A portion of this blog post was written by Miguel Salazar, advocacy intern for SVBC.

Following up on January’s Redwood City El Camino Real Citizen’s Advisory Group meeting, the City of Redwood City held two further meetings on the El Camino Real Corridor Plan.

Citizen’s Advisory Group

At a Citizen’s Advisory Group (CAG) meeting on February 22, city staff and a consultant gave a presentation to the committee on points that did not get covered last month. The concepts and options that were covered were:

  • Land Use, Zoning, and Activity Centers
  • Community Benefits
  • Economic Development and Small Business Support

“Activity Centers” or nodes along El Camino would have community-serving businesses like a coffee shop, laundry service, convenience store, drug store, etc. The CAG felt like four or five different nodes made the most sense versus one main activity center near downtown. They also agreed that the ground floor of new development should be something active and create a sense of a public plaza. Between the nodes, the CAG strongly advocated for high-density affordable housing. Several members wanted to make sure that these nodes focused on serving the immediate neighborhoods, so that people could walk or bike to errands and get many things done. They want El Camino to move people through Redwood City safely and efficiently.

The community benefits presentation covered potential things that a developer could provide for the community in exchange for development benefits, like not being required to provide parking or less parking than normal. The most important benefit the CAG stressed was affordable housing and they agreed that developers should be required to build affordable housing now instead of an in-lieu fee. Some of the other benefits discussed included parks and open space, childcare, and a neighborhood program to try and reduce speeds adjacent to El Camino.

The last topic covered was economic development and small business. Much of the discussion regarding this topic was about public space improvements. The CAG discussed the importance of a signage program for wayfinding. Many wanted to see the look and feel improve along El Camino with landscaping and updated storefronts/signage. A redevelopment program was discussed to encourage businesses to stay in a redeveloped building or provide some funding to update storefront. Read more about the meeting here.

Community Meeting

On the evening of March 3, city staff and consultants welcomed members of the public for a community meeting on the progress of the plan to date. There was a brief presentation that went over the content of the last two Citizen’s Advisory Group meetings, including potential bike lanes, parking changes, sidewalks, and activity centers.

Attendees were then split into five groups to discuss the proposed options in more detail, how they use El Camino Real, and what the needs are. After talking through the different options, each group presented to the larger meeting. It was great to hear the perspective of distinct community members.

Many participants regularly biked and therefore, providing safe bike facilities on El Camino Real was a top priority for each group. Others discussed the need to provide good places to cross El Camino, from the residential area in the west to downtown in the east, for people walking and biking. One person talked about how he, his wife, and several other couples who lived nearby regularly biked downtown together for dinner. Participants mentioned how long it can take to drive down El Camino during rush hour, even to locations relatively close in Menlo Park. Echoing the Citizen’s Advisory Group, participants wanted to prioritize the movement of people, rather than parking. Though parking is seen as important for some businesses, many people said they’d rather park on side streets or avoid parking on El Camino altogether.

Analysis

The CAG and the community participants are aligned with many of SVBC’s goals for El Camino Real in Redwood City. We would like to see safe, comfortable, and convenient bike facilities to connect to the many destinations on El Camino. The support for protected bike lanes on El Camino Real from the CAG and the community is encouraging. Increasing housing on the corridor will also increase the usefulness of these facilities. Providing signage to help people access destinations on their bike and creating more community-serving businesses near residents will also make the bike an attractive option for people in Redwood City.

Next steps

The points discussed above will be shared with other city committees (dates below).

There will be an online survey on the concepts and options in the next couple months. The next phase of the plan is that consultants will refine the options and draft an outline of the plan with a preferred alternative. This should be ready in April and first presented at a Citizen’s Advisory Group meeting that month.

SVBC needs your help reaching out to local businesses and City Councilmembers to encourage support for this project. If you are interested in providing your voice and time to supporting bike lanes on El Camino Real in Redwood City, please email me at emma@bikesiliconvalley.org with “Redwood City El Camino Real” in the subject line.