Redwood City: Developer submits new plans for Sequoia Station redevelopment
The redevelopment could include up to 631 units of housing, 1.23 millions square feet of office space
By ALDO TOLEDO | Bay Area News Group | PUBLISHED: June 14, 2021 at 6:07 a.m. | UPDATED: June 14, 2021 at 5:51 p.m.
REDWOOD CITY — After three years of planning and one rejection already, a developer is proposing a massive rebuild of Sequoia Station into a mixed-use project.
Los Angeles-based developer Lowe Enterprises — which has sought to develop the 12-acre property at 1001-1111 El Camino Real anchored by Safeway and CVS — smelled opportunity in 2018 when Caltrain unveiled a plan to add two tracks and replace its nearby Redwood City train station with a modern elevated facility as part of a wide expansion project to make the system more BART-like.
In 2019, Lowe Enterprises proposed to overhaul Sequoia Station and build 1.6 million square feet of office space, 175,000 square feet of retail space and 440 rental housing units there, including a 17-story building that would have been the city’s tallest.
The City Council rejected that plan in January 2020 after saying the buildings would be too tall and excessive office space would worsen the city’s jobs-housing imbalance.
But Lowe kept revising its plan and last week, after previously meeting with the City Council, it unveiled a new plan calling for a smaller, transit-oriented project that would feature six buildings with 631 multifamily residential units — 254 of them affordable — 1.23 million square feet of office space, new ground-floor locations for Safeway and CVS, a child care facility and almost two acres of public space weaving through new pedestrian-oriented streets into the city’s downtown grid.
Lowe partnered with San Jose-based Eden Housing to come up with a housing project in which 40% of the units would qualify as affordable. Eden Housing would administer the very-low- and low-income housing units in one building and Lowe would oversee 377 market-rate units in another building. The two also are partnering to provide 22 moderate-income homes.
For Lowe’s senior vice president, Alan Chamorro, the plan has come a long way. In an interview Thursday, he said the project has “tried to prioritize the community needs and feedback,” but noted there isn’t much more the company can do to keep the plan viable after all the significant downsizing from the original, rejected proposal.
“We’re trying to balance a lot of things on the site and there’s a lot of community development including affordable housing, open space, connectivity and completely rebuilding CVS and Safeway while putting all parking below grade,” Chamorro said. “I think we’ve maxed out on what we can wiggle with. There’s always areas to tweak and improve upon, but we’ve maxed out on the amount of housing while providing other benefits like child care.”
Chamorro said the development is first and foremost a transit project because part of the land where Safeway and CVS currently sit on would be ceded to Caltrain so it can expand tracks at its train station.
“That’s a significant public benefit that this project unlocks,” Chamorro said.
Despite the additional affordable housing, however, Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica said in an interview Thursday she remains skeptical of the housing affordability pitch. And although the office space proposed is 125,000 square feet less this time, the developer still has not balanced housing to jobs, she added.
Espinoza-Garnica said the development will directly lead to further displacement of marginalized communities.
“These are high earning, non-unionized jobs typically, and the people who have them are commuting to communities like this one that are becoming unaffordable for those who have lived here,” she said. “If it’s not trying to create as much housing as jobs and create a balance, then what it is creating is gentrification, causing the cost of living to go up and rents to go up.”
She also criticized the housing strategy the developer and Eden Housing have come up with, calling it a form of “segregation by income.”
Eden Housing said in a January meeting that putting low- and very-low-income people in the same building would allow easier access to services, but Espinoza-Garnica disagrees, saying any program that seeks to help low-income people should be universal and not used as “an excuse to separate people by income.”
“It’s just another form of publicly distancing yourself from people who are lower income,” Espinoza-Garnica said. “When we think about housing, we need to integrate communities. We have to integrate these lower-income communities into an area that’s commonly been wealthier and more privileged.”
Full Article By Aldo Toledo: https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/06/14/redwood-city-developer-submits-new-plans-for-sequoia-station-redevelopment/