Redwood City is currently evaluating development opportunities at Sequoia Station in Downtown Redwood City. The Council recently designated this area the “Transit District”, as depicted below.
Planning for Sequoia Station will be done in parallel with updated plans for the broader downtown area, and plans for major station upgrades and rail grade separations that would enable much more frequent Caltrain service and better crosstown connections.
We’re excited about the overall opportunity for redevelopment at this site. The Station today consists mainly of surface-level parking and a strip mall.
The redeveloped area would mix residential and office space, with a proposed 100% affordable housing component, plus ground-floor retail that preserves the existing Safeway, CVS, and more. The upgraded station would allow the community expanded access to clean transit which reduces traffic and emissions.
However, the development as proposed would have office space for several thousand workers and only a few hundred homes. That mix would create pressure to increase prices on other housing in the downtown area, and increase the risk of displacement for lower-income people living near downtown.
The city should look to this development, and other places in the broader downtown, to provide homes to balance the jobs, and reduce the pressure on housing prices and the risk of displacing lower-income neighbors.
About the transit center, now and in the future:
Redwood City’s transit center is an essential hub for local and regional transit:
Currently, the station accommodates 5 Caltrain trains per direction per hour during rush periods, and is expected to accommodate 6 per hour when Caltrain starts electric service by 2023. Caltrain’s plans through the end of the decade have the station increasing capacity to up to 8 trains per direction per hour.
The high cost of living on the Peninsula currently results in many of the region’s workers commuting in from elsewhere via Caltrain or other future transit solutions like a Dumbarton rail bridge.
Redwood City’s rail station needs to alter its footprint in order to accommodate additional Caltrain service and a link to the proposed Dumbarton light rail train. As such, this development opportunity at Sequoia Station is perfectly timed. The area can be redeveloped just once and is then primed for future needs of the community, including existing and future residents, commuters and workers, and transit agencies.
Please join us at this and future council meetings, to support more homes in this development and the broader downtown area.
Especially if you can’t make it in person, please also engage with your local elected officials and Councilmembers to reinforce the importance of including additional housing as this area is redeveloped. You can email the council at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The City’s staff report also includes the following proposed next steps:
Spring 2020: Technical studies begin for railway operations and land needs on the Transit District
Summer 2020: Community outreach for the Transit District on goals, land uses, and connections. Sequoia Station project is revised to conform to the Transit District proposal.
Fall 2020: Technical studies are completed and environmental review begins, including the Sequoia Station project.
Winter 2020 and 2021 – Community engagement continues along with environmental studies and further refinements of the Sequoia Station project to address transit needs and community input.
I’m pleased to announce that I am joining YIMBY Action as full-time staff for Peninsula for Everyone! Find the story of how I came to the movement below. I hope you will join us and help us grow to build a better future for our region.
Quitting my job as a psychologist to become a housing advocate may strike some friends and family as odd, but I can think of no more vital and urgent thing to do at this place and time. In 2016, I moved back to the Bay Area, where I grew up, and was excited to apply my many years of addiction and PTSD-focused training to serving veterans escaping homelessness. I eventually started working in a community-based setting (“in the field”) providing mental health services at veteran’s homes, in shelters, or in public places. The work was often rewarding, always challenging, and eventually unbearable as the systemic problems in our housing system became too great a barrier to ignore. Despite having access to a Federally-subsidized housing voucher, a social worker, and a housing specialist, few of my patients could get housed anywhere close to needed VA jobs programs and treatment due to prohibitively expensive rents near VA campuses in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. I broke the sad news to hundreds of veterans that they were extremely unlikely to be able to find a home in a location that would keep them connected to their VA community.
I started hoping we might get a functioning oven or a doorknob in the bathroom, but we got a for-sale sign instead.
The City of Palo Alto gave me a lesson in the policies perpetuating our housing shortage. As an early-career psychologist, I rented a small 1-bedroom rundown bungalow near downtown Palo Alto. Suddenly, the owners started sprucing the place up with new landscaping and fresh paint job. I started hoping we might get a functioning oven or a doorknob in the bathroom, but we got a for-sale sign instead. The property, which included 2 apartments in addition to our bungalow, was sold for $3.5 million. A redevelopment sign appeared shortly thereafter, indicating a plan to demolish the 3 small homes to build one large stand-alone house. I called the city, sharing my concerns about our dire housing crisis, but city staff explained that the property was zoned single-family and that the third unit on the parcel was illegal to build in the first place. As I learned more about local policies and processes that thwart housing, it became clear that homelessness will only get worse until systemic reforms were enacted.
Palo Alto’s harmful policies roused me into action: I started making public comment and canvassed for a pro-housing City Council candidate, but the power of the entrenched opposition was overwhelming. My voice was easily dismissed at meetings, as long-time homeowners advocating for “sensible zoning” dominated discussion. The candidate I supported lost his bid for re-election after a nasty campaign including misleading attack ads. Wresting power away from those benefiting from the status quo would not be easy.
Fortunately, I began to go to public hearings in other cities and got connected to other housing advocates. We bonded over shared experiences like being yelled at in City Hall and swapped stories about awful NIMBY comments. In 2019, I helped to convene our first official general meeting, at which we named ourselves “Peninsula for Everyone.” Since forming, we’ve grown in membership and influence, advocating for higher heights, more density, less parking, and more neighbors. However, to overcome NIMBYs who have been organizing for decades, we will need to grow our membership rapidly and focus our energy where it will make a difference. In transitioning from part-time volunteer to full-time staff for Peninsula for Everyone, I plan to help move us to a place where our power is undeniable, our voices are heard, and policies are enacted to help move our region toward a more equitable and sustainable future.
What: Tonight, San Mateo’s City Council is meeting for a special study session to discuss two important items related to housing.
Where: City Hall Conference Room C at 330 W. 20th Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94403
When: Monday, February 3rd at 5:30pm
There are two topics at this study session that we’re interested in:
Affordable homes downtown
San Mateo has a great affordable housing project in the pipeline, proposed for two adjacent downtown parcels at 480 E. 4th Avenue and 400 E. 5th Avenue. The City chose MidPen Housing, a local affordable housing developer, for the site.
The City and MidPen Housing are exploring the implications of recently-passed AB 1763, which is a new state law that allows 100% affordable housing projects to benefit from greater height/density when they’re near transit. At tonight’s meeting, the city will discuss the consequences of increasing the number of units at this project site from 164 to 225. We’d love to see this affordable project grow in this way, given the lack of affordable units in the area.
MidPen Housing believes the impact of the additional units will be minimal since a majority of the proposed additional units will be studio apartments. They expect that a lot of demand for these units will come from seniors and other residents who are less likely to own cars — especially since the site is in Downtown San Mateo and close to several transit stops.
We’re so excited to see this project proposed, especially with the “density bonus” that’s up for discussion. Please join us in voicing your support for this fantastic development, including the additional homes.
Unfortunately, the second item up for discussion at the study session involves a potential loss of units:
The Poplar ramps, as they function today, do present safety concerns especially since they route traffic directly through a residential area that’s adjacent to the highway.
However, as indicated in the city’s Agenda Report, the city is considering whether it needs to acquire 28 parcels of land in order to move the ramps as described. Materials on the project website seem to show that homes would be removed:
Please join us in asking the city for additional detail on the parcel acquisition proposal, including the number of homes that would be affected. We’d also like to know what the city plans for affected residents (especially sensitive populations like renters), and we’d like to encourage solutions that don’t displace people.
We’re excited to see all the positive energy behind CA State Senator Scott Wiener’s housing bill, SB-50, as we begin 2020. For those not up to date on the latest with the bill, it’s designed to open up additional possibilities for housing near transit, and in communities that are rich in jobs but light on housing. Here are some of the most recent endorsements:
We’re glad that local governments are taking the time to formally voice their support for the bill. We know it’s popular with local constituents; residents in Redwood City, San Mateo, and San Carlos supported SB-50 by a 9-point margin in a survey recently conducted by local civic engagement advocate Voca (source).
In Milpitas, City Council voted 4-0 (Mayor Rich Tran abstained) to endorse the bill. As first reported by the Milpitas Beat:
“Milpitas is not a city that sits back and watches,” said Vice Mayor Bob Nunez, as he urged his fellow councilors to support SB50. “We help shape the future of this county. And to do that we have to remember to step up at the beginning.”
Albany’s City Council also participated in a presentation on SB-50 and the housing crisis, and voted 4-1 to endorse the bill in a forthcoming letter.
San Mateo City Council discussed their prior opposition to the bill, and voiced that they didn’t want to be “a poster child for NIMBYism” in the area. After a 3-2 vote, they agreed to withdraw their former opposition to the bill.
We encourage more local governments in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties to join their peers and formally support the bill in response to the wishes of their constituents. The housing crisis impacts quality of life for us all, and we’re glad local governments are supporting SB-50 as one of many tools in the toolkit to begin to fix it.
Don’t forget to voice your support for SB-50 by contacting your local representatives via California YIMBY’s easy tool! Every voice matters.
We’re excited about Redwood City’s focus in this area of town. Downtown Redwood City’s redevelopment in the 2010s brought many great jobs, revitalized shopping/entertainment options, and some new housing to the area, all in an area well-served by the Sequoia Station transit center.
The existing Sequoia Station development is one story with a large surface parking lot for the Station’s businesses. We’re glad the city is looking at smarter ways to make use of this space as a dense, walkable place with a mix of uses that serves the residents, commuters, and workers in the area.
We think this is a great location to create additional homes to help balance the recent job creation in town. The Station is easily walkable to transit connections, local jobs, and shops and services, which will make it very easy for future residents to go car-free.
At Monday’s meeting, City Council will discuss the proposed community visioning process for this area. Please join us in supporting:
A well-rounded outreach/community vision process that takes on board feedback from all members of the community: young and old, homeowners and renters, and those who work in the community but can’t afford to live there
Making the most of this mixed-use development by creating much-needed homes for local workers.
A balanced mix of homes and jobs in the broader downtown area, not just the Sequoia station site. Given the near-500,000 sqft of office space created in downtown since 2010, this is a perfect opportunity to balance it with additional housing for workers at all income levels.
We’re glad that as we look to the next decade, the transit center itself is a next area of focus — especially as Caltrain electrification is coming and will enable much more frequent service and higher ridership. Major changes to the station infrastructure – making it a passing area for express trains to pass locals, and separating the tracks from the downtown streets – could unlock major increases in transit ridership on the entire Caltrain corridor, connect to rail service across the Bay on the Dumbarton corridor, and improve safe downtown connections for people walking, bicycling, taking transit, and driving.
At the meeting, Council is expected to authorize city staff to develop a memorandum of understanding with the partner transit agencies to plan for the complex and important station infrastructure improvements.
Especially if you can’t make it on Monday in person, please engage with your local elected officials and Councilmembers to reinforce the importance of including additional housing as this area is redeveloped. You can email the council at: email@example.com
Additionally, in an upcoming meeting on February 24th, City Council is expected to start a General Plan update process. Stay posted for more opportunities to make your voice heard.
On Nov. 13, the South San Francisco City Council will be voting on a mixed-use development, including 800 new homes, on a former San Francisco Public Utilities Commission site. In October, the Planning Commission recommended the development for approval after hours of public comment with supporters and opponents – and now it’s on to the next step.
This is a great location for a higher density development – on a trail, close to BART, and on public land. In addition, the development will include open space, recreational opportunities, connections to the city’s civic campus development, childcare (which is also very much needed in South City!), retail and a market hall.
Everyone in the Bay Area can agree that there is a housing crisis. In San Mateo County, the jobs to housing imbalance is significant, with 12 jobs created for every 1 home built between 2010 and 2017. In South San Francisco, approved developments result in a ratio of 15 jobs per housing unit! This project would provide in 800 new housing units, including 160 affordable units, at a time when we so desperately need it.
There has been significant public opposition to this project, despite the many benefits this would bring to the local community and the region. We need your voice at the City Council meeting! Please join on 7 p.m. Nov. 13, at Municipal Services Building, Council Chambers, 33 Arroyo Drive, South San Francisco. If you can’t make it, please consider sending a letter to the City Council.