Earlier this week, Redwood City council voted 6-1 to approve a study that will look at how amending the General Plan to allow for residential in one of the city’s light industrial areas would impact nearby businesses and traffic. This comes on the heels of the Sobrato Organization announcing a partnership with MidPen Housing to build 120 affordable housing units on two parcels of land currently owned by Sobrato, located in the southeast corner of Woodside and Bay Roads.
These 120 affordable units are part of an amendment made last month to Sobrato’s massive Broadway Plaza redevelopment proposal, and would help fulfill that project’s city-imposed affordable housing requirement. Sobrato’s “Broadway Plaza” proposal calls for the redevelopment of the aging shopping center located at Broadway and Woodisde Road, currently home to CVS, Big Lots & Foods Co. It would replace the existing retail strip mall with 400 market rate residential units, 420,000 S/F of office space within three 5-story buildings, and about 19,000 S/F of retail space (which will include a new storefront for the existing CVS).
City Council was enthusiastic bout Sobrato’s partnership with MidPen Housing, a non-profit affordable housing developer with a great local reputation. Just a few weeks ago MidPen purchased a 55 unit apartment complex on Rolison in Redwood City for $17.1 million in order to maintain them at below market rate.
Still, even with the MidPen partnership, this project raises some concerns. After you take into account the 120 affordable units, Sobrato’s proposal would introduce 520 new residential units around the already highly congested Woodside Rd/Highway 101 junction – where there was no residential previously. Add a busy 420,000 S/F office complex into the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a permanent Woodside Road parking lot.
Janet Borgens, the one Redwood City council member who voted against the study, expressed concerns that going forward with Sobrato’s proposal would set a precedent for “spot-zoning”, which over time could replace our industrial spaces with residential. The southeast corridor of Bay Road, where Sobrato hopes to build the affordable housing, is a light industrial area, but it has also become something of a startup incubator. Borgens worries that introducing residential along that stretch of Bay could threaten the incubator environment, which brings something unique and difficult to replace to our economy.
Do you have concerns about this project? If so, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to voice them. City staff confirmed that between the citizen committee, Planning Commission and City Council meetings required for a general plan amendment, there would be seven to eight more public hearings where community feedback could be considered.