Redwood City’s southern gateway into the city, El Camino Real, is getting a facelift in the form of an a 141-unit apartment complex, which will be constructed on the site previously occupied by Mel’s Bowl.
Though construction won’t be completed until 2014, residents will notice a host of other street and neighborhood improvements.
In July, as part of an agreement with developer, Palo Alto-based Urban Housing Group. The property cannot be used for any similar use, a decision that many residents found favorable.
Six nearby property owners and their tenants will receive full funding to upgrade their storefronts with painting, signage, awnings and lighting.
“We believe this development and its unique neighborhood benefits will serve as a catalyst to transforming this part of El Camino Real in the future,” said Elaine Breeze, Urban Housing Group Vice President of Development.
Other street improvements align with Redwood City’s Grand Boulevard Initiative, designed to improve the Peninsula corridor. Construction crews will widen the sidewalk to 12 feet and add trees, streetlights and a street frontage plaza with bench seating on the 2.51 acre property.
The existing parking lot on an adjacent Hetch Hetchy parcel will become a landscaped area. The cross walk and bus stop on El Camino Real and Northumberland Street will be relocated and improved for safety reasons.
Still, many residents have expressed concerned about the future of the iconic Mel’s Bowl sign. Developers scrapped the sign as part of the aesthetic design, but promised to look for a permanent home.
Despite the promised benefits to the community, residents and a slew of union workers of this development at the Feb. 14 city council meeting. The city council rejected two appeals of the Planning Commission’s decision, citing the project’s lack of affordable housing and absence of a prevailing wage for construction workers. However, Redwood City does not have a law requiring developers to offer any affordable housing units.
To appease affordable housing advocates, Urban Housing Group voluntarily promised five affordable housing units after the Planning Commission’s approval. As a private developer that is not using any public funds, it did not ask for any density bonuses or building concessions and thus did not have to provide affordable housing units.
However, many housing advocates believed these five of 141 units, 3.5 percent of the project, was inadequate.
Appellant Diana Reddy of the Housing Leadership Council said at the Feb. 14 city council meeting that providing more affordable housing would draw more seniors to the development, who are the highest users of public transportation and frequent businesses. Residents over 65 make up 11.4 percent of Redwood City and have a median income of $22,976.