Redwood City welcomes increased urban growth 

After several dry years, developers are coming out of the woodwork to create new housing downtown and across the city.

Redwood City issued permits for just 458 new housing units between 1999 and 2006 — a period in which the city was urged by the Association of Bay Area Governments to build 2,544 new units. Now, it has a potential for 1,220 new units in proposed projects by the Bay and throughout downtown.

With a brand-new downtown plan aimed at boosting urban-style housing under way and a housing market on the upswing, developers are favoring residential projects over retail or commercial, according to John Baer, the man behind condominium proposals on Main Street as well as Marshall Street.

"The for-sale housing market has been quite healthy, while the rental and commercial markets have been dismal," Baer said. "And cities are prepared to support housing because there’s been so little constructed in the last 10 years. We are 10,000 to 15,000 units behind the curve."

The City Council on Monday considered approving a plan that would allow a 43-unit condominium project at 885 Woodside Road to move forward, but referred it back to the Planning Commission for more consideration because neighbors argued it is too tall and too dense for the neighborhood, according to planner Maureen Riordan.

The council also kicked off the environmental review for the Preserve at Redwood Shores — a proposal to build 144 town homes and a school while restoring more than 90 acres of wetlands in the northeast corner of Redwood Shores.

Meanwhile, Kurt Anderson, the architect designing The Renaissance, a condominium site of up to 80 units at 439 Fuller St., has been waiting in the wings until Redwood City’s new downtown plan was adopted. He expects to deliver a full application for the project within the next two months, according to planner Charles Jany.

"It will probably be traditional style, with possibly balconies and a grand entrance," Jany said. "We will try to stay away from modern styles."

Although housing is on the upswing in Redwood City, it remains unclear how much of that housing will be offered at below-market-rate prices. At least 15 percent of housing built in the downtown redevelopment zone must be affordable, but that requirement may not be applied on each individual project, according to Jany.

These units may put Redwood City closer to meeting its housing needs outlined by ABAG, but a new set of housing quotas is expected by late 2007, according to ABAG spokeswoman KathleenCha.

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Beth Winegarner

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