple of contentious issues on the hillside which highlight that we don’t have a common understanding of what should be there,” Senior Planner Diana O’Dell said.

One was the Laurel Way Joint Venture Project which ultimately led to a lawsuit lodged against the city by opponents who said the city violated state environmental requirements and its own zoning ordinances and general plan by approving a 16-house development on steeply sloped lots that may be prone to landslides. The proposal for the undeveloped, 4.75 acre site, first submitted in 2007, was approved in January and the suit filed the following month.

Save Laurel Way, the entity fighting the Laurel Way Joint Venture Project, claimed in the suit the city violated its own law by issuing a so-called master planned development permit because it is not defined or allowed by the zoning code.

That planning battle and several others led the council and planning commission to want the conversation about clear rules and standards to start, O’Dell said.

Currently, the area in question is zoned, primarily for residential hillside and single-family homes. There are also rules like setbacks. However, O’Dell said there are no specific architectural guidelines or standards for floor area ratio. Instead, projects are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

O’Dell said the city wants the community to know it hasn’t predecided any aspect prior to hearing from the public. She encourages those coming to the workshops to share examples of construction or home additions they think need change or are good. At the workshop, staff plans to show photos of development and ask attendees what they think as a way to assess their opinions.

The focus initially is all residential and commercial properties with an average slope of 10 percent or greater but may be expanded as the study gathers community input. Following the upcoming Sept. 3 workshop, planning staff will deliver a report to a Planning Commission public hearing Oct. 7 where more discussion by the members and public will guide some more specific ideas. That narrower approach will be shared at another Nov. 5 community workshop. A draft proposal of potential guidelines or zoning changes could be up for consideration by next year, O’Dell said.

Any future regulations governing hillside construction only applies to areas within the city boundaries, not the unincorporated county portions.

The community workshop is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3 at the Community Activities Building, Room 2, 1400 Roosevelt Ave., Redwood City. More information and the chance to comment is also available at

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102



Tags: community, hillside, workshop, zoning, development, planning,

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Redwood City looks at hillside building rules

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