An underground parking garage near the Sequoia Station in Redwood City has been declared exempt surplus property by SamTrans, allowing for initial purchase discussions with Lowe Enterprise as the company works to redevelop the existing shopping center area.
Lowe Enterprise is working to redevelop the larger existing Sequoia Station shopping center in Redwood City with the city and approached SamTrans about purchasing the underground parking garage, a SamTrans staff report said. Lowe Enterprise is a private real estate company with offices throughout the United States. SamTrans Legal Counsel Joan Cassman said it approached SamTrans about buying the district’s interest because it cannot pursue redevelopment until it can buy all of the existing property interests owned by various parties, including SamTrans.
“To clarify for the public, we are far afield from being at a place where we have any substantive agreements or discussions with the developers. We are laying the groundwork to begin discussions,” Cassman said.
The proposal for the Sequoia Station site is for a transit-oriented, mixed-use development on six blocks of about 12 acres with 631 multifamily residential units including 254 affordable units. It also includes 1,230,000 square feet of office, 166,600 square feet of retail, 10,000 square feet of child care facility, and 86,000 square feet of public open space, generally located between El Camino Real, Jefferson and James avenues, and the Caltrain tracks within the Downtown Precise Plan area. The project is part of the Transit District, which will be analyzed through an environmental impact report.
If redeveloped, the underground garage would likely be demolished. SamTrans owns the underground parking garage next to the Caltrain station but does not own any other property in the shopping center. SamTrans spokesperson Dan Lieberman said by email the transit agency is working with Redwood City, Caltrain and the developer to ensure sufficient parking will be available if the garage is demolished.
At its Sept. 1 board meeting, SamTrans unanimously voted to declare the underground parking garage surplus property and authorized staff to proceed to negotiate the disposition of the property. The SamTrans board also voted that the designation does not have the potential for a significant effect on the environment and is exempt from further California Environmental Quality Act review. The California Surplus Lands Act restricts development and property use. It requires local agencies like SamTrans to declare land as surplus or exempt surplus before engaging in negotiations. Cassman highlighted the subterranean nature of the one-story parking garage as a reason for exemption. The garage is approximately 111,000 square feet with limited height clearances and some ramps to surface streets.
“We believe the physical attributes of the property interest we own in this underground property parking garage fall squarely within an exception under the surplus property act,” Cassman said.
She also said it was unlikely that the property could be turned into housing unless part of a larger development.
“The property is not capable of being developed for housing on an independent basis. The only hope is that we can sell this property to the developer and with that be part of a larger development that Lowe Enterprise is formulating that will, in fact, include housing at a later point,” Cassman said.
Caltrans in 1991 gave the land deed for the property to SamTrans to use it as a parking garage for Peninsula users and includes the right to have the property revert if not used for that use. The report said SamTrans and the developer would have to negotiate to reconfigure the property to either be a new subdivision process or ensure large-scale changes to the property use.
The Sept. 1 meeting also included a closed session item about the Sequoia Station Shopping Center property. The item summary noted negotiations involved SamTrans officials and the negotiating party, Lowe Enterprises. The item under negotiation was price and terms of payment.