Mt. Carmel Historic District & Residential Design Guidelines Update

The City of Redwood City is aware that preserving neighborhood character is important to our residents. While the Mt. Carmel neighborhood is not currently a historic district, the adopted General Plan has a recommended policy that the City could explore this.

This blog post explains the steps the City is taking around exploring a Mt. Carmel Historic District and potentially developing citywide Residential Design Guidelines and invites you to attend an upcoming City Council study session on July 23 to discuss these items further.

Background

Through Planning Commission discussions, community members have shared that there have been several “teardowns” of older homes throughout Redwood City, some of which have been in the Mt. Carmel neighborhood. Though these new homes have complied with City zoning code regulations, they are typically larger than existing neighborhood homes. Neighborhood residents have expressed concern that tear down of older homes, plus the building new, larger homes, could negatively affect the historical charm of the Mt. Carmel neighborhood. While making the neighborhood a historic district cannot prevent teardowns completely, it would provide greater context for the review of proposals.

Next Steps

Given the General Plan policy, and the fact that increasing property values will put increased pressure to tear down existing homes, staff recommends moving forward with the following 3-step process:

Step 1 Require Historic Resource Advisory Committee Review of Mt. Carmel Teardown Proposals

Immediately require that the HRAC review proposals and associated historic reports for all teardowns proposed in the Mt. Carmel neighborhood. Currently applicants submit a historic report as part of their application process. However, staff will now lead the historic consultant hiring and report process, a cost reimbursed by the applicant. Since the Municipal Code does not require the HRAC review process right now, staff will take proposals to HRAC as a CEQA review/guidance measure. Staff will also be taking the same step for all pre-WWII homes in Redwood City.

Step 2 Historic District Review and Public Outreach Process

The second step of the process would be to hire a historical consultant to conduct the historic district review. City staff and the consultant would develop a process that includes extensive public outreach, check-ins with the HRAC, Planning Commission, and Mt. Carmel Neighborhood Association, establishment of district boundaries, identification of landmark and contributing resources, and environmental review, among other tasks. This process will most likely take 12–24 months.

Step 3 Explore Citywide Residential Guidelines

Following the adoption of the Mt. Carmel work, staff will work on overall citywide residential design guidelines and standards.

July 23 Study Session Planned to Learn More

In July the Council will hold a study session to discuss and potentially consider Mt. Carmel as a historic district, and to discuss residential neighborhood compatibility generally. The City encourages the community to join the City Council at this public meeting to learn more about this issue. During the study session, staff will cover what discretion the Municipal Code currently provides, what the review process entails now, and what Municipal Code tools the City would need in order to apply more discretion.

If Council approves Mt. Carmel as a historic district in July, the process will take 12–18 months to complete. If Council decides to initiate a citywide neighborhood residential design guidelines process, this could take 2–3 years to complete. Interim steps may be taken along the way.

This study session is part of the July 23 City Council meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall. When the agenda for the meeting is ready, it will be available here. If you cannot attend the meeting, you can watch a live stream here. You can also follow us on Twitter to see live tweets of the meeting and like us on Facebook to see a summary of Council meeting highlights the next day.

Learn More

To learn more about Redwood City history go here. For more information on the Historic Resources Advisory Committee (HRAC) go here and for more on the Planning Commission, go here. You can also learn about the City’s General Plan here. More on historic districts in Redwood City can be found here.

Learn more about Redwood City’s neighborhoods here or by watching our Neighborhood Road Trip series on YouTube. You can also connect with your neighbors by signing up for Nextdoor.

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