It’s the Little Things

Last week I was poking around downtown Redwood City, doing research for last Friday’s article and seeing whether there was anything new to report on. I stuck my nose into Broadway Masala (Literally! The door was open.) and was staggered by the overpowering odor of smoke that permeated the restaurant. Cleanup was clearly underway, but if my nose is any judge, recovering from their fire is going to take quite a while. Aili Ice Designs, Broadway Masala’s next-door neighbor, was also still closed, although they, too, seemed to be actively working to get things cleaned up and reopened. If they aren’t open by now, hopefully they, at least, will be open again soon.

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While I was in the neighborhood I wandered around the corner to see how 815 Hamilton (the five-story building that will sit right behind the Fox Theatre) was doing. I’m glad I did, since it allowed me to notice the sign that Amie Wine Bar and Restaurant has affixed to their front door:

AMIE WINE BAR HAS CLOSED.
We Have Enjoyed Our Time In Redwood City &
Wish Everyone A Pleasant New Year.

No cause was indicated, but I presume that the construction of 815 Hamilton proved to be too much for this intriguing little business. The restaurant’s location, tucked away on Hamilton Street right where the construction fences are temporarily turning Hamilton into a dead-end alley, is a tough one. It isn’t on a main street and it isn’t very visible from Broadway. For those people driving along Winslow Street it used to be somewhat visible, and was certainly easily spotted by those who used the Winslow Street parking lot, but that lot is closed for the duration of the construction and Amie’s storefront is now on the wrong side of the construction fences from Winslow. Once construction is complete it may well be a better location than before—for one thing, 815 Hamilton is likely to bring more foot traffic to that section of Winslow Street, and the entrance to 815 Hamilton’s underground parking garage will be close by Amie’s front door—but for now, it seems that our downtown construction has taken another toll. Regretfully, Amie Wine Bar is one business that I had always meant to patronize. Now it seems that I never will.

On the subject of closing businesses, Lyngso Garden Materials has officially closed their Seaport Boulevard location and shifted entirely to their new space at 345 Shoreway Road in San Carlos, just north of the airport (between Public Storage and the Recology Transfer Station). While taking photographs out at Pacific Shores for last week’s article, I stopped in at Lyngso’s old location to see what was up. What was up was this:

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The gates are locked, the main building is boarded up, and the bulk material bins, once full of rock, sand, gravel, and soil, are completely empty. Too, the small gas station next door that serviced the area’s commercial vehicles is also gone; of that business there is no evidence that it even existed. All of this is simply a continuation of what we saw happen to Malibu Grand Prix: it is in preparation for the 1.3 million-square-foot Harbor View Place development that Jay Paul Co. hopes to build on this massive site. Construction is still quite a ways off, though. The project proposal is still undergoing review by the city.

I was interested to see that the site isn’t completely dead, at least in one sense: While taking photos I noticed a beat-up BMW and an old RV parked in the small lot outside the Lyngso gates, and soon was greeted by one of the occupants of the RV. He turned out to be friendly and quite chatty: I don’t think he gets many visitors. It seems that he’s one of our city’s homeless folks, and has chosen this spot to park his RV. Interestingly, he feels some responsibility for the site and tries to act as an unofficial “security guard” for the property. He says that he periodically walks around the perimeter of the property and tries to chase away the various miscreants who are looking to strip the old Lyngso property of any materials that can be sold, including copper wire and pipe, sheet metal, and the like. Fortunately, although he gets periodic visits from members of our police force, for now at least they just tell him to keep things clean and don’t seem to be trying to move him off. That won’t last, of course; once construction gets underway, if not sooner, I’m sure my new friend will have to move on.

In my recent post Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes I mentioned that Redwood Trading Post’s new home on Veteran’s Boulevard was taking longer to prepare than they had planned, and that they would need to move to a temporary site at 849 Veteran’s Boulevard, next door to the Old Port Lobster Shack (and very near the In-N-Out Burger). That temporary site is now up and running, it seems:

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Be aware that it is a bit hidden, though. This little strip center sits end-on to Veterans Boulevard (it stretches from Veterans back to Main Street), and the unit that fronts onto Veterans is being used as a construction office by the contractor for the Indigo project (the blue-and-white 469-unit apartment complex being constructed just across Veterans). Redwood Trading Post’s temporary storefront is behind and somewhat inset from the contractor’s, and is thus mostly hidden from the street. But turn in the driveway towards the Lobster Shack and you’ll see Redwood Trading Post’s bright yellow signs. Hopefully they won’t need to remain there too long, and will soon be able to occupy their new, permanent home further down Veterans towards Woodside Road.

I’m hoping that things go OK for Redwood Trading Post in their double move. My wife and I, at least, will willingly seek them out. And although I’m a bit disappointed that Lyngso is no longer in Redwood City, their new location isn’t much farther away from my house than their old one was, so I’m fine with their move. Amie Wine Bar’s closing, on the other hand, is a real disappointment, since I really was meaning to try them out. But while attending the Complete Streets Advisory Committee meeting a week ago Tuesday I learned about an upcoming loss that frankly makes me ecstatic. What we’re losing is this little traffic island, which you’ll encounter on Broadway Street between Middlefield Road and Jefferson Avenue:

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I never understood the logic behind this island. The way that the lanes on either side of the island merge where they meet Jefferson (the foreground, in the above picture) is just bizarre. It seems that the city agrees with me, however; a contract has just been awarded to remove the island and reconfigure the roadway.

At the meeting I learned that the original intent was for the lane closest to the theaters to be a drop-off lane, while all other traffic was supposed to remain on the other side of the island. Unfortunately, there was no signage to indicate that fact, so a lot of people may have assumed that the lane to the right was for people turning right. And most people using that right lane seemingly never noticed the Yield sign, which gave the right-of-way to people on the left of the island, many of whom were turning right onto Jefferson.

All in all, this configuration was just a mess, and I’m delighted that the city finally recognized that it was time to go. The new configuration, heading eastbound, is likely to be two traffic lanes with a green-painted bike lane between them (westbound traffic will still have only one lane, as they do today). The right lane will be right-turn-only, and the left lane will be for traffic turning left or proceeding straight ahead on Broadway. The bike lane will not only encourage cyclists, but will also serve as a visual barrier that hopefully will discourage people from changing lanes in this block.

It is unfortunate that we are losing the four palm trees that currently live on this island, but over time the city had been planning to remove all of the downtown palms anyway. Although these four palms have yet to show signs of the fungus that is affecting some others in our downtown, that fungus does spread, so their days were likely numbered. And since the sidewalks on either side of that block already have a number of established street trees (they’re bare, but visible, in the above picture), that section of Broadway should be green enough.

One other thing that caught my attention while I was out and about was a notice posted to the door of the Theatre Way storefront that is slated to become the “Cyclismo Cafe”:

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[click the photo for a larger version]

The last time I wrote about Cyclismo Cafe (last July, in Breaking the Circle) I wasn’t sure just what kind of business this would be. But as the above notice indicates, it will indeed be a cafe. And while back in July an Internet search revealed nothing about the business, that has been rectified: since then the business owner posted on the Practical Cycle Transportation Co. website indicating that her shop will “serve delicious food with natural and organic ingredients in addition to carrying some really cool bikes.” An unusual combination, to be sure, but an intriguing one. I’m certainly looking forward to checking them out!

With all of the large downtown projects—including Indigo (525 Middlefield), Marston (601 Main), and 815 Hamilton—generating noise and dust and affecting traffic on nearby streets, it is easy to overlook some of the small changes that are going on around the city. But we shouldn’t: these small changes can be just as important, if not more, especially to those of us who live in Redwood City. After all, most of us won’t be living in the new apartment buildings or working in the new office buildings, but we frequently drive by that island on Broadway and will walk by (and likely be intrigued by) Cyclismo Cafe. And those of us who patronize Redwood Trading Post and Lyngso will now need to adjust to their new locations. So pay attention to the little things: sometimes they are the most important.

8 thoughts on “It’s the Little Things

  1. I know this sounds really stupid and God forbid, to mention the cost of those Palm Tree’s. But I will, something like $ 60,000 each. Or lets not mention the past City Council who made that design decision. I wonder if the present Council is doing the same mistake. But I for one would like to see. Natural disease free native to this area, home grown (here goes) Redwood Trees ! Yes there messy, high maintainance with there litter and can stain cars. But then again we are moving away from any cars to pedestrian and bicycle only downtown so it seams to me a no brainer. So good luck with the new once again old problem with that island on Broadway. PS. Love the information that the local fish wrappers and three city publications can’t match. Keep walking.

  2. Have you seen the cool log house in the 300 block of Orchard off Woodside Road? Seems like something you would like.

    I’d attach a picture but didn’t know how.

  3. Lynso had a truck scale. I wonder if they ripped it out or left it in the ground. If the latter, there’s sure a lot of metal to be scrapped!

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