All those developers who applied to construct office buildings in downtown Redwood City better hurry to submit their required paperwork or they will be left in the cold -- at least temporarily.
The city last month received five office development proposals totaling approximately 489,000 square feet. If every application is approved, construction would exceed the maximum allowed by a downtown precise plan that the City Council approved in 2011.
On Monday, the council voted to establish a prioritization process that allows a developer to "reserve" office space once its application is "deemed complete."
That should provide "greater clarity to applicants early on in the review process," Community Development Director Aaron Aknin said. "It usually takes a year to 18 months from the time a developer starts the process until a building permit is procured," he said, adding that is "a lot of time without any certainly of knowing whether they'll be issued a building permit."
Among the representatives of various builders at Monday's meeting was Molly Ricker, a partner with Dostart Redevelopment, which applied in April to build a complex with 128,875 square feet of offices at 601 Marshall St.
Ricker said the company is eager to get some assurance that its project would proceed since it already has spent a "half million dollars on deposits and plans" and expects to invest $2 million more just to get to the building permit phase.
In an effort to accommodate the demand for office development, council members indicated they might consider deducting some of the space set aside for future retail, hotels or housing and transfer it to offices. They directed staff to come up with a possible way to accomplish that and show how traffic would be affected.
Council members made it clear, however, that they're not ready to make any commitments.
Councilman Ian Bain aid the developers should do more to reduce the impacts of new office buildings on traffic and parking.
"You have to keep in mind that we live here and we have neighbors who want to go downtown, want to enjoy downtown, who need places to park," Bain said. "They want to be able to drive through downtown and get to where they're going in a reasonable way and we want your help in mitigating those problems."
Councilwoman Barbara Pierce said she's not convinced fewer houses should be built to allow more offices, and Councilwoman Alicia Aguirre noted that she wants to make sure housing and offices are balanced.
"What we're deciding is really going to dictate the future of own downtown for generations to come," Aguirre said.
For their part, Vice Mayor Rosanne Foust and Councilman John Seybert indicated they are willing to consider allowing more downtown offices.
Seybert said the city was conservative in setting the maximum space for offices when the downtown precise plan was approved because the office market was sagging then.
The market has since taken off, and "I think an adjustment is necessary," Seybert said.
The precise plan allows for a total of 500,000 square feet of new office space. The city is adding 100,000 square feet to that sum by deducting office space demolished to make way for new residential projects. Half of the 600,000 square feet will be taken up by a two-building office complex under construction at Jefferson and Middlefield avenues, called Crossing 900.
The newly submitted proposals include a mixed-use development at 2075 Broadway that envisions 175,000 square feet of offices, a building with 128,875 square feet of offices at 601 Marshall St., a 69,846-square-foot office project at 550 Allerton St., a mixed-use building with 54,743 square feet of offices at 815 Hamilton St., and a 60,750-square-foot office building at 30 California St. Also proposed but not yet submitted are plans to build a 100,000-square-foot office complex and to expand an office building, Aknin said.