Partnership with East Palo Alto Residents Having an Effect

Ravenswood area in East Palo Alto
Aerial photo of Ravenswood area in East Palo Alto by Craig Howell

The Ravenswood Business District Specific Plan (Ravenswood Plan) to build massive office developments next to sensitive wetlands would forever change East Palo Alto (EPA). For this reason, Green Foothills has been partnering with residents to ensure they have the opportunity to voice their concerns and our mutual goals: protecting the wetlands, increasing parks and trails, and reducing the size of the office development. EPA residents always rise to the challenge and the Ravenswood Plan issue is no exception.

Lea la versión en español aquí.

Ravenswood Plan Could Harm Wetlands and Community

In 2013, the City Council adopted a development plan for the Ravenswood area that provided for 1.4 million square feet of commercial office space. In 2021, the council proposed a range of new potential development scenarios, the largest of which would more than triple office space to 4.2 million square feet. Green Foothills partnered with local residents to oppose these plans, and as a result, in November 2021 the City Council voted to study a reduced-scale development scenario for the area and called for additional outreach to residents.

Green Foothills and residents share some common goals. One goal is to reduce the amount of commercial space. Tall buildings right next to the Bay wetlands would result in bird deaths along with disruption of the sensitive marshland ecology from shading and artificial light. Thousands of new office workers seeking nearby housing would cause gentrification and displacement of existing residents, along with exacerbating already terrible traffic. Reducing new office space would lessen these impacts.

Residents have also expressed strong support for additional parks and trails. We are advocating for significant new urban green space that will be permanently accessible to the public as part of the Ravenswood Plan.

Partnering with Residents is Having an Impact

When we began calling for protection of the wetlands, we quickly learned that few community members were even aware the original Ravenswood Plan had been adopted and that increased development was now being considered. We began outreach to residents, connected them to each other, and notified them of future city meetings. Our formal updates were available in Spanish (spoken by ~60% of residents) as well as English. We also began partnering with resident leaders by sponsoring and helping coordinate community meetings held by residents for residents. Meeting topics so far have included Ravenswood-related information along with other environmental topics, such as local bird species, East Palo Alto’s Climate Action Plan, and the SAFER Bay Project.

What’s Coming Next?

Significant negative impacts are still possible even under the reduced potential development range. We will continue to partner with residents in calling for protecting the wetlands, increasing parks and trails, and reducing the size of the office development. The City Council is expected to discuss community benefits in greater detail in late July, and a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report is expected in the fall. Know an East Palo Alto resident who should be in the loop? Ask them to sign up here for email updates about how they can take action.

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