Almanac

Viewpoint - February 27, 2008

Editorial: Save Canada College housing

The Woodside Town Council holds the key to a project that will bring much-needed housing to some staff and faculty members at Canada College, which is perched on a hill straddling Woodside and Redwood City.

The college wants Woodside to cede a 3.8-acre site to Redwood City, where zoning allows multiple-family housing, so that it can build the housing on the parcel. The council is willing but wants a say in the design of the project.

A glitch in the approval process came up at a Feb. 12 meeting, when four Woodside council members criticized the 56- to 60-unit apartment complex secheduled to be built this summer on an under-used campus parking lot. The council members said the scale of the two buildings was not suitable for the site, which overlooks Farm Hill Boulevard and is visible from a small section of Woodside.

In a meeting 10 months ago, the council unanimously approved the concept of on-campus housing. Although many meetings had been held to discuss the project — both at the college and before the Redwood City Planning Commission — Woodside council members apparently did not see preliminary designs. After their first look on Feb. 12, a majority attending said design changes will be needed before they approve the redrawing of the town boundary.

The negative reception of the project moved Councilwoman Deborah Gordon to recommend putting off the critical vote to initiate transfer of the site from Woodside to Redwood City until "a date uncertain." The council agreed. Although Mayor Ron Romines later asserted his optimism that the land transfer will proceed, it may require the scrapping of some of the college's costly, already completed plans.

Let's hope that a good design for the housing can be found soon, and that major, costly revisions to the plans are not necessary. As noted in this space last May, it is difficult to imagine a more suitable project for the college, which can build the units at a rock-bottom price by using its own land, employing tax-exempt financing, and avoiding property taxes thanks to the exemption for higher education. And, there is no profit motive in this project.

Barbara Christiansen, the college's director of community relations, was understandably distressed when the council balked at the transfer.

She told the council: "This is the first we have heard that Woodside is going back on its word."

But Mr. Romines was reassuring. "We are not going back on our word. I don't think it is our fault. It's the way things work."

We hope this means the mayor is committed to working for consensus on the council to move the project forward in the near future. He has said that he supports the housing project and the land transfer. The challenge for the council will be to work toward a redesign that will convince reluctant members to quickly jump on board.

Comments

Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 27, 2008 at 9:09 am

You say "...it is difficult to imagine a more suitable project for the college, which can build the units at a rock-bottom price by using its own land, employing tax-exempt financing, and avoiding property taxes thanks to the exemption for higher education. And, there is no profit motive in this project."

I say that this project and others which provide below market rent to categories of employees which are deemed to be more important than others is unethical.

All men are created equal. What about equal opportunity?

Subsidized housing for such employees should be included in their total compensation package, a figure which is rarely disclosed by public agencies. We need full disclosure of ALL such expenditures.

And, why should property tax exemptions apply to these facilities? Who pays for the services these properties require?

A home is a home is a home! We don't need special treatment for housing.

Jack Hickey


Posted by Mr. Clarification, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 27, 2008 at 10:58 am

A note to the kids out there reading the above post:
Jack Hickey = Mr. uber-Libertarian


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