Walk, Don’t Run

This was a short work week for me. I spent a very long weekend—Thursday through Tuesday—in Southern California, helping with a “Ragnar” race and seeing family. Ragnar races are quite something: they are 200-mile-long relay races. This particular one started in Huntington Beach (which is south of LA) and ended up on Coronado Island (which is in the San Diego bay). Runners are organized into teams of at most twelve people, with each person running at least three “legs” of the race. Legs seemed to range from about 3 to 8 miles in length, and vary in difficulty depending upon the terrain. This particular race began on Friday morning and ended up on Saturday afternoon, going right through the night with runners using head-mounted flashlights to see and safety vests and glow sticks to make themselves visible at night. They ran on streets, sidewalks, and trails, following normal rules and waiting at crosswalks whenever they had to cross the street.

I am most definitely not a runner. My father tried to encourage it in all of us kids, and I gave it a try, but it wasn’t for me. I may not run, but I of course love to walk, and I’m happy to support others in their endeavors. My sister-in-law, who recently completed the LA Marathon, put together a Ragnar team that ended up including not only her, but also one of my nieces and one of my closest friends. Thus, my wife and I felt that we should assist in any way we could (short of running, of course!).

As you can imagine, putting on a Ragnar is a huge effort that takes a lot of volunteer labor. We volunteered to help at the Huntington Beach starting line. I was handed a safety vest and an orange flag and told to help direct traffic entering the parking lot, while my wife and a friend helped with team registration. Once we put in our time, we drove to San Diego in order to cheer on the runners. I’m delighted to report that my sister-in-law’s team successfully completed the race, and in good time, too!

Because I was gone on Monday and Tuesday, I was left with only three days in which to gather information for this week’s post. Fortunately I had a clear idea of what I wanted to write about, and knew exactly where I needed to go. Unfortunately our temperature spike on Wednesday meant that my walk—which was planned to be a pretty long one—had to wait until Thursday.

On several occasions I’ve written about the auto dealership on El Camino Real at Whipple Avenue. The former Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram (CDJR) dealership now sits empty, but since one can now buy such vehicles from the Boardwalk dealership on Bair Island Road, at least Redwood City still gets the tax revenue from those sales. But we once again are left with an empty dealership occupying prime real estate in Redwood City’s northwest quadrant. And relatively soon—in mid-to-late 2017, it seems—we’ll have another. This one is also on El Camino Real, and very close to the former CDJR dealership. For Honda Redwood City will be moving to San Carlos.

Given that my wife and I are on our second Honda from this very dealership—and given the ease with which I can walk between my house and Honda Redwood City—I’ll miss them very much. And given the fact that they’re among Redwood City’s top 25 sales tax generators, I suspect the City of Redwood City is going to miss them very much, too.

Redwood City obtains nearly 20% of its general fund revenues from sales taxes (as reported in the city’s 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report), and more than half of Redwood City’s 25 top sales tax generators are auto dealerships. Thus, losing even one of those dealers will have a noticeable impact on Redwood City’s budget. It will also have a very noticeable impact on El Camino Real: the only thing that separates the now-empty CDJR dealership and Honda Redwood City is a Burger King. When Honda Redwood City goes, except for that Burger King we’re going to have a 1,000 foot stretch of empty space starting at Whipple and extending well below Hopkins Avenue. If you don’t think it’ll be too bad, just drive down El Camino Real to Menlo Park and take a look at what losing a handful of automobile dealerships has done to El Camino Real down there. It isn’t pretty. And those spots have remained mostly empty for quite a few years now…

Fortunately, Honda Redwood City’s current operation is organized in three separate buildings. The main building, shown in the picture above, is clearly designed and built for automobile sales and service. Unless we can entice some other dealer to occupy the space, someone is going to have to tear that building down and construct something new on the site.

The other two buildings are a different story, however. As I recall, they had different purposes before Honda Redwood City took them over, and thus there is a chance that they can be repurposed without too much effort. For instance, this building is where both customers and mechanics go for Honda parts:

Although I don’t recall what this building was used for previously, I appears that it could easily be used for retail sales of some sort.

Across El Camino Real from the dealership is Honda Redwood City’s third building. This one, I’m sure, was once a restaurant; today it is where you’ll find most of Honda Redwood City’s used cars:

I don’t know if the original kitchen is still there, but even if not it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to turn this building back into a restaurant.

I mentioned that Honda Redwood City is moving to San Carlos. While I can understand their desire for an all-new, purpose-built dealership over their current one, to my eye the location they’ve chosen is a bit odd. Currently they have great El Camino Real frontage, and thus a lot of visibility to potential customers driving by. Their new location will back onto Highway 101, so in that respect they’ll catch the eye of even more potential customers. But although their address will be on Industrial Road, they won’t actually front onto that street; the location they’ve chosen is a flag lot that sits behind a large dance studio. From the street, here’s what it looks like to passersby:

The driveway in the foreground will provide access to the dealership. There will be a sign out on Industrial so people looking for Honda San Carlos shouldn’t have too much difficulty locating it.

This is one instance where the contractors won’t have to knock down any existing buildings in order to build the new dealership: it seems that someone beat them to the punch. Except for a small metal shed, today the 2.6-acre site is entirely made up of concrete pads where buildings once stood:

Based on the rendering that accompanies the building plans submitted to the City of San Carlos, the new dealership will be fairly attractive, if a bit unusual:

As the stairs and ramps indicate, the two-story Honda San Carlos building will be placed on stilts above a surface parking lot that will house the dealership’s inventory. Within the building you’ll find both sales and service: to have your car worked on you’ll drive it up a ramp.

So, a win for San Carlos, and a loss for Redwood City. Groundbreaking on the new site was scheduled for late March or early April; unless they’re behind schedule (which wouldn’t surprise me) things should get moving any day now. Construction is scheduled to take just over one year, with the dealership opening in May of 2017. Thus, that’s about when we can expect to wave goodbye to Honda Redwood City.

On the subject of car dealerships, one that appears not to be going anywhere—and in fact is expanding a bit—is Redwood City’s Carlsen Subaru. Carlsen Subaru has a tough location, being located on a section of Veterans Boulevard that primarily serves as the Whipple Avenue offramp from 101 southbound. Although close to the freeway, a hotel (once a Howard Johnson’s, today a “Good Nite Inn”) sits between the dealership and Highway 101, so Carlsen Subaru doesn’t have the luxury of Highway 101 visibility. With little reason to head north onto this section of Veterans (unless you are going to our iHOP pancake restaurant, the Good Nite Inn, or the dealership itself), drive-by traffic is largely limited to those exiting 101. And I suspect that most of those drivers don’t really notice the dealership, given that they are focused on getting to the Whipple Avenue intersection.

Anyway, I mentioned that Carlsen Subaru is expanding. Indeed, some time ago they took over a space on Whipple, near Veterans, that was formerly Goodyear Car Day Care, a tire-and-auto service facility:

The signs have been in place for a while and even were uncovered for a bit, but for some reason they are now securely covered up. It isn’t clear what Carlsen Subaru is going to do with the spot: it seems a bit small for a used-car operation. They are actively using the shop for something, however: I noticed cars in the open garage doors, and cars were coming and going when I was there taking my pictures. There are a handful of brand-new Subarus parked on the property. Whether these are cars waiting to be detailed, or simply cars that didn’t fit on the existing dealership lot, isn’t clear. But I did check and Carlsen Subaru is indeed listed as the owner of the property, so this is not just a short-term operation. Perhaps once the signs are uncovered it will become clear just what the relationship is between this small service center and the main dealership.

Walking round-trip from my home to Whipple, Veterans, and down Industrial to well north of Holly Street (there is a lot going on along Industrial that I will fill you in on in future posts) made for a nearly ten mile trip. While a ten mile run might have been better, exercise-wise, I’m quite content with my walking. After all, I have the time, and running would make it harder for me to spot those small changes that I often report on here. Not to mention the fact that this blog is called Walking Redwood City; calling it Running Redwood City sounds like a blog aimed at running enthusiasts and likely wouldn’t attract the same kind of audience. So although I may help out with future running races, as far as participation goes, I’ll stick to my walking.

5 thoughts on “Walk, Don’t Run

  1. Mr. Wilson, came across your blog a bit by accident today (7/2/2018) as I was looking for information on where the RWC Honda dealership is moving to. Thanks for the info in your Walking Redwood City blog above; I enjoyed reading it. The building where the Honda dealership had their used car lot across the street at what appears to be a former restaurant, was, in fact, a restaurant. In the early 1970s (I believe, because I was just starting high school), a Burger Chef fast-food restaurant had just opened up. Further south on ECR, across from what is now Sequoia Station, was a Red Barn, also a fast-food hamburger restaurant (that had been open a few years at that time). I believe these opened up after the first RWC McDonald’s restaurant, but not sure when that opened, but it seems to be it probably had not been more than a few years prior. Burger Chef didn’t last too long before it closed. I believe that Red Barn lasted a little longer, but both have been gone since at least sometime in the 1980s (if not the last 1970s). Maybe you already have this info, but if not, thought I would pass it along.
    –Sharon (DeMoss) Hite (a lifelong RWC resident)

    • That’s good to know! I didn’t live here back then and although I was pretty sure that the old Honda used car building was a restaurant based on its design, I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of restaurant it was. Thanks for the info.

  2. Pingback: Witnessing the Birth | Walking Redwood City

  3. Awesome synopsis of the weekend, glad you had fun. And I’m with you on the running, a 10-mile walk (hike) can be fun for me, but a 10-mile run would be torture. ric


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