Tonight: Redwood City considering Downtown Plan update for major rail and development opportunities

On Monday November 4, Redwood City City Council will consider whether to go ahead with an update to the city’s Downtown Plan, given major rail changes in the works; many development requests including a proposal to rebuild the shopping mall area at Sequoia Station, and the fact that the city is at/near the development caps it had set. The Council will also considering special focus on a Transit Sub-District for the Sequoia Station and adjacent Caltrain properties and rail infrastructure.

As people following Caltrain news may know, the Caltrain Business Plan has identified upgrading Redwood City Sequoia Station into a 4-track section that allows express trains to pass locals as the single most important infrastructure project in terms of increasing Caltrain frequency and capacity on the entire line from San Francisco through San Jose, enabling an increase of 25,000 to 50,000 riders.  The major rail upgrades also include grade separation at Whipple and the other at-grade crossings near the station, and the potential for a Dumbarton connection. 

And, as those following Redwood City news may also know, a developer is proposing to redevelop the Sequoia Station shopping area, plus some land owned by Caltrain/SamTrans, into a development with up to 1.4 million square feet of office, and about 400 homes, while keeping and rebuilding the Safeway and CVS, keeping the same amount of retail space as today.

The rail infrastructure needs to be planned carefully along with land use changes (see this blog post for details), so the Transit Sub-District planning is very important. 

One consideration regarding the potential for a broader downtown area plan is the office-rich nature of the Sequoia Station proposed development, which could have more than 15 times as many jobs as homes.  San Mateo County has been adding many more jobs than homes, which is contributing to skyrocketing housing prices and displacement of lower-income community members.

In order to have a better balance, to avoid bad consequences reducing housing affordability and displacing longtime community members, Redwood City would need to insist on much more housing from a development on the Safeway parking lot, or much more housing elsewhere in the Downtown Area with an updated plan, or some combination of both. In that case it makes sense for the city to look at the broader scope for a downtown plan.

If you are in or near Redwood City, and care about Caltrain capacity, development near the train, and/or housing affordability, come to Redwood City City Hall for the meeting starting at 7pm, or send a note to Council at