REDWOOD CITY — Barred by a court ruling from putting its Downtown Precise Plan in motion, city officials are trying to figure out their next move.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie S. Weiner issued a final ruling last week on a lawsuit that challenged the environmental documents for the plan, which was approved last May by the City Council.
Weiner sided with Joseph and Roberta Carcione, who filed the suit claiming the city failed to consider the plan's potential to create shadows from tall buildings and impact the city's historic resources.
The judge threw out the city's certification of the plan's environmental impact report and said the city cannot issue any building permits under the plan until it fixes the deficiencies in the report.
Weiner had issued a tentative ruling April 24 drawing the same conclusions about the documents for the plan, which she called an attempt to "Manhattanize" downtown with 2,500 new units of high-density housing plus retail and office space.
City Attorney Stan Yamamoto said he will present the City Council with a range of options, including filing an appeal, changing the documents or some other course of action. There are risks with whatever path the city chooses, he said. "Let's assume we didn't appeal and we said we'll try to comply the best we can with the court's order," Yamamoto said. "There's no assurance that that's going to be satisfactory to the petitioner or anyone else."
An appeal, however, would keep the city's legal tab running and wouldn't guarantee a different result. Weiner ruled that Carcione can file a motion for the city to pay his attorney's fees, which Carcione said are about $500,000 so far.
Mayor Rosanne Foust said she's focused on moving forward with several downtown housing projects, and is "looking at maximum options to resolve this." She said the council will discuss their next move in early October.
"I respect a property owner's right to not agree with us, but what I would like to hope is Mr. Carcione sees what we've done downtown and wants to be part of the solution as opposed to the problem," Foust said. "I'm ready to reach out. I think that's the right and best thing to do."
Carcione said he's long been willing to settle the suit but says the city has refused to negotiate or compromise.
He said he is a longtime contributor to the community and is not opposed to the city's efforts downtown. However, the precise plan must be fixed so the area is developed responsibly, he said.
"I'm not against development. I'm not against heavier density. But I am against idiotic development that disregards the people that live there in the city," Carcione said.
Carcione's suit took issue with the plan's allowance for buildings of up to 12 stories tall, compared with current zoning that allows maximum heights of between three and nine stories.
He said a tall building could cast shadows on his law offices at 601 Brewster Ave., but the city said state law did not require it to study those effects.
Weiner disagreed, saying the city was "given erroneous advice that shadowing is never a (California Environmental Quality Act) issue." The judge also agreed that the city did not properly address how the new development might impact a number of historic properties in the downtown area.
"Yeah, it's irritating what they were doing to me," Carcione said, "but it's even more irritating that they just totally disregard the historical significance of Redwood City."
Shaun Bishop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.