Redwood City Approves Farm Hill Road Diet, Complete Streets Committee

Photo: Andrew Boone

On Monday, the Redwood City Council unanimously approved a two-mile road diet with bike lanes for Farm Hill Boulevard. The City Council also approved the formation of a Complete Streets Committee, which will consist of volunteers (“daily users of the streets”) who will advise city staff and the council on street design issues.

The approvals are a sign of progress at the City Council, which had previously rejected both the committee (in 2009) and road diet (in 2012).

The five-member Complete Streets Committee “is the next step in ensuring the city considers the needs of all roadway users,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Policy Manager Emma Shlaes.

Redwood City Management Analyst Susan Wheeler wrote in a report [PDF] that a Complete Streets Committee “will strengthen the city’s position when applying for bike/ped project grants, leading to potential financial savings and enabling bike/ped project opportunities and enhancements that would not otherwise be financially feasible.”

Back in 2009, the council decided that getting informed feedback about walking and biking accommodations in street design projects wasn’t worth an estimated 20 hours per month in additional staff time. Redwood City has 13 other advisory committees that weigh in on public policy ranging from housing to mosquito control.

In recent years, the SVBC had organized quarterly meetings with city staff in lieu of an official advisory committee. Participants agreed the meetings have helped the city implement safer street designs as roads are resurfaced. But the meetings have been focused primarily on bicycling issues, and advocates worry that more diverse opinions aren’t being voiced.

“It’s really much better to have publicly-noticed meetings so that people can find out about it — it’s very helpful for public participation,” said Friends of Caltrain Director Adina Levin at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Farm Hill Boulevard will get a two-mile road diet, but will retain four traffic lanes approaching Emerald Hill Road keep cars moving. Image: City of Redwood City

The City Council also unanimously approved the Farm Hill Boulevard road diet as a one-year pilot project. One of the street’s four traffic lanes will be removed to create bike lanes, which city planners said should reduce speeding and car crashes. Fifteen residents spoke in support of the project at the hearing, and six opposed.

“We’ve had two cars crash into the very same tree while speeding down Farm Hill Boulevard, probably going 60 mph,” said resident Joshua Vaughn.

Resident Heidi von Briel pointed out that the street has already functioned well with just two traffic lanes during a gas line maintenance project last year, which “seems not to have caused any major problem.”

Because the road diet will be a pilot project, the City Council could still undo the striping. “It’s something you could easily remove later, you could easily adjust,” Community Development Director Aaron Aknin assured the council.

City staff plan to stripe the new Farm Hill design sometime between May and July.

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