Proposed building height, density worries downtown neighbors 

City officials are aiming to turn downtown into a bustling neighborhood and retail center by boosting apartments, retail and building heights, but nearby residents are afraid of what that urbanization will do to their neighborhood.

A new set of guidelines for downtown, called a precise plan, proposes building 3,600 new homes, 200 hotel rooms, 115,000 square feet of retail space and 600,000 square feet of office space. This summer, city planners will study exactly how those additions will change Redwood City’s core.

At a sparsely attended meeting last week, the Planning Commission hammeredout the details of that study. Major concerns include the transition between a new urbanized core and adjacent neighborhoods, as well as the shadows and wind that could be created by building more 10- or even 12-story buildings, according to Planning Director Tom Passanisi.

"We are very concerned with the height discussion," said Judy Buchan, president of the Centennial Neighborhood Association, which is located cheek by jowl with downtown. "I’m hearing from folks in general that if they wanted to live in San Francisco they’d go there."

In particular, those neighbors are keeping an eye on a proposed 10-story condominium project at 439 Fuller St., which was granted a separate precise plan in December of 2005. Putting a tall building on the edge of Redwood City’s downtown goes against the recommendations of the proposed downtown precise plan, which would keep the tallest buildings near the center of downtown while tapering heights downward toward its periphery.

"We have serious concerns that it’s going to wall us off from the rest of the world," Buchan said.

Redwood City is embarking on a thorough environmental review of the new downtown guidelines, according to Planning Commission Chairman John Seybert.

"If the public looked at the document, they would see we aren’t leaving anything out," Seybert said. "Of course height is going to be studied."

Other hot topics include the creation of open space or parkland downtown, and whether nearby schools will be affected by an influx of new residents.

A draft of the environmental review document, along with a draft of the precise plan itself, is expected to be ready at the end of the summer, according to Passanisi.

Redwood City seeking food vendors

Redwood City is courting food concessions — and other vendors — to become a permanent part of the new public plaza in front of the 1910 Courthouse building.

Although the plaza won’t be ready to open until October, the city will begin accepting bids on four concession spaces June 9. Although food and coffee sellers top officials’ wish lists, they will consider unique vendors of all kinds, according to city planner Jeannie Young.

"We’re very open to what type comes in," Young said. "We want something that would create foot traffic."

Currently the city only allows concessionaires at city parks, issuing permits for up to a year. Permits for the downtown spots would be more long term.

Interested vendors can find out more about the process by attending a workshop June 9 at 10 a.m. at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road. The deadline for applications is July 13.

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Beth Winegarner

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