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Significant rezoning necessary for the city to reach its eight-year housing goals

Planning commissioners voiced environmental and zoning concerns for the 2023-2031 Housing Element

Environmental and zoning concerns were major topics of discussion during Tuesday night's regular Planning Commission meeting, which focused on Redwood City's recently published Housing Element draft. 

As a blueprint for meeting the city's housing needs over the next eight years, the Housing Element includes the goals, policies and implementation strategies, as well as recommended housing sites and zoning amendments.

According to Principal Planner Diana O'Dell, Redwood City's housing targets, also known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), were set by the Association of Bay Area Governments and based on jobs, transportation, and the presence of high opportunity areas. These goals include 4,588 new units at various affordable levels, from low to above moderate income. 

With a goal of surpassing the official requirement, Redwood City's draft Housing Element outlines a plan to create 6,882 units, or 150% more, at all income levels over the next eight years.

During Tuesday night's public hearing on the forthcoming Environmental Impact Report (EIR), several commissioners advised paying particular attention to sea-level rise in the review process. Commissioner Isabella Chu also talked about making streets safer for non-vehicular traffic to address "America's outsized carbon footprint."

An environmental review evaluating the environmental impacts of the city's General Plan, of which the Housing Element is a significant part, will be conducted in compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements, according to O'Dell. A Notice of Preparation for the EIR was published on March 4, marking the beginning of the environmental review. Public comments will be accepted until April 4 at 5 p.m. 

The commission also held a study session on rezoning strategies. Amendments to city zoning are necessary for the Housing Element to demonstrate that the city has sufficient zoned capacity to meet the housing needs, O'Dell said.

O'Dell discussed several key strategies, including rezoning commercial and other parcels for mixed-use, rezoning four industrial parcels for mobile homes and increasing density in existing mixed-use corridors. 

One member of the public, Kalisha Webster, asked the city to include specific policies for ADA-compliant and Extremely Low Income (ELI) housing.

"The lack of extremely low-income housing units in the city not only excludes most people with developmental disabilities, many of whom depend on fixed incomes from disability benefits of around $1,000 per month but according to draft Housing Element, excludes 22% of all renter households in RWC," Webster said. 

No official action was taken during either the public hearing or study session.

The draft Housing Element was published in February and is currently undergoing a 30-day comment period, through Friday, March 25. The public is also invited to attend the upcoming city council meeting on Monday, March 21 during which the council will conduct a thorough review of the draft. The city also published an interactive map that allows people to explore the various housing sites and strategies described in the draft. 

The Housing Element is the most significant part of the city's General Plan, which also includes Safety and Environmental Justice elements, and will be officially adopted in January 2023.


Leah Worthington

About the Author: Leah Worthington

Leah is the lead reporter for the Redwood City Pulse. A Bay Area native, she has written about everything from biotechnology to true crime. When she's not writing, you can find her running or baking. Habla español!
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