About a month ago, I received a request: that I “raise the community concern” about the Redwood LIFE project, a truly massive development that has been proposed for Redwood Shores. While I try to present development projects in an unbiased fashion that enables my readers to form their own opinions, I’ll admit that I am not always successful. I do have opinions, of course, and bias can always creep into my writing, but I do try.
Given that philosophy, I am not going to use my blog specifically to “raise concern” about a particular project such as this. What I will do, however, is present the latest version of the proposal (I wrote about this project some 18 months ago, when it was first proposed), so you, the reader, can be informed. As well, I’ll link to the Stop Redwood LIFE website (https://www.stopredwoodlife.net), where you can, if you wish, read about some of the concerns that are being raised and, optionally, sign that group’s petition. But given that the project is still in the “Planning Application Submittal” stage, and has not even reached the point where the application to the city is deemed complete, it will be some time before the project has reached the point where its various environmental impacts will be analyzed. Once we know what the true impacts of the project are likely to be, then I, at least, will feel more comfortable about making some sort of judgement on the project itself — which I likely won’t express in my blog, although I will certainly use it to highlight any unavoidable environmental impacts.
Redwood LIFE is the current name for a development that used to be known as Bayshore Technology Park (here, LIFE is an acronym for “Lab and Innovation Focused Environment”). Located on an 84-acre site between Bridge Parkway and Marine Parkway in Redwood Shores, today there are twenty similar-looking two-story buildings set among a great deal of surface parking and some landscaping. Those twenty existing buildings total just shy of one million square feet of office space, and when at capacity (these days I’m guessing it is not) can accommodate 3,870 workers.
Here is a map showing the project site, with the site itself highlighted in pink (click on the image for a version you can zoom in on):
The existing buildings pretty much all look something like these:
The development’s current owner, Longfellow Real Estate Partners, has big plans for the site. They hope to replace all twenty of the existing buildings with 15 new ones that together will contain 3.1 million square feet of R&D (Research and Development) office and lab space, an “Amenity Center,” and a 104-room hotel (for a total of 3.3 million square feet). That is an increase of 2.3 million square feet of building space, and 3,909 employees, over what is there today (again, assuming that the existing 20 buildings are fully occupied, which I’m sure they are not at the moment; Longfellow projects a total of 6,909 employees in the new development). Longfellow calls their project Redwood LIFE Evolve, to emphasize how the existing development will evolve over time into the newly proposed one.
The buildings themselves would range in height from 55 to 100 feet in height. According to the developer, the tallest buildings would apparently be about half the height of the nearby Oracle buildings, and fall within the allowable height limits for the city.
Today, most of the land is consumed by surface parking lots that provide just short of 3,400 parking spaces. In the new development, nearly all of the parking in the new development (more than 7,000 spaces worth) would be concentrated into a set of parking garages, some free-standing and some within the new buildings. This would leave a great deal of the property free for “parks with over 47 acres of green space throughout the campus, providing substantial new opportunities for multi-generational recreation and programming.” Not only would there be parkland, but the developer is also proposing sport courts, playgrounds, gardens, and an “outdoor performance space.”
What there would not be is housing. In particular, affordable housing. However, the developer proposes to invest $85 million to support the creation of additional affordable housing elsewhere in Redwood City, built in conjunction with HIP Housing and Eden Housing. This investment, which would be doled out as the project is built, would go to entities such as these, rather than to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund, as a way of accelerating the construction of the resulting affordable housing. In theory, an $85 million investment could result in the creation of as many as 850 affordable housing units. I’ll be curious to see how this works out in practice if the Redwood LIFE project gets its go-ahead.
There is no question that this would be a massive project. For comparison purposes, the largest project currently underway in Redwood City is ELCO Yards, which is being built on six blocks of land that formerly held Towne Ford’s various buildings and vehicle storage lots, Hopkins Acura, the Redwood Roller Rink, the Main & Elm restaurant, and others. ELCO Yards spans 8.3 acres, and will ultimately see six new buildings being constructed across the site. Or, if it makes things easier to visualize, when it was originally constructed the Pacific Shores center, out at the end of Seaport Boulevard, was 11 buildings on a 106-acre parcel. Anyway, given its size and scope, the Redwood LIFE project would be built in phases, over a long period of time. Currently, the developer envisions seven phases, to be built over a number of years (the developer envisions a “20 year development horizon,” but that presumably includes the planning and approval process in addition to construction).
One of the biggest environmental impacts — one I’ll be very interested to see discussed in the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), whenever that is completed — would surely be to the area’s traffic. Adding nearly 4,000 more employees to the area will likely add thousands of new cars commuting in and out of the area, most, I’m guessing, heading to and from Highway 101 along Marine Parkway. Just how big of an impact that truly will be, though, and how much of it can be mitigated, though, will be addressed in the EIR. Other impacts include construction activity and noise, which would go on for many years, given the phased approach and sheer size of the project. Those, too, will be covered in the EIR. I for one will be reading that particular document with great interest.
On to some pictures. Here is a rendering showing what part of the campus could look like after Phase 1 is complete (all renderings are courtesy of the developer, and come from the project’s planning application, which can be downloaded from Redwood City’s website):
Note the smaller square white buildings around the three new ones; those existing buildings would be replaced in later phases. This first phase would consist of two of the development’s office buildings (visible in the foreground) plus the much smaller “Amenity and Community Center” (between and behind the two office buildings). In this phase, a 2.2-acre recreation area along Bridge Parkway would also be constructed, which would look something like this:
Once the two buildings that make up Phase 2 are completed, they should look something like this:
(This rendering also includes a better view of the Amenity building, which of course would have been constructed as part of Phase 1.)
The soft curves visible in the design of the Amenity building are reflected in many of the other buildings planned for the Redwood LIFE project. In particular, in the planned hotel:
The next step for this project is to hold an EIR scoping meeting. There, impacts that could potentially arise either during construction of because of the resulting project would be identified. That meeting seems roughly penciled in for December of this year, although that date is likely still quite fluid. Following the meeting, impacts would be fully identified and analyzed, with the results written up as the project’s Environmental Impact Report, which will be made public on the city’s website. Note, however, that the process to produce a complete EIR (including all public comments, and responses to those comments) is estimated to take nearly two years. And only after the EIR is complete will the Planning Commission and then the City Council begin serious public discussions on the project. So at best, we’re looking at construction kicking off in 2025 or, more likely, 2026, assuming that the project gets the nod from the city.
While we wait, the project is worth thinking about. I recommend that anyone not familiar with the area pay the site a visit, and see what things look like there today. Although I do occasionally pay the area a visit on foot, I’ll be the first to admit that the walk out to that part of Redwood City is a very long one; I’ll quite understand if you prefer to make your visit by car. To get there, head east on Marine Parkway from Highway 101, and then turn left on Bridge Parkway (there is a signal). You’ll soon see the sign I showed at the beginning of this post marking the start of the development.
Redwood City is hosting a one-hour get-together to gather public input on the future of Redwood City’s Transit Center, which includes the city’s train station and bus depot. The meeting will take place online, via Zoom, on Wednesday, September 28, from 6 to 7 p.m. Specific details can be found here, but not mentioned in that document is the fact that the city would appreciate it if attendees would register for the meeting ahead of time, which you can do by clicking this link.
The city’s latest newsletter has a section on “Bird Scooter Safety Tips.” It also includes a list of ways we non-riders can report scooters that are blocking the public right-of-way (for instance, laying across a sidewalk). There is an icon in the Bird app that you can use to report things like this, but for those of us (including me) who do not have the Bird app installed on their smartphone, we can either email Bird (at firstname.lastname@example.org) or simply call their 24/7 support line at (866) 205-2442.
Redwood City is working with Bay Area SunShares to ease the cost of adding solar panels and battery storage to your home. Discounts are available to those who sign up no later than November 15, so if you are considering such an upgrade to your own home (I highly recommend it!), don’t hesitate to click the link and get more information.