Seven vacant single-family homes and one accessory dwelling unit in Redwood City’s Mt. Carmel neighborhood will be demolished to make way for 17 market-rate townhomes, much to the chagrin of neighbors.

The Planning Commission approved the project 4-1 at a meeting Tuesday, June 19, with Commissioner Ernie Schmidt opposed because of developer Mozart Development Company’s meager community outreach. That was one of many concerns expressed during the meeting by neighbors, who were primarily worried about the project’s impact on traffic safety and congestion.

Located at 515 Cleveland St., across from McKinley Middle School and North Star Academy, the development consists of five three-story buildings 38-feet tall occupying about three quarters of an acre. The development will bring a net increase of nine units, and the 17 for-sale townhomes will range from three- to four-bedroom units, with each containing a small entry porch, upper-story balcony and private two-car garage, according to a staff report. The project will also include four guest parking spaces for a total of 39 spots.

The site’s nearly 37,000 square feet of building area will be complemented by over 10,000 square feet of open space areas and pedestrian pathways.

The developer will pay an affordable housing impact fee of $548,600, and the project will install school crossing improvements at the intersection of Harrison and Duane streets, including wider sidewalks, bulbouts and striping. Overhead utilities will be undergrounded, Cleveland Street will be repaved and 12 street trees will be planted along Cleveland and Harrison streets, though 11 existing trees will be removed before construction.

Commissioners celebrated the project for bringing ownership opportunities in the midst of a housing crisis, but joined neighbors in calling out the developer’s minimal outreach, which included a meeting with neighbors one month prior to the public hearing and communications with the neighboring schools three months before that.

“Generally speaking the community deserves better than the process that I saw here tonight,” Commissioner Giselle Hale said, according to a video of the meeting. “A good community process gets you a very different conversation and probably fewer conditions attached to your permits.”

Those conditions include paving a public alleyway as well as organizing at least two public outreach meetings, for which the radius of project notifications via mail will be expanded from the standard 300 feet up to 800 feet from the site. Several neighbors living beyond 300 feet of the site chastised the city for not informing them of the project plans.

As for traffic impacts, the commission agreed the miserable congestion and lack of parking in the area is primarily due to student drop-off and pickup at neighborhood schools, and that such conditions shouldn’t prevent residential construction on that site.

“At the risk of sounding unresponsive to your concerns, the same arguments would be said to prevent the existing homes from being reoccupied, and we know that’s not going to be the case and something else is going there,” said Vice Chair Kevin Bondonno.

Beyond traffic, neighbors also lamented the loss of units that they said were rented at affordable rates before those renters were kicked out about a year ago after the developer purchased the properties.

In other business, Chair Nancy Radcliffe and Commissioner Hale were reappointed to the Planning Commission and a new commissioner, Michael Smith, has been appointed. He was sworn in by the City Council at a meeting June 25 and will join the commission at its next meeting tentatively scheduled for July 17.

(650) 344-5200 ex. 102

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