Negotiations around a land swap between San Mateo County and Redwood City are expected to soon come to a close, potentially putting the county back on track with developing a state-of-the-art navigation center while the city appeases community open space interests. 

“We really see this as a pivotal turning point in how we address homelessness in the 21st century,” County Manager Mike Callagy said. “It’s a better all-around solution for everyone. It’s a win-win-win.” 

The parcels under consideration for the land swap are 1580 Maple St. where the women’s jail one stood and 1450 Maple St., city land just behind the Redwood City police station. The trade would allow for the county to build a new navigation center with wraparound services while moving forward a city objective to extend Blomquist Street from Maple Street over Redwood Creek. 

Developing a navigation center has been a county goal for more than a decade but limited land resources and community opposition has stalled efforts to build the transitional housing. Redwood City has also been eyed as a partner on this issue given that the city is home to the largest unsheltered population in the county. 

But last July, Redwood City was met with strong pushback when an initial land swap proposal first came before the council. The county was seeking to trade its same parcel for more than 3 acres of city land at 1402 Maple St. 

Many public speakers encouraged the trade which Vice Mayor Giselle Hale, Councilmember Diana Reddy and former Councilmember Shelly Masur also supported. But others objected to the idea, citing concerns for putting the shelter near a raw material processing plant, Granite Rock, and calling for the land to be used for public open space instead. 

Unable to come to an agreement, the council directed staff to return to negotiations with the county to develop a better deal. With 1450 Maple St. being considered for the trade instead, City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz shared confidence community concerns have been properly addressed while allowing official priorities on homelessness and transportation to move forward.

“Staff really is taking to heart the concerns we’ve heard expressed,” Stevenson Diaz said.

While the center would be placed closer to law enforcement and away from Granite Rock, roughly 10 acres, including waterfront land, would remain available for future public uses. Stevenson Diaz said a community engagement process for what to do with the land is expected to begin early next year. 

Stevenson Diaz said additional community outreach on the land swap wasn’t conducted because the staff believed they had a thorough understanding of what the community was seeking, leaving much of the negotiation to focus on technical issues between landowners. 

Details on the updated agreement proposal may be released as early as this week with a council discussion possible for Monday, Sept. 27, and a Board of Supervisors discussion the day after. 

Progress on the county’s end has continued despite the uncertainty though. During the board’s last meeting on Sept. 14, it approved a measure granting an additional nearly $2 million for design and preconstruction services related to a center located at the 1420 Maple St. site. 

If the measure is ultimately not approved, Stevenson Diaz said the city and county would be greatly set back on achieving its goals for the navigation center and transportation improvements. 

Callagy has previously said no deal would force the county to build a greater density on its property, blocking the Blomquist Street extension and potentially putting the navigation center in a flood bowl. Stevenson Diaz also noted the county’s decadelong search for land has been unsuccessful, leaving along the harbor as its best hope. 

“We don’t have a backup plan,” she said. “It would be very disappointing if that happened.” 

Discussions could be postponed if details are not finalized before agendas are required to be released at least 72 hours ahead of a scheduled meeting. Callagy said the county would be flexible to the city’s needs if additional time is requested by the council Monday night. 

“We’re just happy to hopefully get to the finish line which is really the start line,” Callagy said. 

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