Pamela Cruz. Peninsula 360 Press [P360P].
In an effort to increase the number of child care spaces in Redwood City, the Planning Commission voted to approve zoning amendments aimed at streamlining the review process for establishing new facilities and expanding the areas allowed for family child care homes and centers.
According to a study, there is an estimated shortage of 225 child care and early learning spaces for infants and toddlers in the city, in addition to 522 slots for preschool-age children and 358 for school-age children.
The document highlights that by 2025, these numbers can be expected to increase to 350 spaces for infants, 800 preschools and 600 spaces for school-age children, based on current supply.
For low-income families eligible for subsidized care, spaces are available for 7 percent of infants, 86 percent of preschoolers and 55 percent of school-age children.
In response, on December 1, Commissioner Rick Hunter told a meeting, "This is a great need in our city and in our area. Anything we can do to increase quality child care for the benefit of our residents and employees who work in Redwood City is a good thing."
Notably, in the study that took place in 2017, it is estimated that nearly nine thousand 500 children of city residents and employees under the age of 13 need child care, while more than three thousand families earn less than 70 percent of the state median income.
During public comment, Christine Padilla, director of Build Up For San Mateo County's Children, said Redwood City had approximately 148 licensed child care providers, 43 centers and 105 family child care homes, all small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We need all types and sizes of child care centers to sustain our community, especially for low-income working families," said Padilla, who added that we may continue to see closures of these centers due to the pandemic.
The above, he said "makes all these efforts led by the council and this commission to support the creation of more affordable, high-quality child care spaces even more critical."
Thus, the amendments would apply to both in-home facilities and child care centers, as the city's current regulations for large family child care homes require use permits, limits on where a facility can be established and regulation of playgrounds, as well as pick-up and drop-off times and outdoor play time.
However, Redwood City allows small family child care homes serving no more than eight children to operate, by right, in any dwelling.
Thus, child care centers in residentially zoned areas can only operate in conjunction with a church or school and require a public hearing before opening the center.
Under that precept, staff recommended that the city allow the development of facilities without requiring that they be attached to a church or school, a policy endorsed by the Planning Commission during a study session held last July 21.
In the case of shopping centers, the commission supported allowing free-standing facilities, as well as eliminating the requirement that only children of employees be served, and expanding the number of children allowed to receive services from 24 to 60.