Impacts to traffic and air quality rose to the top of concerns expressed by residents and officials alike at a Tuesday night meeting for a proposal to build 480 apartments and an accompanying fitness center in Redwood City’s Bair Island neighborhood.

The air quality concern has to do with the proposed fitness center’s outdoor pool being located close to Highway 101 and residents are especially concerned about traffic impacts because there is only one road in and out of the fast-growing Bair Island community.   

“We are now adding 1,998 drivers to a single-lane road going in each direction, yes there will be traffic impacts,” Bair Island resident Kathy Miller said at the July 16 Planning Commission meeting. The number of drivers she cited is based on the sum of existing and proposed residential units in the neighborhood. “I need some assurances that we will not be affected by this because everyone knows we do not want to turn into another Woodside Road exit because that’s an absolute traffic fiasco.”

The meeting was specifically held to gather input on what should be studied in the environmental impact report for the proposed development, which is located at 557 E. Bayshore Road east of Highway 101 on what’s known as the Syufy site. Surrounded by car dealerships, the site is currently occupied by a vacant movie theater and surface parking lot that would be cleared if the proposed development moves forward. 

Of the 480 proposed housing units for rent, 85 would be deed restricted affordable units, 43 of which would be reserved for those with “moderate” level incomes, 21 units would be for “low” income applicants and another 21 units would be for those with “very low” incomes. 

A “very low” income for an individual is $51,350 and a “moderate” income is $99,450.

A zoning change will be necessary to build homes on the site. 

The proposed two-story fitness center, dubbed Villa Sport, totals nearly 100,000 square feet and includes two 30-foot-tall waterslides in addition to the pool. The residential building is five stories or 51 feet in height. 

Just about every commissioner’s eyebrows were raised at the prospect of an outdoor pool located in such close proximity to Highway 101.

“I’m an avid outdoor swimmer, but I wouldn’t want to swim at a pool that’s right next to the access road and within earshot and less than 100 feet from a freeway if I can avoid it,” said Commissioner Bill Shoe, adding that alternative sites for the pool should be explored. “I assume there will be some analysis about sensitive receptor uses for outdoor recreation within such a close proximity to the emissions generated from both the traffic and interchange.”

As for parking, the development proposal includes 1,122 stalls, most of which would be “hidden by the apartment units” with the remainder being surface parking to serve the fitness center, said Senior Planner Anna McGill. The project would also increase the existing four parking spaces dedicated for shoreline access to seven.

Other project features include public access on the shoreline, new landscaping, various seating areas for visitors and a Villa Sport child care component, McGill said, adding that the child care is for members while a summer camp there would be open to the public. There would also be a cafe open to the public in the proposed Villa Sport, enhanced bicycle and pedestrian amenities, public art and shoreline improvements connecting to a paseo, McGill said.

Commissioners acknowledged residents’ traffic concerns and also requested an analysis of traffic generated by Villa Sport as well as the increasingly popular Bayfront trails. Residents also noted that the many car dealerships on Bair Island exacerbate traffic as large vehicles transporting cars come and go throughout the day. 

For resident Jonathan Dunn, traffic impacts are also a safety issue.

“Please keep in mind for people like us in 1 Marina and the apartments after us: Bayshore Road is our only way out. So god forbid what if there’s some sort of natural disaster and we all need to evacuate?” he asked. “You add an apartment building with at least 1,000 people there and I’m sure everyone will want to leave probably around the same time. Can that be handled? Because that’s the only way out.”

A separate development proposal consisting of 60 townhomes adjacent to the project site has also recently been submitted to the city.

Impacts from future sea level rise will also be studied at the request of the commission and one resident noted that the height of levees surrounding Bair Island may be insufficient in future decades.

Comments regarding the scope of the EIR can be submitted through Aug. 5 to McGill at amcgill@redwoodcity.org

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

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