Earning the Redwood City Planning Commission approval of an 8.3-acre development proposal came with strong critiques from commissioners who noted it meets the bare minimum in some areas despite being lauded for offering multiple community benefits.
The development, being proposed by Greystar Real Estate Partners, would span land between El Camino Real and the streets of Maple, Cedar and Main with an additional property at Jefferson Avenue and El Camino Real. The proposal includes seven structures, six of which would be mixed-use retail, office and housing space and the seventh parcel would be an affordable housing development.
Incorporated into the proposal are 540 residential units, 147 of which below market rate. While many have praised this aspect of the proposal, Commissioner Rick Hunter noted 22 of the units will be replacing an existing affordable residential building. Removing those units, the plan would bring 125 new below market rate units to the city.
The developer would have been required to build 129 units, after calculating office space ratios, but were given allowances by city staff for increasing the sizes of the apartments to include three-bedroom homes.
“I know that a lot of the people … are really enthusiastic that 27% of the units are affordable, and that sounds fantastic. But after analyzing the numbers I believe there’s less here than meets the eye,” said Hunter, who noted the development still contributes to the jobs-housing imbalance but didn’t believe developers could “wring out” any additional units.
All of the housing will be located in three buildings, two large buildings with 28,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level and another fully residential unit about two miles away from the main center of construction, labeled parcel F. The parcel will have 39 studio apartments, half at 30% of area median income and the other at 50%. Of the units, 10 will be reserved for adults with developmental disabilities, to be operated by the nonprofit HIP Housing.
Additional space includes 530,000 square feet of office space and 8,400 square feet reserved for a child care facility. Commissioner Radcliff applauded the inclusion of the child care space which will be open to the public and able to serve up to 70 children.
Commissioner Bill Shoe noted the development is likely to bring in a child care need of a similar size and suggested the city may need to consider a child care linkage requirement for future development. Staff said the city is in the process of developing a zoning update to incentivize building child care facilities.
“People who spoke about the child care issue would note the deficit is not necessarily reduced or diminished over time and I think the city is going to significantly need to look at a linkage requirement in that regard or there will never be enough,” said Shoe.
Jonathan Fearn, the senior development director with Greystar, also noted conversations are being had with a potential operator of a 19,000-square-foot roller rink. Residents have lobbied developers to incorporate a rink into the plans following the closure of Redwood Roller Rink.
Developers also intend to preserve the “Skate” sign which belonged to the Redwood Roller Rink which will be demolished during construction. The rink, along with two additional sites, have been determined to have historical significance. Mitigation efforts include preserving the skate sign and a “Main Street Coin-Op Car Wash” sign.
A replica of Perry’s Fuel and Feed Shed, the final of three historic sites to be demolished, would be built to house the restaurant, Main and Elm. Radcliff, who voiced understanding but disappointment in the removal of the shed, requested the developers place a sign outside the new establishment with historical information about the building.
Staff noted that the shed would have to be substantially improved to house people in any capacity, making it financially infeasible to preserve the entire building for use. The current use of the shed as a storage place is also contrary to the area’s mixed-use zoning requirements.
Other improvements would be made to El Camino Real, including building out a street divider which would prevent vehicles from driving across the street from Beech Street to Lincoln Avenue. Staff and developers believe the divider will improve traffic flow in the area.
Developers also aim to make the area pedestrian and bicycle friendly by installing protected bike paths along nearby streets and expanding walkways up to 10 feet. The plan also proposes closing off Lathrop Street to vehicle traffic to create a “bicycle boulevard.”
Next, the proposal will be brought before the City Council, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 9, where a final decision to deny or approve the plan will be made.
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