Fantasize the future of Redwood City

Locals living in the city known for its “Climate Best by Government Test” could already be accused of living a storybook life, but that’s about to go one step further.

Knowing that residents regard the phrase “General Plan update” with as much enthusiasm as they regard the phrase “gridlock on Highway 101,” officials tonight are hoping to attract citizens with a one-of-a-kind workshop.

Chuck Ashton, whose day job involves reading books to children at the library, will present the visionary tale of the city’s future — and then ask locals to dream up their own version.

“There won’t be any flying cars — nothing that extreme,” Ashton said. “But we will talk about more hybrid cars, and an electric train replacing the diesel system.”

Ashton’s yarn is based on the Planning Department’s vision of what Redwood City will be like in 2020, according to Planning Director Tom Passanisi. There’s no knowing what will happen once residents are set loose to fantasize about the city’s future look and feel.

“It’s a free-for-all,” Passanisi said. “We know storytelling is an age-old approach to getting messages and important topics across to people, because it’s a nonthreatening and easy way to understand what we’re trying to do.”

Cities use General Plan documents to describe, in broad terms, how different city neighborhoods should be developed.

Tonight’s workshop will give guests a firsthand tour of Redwood City’s future, from downtown and the Bayfront to El Camino’s “Grand Boulevard” and neighborhoods across the city.

Though Redwood City has had an uphill battle getting residents to participate in the plan’s update, some recent workshops have been standing-room-only, according to Planning Commissioner Hilary Paulson.

After tonight, General Plan workshops will focus on specific issues, including open space and transit. The discussion on urban development, which is expected to focus on the future of the oft-debated Cargill salt ponds, will likely draw big crowds this fall, Paulson said.

But for now, officials want to tell — and hear — a good tale.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

The Redwood City Planning Commission will host the “Storytelling Community Workshop” tonight at 7 p.m. at Peninsula Covenant Church, 3560 Farm Hill Blvd.

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