If you attended the Redwood City State of the City Address at this morning, you’d have thought you were wearing rose-colored glasses there was so much optimism in the room.
And then you took your glasses off and realized that this rosy outlook may also be reality.
Vice Mayor Jeff Gee began with broad brush strokes painting the city as a progressive community that has the dedicated staff to keep moving the city forward in innovative ways.
“People want to be here,” Gee said. “They like the culture.”
Mayor Alicia Aguirre added that “cities are the models, not the state,” highlighting many challenges that the state has passed on to cities.
The elimination of redevelopment funds was a $7.8 million blow to the city, Aguirre said, which were used to provide more affordable housing, prevent blight, and host events in .
Responding to an audience question about the city’s next steps regarding redevelopment, Gee said that details were nebulous.
“It’s all coming so fast,” he said of the state’s top-down decisions. “We’re just trying to understand everything.”
The elimination of redevelopment will severely cripple the city’s ability to provide more affordable housing. Instead, the city can offer developers a density bonus in exchange for affordable housing units. This mean the developer can build more units than allowed according to city guidelines, like the proposed that will have 10 percent affordable housing units and 47 additional units.
But the money that was cut won’t just disappear into thin air, he added. It could materialize in other areas, like education.
The city council will be discussing this issue further at its next meeting on Monday, Jan. 24.
Keeping the Momentum Going
Though Aguirre lamented the difficult budget climate in the Capitol, she said the city was “in a much better place” fiscally than it was last year.
The city has adopted what’s often referred to as its “three-pronged approach” to fiscal solvency: increasing organizational efficiencies, labor concessions and other revenue generators.
The city did lay-off employees, but was able to from all the union groups.
“And unpredictable times allow for innovation,” Aguirre added.
The city has been providing and sharing services with 24 other local agencies to not only save money but to also provide additional revenue streams, she said. By to the San Carlos Fire Department, of $1 million annually.
The city has been focusing on private-public partnerships by reaching out to local companies and organizations. For example, she said, the senior center at the is looking for some new space and the Sequoia YMCA is also looking to provide new services, a natural partnership that is being discussed.
The innovation has also reached its way into the development sector as well. The highly anticipated “Depot Circle” project received five proposals, from which the city narrowed down to . The 2.3-acre area from Caltrain to downtown to the Sequoia Shopping Center will no longer be a bleak parking lot but an area of bustling activity, they anticipate.
The city also plans to implement 10 miles of recycled water infrastructure west of Highway 101 to become more sustainable and, a recurring theme, to save money.
“We want to be a regional water supplier,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre added that she wanted to be a facilitator to businesses, many of whom have taken a risk and choosing Redwood City.
“I visit businesses and thank them for moving here,” she said. “I’ll ask them ‘what can we do for you?’”
Finally, an audience member asked about their opinions on high-speed rail.
Gee, who serves on the council’s sub-committee on high-speed rail, self-labeled the councilmembers “information junkies” who want as much information before making a decision.
Aguirre echoed that, unlike other Peninsula cities, Redwood City “hasn’t dug its heels in the ground and said ‘no.’”
The council did agree that a four tracks carrying trains racing through the middle of the city would disrupt the fabric of the community. However, they were both in favor of potentially .
“But if high-speed rail were to demand a giant parking structure if there were to be a station in Redwood City, I’d rather have housing,” Gee said.