Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Thanks for J. R. R. Tolkien for the title; it comes from a poem he wrote for The Lord of the Rings.

I’ve been traveling a bit lately, so it was with great relief that I was able to get out and take a nice long ramble the other day. The weather was perfect (sunny and warm, but not too hot) and although I had a couple of downtown-area projects I wanted to check up on, I was out primarily to see if there was anything new going on. I had to limit my walk somewhat—I can’t cover the entire city in a single day—so I focused mainly on El Camino Real, from Whipple Avenue down to below Woodside Road, plus our downtown and the area around Veterans Boulevard. In total I walked just under nine miles: plenty for one day, especially given that I haven’t taken many really long walks lately.

I started by walking down to the Mezes Park area (between El Camino Real and Veterans Boulevard, and between Brewster Avenue and Whipple Avenue). Although my plan was to just wander, I did want to take a look at 1016 Warren Street. It seems that there was a small (890 square feet!) house here once:


[The above is a Google Street View image from April of 2011]

Understandably, the owner decided to remodel the house, expanding it to a more livable 1,698-square-foot size. During reviews for the building permit the city realized that this was a historic house (as a great many of the houses within the Mezesville Historic District are). Meanwhile, however, the owner jumped the gun and demolished the house before obtaining permission or a permit. Thus, today the property looks like this:


Just as a genie can’t be put back in its bottle, a demolished house can’t magically be restored. Thus the city and the homeowner came to a settlement wherein the owner paid the city $25,000, and the homeowner is now in the process of getting their plans approved. After that they will presumably build a new house on the spot.

I wandered by the three-story condos being built on the property at Fuller Street and Warren Street—which appear to be coming along nicely and should make their planned November 2015 completion date. I took some pictures of a neat old home in the area, and then checked out the progress on the Fuller Street Apartments (the large building going up at the corner of Brewster Avenue and Winslow Street). There wasn’t much new to see: work continues, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than the developer would probably like: the completion date seems to have slipped from October of this year to late March of 2016.

My feet next took me over to Sequoia Station. I had previously noticed work going on in the old Blockbuster Video storefront (next to Safeway), but hadn’t yet learned whether someone had leased the space or if the shopping center owner was simply cleaning it up to make it more attractive to potential lessees. I’m glad I did: it seems we’re getting another Citibank branch (currently we have one downtown, on Marshall Street, and one off of Massachusetts Avenue, across from Woodside Plaza):


From Sequoia Station I just had to see what the tall crane was doing over at nearby Franklin 299 (the giant apartment complex being built on Franklin Street). It seems that the builders were hoisting soil up to the planter boxes on that project’s roof decks. Franklin 299 is in the final touch-up phase, and in fact is partly open for occupancy: the website invites you to “lease & move in today!!”. The project’s 304 units come in a variety of sizes, from 553-square-foot studios to 1,413-square-foot, two bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhouse style apartments. Oh, and before you ask, the studios, all of which are the same size, range in price from $2,714 to $3,059 depending upon their location within the building. At the upper end, the two bedroom townhouse-style units (which span two floors) run $5,222. Per month.

From Franklin 299 I wandered out to El Camino and then explored some of the residential area on the southwest side of El Camino Real (behind Davies Appliance, essentially). Specifically, I wandered up Vera Avenue for a short ways. There are some really charming houses back there! I have to think that this neighborhood is a bit of “undiscovered Redwood City.” While most of the houses seem to be in good repair, many of them look to be quite old: it is clear that there hasn’t been as much bulldozing of the old houses to make way for new ones as there has been in other parts of the city. I’ve been through this area once or twice before, but I may have to spend some more time exploring the area in greater depth.

Next stop, the shopping center where Target is located. Not because of Target, but because of Chuck E Cheese’s. I haven’t been inside a Chuck E Cheese’s in years; not since my kids were quite young (they’ve graduated from college, if that helps with the time scale). I can’t say that I ever cared for their pizza (it may well have improved in the intervening years), but the kids were fine with it and the animatronics, video games, ball pits, and other activities sure made them happy. When I was growing up my younger brother had a hamster that lived in a warren of clear plastic Habitrail tubes. I always wondered what that must have been like for the hamster, and it seems that the creators of Chuck E. Cheese’s (Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari—where I once worked—founded Chuck E. Cheese’s) had the same question: their Redwood City restaurant, at least, boasts a set of human-sized tubes that are very much like my brother’s hamster cage. My kids certainly enjoyed crawling through the maze of tubes, and as a responsible parent I of course just had to spend a bit of time in there myself (surely it was because I was being responsible, and not because I just had to satisfy my own curiosity!). In any case, I paid them a visit simply to verify that Chuck E. Cheese’s is still in business. They are, and from outward appearances it seems that they are doing quite well. As to what really motivated the visit, however, it is because of my next destination, which is on Oddstad Drive between Veterans and 101:


La Petite Playhouse, which apparently opened back in December of 2013, seems very much inspired by Chuck E. Cheese’s. Although they don’t have giant animatronic animals and do not bill themselves as a pizza place—they are an “indoor play and party facility”—they actually do serve pizza. And they have an underwater-themed play structure that seems very much like what Chuck E. Cheese’s has. La Petite Playhouse is designed for kids aged ten and under; they even have a special play area for kids who are three years old or younger. Families can just drop by and play, or they can have parties there.

While in the area, I peeked in on The Jewelry Exchange, the now-closed Goodwill facility, and the DENNIS School Uniforms store (talk about specialization: DENNIS just sells school uniforms that they make in their Oregon factory). All of these businesses are (or, in the case of Goodwill, were) tucked away on Oddstad Drive. As is Redwood City’s Wag Hotel, a high-end boarding, training, grooming, and play facility exclusively for dogs and cats. Wag Hotels seems to be an interesting place; I plan to go back by sometime and take a tour. For now I simply walked by, where I was greeted by one of the happy tenants frolicking in the outdoor yard:


Finally, I’m posting this from Carmel where I’m attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (the huge classic car show that takes place on the golf course and throughout the surrounding area). While there I think I spotted the problem to all our downtown parking woes: we would have no problems if we simply traded in our cars for these:


It is a two-seater! This is a 1964 Peel Trident. Somewhere between 50 and 75 were made. It has a 50cc, one-cylinder two-stroke engine and tops out at about 40 miles per hour. It is six feet long, three and a half feet wide, and weighs 200 pounds. Just perfect for around-town driving!

15 thoughts on “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

  1. After looking into it further there are no plans to add an Alfa-Romeo dealership in Redwood City. They announced the locations and it appears Burlingame is the closest. An old Mercury News article says the land owner of Redwood Nursery was planning on listing it for 2.8m. It doesn’t appear to be currently listed though loopnet has it categorized as “off-market”. I’d imagine it’d be a lot more desirable if they could purchase the adjacent oil changers site. It’d be nice to see continued redevelopment along this stretch of El Camino Real as there’s some decent infrastructure…just needs some polishing.

  2. I was really sad when the cute little house on Warren was demolished immediately after being sold (especially after seeing how lovingly it was staged during the open house) and I hate to see historic buildings torn down, so I had major schadenfreude when the rebuilding was thwarted by the city. Weird they thought they could get away without permits?

    • I have no idea what they were thinking. The fact that they settled with the city, rather than fight it in court, implies that they realized that they made a mistake. Either that, or it was a calculated move to enable them to build the house they wanted without having to maintain the home’s historic character. If it was the latter, then the fine wasn’t large enough…

  3. Greg, thank you for another great write up. I live near Canyon Inn and was wondering if you have seen or heard anything regarding the construction at the former Emerald Market location?

    Best regards.

  4. Greg:
    You do an excellent job covering Redwood City. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with htese well written and thoughtful articles.

    • Yes! Thanks, I love that episode. The Peel P50 has the advantage that they are still making them, apparently. The Trident is just bizarre, and it was the one at the show, so it made the article. I haven’t seen any P50’s tooling about. 😎 But there are some fantastic other cars here, including the reason I’m here: my brother’s newly-restored 1963 Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2. I’m just heading out to see 23 of them gathered together at the Concorso Italiano. Fun stuff!

      • Who doesn’t enjoy Top Gear! I’m looking forward to whatever they piece together for their Amazon Prime debut. Your brother has quite the car, you don’t see those everyday…even around here. Speaking of Ferrari’s any idea if the local dealership purchased the now closed Redwood Nursury next door? It appears they may be using it as employee parking at the moment (only guessing). Maybe they have expansion plans? I think Chysler-Fiat is planning on re-introducing the Alfa Romeo brand through Maserati dealers…or was it a Fiat dealers…I can’t remember. Maybe it will soon be Silicon Valley Ferrari-Maserati-Alfa Romeo.

      • I was assuming that Redwood Nursery’s parking lot was being used by the guys working on the memory care unit down the street. I don’t know who has bought the place, or even if it has been sold. I’ll have to look into that.

      • I believe I read somewhere that a developer was planning to build housing on the Redwood Nursery site. Don’t take my word for it, though, since I can’t seem to remember the source or whether it was just all just a dream 🙂

      • By the way, I agree the Peel Trident is far more interesting/bizarre. And to think people think my late model MINI is small.

      • We have an electric Honda Fit and just love it. I’ve always had a thing for smaller cars: my first car was a Chevy Vega (what can I say?) and my first new car was a Ford Fiesta. But I have to say, my favorite car at the Pebble Beach Concours was an old Packard. And those things were HUGE.

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