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Finger Ave. Project Gets Thumbs Up From Council

Developers hope to break ground on controversial project within six months.

Over the objections of community activist groups, Redwood City's seven member city council on Monday voted unanimously in support of a controversial development.

The council's approval of the Finger Avenue project culminates a eight-year battle between a development firm and a coalition of environmentalists and neighborhood groups who say the project is an eyesore that doesn't fit the historic community's character and imperils treasured creeks.

The council vote followed a two-month delay intended to give the developer and community groups who've filed a lawsuit against the city in the hopes of blocking the project, to find common ground.

With no such compromise at hand, the council took matters into their own hands, green-lighting the developer to build nine single family homes on the 1.7 acre parcel.

Mayor Alicia Aguirre said she believes the community will benefit from the additional housing stock.

"It's a well constructed project," Aguirre said. "The developer did meet all the requirements set by the city."

A spokesman for developer Kirk McGowan said his group must still clear some administrative hurdles, but that they expect to break ground on the project within six months.

"We think that the project has a lot of community support and we believe it will be an asset to the neighborhood and Redwood City," McGowan spokesman Jay Reed said.

Dan Ponti, a spokesman for the Finger Avenue Pride Committee, one of the groups involved in the coalition seeking to block the project, acknowledged he was disappointed but not surprised by the council's decision.

"Our goal is to is to find a good project at the site that is compatible with the neighborhood character and our values," Ponti said.

"We don't believe what was approved is there, but I think we have an opportunity to work with the developer."

Ponti said he's hopeful that the developer will be cooperative with his group's concerns, noting that one of the developer's new partners has shown what he believes to be genuine interest in meeting their concerns.

"Our goal is to work positively with the city and with the developer to achieve our goals," Ponti said.

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gail lynch September 12, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I was disappointed that the developer was unwilling to compromise with the neighbors who will be living with this huge change to their environment. These homes will be so out of place in that location. Modification should have been considered. Gail Lynch
Julie Abraham September 13, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Thank you Gail. I'm afraid this signals that there are a few powerful voices in and outside of City Hall who will allow developers to use the Planned Development designation to get around residential zoning laws. The McGowan design has no shared open space - a hallmark of what it means to be a planned development. Open space is vital on Finger Avenue because we have a population of White Tailed Kites, a fully protected species. They forage along the creek corridor. All the voices over the last seven years calling for a modest reduction in density (even from members of the Planning Commission and Council!) went unheeded on Monday. One of the nine homes is built 3' from an access road, tucked under the canopy of a 60' heritage pine and a 50' oak. 50% of the root base of both will be destroyed. Meanwhile, the developer, by demanding nine homes on an area meant for six or seven, shunned a critical opportunity to gain widespread support for revitalization project that could have been a model not only for our neighborhood and Redwood City, but nationally. So, when you see a For Sale sign on the property next to you, start thinking about your near future. While it’s certain that we need more houses for growing families, and the days of taking large lots for granted are coming to an end, think about how little say you will have in the matter of mass, scale and density, and ask yourself if you’re willing to let it happen without a fight.
Mary McLinden September 15, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Isn't there already another part of Finger Avenue with a gated area of "too many houses for the space" with no shared open space other than the common driveway? Some where near Oakdale, I think? And will these homes be priced out of reach for middle class families, just as the ones in the new development on Kentfield are? Probably.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive September 25, 2012 at 03:46 AM
This is exactly the kind of development that Redwood City Neighbors United advocated for with great enthusiasm. Infill, close to downtown and on the El Camino corridor.

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