On November 18, the East Palo Alto City Council voted to study a reduced-scale development scenario for the Ravenswood Business District area. The Council rejected the largest development scenario and called for additional outreach to residents about the impacts of this massive office development. Thank you to all the local residents who responded to our request to send emails to the Council. The Council is expected to make a final decision on this project in 2022.
What’s Happening: City Studying at Least Doubling Size of Ravenswood Business District
In 2013, the East Palo Alto City Council adopted a “Ravenswood Business District/Four Corners Specific Plan” that provided for 1.4 million square feet of commercial office space along with housing, retail/civic, and light industrial development. Even though none of this office space has yet been built, the Council decided to consider increasing the size of this development.
On November 18, the Council reviewed a range of potential development scenarios, ranging from the 2013 “base scenario” to expanding development as high as 4.2 million square feet. While all the scenarios could have a significant impact on the community and the environment, the largest development scenario of 4.2 million square feet would likely have resulted in more than 20 office buildings ranging from 6 to 8 stories, right next to quiet residential neighborhoods and the sensitive Bay wetlands.
Fortunately, this 4.2 million square feet scenario was rejected by the Council, but they did vote to study an increase in development from the original 2013 plan. This means that it is likely that either 2.8 or 3.3 million square feet of commercial office development could eventually be approved for the Ravenswood area.
Why It Matters: A Massive Development With Significant Impacts on the Community and the Environment
Traffic, already a terrible problem in East Palo Alto, would be greatly increased on residential streets. Multiple 8-story-tall buildings right next to the Bay wetlands are still possible even under the reduced development scenarios, which would result in bird deaths from collisions with these buildings’ windows and disruption of the sensitive marshland ecology from shading and artificial light from the buildings. If the buildings are moved farther away from the wetlands, the 8-story towers will be right next to people’s homes!
The development would also bring thousands of new office workers who will be looking for someplace to live nearby. This will cause gentrification and displacement of existing East Palo Alto residents, with rents rising until only highly paid tech workers can afford to live there.
What You Can Do
Make sure you have an opportunity to speak up and help shape the future of East Palo Alto. Decision-makers pay attention when they hear from people in their community, and our voices are more powerful when united.
Green Foothills has been partnering with East Palo Alto residents to ensure they have opportunities to voice their concerns and have their needs met. Our communications with them have been available in Spanish – spoken by ~60% of community members – and have incorporated their concerns. We will continue to partner with residents and other organizations, and would be happy to send you information about upcoming community and city council meetings, and other opportunities to voice your opinion and ask questions.