2023 All-America City Finalist –Redwood City, CA

Redwood City is a vibrant community devoted to preserving its rich history, maintaining today’s quality of life, and carefully planning a sustainable future. Focused on collaboration and civility, Redwood City’s strong partnerships across government, education, business, and nonprofit sectors contribute to the success and health of the city.   

Youth Engagement 

Beginning in May 2022, over 200 youth on bikes took to the streets, making Downtown Redwood City their own space by riding on sidewalks, doing tricks in the roads, and setting off fireworks near pedestrians and businesses. Tensions came to a head one night when illegal fireworks scared downtown visitors, sending the theater into lockdown. While the immediate response was to arrest the youth, rather than double down on enforcement, the city opted for a long-term engagement strategy.   

Using data from an extensive participatory budgeting process, the city reviewed priorities previously identified by youth. Youth responses highlighted interest in youth employment, after school program scholarships, more hangout spaces, and peer-based support groups. Looking into this youth data offered staff an initial picture of some potential root causes of youth misbehavior downtown and some potential strategies to address it.   

At the same time, the city manager called on local youth development champions to talk directly to the youth involved in the disruptions about their needs and interests. Trusted adults worked with youth to co-create the Purposeful Action Creation & Engagement (PACE) Plan. Created with and for youth, the PACE Plan includes long-term programs, strategies, and policy recommendations to frame a more sustainable, equitable, and effective system of after-school programs, entertainment activities, coaching and mentorships, and events for transition-age youth.    

PACE Program activities have already resulted in an increase in youth involvement and reduced youth crime. To support youth programming and sustain PACE as a permanent strategy, the city has secured $230,000 from local philanthropic partners.   

Magical Bridge Playground 

With an old playground in desperate need of repair, families, youth, and people who have disabilities, approached the City of Redwood to build a special play space that could accommodate everyone’s needs. The city partnered with Magical Bridge Foundation to make this dream a reality.   

Magical Bridge Playgrounds are universally designed to be a socially inclusive playground for everyone. The Magical Bridge Foundation worked with the city and the Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation to fully engage the entire community in the design of the park. Several community engagement opportunities were held in the planning of the playground. In addition to three general community meetings, specific stakeholder meetings were held with the school district, teachers who work with children with special needs, the County of San Mateo Commission on Disabilities; board members from the Sequoia Health Care District; and board members from the Kainos adult special needs organization.   

The community also rallied together to match the city’s contribution of $3.5M. Schools held coin drives, parents pledged funds, business leaders stepped forward, and local foundations and health organizations donated.   

Magical Bridge Redwood City was completed in December 2020 and goes well beyond typical playground designs that do the minimum to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Magical Bridge Redwood City is a play space where all ages, all abilities, and all people will be able to play together on a variety of specialized slides, swings, spin, and sway equipment.   

The playground welcomes over 1,500 people a day; hosts numerous youth-focused visual and performing arts events; and has a specialized “Kindness Ambassador” volunteer program.  

Anti-Displacement Strategy  

As the rising cost of housing in the Bay Area has resulted in challenges for many residents, Redwood City has worked together to address homelessness, anti-displacement, and Safe Parking for RVs.  

On June 27, 2022, the City of Redwood City adopted its Anti-Displacement Strategy to preserve affordable housing and protect housing options for low- and moderate-income residents. The city conducted extensive outreach efforts over a two-year period while developing the strategy. Civic engagement included five focus groups, seven workshops, dozens of 1-on-1 meetings and interviews, a mobile home survey with 90 participants, and an online tenant survey with 140 participants. Meetings were offered in English, Spanish, virtually, and in-person to ensure as many residents as possible could participate. The focus groups consisted of both tenants and landlords to get all perspectives. Participants shared the primary housing challenges and gave feedback on tenant protection policies. Partner organizations promoted workshops at churches, food bank lines, schools, and through tenants’ neighborhood associations.  

Based on this extensive community engagement, the city identified the following long-term strategies:   

  • Increase tenant protections 
  • Preserve unsubsidized affordable housing 
  • Preserve mobile home living 
  • Develop anti-harassment policies 
  • Limit renovation-related evictions 

Policy recommendations include adopting a Just Cause Eviction Policy, expanding Relocation Assistance, improving minimum lease term requirements, establishing a dedicated Housing Preservation Fund, supporting community land trusts, ensuring mobile home parks are zoned under the Mobile Home zoning category, adopting a Mobile Home Park Ordinance, providing resources to mobile park residents to support safe and stable housing, and exploring anti-harassment policies and the right to return policies for renovation-related evictions.   

In addition to the Anti Displacement Strategy, the city created the largest RV Safe Parking program in San Mateo County, transitioning a majority of RVs off of city streets and into a parking lot where those residents could safely park and work on a path to permanent housing. 

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