In reviewing a proposal to build a massive mixed-use development slated to provide 291 apartments and 550,000 square feet of office space on six blocks of El Camino Real in Redwood City, officials urged the developer to consider the ratio of jobs and housing units in the region as well as how families and the city’s diverse set of businesses could be accommodated in the plans.
Also slated to include an 8,500-square-foot child care facility and 19,000 square feet of retail space, the project is proposed for several parcels extending southeast from the intersection of Maple Street and El Camino Real as well as a parcel at the southwest corner of Jackson Avenue and El Camino Real. Also known as “South Main Mixed-Use,” the development is expected to designate 97 of the nearly 300 housing units to be provided on the site as affordable, principal planner Lindy Chan said at the council’s Sept. 9 study session.
Chan said the developer Greystar has submitted four versions of its application since January of 2018, held three community meetings and presented its plans before the city’s Planning Commission in July. She noted an environmental review is being conducted for the project, and a final environmental impact report could be ready for the Planning Commission and City Council’s review as early as the spring of 2020.
Vice Mayor Diane Howard joined several other councilmembers in commending Greystar for improving its community outreach and including amenities expected to fill community needs, such as child care and working with the affordable housing nonprofit HIP Housing to include affordable units on the site. Greystar is the developer behind three other major housing developments that have taken shape nearby, including a 175-unit project at 103 Wilson St., a 350-unit development at 1409 El Camino Real and 137-unit building at 1305 El Camino Real.
But Howard echoed concerns residents and other officials have voiced about the project’s potential to further exacerbate the imbalance between the jobs and housing created in the region. She acknowledged there have been several developments proposed near the site of Greystar’s latest proposal that have similarly proposed office space that could invite more workers than can be housed in the units they are providing. Howard estimated some 2,500 employees may work in the office space Greystar is proposing and could result in a demand of up to 1,500 units, a prospect Howard expected to worsen the city’s jobs/housing imbalance.
“I’d like to take a stand at this point and say I’ve enjoyed working with Greystar,” she said, according to a video of the meeting. “I’m hoping we can work together to change the jobs housing imbalance one project at a time. I’d love for them to be at the lead of this to make that happen.”
Though Chan acknowledged said the proposal has provided as much housing as is allowed under existing zoning, she noted an alternative with fewer offices and more housing than is currently proposed will be explored through the environmental review process. The proposal falls under three zoning designations and one of them — the mixed-use/live-work district — may be changed as soon as the end of the year to accommodate standalone housing, which is currently prohibited, said Chan.
As resident living on Redwood Avenue, Cheryl Easterbrook urged the developer and city officials to devote resources toward fixing the city’s current traffic issues and ensuring traffic generated by the project doesn’t affect nearby neighborhoods.
“Traffic conditions on Redwood Avenue between El Camino Real and Hudson have greatly deteriorated over the past year and many other neighborhoods are experiencing the same,” she said. “Vehicular traffic volume, already heavy, at least tripled [and] it continues unaddressed.”
For Councilwoman Giselle Hale, how affordable the child care provided on the site would be for families was a priority. She noted the cost of child care in Redwood City has increased 41% in the past four years, and the escalating cost has been a challenge for those who are struggling with the cost of housing. Out of concern for the scarcity of units with higher bedroom counts available for families in Redwood City, Hale also advocated for the developer to include as many three-bedroom units in the development as possible.
“I know that it counts against us from a raw numbers perspective but the value is creating a home for a family,” she said. “Families just don’t have anywhere else to go.”
In response to questions from Councilwoman Diana Reddy and residents about what will happen to the car dealerships on the site and the tax income they generate for the city, Jonathan Fearn, senior director of development at Greystar, said the current landowner is working with the dealerships to find another location for them in Redwood City, adding Greystar is supporting their efforts.
In other business, the City Council unanimously approved changes to its residential parking permit program. The changes allow the city to establish a permit fee to offset the cost of enforcing parking restrictions in the neighborhoods that have the programs in place, limit the number of permits issued for each address by resolution and create a new type of visitor permit valid for 14 days. The council also approved a new policy whereby the mayor and vice mayor are selected via a rotation rather than a majority vote by councilmembers as is the current process.
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