A mixed-use development previously presented to the Redwood City Council during its Gatekeeper process has been given the green light to greatly expand the project’s footprint and to reconfigure the site out of the way of future Transit Center development plans.
“Through trying to solve problems we have created a better project through much thought and collaboration with staff and the Joint Powers Board,” said John Fong, a partner with investment firm Keson Ventures representing the developer Brick Architecture and Interiors. “This is a win-win for everyone.”
Changes have been made to the proposal at 901 El Camino Real, allowing the project to move forward through the planning process and expanding its size. While the new building loses a floor, the proposed office space has increased by 68% from more than 156,000 square feet to 259,000.
Fong said the additional office space is necessary to cover the cost of developing 100 below-market-rate units on a separate site at 920 Shasta St., currently owned by Caltrain. The developer initially proposed building 60 units at 2529 Broadway within the city’s Transit District which is currently being studied.
The initial site was also in greater conflict with future Caltrain system upgrades, prompting the developer and the Joint Powers Board to negotiate a land swap between the two parcels. Doing so would allow improved access to the new Transit Center and Sequoia Station, Fong said.
By moving the site, Fong said it could allow the agency to deliver the housing units sooner by avoiding potential issues with the transit upgrades.
Additional community benefits have also increased in size. A 5,000-square-foot multilevel teen center will increase by 60% into a single-story 8,000-square-foot space and the project’s 4,000-square-foot Chrysanthemum Plaza is now proposed to be a 15,242 square foot community space under the same name.
Despite the proposed city benefits and affordable housing, resident Kris Johnson called into question how the additional office space would affect the city’s jobs-housing imbalance. Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica shared similar concerns and ultimately voted against permitted changes to the plan.
Another speaker asserted that moving the residential units to Shasta Street would continue a pattern of segregation in the city and instead implored the council to push for the affordable housing to remain closer to downtown.
Councilmember Diana Reddy, a longtime housing advocate, encouraged those who were against the project “not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Councilmember Alicia Aguirre noted the city has limited land left to develop and said the housing would be a more vibrant use in the area than the storage units that currently sit on the land.
“We don’t have a lot of areas that can be developed and to find areas where we can add affordable housing is really hunting and really looking,” Aguirre said. “We’re looking for areas that are feasible and there aren’t many.”
Speaking to transit equity, Vice Mayor Giselle Hale called the site “very walkable” after conducting her own research.
Principal Planner Lindy Chan said a study has also shown that the future residents would have adequate access to bus routes. The future Greystar development would also bring additional amenities.
Additionally, the units would be subject to a new city ordinance adopted during the meeting which requires current and former residents and those who work in the city to receive preference when seeking an affordable unit as long as other application criteria are met.
The measure is part of the city’s goal to reduce displacement and to encourage former and legacy residents to return. Allowing employees to live in the city where they work could also help the city reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing vehicle miles traveled, staff said.
“I believe it’s very cutting edge,” Councilmember Jeff Gee said about the new ordinance. “This is very bold and would put the city on the front line of providing this live-work preference.”
In other business, the council also weighed in on a micromobility initiative that would permit rideshare companies to stage bikes and scooters within city limits. Staff proposes updating the city’s current regulations which only cover bikes, to accommodate the broader state law and to implement a fee program that would cover permitting costs.
While widely supportive of welcoming micromobility services to the city, councilmembers shared concerns for safety and equity of access and pressed for greater parameters for judging program success.
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