Whether neighbors’ concerns about 20 below-market-rate downtown condominiums proposed for 612 Jefferson Ave. in Redwood City’s downtown will halt Habitat for Humanity’s plans to increase the city’s affordable housing stock is up for review at Monday’s City Council meeting.
The council will review an appeal lodged by attorney Geoff Carr, whose law offices at 605 Middlefield Road share the same block, and other neighbors, citing concerns that its height and design are not compatible with nearby historic buildings and the lack of open space will have overspill effects on the city’s downtown.
“We are opposing it for the obvious reason that it is a six-story eyesore in the middle of a group of historical houses,” Carr said. “Frankly, it’s too much stuff to pack into that tiny lot.”
Approved at a March 21 Planning Commission meeting, the development is expected to create five one-bedroom, 10 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom condominiums for low-income residents on a vacant lot just over 5,000 square feet between Bradford and Marshall streets on Jefferson Avenue. The condominiums would be available to those making between $63,000 and $85,000 for a family of four, or 80 percent of the county’s median income, confirmed the nonprofit’s representatives at the March meeting.
Though several residents spoke in favor of creating much-needed affordable units near public transportation and downtown amenities, others, including Carr, expressed reservations about the lack of open space and parking planned for the condominiums, as well as the height of the building.
Voicing strong support for the nonprofit’s commitment to the city’s need for affordable housing, the commission voted unanimously to approve the nonprofit’s development, allowing it to provide 15 parking spots for the 20 units planned for the site and to provide less than the recommended amount of common open space only accessible to the ground-floor units.
Maureen Sedonaen, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco, the chapter driving this project, said Carr’s appeal stands as an unnecessary roadblock to a project already slowed by numerous constraints. After three years of planning, the nonprofit’s proposal has gone through several iterations to ensure the units meet the city’s development standards and are constructed at the lowest cost possible to keep them affordable. Sedonaen said the projected cost of the development is expected to reach $12 million, up $2 million from a previous estimate, due to the area’s rising cost of construction.
“Any delay just continues to have that number escalate,” she said.
Sedonaen is hoping the nonprofit can break ground on the development in nine to 12 months should an approval be obtained Monday.
Having previously opposed downtown development projects for their height and impact on historical resources, Carr said he plans to pursue further legal action should the council deny his appeal on Monday. Because the building where his law offices are and at least two other nearby buildings are historic resources that reach an average three stories in height, Carr said, three stories would be a much better fit for the project.
“We are not settling for anything approaching six stories,” he said. “If they don’t come down substantially, we will go to court.”
As Redwood City’s only 100 percent affordable homeownership development, Sedonaen said the project’s condominiums couldn’t become available sooner to meet the demand for affordable homes in Redwood City. She said the nonprofit has already received interest in the development, and has been successful with building some 52 homes in the city in previous years.
“The residents are clamoring for this project,” she said. “I think the people who really lose here [if the appeal is upheld] are our homeowners and the residents of Redwood City.”
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102