A brand-new neighborhood could sprout up north of downtown, providing new housing within walking distance of the train as well as public access to all-but-forgotten Redwood Creek.
A proposal from developer John Baer to build 100 new condominiums on a former office property at 333 Main Street — an area where no housing currently exists — has inspired the City Council to think bigger. The council asked city planners in late July to study rezoning a handful of parcels between Veterans Boulevard and Redwood Creek, now home to a Carl’s Jr., a Straw Hat Pizza and a former medical office, in a way that would create a new mini-neighborhood near downtown, according to planner Jill Ekas.
Currently, some of those parcels are zoned for industrial parks and others for general commercial use, Ekas said.
The concept appears to resolve a handful of issues, such as how to create residential areas close to downtown where officials fear small parcel size may deter developers.
It also could reconnect citizens with Redwood Creek, which flows in from the Bay and past the Main Street properties, crosses underneath Veterans Boulevard and then disappears into underground tunnels through downtown, according to Mayor Barbara Pierce.
"This will encourage redevelopment and allow public access and use of the creek, which is a very good thing, and create more of a homogeneous neighborhood feel," Baer said.
One potential drawback is the fact that the area falls outside the region governed by the downtown precise plan now under development, which aims to turn the core of the city into a bustling retail center with plenty of residents living right where the action is. City leaders spent many weeks last fall coming up with a vision of downtown’s future that includes taller buildings and up to 3,600 new apartments and condominiums; more hearings on the precise plan are scheduled this fall.
"One of the minuses is: Should we be opening up a specific area that’s not currently zoned for downtown?" Pierce said.
Baer’s project remains on hold until planners determine whether it makes sense to rezone the surrounding parcels for housing as well.
However, completing that study should only take a few months, according to Ekas.
"It’s a good land use decision, and good land use decisions benefit us for the future," Baer said. "It means there will be compatible things that can support our project. It may add a couple of months to the project, but that’s OK."