At its meeting Monday night, Redwood City’s council is set to consider a land swap agreement with the county within the city’s Inner Harbor Area to facilitate construction of a second access roadway and bridge for residents and visitors in Bair Island.
The council’s vote follows unanimous approval for the land swap plan by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on July 7.
The agreement would enable the city to move forward with the first of two phases of the Blomquist Street Extension, which aims to extend Blomquist Street from Maple Street to Bair Island Road, and includes building a bridge over Redwood Creek.
The land swap involves properties at 1580 Maple St., which the county owns and where it has a 145-bed homeless shelter and a decommissioned jail, as well as 1402 Maple St., a city-owned former CEMEX site that is mostly vacant but includes the Bair Island Aquatic Center (BIAC) to the north along the waterfront. The city says the BIAC will be unaffected in the land swap plan, nor would public access to the waterfront. As part of the agreement, the county would likely relocate its homeless shelter to 1402 Maple St. in 24 months. Space next to the shelter would be set aside for Redwood City’s new Safe Parking for RVs program, which aims to provide safe haven for a growing number of homeless individuals living in their vehicles.
The Blomquist extension, according to the city, would improve connectivity and safety to and from Bair Island, home to about 1,620 residents, many of the city’s car dealerships and one of its newest hotels. Whipple Avenue is the only access point for residents and visitors to Bair Island.
The first phase of the extension project includes extending Blomquist from Maple to just before the eastern edge of Redwood Creek. That stretch is set to be funded by the ongoing Strada development, which will consist of up to 131 townhomes at 1548 Maple.
The project’s second phase — the vehicular bridge across Redwood Creek — is expected to be funded partly from future developments on Bair Island, the city said.
While the city and county appear poised to move forward with the land swap, an online petition started by community activist Kris Johnson seeks to delay tonight’s decision, saying there hasn’t been adequate opportunity for public discussion about the proposed agreement.
The petition supports the Blomquist Street Extension project but argues against the land swap deal, saying it opposes any plans for housing on the former CEMEX site. The petition also expresses opposition to moving the county’s homeless shelter and the city’s Safe RV Parking program to 1402 Maple, a short distance from the BIAC. It advocates for solely recreational development in the area.
“The CEMEX Land is a very bad location for housing – especially for a shelter or low income housing,” the petition states, arguing that housing for marginalized community members should not exist on industrial land subject to flooding.
City officials were unable to provide a comment prior to this story’s publication. Evelyn Stivers, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, supports the land swap deal as one of many needed solutions to the dire problem of affordable housing in the city and county, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People cannot shelter in place without shelter,” Stivers said. “Covid has shown us that housing is healthcare. San Mateo County has a growing population of homeless people, and most have access to vehicles. Providing a safe parking place for people without housing is the very least we can do. We urge the city council to support the land swap and provide safe parking for homeless families.”