Tag Archives: Development

The Bay Area’s Most Central Transit Hub Set for a Major Facelift

Screenshot 2017-05-03 16.46.47

The Millbrae Planning Commission was just given its first chance to formally review a massive mixed use development to be built adjacent to the city’s Caltrain/BART staions.  The “Serra Station” proposal calls for the construction of 440 housing units, 290,000 S/F of office space, and 13,200 S/F of retail – contained in two 10-story buildings and one 9-story building.  This project is one of two major developments proposed in a 116 acre site surrounding the Millbrae Station, part of a city-led effort to build a vibrant economic hub around one of the peninsula’s most central and connected transit centers.  The other project, “Gateway at Millbrae Station”, is proposing the construction of over 300 rental housing units, 47,000 S/F of retail, and 160,000 S/F of office space.

In February of last year, city officials approved an update to the Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan, which preemptively completed much of the environmental work necessary for the development of the 116 acres site.  Plans were submitted for both projects shortly after the update was approved by city council, but they had to go through a lengthy public review process before being put in front of the Planning Commission.

Sound familiar?  Redwood City similarly completed environmental work for land downtown when they passed their 2011 Downtown Precise Plan.  This was done in an attempt to jump start developer interest in the city’s downtown area – and it worked…. With fewer regulatory hoops to jump through for project approval, developers flocked to the city in droves.

Millbrae won’t see development on the same scale that Redwood City did.  Their focus, at least for now, is on transit oriented development built around the Millbrae station.  Plus, the environmental work was only done for two projects (albeit two very large projects), as opposed to the dozens of residential and commercial projects that had the way cleared for them by RWC’s Downtown Precise Plan.  Still, the Millbrae station certainly has the potential to become something special.  It is the largest intermodal terminal West of the Mississippi – connecting BART, Caltrain, SamTrans, and if all goes as planned, the California high speed rail.  It also happens to be the peninsula’s most central public transit hub, offering easy access to the East Bay, SFO, the Oakland Airport, San Francisco, and San Jose.  With the area around it developed, this station could become a desirable place for people to to eat, shop, work, and live, rather than just a pitstop that travelers hurriedly pass through on the way to their final destination.

Check out this marketing video for the Gateway at Millbrae Station.  The project’s developer, Republic Urban, put it together, and it offers a remarkably detailed representation of their vision for what the Millbrae station could become in several years time.

Stanford Submits Design Plans For Phase 1 of RWC Campus


Though it’s still a long ways from becoming reality, the future of the Stanford in Redwood City project is starting to come into focus. Nearly 10 years after purchasing the former Mid-Point Technology Park on Broadway, Stanford University has officially submitted design plans to the city for approval. They will go before the Architectural Advisory Committee this month, before heading to the Planning Commission for review in September. If approved, phase 1 of construction will break ground in Fall of this year, with completion tentatively slated for 2019.

According to Stanford’s project update, phase 1 of construction will include:

– four office buildings
– a town square and park (open to the public)
– outdoor dining areas and plazas
– a child care center
– a parking garage
– a glass atrium fitness center and its own sustainable central utility plant

The timeline for completion of the rest of the project is unclear, but when it’s all said and done, Stanford in Redwood City will feature:

– 35-acre campus
– 1.5 million square feet for offices, medical clinics, and R&D
– 13 total buildings
– 2,400 Stanford employees working on the Redwood City campus after the completion of phase 1 (making it the city’s 3rd largest employer)
– 2.4 acres of publicly accessible open space


Stanford in Redwood City, which will be located between Broadway and Bay, Douglas and Second, will incorporate the same look and feel of the main campus in both the architecture and the public spaces. In a video posted to the Stanford in Redwood City website, University Architect Dave Lenox says, they “want to evoke that same emotion that people feel coming down Palm Drive walking into the main quad, and just feeling that sense of awe.” Stanford has pledged $15.1 million towards public benefits as a part of the deal, and they also plan to run their Marguerite shuttle (which is free and open to the public) between the two campuses. Barron, Warrington, and Hurlingame Avenues will all be extended through the site.

Redwood City becoming host to a world-renowned institution such as Stanford feels like a symbolic final piece to the city’s transformation – from “Deadwood City”, to a bustling hub of business, research, and entertainment. But this project is quite a bit different from all the others. Unlike Crossing/900, or the apartments at 201 Marshall – which are in highly visible downtown locations – Stanford in Redwood City will be peripheral to the city’s downtown hub. Instead of being flanked by restaurants and shops, it will border two densely populated, lower-income communities – North Fair Oaks and Friendly Acres – both of which stand to see property values increase as a direct result of Stanford’s arrival, the money they invest into the community, and the real estate investors they attract. This, of course, is good news for homeowners, and not so good news for the many renters that populate the area (we’ll save that conversation for another day). We’ll be keeping an eye on these two communities as the project progresses.

Huge Proposed Apartment Complex in RWC Faces Pushback


In early March, Greystar Development submitted a proposal to Redwood City for the redevelopment of 1409 El Camino – a block that is currently home to a Vet Hospital, Hair Salon, and Body Shop.  The proposal calls for the construction of an eight-story 350-unit apartment complex, with 35 units reserved for lower-income families.  At a proposed 300,000 S/F, it would be almost as big as Redwood City’s largest building – the new Crossing/900 Development downtown, which totals roughly 330,000 S/F.

The project is still in the early planning stages, but it’s already receiving a great deal of pushback from residents who think it is too big and does not include enough below market rate units.  Some of those in opposition had planned to attend a May 31st Architecture Advisory Committee meeting in protest, but the meeting was cancelled due to a revision made to the proposal shortly before the scheduled date.

In the Facebook Group, Redwood City Residents Say: “What?” – a popular forum for the city’s residents to voice their concerns – come members commented that the addition of high density housing on an already busy stretch of El Camino (near the Jefferson intersection) would make traffic even worse.  One group member expressed that while he appreciates much of the downtown revitalization that has occurred as a result of the Precise Plan, perhaps the city is taking on too much too fast.  He added that he felt it was time for Redwood City to take a step back, complete the projects that have already been approved, and move forward in a more thoughtful manner.

It’s not difficult to see where these concerns about too much development too fast are coming from.  Redwood City’s development map shows 4 other major residential developments within a couple blocks of 1409 El Camino that are either under construction, approved, or completed but not yet fully occupied.  These projects total 708 residential units, with a projected 1,300+ resident capacity.  This most recently proposed development would bring the total number of brand new residential units in this few square block area to over 1,000.

Current Proposed, Approved, and Recently Completed Residential Developments Near the busy Jefferson/El Camino intersection:

Screenshot 2016-06-06 16.41.03

3 – 299 Franklin Street – Status: Built

  • Includes 305 residential units on 6 stories

11 – 103 Wilson Street – Status: Under Construction

  • Includes 175 residential units on 7 stories

12 – 1305 El Camino – Status: Approved

  • Includes 137 units on 8 stories

13 –  299 Franklin Street – Status: Approved

  • Includes 91 residential units on 8 stories

16 – 1409 El Camino – Status: Proposed

  • Includes 350 residential units on 8 stories

NOTE: Including the projects mentioned above, the city has already approved or completed the construction of 2,150+ residential units of the 2,500 allowed under the Downtown Precise Plan (according to documents obtained from the city planner).  This 2,500 unit maximum allowable development cap applies only to the downtown area, so projects like the recently completed 141-unit Lane on the Boulevard (now called Oakwood Redwood City) would not count towards it.

To share your comments and concerns about this recently proposed development at 1409 El Camino, feel free to reach out to the city planner managing the project: Lindy Chan – lchan@redwoodcity.org.  You can also reach out to city council at council@redwoodcity.org.

Breakdown of Redwood City’s State of the City Address

On March 7th, Redwood City Council presented the 2016 State of the City Address, themed “Looking Forward”.  In an attempt to increase community inclusion/involvement, Mayor John Seybert made the event open to the public and hosted it at the Council Chambers of City Hall.  The meeting put forth the city’s priorities for the year, which were categorized under: Community for All Ages, Government Operations, Public Safety, Community Building and Communication, Economic Development, and Transportation.

You can view a video of the event in its entirety here:

In case you don’t feel like sitting through the whole 48 minute video, here’s a quick breakdown of the priorities listed under each category:

Community for All Ages:

-expand the Jardin de Ninos Park on Middlefield
-upgrade/restore features at Linden Park, Dolphin Park, Marlin Park and Shorebird Tennis Courts
-finalize plans for a community garden at the corner of Maple and Lathrop (across from the Franklin Street Apartments)
-launch the Roselli Garden place space planning project
-expand the WiderCircle wellness program (aimed at strengthening connections between the older adults in the community)
-finalize plans with the YMCA to upgrade the Veterans Memorial Senior Center at Red Morton
-expand early childhood learning centers to every library
-transform the under-utilized park next to the main library into a play area
-increase the Fair Oaks library by 20%, as well as add a dedicated teen area

Government Operations:

-Complete the Red Morton Community Center Solar Project: projected to save the city $327,000 over 10 years
-expand the library’s new portable electronic device program by circulating iPads for home check out at the Fair Oaks library
-launch the 50/50 program:a cost-sharing program that will aim to repair the city’s sidewalks

Public Safety:

-expand the police department community outreach programs (see Coffee with Cops)
-deploy a new downtown services police unit
-establish bicycle patrol for special events
-develop emergency shelter training workshops
-implement the Fire Safety First Sprinkler Retrofit Program

Community Building & Communication

-expand the public arts program (see current projects)
-complete a study to identify and assess potential future child-care facility sites to serve both businesses and residents
-foster greater community input through recruiting more City Boards, Commission, and Committee members
-expand ways the public can participate in major policy issues both in person and online

Economic Development & Transportation:

-complete a city-owned land analysis to explore affordable housing & other opportunities
-start a study on small business preservation
-ordinance to preserve and encourage retail on Main Street
-upgrade parking options
-begin the environmental review for the 101/84 interchange improvement project – work towards improving the flow of traffic
-start construction on the Middlefield Utility Undergrounding project
-complete a streetcar study to establish a streetcar line on the Broadway corridor/add more improvements at the Redwood City Transit Center

San Mateo City Council Unanimously Approves Hillsdale Redevelopment

Screenshot 2016-03-09 16.17.57

Artist rendering of the proposed Hillsdale Redevelopment at the corner of 31st and El Camino

After 3 years of planning and re-planning, the Hillsdale Mall redevelopment is finally clear to begin construction. On Monday night, San Mateo City Council unanimously approved Bohannon Development’s proposal for the 12-acre portion of the Shopping Center that currently houses the Sears Building and a parking lot just past 31st Avenue off El Camino.

The approved plan calls for the construction of a walkable central plaza surrounded by a bowling alley, luxury cinema, fitness center, restaurants, boutique shops and more.  The concept behind the redevelopment is to provide services that cannot be offered by the internet, as big box department stores like Sears are getting less and less traffic due to the convenience of online shopping.  The hope is that the bowling alley, movie theater, and restaurants will lead to some spill over traffic into the surrounding shops at the mall.

According to a report from the San Mateo Daily Journal, the mall’s foodcourt will be shutting down April 10th and Sears will cease operation shortly after.  The tentaive plan for the project is for the Theater to open late 2017 with the whole project finishing as early as Fall ’18.

Redwood City Commercial Vacancy Rates at Historic Lows

While the entire Peninsula has experienced an increase in demand for commercial real estate over the past few years, Redwood City is outpacing the region by a wide margin.  According to data provided by commercial real estate firm, Colliers International,  vacancy rates in Redwood City currently sit at just 1.63%, with the average rental rate at $6.42 per square foot.  Across the Peninsula, the vacancy rate is 7.34% and the average rental rate is $4.74 per square foot.

Mike Cobb, Executive Managing Director of Colliers, said that vacancy rates across the Peninsula are as low as he has ever seen them, including during the initial dot com boom.  With regards to Redwood City’s recent boom, Cobb said that city staff “has been very proactive in changing the climate of downtown.  They have done a lot of smart things”,  adding that the arrival of Box Inc has further helped increase the area’s appeal to expanding companies.  Their vacancy rate of 1.63% is now almost identical to that of Palo Alto (1.64%), a city known for being among the most desirable in the Bay Area’s commercial real estate market.

Despite persistently high demand and extremely low vacancy, rumors about venture capitalists tightening up their cash flow has some people worried that an economic pullback might be on the horizon.   VC money is crucial to the growth of the startup market, and a significant slowdown on that front could certainly result in some additional office space becoming available.  Still, Cobb is skeptical about any impending pullback being enough to significantly hamstring a Bay Area economy that has been historically healthy in recent years.  He sees no slowdown in 2016, and we too, remain optimistic.


Wave of Construction to Hit San Carlos in 2016

The SF Peninsula has seen a construction boom in recent years, in both commercial and residential. Developers have increasingly turned their focus north of the Silicon Valley, and up until this point Redwood City and San Mateo have been the most eager to welcome the trend. But now even San Carlos, a city known for its resistance to anything that might detract from its small-town charm, is beginning to welcome growth in its own way. The City of Good Livin’ is set to begin construction on several major developments this year: The Wheeler Plaza Redevelopment, the San Carlos Transit Village, and the Landmark Hotel.

Here’s a brief summary of the projects (per the city’s website):

The San Carlos Transit Village – Located by the San Carlos CalTrain station at the intersection of El Camino and Holly, this project will include 202 new multiple family rental units with parking, driveways, landscaping and utilities that will be constructed in six 3-story buildings. Two 2-story commercial buildings located just north and south of the existing Historic San Carlos Depot will add 25,800 S/F of commercial space. The project will also include a multi-modal transit center (new parking lot for the San Carlos CalTrain station) including a commuter parking lot and landscaping on 4.27 acres


The Landmark Hotel – This will be a 4-story, upscale, extended stay hotel located off of Industrial Rd, near Holly Street (site pictured above). The hotel will include 204 guest rooms, with associated surface parking and site landscaping. On-site hotel amenities include a lobby, outdoor patio areas with a pool and sport court, fitness and laundry center, limited food service, and a meeting room. All guest rooms will include individual kitchens.


The Wheeler Plaza Redevelopment – This project involves the redevelopment of the Wheeler Plaza public parking lot located at 657 Walnut Street (site pictured above). It will also call for the demolition of the buildings located at 616 Laurel Street, 1245 San Carlos Avenue, 1249 San Carlos Avenue and 657 Walnut Street. 109 new condominium housing units with 196 below-grade parking spaces and open-space amenities. The plan is construct a new two-level public parking structure with 252 public parking spaces resulting in an increase of 65 public parking spaces. There will also be 10,000 square feet of new commercial space along San Carlos Avenue.

In light of the wave of impending construction, City Council has decided to hire a consultant onto the Wheeler Plaza Project to help mitigate traffic and parking issues along Laurel Street. Kitchell Construction will be hired on a $150,000 contract to help develop parking maps, handouts, and communicate with the public on the progress of the project. Taking the step to hire a parking/traffic/public communication consultant onto the Wheeler Plaza Redevelopment (the only of the three projects located downtown) demonstrates the city’s desire to preserve the way of life downtown.

So what?

While these projects are significant by San Carlos’ standards, it is clear that City Council is making an effort to mitigate the character changing qualities that large developments can have on a city.  For example – with 202 residential units plus a commercial component, the Transit Village will certainly be a large development. But it’s height doesn’t exceed 3 stories, and it is located on the opposite side of El Camino from Laurel Street. By contrast, Redwood City’s Crossing/900 building stands 7-stories tall, is located right at the gateway to downtown, and it’s primary tenant, Box Inc, became downtown’s largest private employer as soon as it opened.

This isn’t to suggest that San Carlos’ philosophy towards development is in someway superior to that of Redwood City’s, just that there is a stark difference between the two, and the goals each is trying to accomplish. Redwood City’s Planning Commission wanted to shape downtown into a vibrant hub for business and entertainment, and the development they’ve invited has helped them work towards that goal. San Carlos’ philosophy towards development on the other hand, rests on the preservation of their culture and identity. They approve projects they feel will compliment what they already have, not alter it.

In the end, we’ll be left with two very distinct downtown’s, each vibrant in their own way, with something to offer that the other cannot.

Aging San Mateo Hotel to be Replaced by 42 Townhomes

San Mateo City Council decided on Tuesday night to tear down the aging Avalon Motel and redevelop the roughly 2-acre site into 42 townhomes.  The motel, located just east of Highway 101 on Bayshore Blvd, is known for being a hot spot for criminal activity, and was deemed by the Planning Commission as a “blight on the neighborhood”.

Eric Rodriguez, a member of the Planning Commission said at the meeting, “after almost tripping over a half-full bottle of malt liquor, I was just really disappointed as to how this was part of this neighborhood that deserves better.  I think San Mateo deserves better.  We talked a lot about how important housing is, I think this is a great spot for housing.  I think this is what we need in this area.”

The Avalon had actually been functioning as residences for lower income families in recent years.  Their nightly rate is $49.00, but they offer cheaper rates for longer stays.  City Ventures, the company who will be developing the site, has promised 3 months of rent to each of the families that are displaced as a result of the new project.

The new development will consist of all for-sale townhomes, each equipped with solar panels, energy efficient appliances, low-flow plumbing fixtures and electric vehicle charging stations.  Construction could begin as early as this summer and finish as early as the end of 2017.

Given the environmentally conscious development specs, and the 2 huge office developments being constructed in San Mateo (the old Bay Meadows site and the Kmart site at Highway 92 and Delaware), it is likely that City Ventures is looking to attract the millennial workforce.  Much of the new office space is bound to be leased by tech, whose relatively young workforce is known for being environmentally conscious.


Development Proposal Unveiled for Aging RWC Shopping Center

Back in June, Cupertino-based Sobrato Organization closed on the purchase of an 11.2-acre shopping center in Redwood City – between Broadway and Bay, off Woodside Road.  The  aging plaza is currently home to a CVS, Big Lots, Foods Co. and few other shops.

Screenshot 2015-11-11 15.39.01

Last Friday, Sobrato unveiled their proposal for the land.  The mixed-use development – which they have dubbed the Broadway Plaza – would call for the construction of 400 apartment units, 420,000 S/F of office, and 19,000 S/F of retail.  As a part of the deal negotiated between Sobrato and the previous ownership group (which included CVS), CVS will acquire a new store at the corner of Woodside and Bay.

The residential component would be closest to Chestnut Street, with the buildings rising up to 6 stories.  Ground floor apartments will feature stoops to give the project a “softer edge”.  This will also help it mesh with the residential neighborhood that will face the development from the other side of Chestnut.

The office component would consist of two large buildings – one at 200,000 S/F, and the other at 220,000 S/F.  In between the office buildings and the apartments, there would be a 40,000 S/F landscaped space open to the public.

The proposal includes 1,860 parking stalls, only 40 of which are above ground, and all of which are shared – meaning residents and guests can park in the office spots during nights and weekends, and workers can park in unassigned residential spots during the day.

Screenshot 2015-11-11 16.13.21

In a phone interview with the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Rob Hollister, the President of Real Estate for Sobrato, said the mixed use development approach is a way of addressing the concerns about traffic and lack of housing in Redwood City.  It reduces traffic because it give[s] people the chance to live where they work and shop where they live”.    And it addresses the shortage of housing simply by virtue of the fact that there will be 400 more housing units than there would have been were the shopping center left as-is.

This development could lead to resident opposition stemming from concern for a loss in affordable shopping.  Both Big Lots and Foods Co. are “bargain” grocery/department chains.  This project is still a ways out as some of the plaza’s current tenants are locked in for a couple of years.  Don’t expect to see this project move forward until ’17-’18.

What’s Next: Redwood City will review the proposal to verify that it complies with their General Plan, at which point they will initiate an environmental impact report.

What Happened to RWC’s Depot Circle Project?

When Redwood City adopted the Downtown Precise Plan in 2011, one of it’s major components was what was known at the time as the Depot Circle.  The city envisioned the Depot Circle as a massive multi-building, mixed-use development that would cover two parcels of city-owned land known as “Block 2” and “The Winslow Street Parking Lot”.  The defining feature of the development would be [not so surprisingly] the Depot Circle – which in the city’s words, would be “a public open space intended to create a welcoming and exciting entrance to Downtown from the train station”.  Below is a summary of available information on the progression of the project: 

August 2011 – A request for qualifications document is released by Redwood City to solicit interest from development teams to develop two city owned parcels of land: “Block 2” and “The Winslow Street Parking Lot” (both parcels can be seen in the graphic below).  Potential uses for the project are listed as office, residential, hotel, retail, restaurants, and entertainment.  

December 2011 – After receiving 5 responses to the request for qualifications document, the city invites two developers to submit detailed proposals for the project: Hunter/Storm and Lowe Enterprises.

May 2012 – The city chooses the Hunter/Storm proposal as the preferred scenario, and plans are made to move forward with a development agreement.  The Hunter/Storm proposal is a development ranging in height from 4-9 stories that includes 261,000 S/F of office space, 3,000 S/F of retail, a 120 room hotel, and 810 parking spaces.  Pictured below is the birds eye view of the Depot Circle Project provided in Hunter/Storm’s 2012 proposal:

Since the May of 2012, the city has not publicly released anything referring to the Depot Circle.  However, in late 2013 Hunter/Storm did break ground at the Block 2 parcel.  We know that development now as Crossing/900, and it is slated to open for business this October.  Crossing/900 includes over 300,000 S/F of office space, just over 5,000 S/F in retail, and 904 parking spaces that will be open to the public evenings, weekends and holidays.  According to Redwood City’s website, it also includes a public plaza, which one would assume will serve as the “welcoming and exciting entrance to Downtown from the train station” they referred to at the time of the Depot Circle idea’s inception in 2011.

For whatever reason, Hunter/Storm abandoned the hotel portion of their proposed development, which presumably would have been built on the Winslow Lot.  But interestingly enough, a proposal for a 200 room hotel at the Winslow Lot was submitted by none other than Lowe Enterprises – the developer that lost the bid on the Depot Circle Project.  The hotel was even included on the development map published in the May 2015 issue of Redwood City Climate Magazine.  But that project has since hit a potentially fatal roadblock…

August 2015 – Just last week, the city announced that they are putting the brakes on the hotel proposal in light of the sheer volume of construction that is already taking place in the downtown area.   Mayor Jeffrey Gee also expressed that they were finding it difficult to design a hotel with enough parking on the 46-space Winslow parking lot.  Instead, the city now wants public opinion on potential uses for the lot.  Starting early 2016, residents, business owners, and property owners will be invited to engage in a series of community workshops, City Council meetings,  and online surveys to hopefully figure out the best use for the lot.  The only thing that is out of the question at this point is additional office space – the cap of office space allowed under the Precise Plan has already been reached.

So even though the city hasn’t released any information on exactly what happened with the Depot Circle Project since Hunter/Storm submitted their proposal, it is clear that somewhere along the way plans changed.  Crossing/900 accounts for all (and then some) of the commercial, retail, and parking space that was called for in their original proposal, but the future of the Winslow Street Parking Lot now seems to be in limbo.  Eventually it is likely that something will be built there, but not for some time.  Meanwhile, the parcel of land directly in between Block 2 and the Winslow Lot, on the backside of the Fox Theater (labelled as “Future Lot” in the first graphic) has been approved as a mixed-use office/retail development.  I’ve talked more about this development in a recent blog.

Hotel or no hotel, Depot Circle or Crossing/900, it looks like one way or another the corridor of land walking you from the train station to Theater Way should turn out to be a pretty impressive Gateway to Downtown.  We’ll get our first glimpse of what this will look like when Crossing/900 opens late next month.

Powerhouse Gym Commercial Development Hits Roadblock

A proposal to construct a 6-story office complex at 2075 Broadway – the current site of Powerhouse Gym – has been stalled due to lack of parking.  The proposal, which was submitted last August, called for 175,000 square feet of office space and 147 underground parking stalls.  Developer Lane Partners had been working on a deal to secure off-site parking for the project, but the deal evidently fell through.

This buys the Powerhouse Gym and it’s patrons some time, as Lane Partners will now have to rework their plan in order to move forward with the project.

If Lane Partners submits a revised proposal, it will have to be reviewed by city managers to verify it’s compliance with the Downtown Precise Plan before it can be sent to the Planning Commission for approval.  The Precise Plan allows for 500,000 square feet of office space to be added to the downtown area, and well over that has already been proposed to the Planning Commission.  This latest setback for Lane Partners could prove to be disastrous, as it gives projects that were behind them in the planning pipeline an opportunity to claim the remaining commercial square footage.

At the end of last year, City Council had voted to tweak the existing Precise Plan to allow for more commercial space.  The reason for this was that while proposals for commercial developments were well exceeding the allowed square footage, the proposals for retail and residential development weren’t coming close to the amount allotted to them in the Plan.  The revised plan would add an extra 168,930 square feet to the office space amount, maintain the hotel units, drop residential units by 740 and take off 85,000 square feet from the retail space.  This revised plan was ultimately scrapped by city planners.

Palo Alto Close to Passing Annual Cap on Commercial Development

Amid widespread resident concerns about rapid office growth in Palo Alto, city officials voiced support on Monday for an annual cap on commercial development.  Though no such cap was actually passed at the meeting, the group seemed to be in consensus that it was the right thing to do.  Vice Mayor Greg Schmid motioned for the group to move forward with exploring an annual cap of 10,000-45,000 sqft, but the staff voted instead to table the discussion until their next meeting on March 2nd.

Though all city officials who had a chance to speak on Monday did so in support of the commercial limitations, there were plenty in attendance who stood in strong opposition to the cap.  Representatives from Stanford University were the most outspoken in their disapproval.  They said that while the cap attempts to address the issue of too much traffic and not enough parking, the people and businesses that it will ultimately effect are not necessarily significant contributors to said issue.  They fear that a cap would serve to bottleneck the productivity of institutions like The Stanford Research Park, which provides parking for its employees, and is a relatively “low density” facility.  The park is also home to R&D facilities of companies like Tesla and Varian, which Stanford asserts are hugely valuable to the economic stability of the city.


Birds-eye view of Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto

Still, city councilman Tom Dubois says, “It’s not just about traffic and parking. It’s about maintaining the aesthetics of the city.”  And it is unlikely that city officials will be easily dissuaded from passing some sort of cap.  All five of the recently elected council members campaigned at least to some extent on a platform of limiting commercial impact on the city.

What would this cap mean for Palo Alto and the surrounding areas?  Well, what’s Palo Alto’s loss could be the gain of cities further up the peninsula, who are already seeing growing commercial investment amid a shrinking supply of real estate at the heart of Silicon Valley.  What we do know is that Redwood City’s Pacific Shores Center is about to have a huge vacancy once Dreamworks Animation packs up their 193,000 square foot studio.  And Stanford, who has already proposed a 35-acre “Stanford in Redwood City” campus, may be pushed further into Redwood City and the surrounding areas should the cap be passed.

Also, assuming demand for commercial space in Palo Alto stays high, competition for what is available will likely drive rent prices even higher than they already are, which may force smaller businesses to look to places like Redwood City and San Mateo, where office space is more affordable.

Stay tuned for updates!


San Mateo Contributes Fair Share to Mid-Peninsula Development

With available real estate drying up in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, developers are increasingly looking to the mid-peninsula to house their projects.  Redwood City has received a lot of attention in the past couple years for their rapid development, and with huge tech companies like Google and Box set to move in, it seems likely that the city will continue to see considerable growth.

But while Redwood City has been making all the headlines as of late, the city of San Mateo has also been developing quite actively.  EBL&S Development is planning a 250-300 million dollar mixed-use project at 1700 S. Delaware Street that will include 599 apartments, 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of commercial space, 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of retail and 2.3 acres of parks.  The project was initially approved back in 2011 but due to financial constraints brought on by the recession, it was put on hold.

Additionally, developer Wilson Meany announced earlier this week that they will soon begin construction on a  4 story, 210,000 square foot office building at the old site of the Bay Meadows horse racing track.  Located near State Route 92 and Highway 101, it is expected that this office space will attract big name tenants.  The building is part of the second phase of a two phase plan to develop the 160 acre site.  The first phase included a Whole Foods Market, 19 live-work condos, 55 single-family homes, 98 townhomes, 575 apartments, a Kaiser Permanente medical center, Franklin Templeton headquarters and  a SMPD station.

Bay Meadows Demolition by pkingDesign, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  pkingDesign 
-Demolition of the old Bay Meadows horse racing track

The Google Empire Sets its Sights on Redwood City

In the latest of Google’s seemingly endless commercial real estate acquisitions, the tech giant has reportedly purchased 6 office buildings in Redwood City’s Pacific Shores Center, which is currently home to companies like Dreamworks and Openwave.  Google has put a deposit down on the the buildings and it is said that the deal could close later this month.

Pacific Shores III by (nz)dave, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  (nz)dave 

Assuming Google intends to fill these buildings themselves, this purchase will likely go hand-in-hand with increased efforts to get commuter fairies running from San Francisco and Alameda to the Port of Redwood City – an idea that Google has been flirting with for quite some time.  Up until now, one of the major setbacks to the commuter ferry plan was that even if Google employees were to use this alternate form of transportation, they would still have to be shuttled from Redwood City to their Mountain View headquarters.  However, the purchase of 6 commercial office buildings at the Pacific Shores Center – just a stones throw away from the Port of Redwood City – effectively nullifies this problem.

Google’s purchase comes just a few weeks after Box Inc.’s leasing of the Crossing/900 development in downtown Redwood City.  Tech companies are are putting Redwood City in their crosshairs, and it is highly likely that what we are seeing now is just the beginning.

P.S. – The Pacific Shores Center currently houses around 1.7 million square feet of office space.  Recent zoning however, could allow developers to bump that total up to around 3 million square feet.

For a list of all current and proposed developments in Redwood City, click here.