The Redwood City Planning Commission unanimously approved a proposal to construct 250 apartment units at 801 Brewster, just a few blocks from the heart of Downtown. The project was granted an exemption from current building height restrictions in order to account for 50 affordable on-site units. The Developer, Anton Development, found that if they increased building heights to 4 and 6 stories instead of the 3 and 5 currently allowed, they would be able to take advantage of state and federal tax credits and tax-exemptions to offer 20% (50 total units) of the total project at below market rent. In all, the project calls for the construction of a 379,502 square foot, 4-6 story building, offering a mix of studio, 1 bedroom, & 2 bedroom apartments. The architectural design will incorporate Craftsman elements common among buildings in the neighboring Mezesville Historic District.
The proposal was met with enthusiasm from the Planning Commission for the creative approach that Anton Development took to increase the project’s total offering of affordable units. The hope is that their use of opportunities provided by state and federal government to incentivize below market rate housing could lay the groundwork for future developers to do the same. These tax credits and exemptions are in place so that developers can offer a greater public benefit without taking a significant hit to their bottom line. If this proves to be a lucrative project for Anton Development, even with 20% affordable units, perhaps other developers will follow suit.
Redwood City has authorized the construction of a considerable amount of housing since passing the Downtown Precise Plan in 2011, but the vast majority has been market rate housing – a mark that has grown out of reach for many longtime residents. As a consequence, City Council has been facing increasing pressure to pause development and retool the Downtown Precise Plan to address the need for affordable housing. With this in mind, developers looking to invest in Redwood City might find it worthwhile to use these state and federal tax breaks to finance a greater portion of affordable housing. It could save them time and effort in the approval process – as evidenced by the quick and unanimous approval of 801 Brewster.