The Wearing of the Green

Saint Patrick’s Day is next Thursday (the 17th). Since I publish my blog posts on Fridays, saying “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day” in my next post would be a bit too late. So instead, I’ll be early. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Be sure to wear something green that day, or you just might end up like this guy:

At least he looks happy! If you want to check him out for yourself, you’ll find him on the corner of Whipple Avenue and Turnsworth Avenue. Oh, and he got me wondering, so I checked on Dug the T-Rex. As of Wednesday Dug wasn’t doing anything related to Saint Patrick’s Day. Perhaps he’s waiting for the actual day?

Last Monday (March 7) our City Council presented their State of the City address. In the past this annual event has been sponsored by the Redwood City Chamber of Commerce. This year in an effort to be more open and to encourage public participation the City Council held it in their Council Chambers.

I got the impression that the city was expecting more attendees; there seemed to be a number of empty chairs (I’ve attended many standing-room-only meetings in those chambers, but this wasn’t one of them). Perhaps most folks chose to watch online, either live or after-the-fact, as I did. Regardless, if you haven’t watched it yet I would encourage you to do so (it runs just under 50 minutes). Not only will you come away with a better idea of the City Council’s priorities for the upcoming year, you’ll also have a chance to see each of our council members (and a few of our city staff) in action. It’s a nice way to put names with faces, if nothing else.

Watch the presentation here: Each council member in turn presents some of the City Council’s key priorities for the year. At the end there was supposed to be a public question-and-answer session, but whomever set up this meeting forgot about the Brown Act: the City Council as a body can’t discuss matters of public interest in an open meeting without first posting notice of the subject at least 72 hours in advance, so they can’t discuss issues raised by the audience. This meant that the public Q&A had to be scrapped. Instead, attendees were encouraged to approach individual council members at a get-together after the State of the City address.

From the dais the Council announced that Housing was being elevated to the level of a key initiative. I was pleased to see this, as housing for lower-income families continues to be a challenge that will need strong support from government at all levels. It is still early in the process, but I am hopeful that we’ll finally be able to make some meaningful progress on this particular front.

As the presentation was relatively short, only the most important priorities could be highlighted. I was happy to note mention of the study for a possible streetcar line along Broadway. Also, a possible ordinance to encourage more retail on Main Street—something I’ve been an advocate of for quite some time now (although I’d like to see this include a lot more of the downtown area, not just Main Street). The Council highlighted the Stanford in Redwood City project and the Highway 101/Woodside interchange project as things that will have major impacts on the city in the next couple of years.

Most of what the Council had to say was something that I had already heard (though don’t let that stop you from watching; I’m probably a bit more well-informed than most). But I was positively thrilled to hear, for the first time, about something I (and many of you) have been wanting for a long time: a new community garden.

Council member Howard said nothing more than “we will finalize the plans and begin construction for a new community garden at Maple and Lathrop Street,” but that was enough to pique my interest. The next day I headed over there for a bit of research. First of all, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that this is the site that they are talking about:

It is the only parcel at Maple and Lathrop that would be large enough to make for a good community garden (there is a small triangular piece across Lathrop that is owned by the city, but it is pretty small and currently being used as a parking lot). Most recently the above-pictured parcel was planned to be the home of Lathrop PARC, a 114-bed skilled nursing facility. Back in 2010 or so a Menlo Park-based company, Lathrop PARC Redwood City LLC, was formed to raise the needed money for this project. The two lots here (one is home the small orange-painted building at the corner of Main Street and Elm Street, while the other is empty) were both purchased by the company, and a permit was filed for the underground utilities needed by the planned five-story building. But activity quickly ground to a halt and the property has been sitting, untouched, ever since. Lathrop PARC Redwood City LLC still owns both parcels; I don’t know if they still plan to build on the property someday, or whether they will sell it, or what. If this is indeed the right parcel for the garden, it appears that for now a number of us who live in apartment and condos, and thus don’t have land of our own to cultivate, will be able to put down some literal roots here. Which not only allows some people to grow food and ornamental plants that otherwise couldn’t, but also helps to green up a somewhat neglected part of our city.

All told the property is about 1-1/3 acres in size, although Redwood Creek runs through it and thus reduces the amount of land available for cultivation. The five-sided property is bounded by the railroad tracks, Main Street, Elm Street, Lathrop Street, and Maple Street; it sits directly across Elm Street from Lutticken’s Main & Elm. As you can see from the photograph, construction fences currently surround the property, and there appears to be electricity, at least. There should be water on the site, as well, so other than some additional fencing to keep people safely away from the creek, it doesn’t seem to lack for much to make for a good gardening spot.

This part of the city, which is brimming with older buildings, has been getting some nice attention lately. First there was the transformation of Main Street Coffee Company into Main & Elm. Then there was the construction of the Main Street Dog Agility Park. And just about a month and a half ago, our own City Trees did a project along this part of Main Street, adding some 49 trees to the sidewalks on the either side of Main Street:

These little bits of green will grow and add to the handful of mature trees that currently reside in the area, someday providing shade and helping to beautify a part of Main Street that could use the attention. And they were put in with donated dollars and volunteer labor, thanks to City Trees. If planting trees and helping to green up our city is something that interests you, by all means check out their website, where you can donate to the cause and sign up to volunteer at future events.

At one time Lathrop PARC was on the city’s list of development projects; it fell off that list quite some time ago. Another project that was on the list for a while, but was removed some months back, was a proposal to build a six-story office building on the small parking lot behind Gourmet Haus StaudtBelle Nail Spa, and Peacebank Yoga Studio. I was over there this week and noticed that as part of the remodel going on in the old Redwood City Art Center storefront (which sits between Gourmet Haus Staudt and Goetz Brothers Sporting Goods), the murals that were on the side and rear of the Art Center are no longer:

In case you don’t remember, or in case you never saw it, here was what the large blank wall that faces the parking lot looked like up until recently. As you can see, this is one case were we lost a lot of green (paint):

I wonder if this wall will once again have a mural applied to it? If the property at 30 California remains a parking lot, the large blank wall that now faces it (and Redwood City’s Caltrain station) is going to be a tempting target for graffiti artists; better to put a well-designed mural there, I say. (Incidentally, this parking lot was once the location of the Redwood City Tribune building; for a picture of what that building once looked like, click this link.)

As for the old Redwood City Art Center building itself, I also took a peek inside and snapped this picture of the ongoing construction:

It appears to be coming along nicely. Curiously enough, I was told that this building isn’t being built out for a specific tenant. I’m not sure why a developer would go to this much effort to build something without knowing exactly how it is going to be used, but they must have some plan. Note the large amounts of natural light that the skylights provide to this very deep space. Also note the loft area along the back, and the upper-level windows that bring light to that loft. Given the shiny vent pipes and the mounted ceiling fans, I’m guessing that the ceiling is going to be left open, with exposed beams. This should indeed be an interesting space when it is done; I can’t wait to see it!

As we approach Saint Patrick’s day, I’m pleased to see the various ways that Redwood City is greening—and sprucing—itself up. And if the City Council can make significant progress on the items they highlighted at the State of the City address, our city will continue to improve for both existing and future residents. Which should make people who don’t live in Redwood City green with envy!

3 thoughts on “The Wearing of the Green

  1. Pingback: A Foolish Consistency | Walking Redwood City

  2. I enjoy your posts each week, Greg. I did have a question if you happen to know what’s going on with the large empty apartment building on Canyon Road across the street from the Emerald Market Place? It’s been empty for several months now, but I haven’t seen any activity. Just curious…

    • I don’t, but I noticed that place a couple of weeks ago, and have it on my list. I’ll see what I can find out. It does seem odd; there are no signs that I can see, and no indication that they are doing any work on it or anything. I’ll write about it if I find out anything (and if anyone reading this knows anything, by all means fill us in!).

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