Letter: Council Shouldn't Allow Ground Floor Office Space in Downtown

Residents Tiffany and Bret DiMarco said office spaces will create a "ghost town" feel once employees leave their buildings after work.

We were very disappointed to learn that the Redwood City Planning Commission approved a recommendation to amend the Downtown Precise Plan allowing ground floor office spaces in the downtown core and entertainment district.  

It's only been in the last several months that the "feel" of our downtown is heading in the right direction:  a mixture of retail, restaurants and entertainment that will draw the community.  

Is office space a part of an ideal downtown formula?  Absolutely!  But not along the main corridor.  

If you wander down University or California Avenues in Palo Alto, Laurel Street in San Carlos or Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park you will see models of what we should be striving for.  Office space should occupy side streets and the second floor (and above) of multi-story buildings.  

Our downtown is already hampered by the major presence of many county buildings and services whose staff and clientele take up a mid-day, mid-week presence (parking and frequenting lunch locations) but vacates our downtown in the evenings and on the weekends.  Adding an additional office space presence along Broadway will only further a "ghost town" feel by creating dark, inactive storefronts that add no pedestrian draw in the evenings and on weekends.  

Everyone needs to be patient and stick to the original plan.  The Peninsula and Silicon Valley are on the cusp of another boom thanks to companies like Apple, Facebook, Zynga and others.  

Home prices and incomes are rising.  The rental market in San Francisco is very competitive; people are looking for attractive, affordable alternatives.  Redwood City could service this need by providing relatively "affordable" commercial and residential spaces AND a lively, appealing downtown atmosphere.

Finally, our home is within one mile of the downtown core.  Not only do we enjoy the proximity for our own use, but the state of the downtown reflects on our home value.  We've invested a considerable amount of money in our home and it is in our best interests, as well as the interests of our community, to see that the downtown grows into a thriving, attractive city center.  

We encourage you to vote AGAINST the Redwood City Planning Commissions' recommendation to amend the Downtown Precise Plan.


-- Bret and Tiffany DiMarco


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Reality Check May 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Outside of business hours, sidewalk-fronting street-level office spaces are hardly better than vacant buildings. I agree with the DiMarcos ... allowing ground-floor office uses in the downtown core & entertainment district is a bad move. And to TGD ... thinking of lively retail/entertainment districts that actually have them, and while perhaps not the most ideal use, well-run pot clubs and tattoo parlors would probably be better than empty cube farms.
TGD May 16, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I was being serious. You need diversity to stimulate a greater attraction. Many people go to places for specific venues. Imagine Las Vegas without gambling.
Frank May 16, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I agree with the concept that a robust, family-friendly downtown excludes the empty-after-work office space. Redwood City has a unique opportunity to build on the past few years of retail-dining vitality that has brought more residents and guests downtown in the evenings and enhanced the liveability of the community. The DiMarcos and the other readers against the amendment are right on this key issue.
Mary Albitz May 17, 2012 at 05:00 AM
As a small retail store owner in downtown redwood city, on Main street, where they have already allowed office space with no restrictions, I'm very much against it. Every single high tech company that has moved in on Main St. has darkened their windows, creating dead zones, which is against code. I've had a small high tech company move in next to me and it has hindered my business, not helped it. They bring no traffic to the area, they don't shop, they hole up in their office all day long, maybe go out to lunch once in awhile and then go home at night. They don't seem to care about the businesses around them whose livlihood depends on bringing in foot traffic. They don't have to care because their bottom line is totally NOT dependent on this foot traffic. For the retailers that are downtown, it has been a struggle to stay open. We work excessive hours trying to get people in the door and to provide a great experience for our customers. If the city adopts these changes, I really believe that they will lose the majority of the retail that they currently have. This would be one of those unintended effects that passing this proposal would do. I feel that the so called "safeguards" in the proposal are way too loose and will further keep retail away. And I haven't even started on the parking issue of workers parking all day long in prime retail parking spots.
Reality Check May 17, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Mary's comment confirms what a tremendously bad move our city council now has the opportunity and duty to avoid. The area on Winslow taken over by Turn (formerly Red Lantern restaurant) is now noticeably deader. I feel so bad for our city and the remaining restaurants and retailers in the area. The council needs to hear this message and reject the planning commission's ill-advised recommendation to allow ground-floor offices to avoid further weakening our beautiful but still-struggling downtown core. We've come so far ... what a shame to screw it up now! This is not rocket science, people. It's vibrant-downtown-building 101! Check with the high-priced experts that the city used to guide the downtown general plan development and those urban planning academics who write the textbooks on the subject!


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