A land swap between Redwood City and San Mateo County will formally move forward after more than a year of negotiations, making way for the county’s vision of a new navigation center for homeless, transportation improvements and waterfront recreational opportunities.
“This is a historic moment for the county and something that’s been in the works for many, many years and we now have the possibility of seeing this come to fruition,” County Manager Mike Callagy said during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
With unanimous support from both city and county governing bodies, a 2.5-acre parcel at 1469 Maple St. will now be in county possession while the city will take ownership of 1580 Maple St., a 2-acre parcel just behind the Redwood City Police Department.
The trade moves forward county plans to build a state-of-the-art navigation center with 240 rooms, a commercial kitchen and training center and a community space using prefabricated modular units. The temporary housing will also offer residents additional wraparound services to connect them with more permanent housing and other resources.
Callagy said the project is shovel-ready, having already prepared a request for proposals and met with some manufacturers of the modular units. Officials are eyeing financial support through the state’s Project Homekey program as well as philanthropic dollars from the Sobrato Foundation to fund the effort. If unable to tap into state funding, Callagy shared during the Redwood City Council meeting confidence supervisors would find the means to see the center built.
Construction could begin as early as March and would extend through October with doors opening in late 2022, Callagy said.
“This would be very, very quick and aggressive but that is what we are shooting for,” Callagy said.
City priorities, including plans to extend Blomquist Street from Maple Street over Redwood Creek, also benefit from the trade. Without the deal, the county would have moved forward with plans to build its center at 1580 Maple St., blocking the city’s path across the creek.
The extension has been identified as a key traffic improvement that would grant an additional emergency exit for those who live and work east of Highway 101, as called out in the city’s draft Inner Harbor Specific Plan which was never formally adopted
Phase 1 of the extension would run from Maple Street, past the police station and ending at Redwood Creek. It’s expected to be funded and built by 1548 Maple LLC, the developer behind a 131-townhome project at 1548 Maple St.. Assistant City Manager Alex Khojikian said construction on the initial phase could begin within 10 months but the bridge portion of the vision would be a long-term goal requiring additional partnerships.
The deal between the city and county also leaves an additional 10 acres of land with waterfront access for the city to develop as open recreational space, a major ask of community members. Khojikian said staff is preparing to conduct community outreach beginning in the spring which will influence the final open space vision plan.
Mayor Diane Howard, Vice Mayor Giselle Hale and Councilmember Diana Reddy sat on the City-Owned Property Ad Hoc Committee which helped negotiate the deal. Howard, who sided against the original proposal, called the process a “bumpy road” but noted the final product will benefit the city while getting the county closer to achieving its goal of functional zero homelessness, meaning being unsheltered will be rare, brief and never chronic.
Supervisors Don Horsley and Warren Slocum represented the county and also praised the agreement which Horsley called a “brilliant solution to a long-term problem.”
“I think it’s just a remarkable achievement between the county and the city that I think I’m really proud of and I hope we all are really proud of it as well,” Horsley said, who has worked on the issue for years in partnership with Supervisor Carole Groom.
County officials have searched for land to build a new navigation center for a decade but have struggled to find a lot with ample space that was also met with community support. The original deal between the city and county proposed last year also failed to gain enough council and community support.
Unlike last year’s meeting on the matter, though, a majority of comments shared during the Redwood City Council meeting Monday were in strong support of the land swap. Both Jon Carlson, the director of the Bair Island Aquatic Center, and Pat Mapelli, land manager of the raw material processing plant Granite Rock, spoke in favor of the new deal after stating they felt their concerns were addressed.
Carlson was interested in maintaining waterfront access for the many groups who rely on the Bayfront while Mapelli was concerned the plant would receive noise complaints if the center was placed too close by.
Still, some concerns remain. Gita Dev with the Sierra Club Loma Prieta chapter said the plan is “quite improved” now that residents will be further away from the plant but fears Blomquist Street would see heavy traffic. She said city staff has told her the traffic impacts could be managed with calming measures.
The most frequently raised concern though was around community participation which was also an issue at the start of negotiations last year. Dissatisfied in the closed session meetings held to finalize the deal, public speakers demanded that the city better engage the public when developing project plans for the remaining land.
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