Rendering courtesy of Redwood City
An artist’s rendering of plans to redevelop the Broadway Plaza shopping center at the corner of Woodside Road and Broadway in Redwood City.
As The Sobrato Organization continues on a long road toward a green light for the mixed-use project it is proposing for Redwood City’s Broadway Plaza and a nearby parcel, planning commissioners are urging a closer look at the development’s traffic impact, mix of housing units and continued community outreach.
Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting marked the first step the developer is taking to scope the environmental impact of the project, expected to make hundreds of residential units and commercial space available on the city’s southern edge, since the City Council’s March approval of a consideration of General Plan and zoning amendments that would allow the project to continue.
Previously submitted in June, the developer amended its project application for the shopping center bordered by Broadway, Bay Road and Woodside Road in February to include an option to build off-site affordable units on one of the two 2-acre parcels bordered by Bay Road and between Woodside Road and Charter Street. Planned for the Broadway Plaza project is a mix of 400 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, all of which would be market rate. Along with the 120 affordable units planned for the Bay Road parcels, the two projects would bring more than 500 new housing units and accompanying parking to the area, where a variety of industrial, chain and small businesses are currently clustered around the congested Woodside Road and Highway 101 interchange. The Broadway Plaza project is also expected to bring 420,000 square feet of office space and close to 4,000 square feet of retail space to the aging shopping center where Foods Co, Office Max and Big Lots stores previously operated.
Among the chief concerns planning commissioners shared was the impact the project would have on major intersections, freeways and interchanges near the project sites.
Commissioner Rick Hunter noted the project’s proximity to the Woodside Road and Highway 101 interchange, one of the city’s ongoing infrastructure projects, and asked the developer and city staff to expand the traffic study they proposed, which included an analysis of the 10 major intersections on or near Bay Road and Broadway as well as nearby interchanges and stretches of freeway.
“This is probably the worst traffic area in the city,” he said.
Hunter recommended the developer attempt to project traffic patterns before and after the Woodside Road and Highway 101 interchange improvements are made, as well as include Spring and Charter streets in their assessment to include projected traffic from the Rocketship charter elementary school proposed for a site less than a mile away.
City staff confirmed the interchange project timeline has not been finalized, making its inclusion in the study challenging. Steve Witte, member of the Redwood Village Business Association, expressed concern on behalf of nearby business about the effect increased density might have on their ability to do business. Witte said he and other business owners felt traffic studies completed for projects previously proposed for the area had not been based on accurate data and downplayed their impact.
“I would just ask that at least the traffic study is done in a very updated manner,” he said.
Witte said he also worried about the effects of future development on the Bay Road parcel — for which plans have not been confirmed — could have on congestion. Peter Tsai, a representative of The Sobrato Organization, reported the parcel would be held vacant throughout construction so crews could use it as a staging area.
Commission Chair Nancy Radcliffe also expressed interest in understanding the economic impact of updating the Bay Road parcels’ current zoning, which allows light industrial uses but does not allow for housing projects. The Sobrato Organization is requesting a mixed-use designation for the space, which is currently surrounded by companies selling or repairing home appliances, landscape companies and incubator spaces, among others.
“That’s a zone that is vastly disappearing in other cities, and I’m feeling a little protective right now,” she said.
Commissioners also focused on how the sites’ design could accommodate the diversity of the families expected to populate the residential units included in the project plans. Hunter noted the positive light with which city officials have previously viewed housing projects placing affordable and market-rate units in close proximity to each other, and asked the developer to look into the impact that has had on the community.
“I’d love to see some research on the effects on the community of having mixed-income housing all at one place … versus having separate market-rate units or luxury units on one block and all affordable units on the other block,” he said.
Jean-Marie Houston, director of early learning support services at the San Mateo County Office of Education, encouraged the developer to consider dedicating space to a child care facility that nearby families and employees could use. Houston said demand for child care resources in the area has been outstripping the supply, creating a headache for families living in recently completed developments lacking these resources.
“Once that opportunity is gone, it’s very hard to go back and do it when it should have been there to start with,” she said.
Commissioner Shawn White also asked the developer to consider how pedestrian crossings across Woodside Road, which separates the two sites, could be improved to facilitate family access to nearby schools and parks.
For commissioners Ernie Schmidt and Connie Guerrero, the key to the project’s fit within the community is strong communication with surrounding neighborhoods and business owners. Though the developer and city staff had already planned to expand outreach to include coffee sessions twice a month, mailings to properties within a 1,000 foot radius of the sites and communication with the neighborhood associations for the Stambaugh-Heller, Redwood Village and Friendly Acres neighborhoods, the commissioners asked the developer to consider attending neighborhood meetings and thinking creatively about spreading the word about project developments.
“I’m hoping that with that outreach, you’re able to take in a lot of the information and create that thoughtful development that you’re talking about,” said Schmidt. “This is a project that is going to be on the gateway of Redwood City and should reflect as such.”
Project plans will go before the city’s Complete Streets Advisory Committee and Architectural Advisory Committee for feedback, and will next appear before the Planning Commission in conjunction with a draft environmental assessment. City Council approval for the final environmental impact assessment is required before the requested plan amendments can be considered final.
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