Proposal for housing on hillside draws ire

A developer has come forward with bold plans to build 18 houses in a steep, densely wooded part of the city, prompting questions about whether it can be done — and done safely.

John Ward, representing a cadre of landowners of undeveloped parcels along Laurel Way, hopes to build the houses on land originally subdivided in 1929 and annexed from the county to Redwood City in 1969. His proposal, submitted Sept. 6, will get a first look from the Planning Commission tonight, and commissioners are hoping to hear feedback from residents in the area.

“There are a lot of trees — so many they arch over the roadway,” said neighbor Joseph Hanson, who has lived on a developed portion of Laurel Way since 1994. “If they come in and make the [dirt] road regulation-size and build houses, the trees will be gone.”

Roughly 19 people own parcels on the undeveloped portion of the canyon — all of whom paid roughly $150,000 per parcel, Hanson said. While many of them would like to build homes on that land, the geography presents significant challenges, planner Sailesh Mehra said.

“There’s a reason why these properties have remained undeveloped,” Mehra said. “The lots vary in slope between 20 and 40 percent. There’s lots of thick vegetation. Some have water seeping through them and we see soil stability [as an issue].”

Redwood City has hired a consultant who will lead soil-stability studies and eventually craft an environmental impact report regarding the feasibility of Ward’s plan.

If he can develop the sites, Ward plans to do as little grading and tree-removal as possible, and would privately pay for the creation of a new split-level road through the subdivision, according to plans he submitted to the city.

Mehra hopes residents — particularly those who would be downhill from the subdivision — will turn up tonight to air any concerns they might have about the proposal.

While Hanson wouldlike to see the rest of Laurel Way remain untouched, he admits there could be some benefits to adding more homes.

“Once they put the houses in, my property values will go up —but they’re going up now,” Hanson said. “We have Bay views. It’s pastoral, it’s quiet and it’s still within walking distance of the city.”

The Planning Commission meets today at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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