[Editor's note: The following was submitted by Friends of Cordilleras Creek and Finger Avenue Pride Committee.]
In a decision earlier this month, the San Mateo County Superior Court tentatively ruled in favor of the Friends of Cordilleras Creek and the Finger Avenue Pride Committee, both public interest groups. (Case No. CIV 517288) The ruling sets aside the City’s 2012 approval of the controversial 9-lot Finger Avenue Subdivision, enforcing environmental protections of the City’s streambank ordinance.
For years, Redwood City staff and the Planning Commission urged revisions to the project to meet the 25-foot creek setback and to ensure compatibility with the neighborhood. After the project EIR was certified in 2012, the Planning Commission unanimously agreed with planning staff to recommend a “25 Foot Creek Setback Alternative.” But the City Council rejected the recommendations of the Planning Commission and its staff and approved the project. The lawsuit followed.
As described by Judge Marie Weiner, “the bottom line ... is that 8 multi-million dollar homes will adequately fit within the [project site] and not encroach on the Creek,” but developer Kirk McGowan “steadfastly demands” to build “9 large homes that cannot fit” unless allowed to “encroach upon the Creek setback...” (Ruling, Page 5.)
Judge Weiner held that the City Council abused its discretion and violated mandatory provisions of the Municipal Code in approving the project. The City failed to require a use permit as required by law, failed to make the legal findings required by the creekbank ordinance, and failed to follow the Redwood City Municipal Code in calculating the “top of bank” line from which to measure the 25-foot buffer required to protect the creek.
Project approvals must be set aside.
The ruling provides clarity that will assist the City in implementing the creek ordinance.
“This is a very important decision. This is the first project proposed adjacent to a protected waterway since the adoption of the 25-foot creek setback standard in 2005,” said Friends of Cordilleras Creek President Richard Izmirian. “Upholding the ordinance has long-term benefit — it will both protect this site and act as precedent ensuring the creek’s future.”
“This has been such a long battle to protect our neighborhood and the creek, and we are grateful to the Court for upholding the ordinances and also to all of the neighbors, creek protection advocates and other environmental groups who came together to support a revised project that complies with law,” said Finger Avenue Pride Committee representative Julie Abraham.