Rendering of University Village.

Compare Redlands Growth Initiatives


Here is the latest status on the pending Redlands growth initiatives. There is the Original Citizen’s Growth Initiative and now the revised Alternate Initiative, a consolidated effort between the City, the University and political activist Bill Cunningham. Neither Initiative has been assigned official designations for the ballot at this time. Following is a brief summary of the principle differences between the two Initiatives.


The intent of the Original Initiative was to limit the height of buildings in the Downtown and University Transit Villages to a maximum of three stories. This would preserve the historical character of the downtown area and the vintage neighborhood around the University. It would also minimize the impact of the congestion that would result from a higher density development.

The third Transit Village at ESRI could be built to a higher limit of four stories or 52’, west of Center/Texas Street, the higher dimension recognizing the nature of the surrounding area, predominately commercial/industrial.


The City’s Alternative Initiative would accommodate the Developer’s plan for a four-story residential/commercial development in the Downtown Village plus a five-story parking garage, plus an entertainment/dining feature on the deck above the top floor (effectively making the building six stories high).

In the Alternate Initiative the University Transit Village could also be four stories high, except that within a quarter mile of the University train station buildings could be erected to a height of 68’, or approximately five stories plus additional roof features.

*For reference the new Stuart Street/Starbucks parking garage is 55’ tall, and is described by the Developer as a “three-story structure,” although there are actually four levels of parking plus an elevator shaft, which accounts for the greater height.

The Alternative Initiative also has a peculiar addition that would change the zoning for properties in San Timoteo Canyon, presumably to “preserve open space,” although this has nothing to do with Transit Villages.


Measure G was on the ballot in March 2020, as a developer’s initiative that would have allowed almost unlimited building heights and residential densities. It lost by a 2-to-1 margin, i.e. 64% of voters opposed the Measure. The campaign for Measure G was heavily funded by real estate speculators and outside entities, while the Committee Against Measure G was an all-volunteer group of local citizens, funded by small individual donations to a budget that was no more than a tenth of what the developers were spending to promote their Initiative.

The organizer of the movement against Measure G was former Redlands Mayor Bill Cunningham. Bill told us that although Measure G was voted down, there were still loopholes in the existing building codes and guidelines that could give a Developer much of what was in Measure G, and the only way to prevent that was with a new ballot initiative that would clearly define and limit building heights and residential densities in the Transit Villages. This was the beginning of the Redlanders for Responsible Growth Management and what we now call the “Original” Initiative, which was made possible by collecting nearly 8,000 signatures to qualify for a place on the November 2022 ballot.

After months of hard work, the signed petitions were presented to the City Council in August 2021. At that point, the Council could have simply adopted the Initiative as-is, or they could have called for a Special Election, which would have been very costly. In the end, the Council decided to move the Initiative to the November 2022 ballot, which is where we are now.


In the meantime, Mr. Cunningham, against all logic and common sense, and in spite of all the effort that went into getting his Original Measure on the ballot, decided that the University of Redlands should have a different initiative, more favorable to the Developer. So, on his own and while using his Original Initiative as a template, he presented the University with what is now known as the Alternative Initiative. But there was a catch.

Bill added a provision to the Alternative Initiative that would change zoning in San Timoteo Canyon to a configuration that would favor the ranch land he owned there (which has absolutely nothing to do with Transit Villages). He told the University that if they would sponsor his Alternative Initiative, it could be done without gathering ANY signatures.

However, to avoid having two somewhat similar initiatives on the ballot at the same time, if the University would endorse his “canyonlands perk,” he would withdraw his Original Initiative (without regard to the 7,710 voters who had already supported it). This could almost guarantee passage of his Alternative Initiative (and the changes Cunningham wanted for his property in San Timoteo Canyon).

Cunningham has until August 12th to decide what he wants to do with his Original Initiative. As the sole author of that Initiative, he could still withdraw it, and there is already speculation that that is exactly what he’ll do. Bye-bye 7,710 voters. Is all of this complicated? Certainly. Is it fair and ethical? Probably not.


In any case, the Alternative Initiative is already approved by the City Council for inclusion on the November ballot. It remains to be seen if both initiatives will appear side-by-side or if the Alternative Initiative is the only one that makes it to the BALLOT. But either way, the choice and the vote are still in your hands. Remember that no matter whether there are two initiatives on the ballot or only one, you have the right to vote “NO” on the alternative.

We hope you’ll recognize that the Alternative Initiative is really all about what the Developer wants, to maximize Return On Investment. It’s about the M-O-N-E-Y, not about providing the University with a trendy village on the vacant lot to the south of their campus.

We can’t stay silent

NOTE: Since the city elites choose to ignore the result of Measure G and the success of our initiative petition WHICH WILL BE ON THE NOVEMBER BALLOT, we must keep communicating by as many ways as possible, and as often as necessary. Here is an example of a letter that was published in the Redlands Community News and also sent to city government officials. You could write a similar letter expressing your opinion to the editor, or to the City Council or Planning Commissioners, or any other entity you are involved with. We can’t stay silent.  “As one politician said, ‘You don’t get what you don’t fight for.’ ” (Stolen Focus, Johann Hari, Crown Books, 2022, page 277.)

Subject: Mall Proposal

Regarding your article of 4/14 pertaining to plans for the mall property, it was a fair recap of the hearing. It appears the City Council and Planning Commission have become promoters of the State Street Village proposal for the mall. Resident participants in the hearings want the mall property developed but there are sticking points that they acknowledge. They said that the proposed architectural design did not fit the theme of downtown. The issue of parking was also a concern. There was agreement that the redevelopment of the mall will “have a major impact on the city for decades to come” and the project “must be done right.”

However, what was missing from the conversation was any reference to the impact of the defeat of Measure G by 65% of Redlands voters. If it had passed the City Council would have been given total control over the development in the downtown area with no limit on building heights, residential density, or overall magnitude of the project. The voters overwhelmingly rejected this overreach because they did not want tall buildings and more congestion in the downtown. The Citizen’s Growth Initiative petition, that was endorsed by 7700 Redlands voters, also rejected the intent of Measure G. It is clear that most voters in Redlands do not want a massive development in the core of their city.

Also missing is the fact that currently there is no height limit downtown and that the mall proposal shows a building 75′ tall (for reference 300 State Street is 85′ tall). State Street Partners is telling us that the mall proposal will only have 4 story buildings. City Planning says that a 4 story building is 55″ plus additions like an elevator tower, penthouse, steeple, water tower, etc. Four story is a “smoke screen” for a building 65′ tall or as the proposal states 75′.

During the hearing and response period there was no mention of the substantial increase in population downtown with 700 new apartments at the mall site and an estimated 350 more apartments planned for the sites of the old Safety Hall and the corner of Eureka and Redlands Blvd. These apartments could easily add 3000 people and 1500 more vehicles within a city block radius of Citrus and Eureka. And, what about considering the increase in delivery and service vehicles contributing to the congestion.

There was no discussion as to who will pay for the required infrastructure like water and sewer mains, sidewalks, street paving or if the “Zanja” running under the mall property will need to be modified and if so, who will pay for this. Then there is the question of the ongoing future cost to the taxpayer of additional public safety services, such as police and fire, to service the increase in population. Also, what about the impact on the schools with the increase in population?

Our comments make it sound like Friends of Redlands is against development. We are not. What we are against is out of control growth in Redlands historical downtown.  It is only fair that Redlanders are truthfully informed and get answers to all the critical issues surrounding this project before it is approved because it “must be done right” for the future of Redlands.

Merry Smith – Friends of Redlands

Building heights in Redlands

Hello all! The Friends of Redlands Committee is still alive and well. We are fulfilling our mandate to keep you informed and up to date on city actions and working to Save Redlands from high rises, density, traffic and congestion.

Over the past two months we have filed three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. We are asking questions about the city’s plans for building heights downtown and the U of R Transit Villages Area (TVA). Here is what we have discovered:


  1. The city responded to our first records request saying that the height limit downtown in the TVA was 55’ (currently, building heights in the TVA are governed by the Downtown Specific Plan 45). That is the height of the new Stuart Street Parking Garage. Another records request revealed that the new Third Street Commercial Building (next to the garage) is 58’+. So, what gives? There are loopholes to the 55’ limit allowing higher buildings. Things like, penthouses, elevator shaft housings, chimneys, steeples, water tanks, skylights, roof structures, etc., are allowed. So, how high could a building be?
  2. We filed another records request asking for the most up to date Transit Villages Specific Plan Draft (has yet to be approved). This shows a diagram of a 65’ tall building with an undefined dimension that would be allowed in the TVA. Let’s speculate that on top of this 65’ a “roof structure” is added on. What would be the result? A building 75’ tall or taller (the California Health and Safety Code 13210 defines a high rise as 75’ or taller)? Remember 300 State, the new city hall, is 85’ tall.


From all these FOIA requests and our conversations with the city it is apparent that there are exceptions and loopholes to building heights downtown and the TVA. These exceptions are part of a larger problem. The City Planning Department along with the developers can increase the heights of buildings and the public will be kept in the dark until the buildings are completed. Then it is too late!




A real nemesis to our Citizen’s Initiative to limit building heights and density in the Transit Villages Area downtown is California State law SB330. This law could override some of the building requirements in the Citizen’s Initiative. In addition, the state has passed two other draconian laws, SB 9 and 10. These two laws destroy local control over our zoning laws and in the process “tank” private property values by allowing for uncontrolled development in residential areas.

However, there is hope on the horizon. There is a citizen’s initiative brewing that would reverse SB 330, SB9 and 10 and prevent Sacramento from dictating local zoning laws. Go to:

and see Our Neighborhood Voices website to find out more about this movement. This is all about preserving local control and single family homes.

Friends of Redlands is considering helping by collecting signatures for the StopSacramento petition drive.


Friends of Redlands is planning ahead for the battle with the city to get our Citizen’s Initiative approved by the voters next November. We want to expand our list of supporters so we can inform more Redlanders on what FOR is doing and the latest actions by the city.

                                                       WE NEED YOUR HELP!

If you know anyone who wants to be added to our email list please let us know. You can send contact information to Larry or go to your website,, go to Contact Us ( on right) and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up. Thank you.


Candidate, anyone?

The November 2022 election in Redlands will be quite an event. Not only is the Citizen’s Initiative to limit density and building heights on the ballot, but three council members are up for reelection. Mayor Barich and Councilwoman Davis both have terms that are up and Councilman Foster’s seat will be vacant.

Here is an opportunity for someone to run for office. Remember, all five members of the city council dismissed the defeat of Measure G despite being outspent by a 9-1 margin. Then the council voted unanimously to delay the vote on the Citizen’s Initiative signed by 7700 voters. This delay will allow city planning, the planning commission and council a year to dilute the requirements of the Initiative and allow developers to get plans approved before November. How can existing council members run on a record of blatantly ignoring the will of the people??? This is a made to order, winning issue for the right candidate to run on.

So, if you know anyone who supports our efforts and is considering running for council send them our way. Friends of Redlands will put some muscle behind the campaign.

Paid Parking Station
Remember when Redlands had PARKING METERS on State Street? Frustrating to say the least.

Future Downtown Parking

Friends of Redlands is working to keep you informed as to the developments downtown. As you know we collected 7700 signatures to get the Citizen’s Growth Initiative on the ballot and the city delayed the vote until November 2022. In the meantime the city is working very quickly to put in place requirements to nullify The Initiative.

For example, on October 12, the Planning Commission recommended that the City Council vote to modify the parking requirements for developments downtown. These new requirements are contrary to the parking specifications in the Citizen’s Growth Initiative and follow very closely the parking requirements in the Transit Villages Specific Plan Draft (TVSPD) that has not yet been approved. Here is a big question: Can the city do this without approval of the Transit Villages Environmental Impact Report? Friends of Redlands will be asking this question of City Planning.

If the city can make these types of peremptory decisions just wait for the PAID PARKING downtown. Yes, in the Transit Villages Specific Plan Draft PAID PARKING is coming to downtown Redlands.

Chapter 6 of the TVSPD states “That the parking supply is important to the economic success of downtown.” But then the Plan says an “oversupply of parking takes up valuable land that could be used for better purposes, while encouraging additional automobile use.” The plan also says that research has shown that parking needs downtown are often 25% to 50% less than needed and that some cities have reduced parking, and in some cases, eliminated it. The Plan says that parking should be managed efficiently and that it is “reasonable to implement paid parking programs.” “Parking strategies also include in-lieu fees, parking time restrictions, parking permits, or other types of paid parking ….” Remember when Redlands had PARKING METERS on State Street? Frustrating to say the least.

So, there you have it. As more and more people live in the Transit Villages Area and traffic and density increases Redlanders can look forward to parking meters, parking permits, time limited parking and other paid parking schemes.

A view of proposed State Street village
A view of proposed State Street Village

Downtown Development Update

Did you see the Community News, Friday October 1st, front page headline?

“Planning Commission backs downtown Redlands projects.”

The two projects are Redlands City Center on the site of the old Safety Hall and a Vantage One multifamily project at the corner of Redlands Boulevard and Eureka Street. These projects along with the Village Partners Mall project will put 966 apartments and an estimated 2000 plus people living within a radius of ONE city block. The developers say that the buildings will be 4 stories with 5 story elements and a 6 story parking garage within the Village Partners Mall project.

Remember, the city’s Transit Villages Specific Plan defines a 4 story building as being 65’ tall with an undefined dimension meaning that a 4 story building could be over 75’ tall, making it a high rise structure by California standards. We have asked city planning to give us the absolute dimensional limit for a four, five and six story building. No answer. What are they afraid of?

image of apartments & parking
An apartment complex with parking garage in Riverside, CA. An indicator of what is coming to Redlands.

A Monolith

Pam, one of our supporters, suggested that Friends of Redlands visit an apartment and parking garage development at the corner of Iowa and University in Riverside. Although this is a huge complex it is an indicator of what is coming to Redlands. Worth a look!

Have you seen the new parking garage on Stuart next to the Arrow train station? This garage is three (3) stories and is designed to house 384 cars. It is quite a monolith. The closer one gets to it the more it blocks the view of the mountains. If you think this is big, Village Partners has a six (6) story parking garage with 780 spaces planned for the mall site. During the morning commute the only way to exit this garage will be onto Redlands Blvd and the only direction is to exit going east and then turning left on Orange St., to get on the I-10. And, don’t forget a delay for the Arrow crossing on Orange. Could be exciting!

One more thing. Please do not forget to comment on the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Transit Villages Environmental Impact Report. This will be one of the last chances Redlanders will get to voice their opinions. The NOP states that subjects of “Significant Impact” are water resources, views of the mountains, traffic, noise, population density and parking.

Do your part to Save Redlands by emailing comments to Brian Foote – Planning Manager at We only have until September 30th!!!