New Kids on the Block

This week I’d like to talk about two new “kids on the block”: two new downtown housing projects. One was just approved by the Planning Commission (at its May 17 meeting) while one has been proposed and was the subject of some discussion at the last City Council meeting (on May 23). While both housing projects fall within the Downtown Precise Plan area, they have some interesting differences that are worth noting.

For those of you who are starting to think about downsizing into a new condominium—I’ve heard from a number of you, so I know that there is interest!—until now your only option within walking distance of downtown Redwood City is the Classics at Centennial Place project, at the corner of Brewster Avenue and Warren Street. I last mentioned that project back in February, in my post New Business. Since then the project has begun selling, and by the looks of things it will be completely sold out in short order. That is a small development, however—only 18 units—so perhaps it is no surprise that thy are selling as quickly as they are. Now, based partly on their success, perhaps, comes our first good-sized condo project within the Downtown Precise Plan area: 603 Jefferson Avenue.

I first introduced this particular “new kid” back in October, in my post The Only Constant. Since then the project’s design has been refined, and, more importantly, the project was reviewed and given the thumbs-up by the city’s Architectural Committee, Historical Resources Advisory Committee, and Planning Commission. This latter approval gives the developer the green light to proceed to the next step: to finalize plans and request building permits. The Pauls Corporation, who is developing 603 Jefferson, is just wrapping up the massive Indigo project (along with partner Peter F. Dunne). Presumably what they’ve learned from working with the city on that project gives them some confidence that 603 Jefferson will go smoothly, and thus barring any serious legal challenges we might actually see this project built by 2018 or so.

Allow me to describe the project. First of all, the site is located at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Bradford Street, kitty-corner from the Indigo apartments. Currently there is a relatively small one-story commercial building on the site that until recently housed the Every Woman Health Club along with a couple of small businesses:

The site’s neighbor to the south, along Jefferson, is a Union Bank. To the east, along Bradford, are the offices of the Redwood City School District. Also on the block, as you may have noticed in the above picture, you’ll find Redwood City’s main fire station and, along Main Street, a small apartment building.

The planned building is not insignificant: it will rise to 8 stories, with a 4,500 square-foot retail space on the ground floor and seven stories of condominiums above. The ground floor level will also include a parking garage for patrons of the retail space, while below ground there will be three levels of parking for the condominium owners. Note that although this building is a tall one, the Indigo apartments that are right across the intersection are even taller, at 10 stories high. Plus, the nearby Marston apartments—just visible in the above photo on the left side behind the streetlight—also rise to 8 stories. So this building, which would admittedly be the tallest on its block, in reality should feel right at home within the neighborhood:

The above rendering is drawn from the perspective of one standing on the diagonally opposite corner of Jefferson and Bradford, up against the Indigo building. In it you can see the neighboring one-story Union Bank building behind the street trees to the right of 603 Jefferson, and the Redwood City School District (RCSD) offices to the left of the proposed condominium development.

Lest you think that the building is a giant monolithic block—admittedly it will seem that way when viewed from either Jefferson or Bradford—you get a rather different view from either of the neighboring parking lots:

The above rendering is from the perspective of someone standing behind the fire station: the cars in the left side of the image sit in the Union Bank parking lot, and the cars in the center and right side of the image are parked in the RCSD parking lot (the RCSD building is represented by the translucent block in the above image). From here you can see that the building is built more like a fat “L” (or a double-L; the white and grey walls are both part of the building) with a private courtyard for the building’s residents sitting above the one-level retail parking garage. Incidentally, residents will also be able to enjoy some magnificent views from the building’s rooftop terrace. Just imagine watching the Fourth of July fireworks from up there…

Within the building will be 91 condominiums ranging in size from a 527-square-foot studio to a 2,344-square-foot three-bedroom unit. Numerous one- and two-bedroom designs will be available as well, in a wide range of sizes.

What about low-income residents, you ask? Well, although there won’t be any direct assistance to potential homeowners who aren’t otherwise able to purchase one of these units, this project will be the first under Redwood City’s new rules that require the developer to pay an Affordable Housing Fee. In the case of this project, that fee amounts to some $1.738 million—money that the city can then use to construct or assist with low-income housing projects elsewhere in the city.

As for parking, this is one project that won’t be paying an in-lieu parking fee: its underground garage has more than the required number of spaces. But about those spaces: they are “unbundled,” meaning that you purchase parking spaces separately from the condo. So, if you don’t have a car you can buy a condo and not buy a parking space. Or, if you have two cars you could buy two spaces. While this may sound unusual, it appears to be a trend these days as more and more people are living in walkable, transit-friendly areas like downtown Redwood City and forgoing the joys of car ownership.

603 Jefferson is an approved project that will likely move on to construction. Not yet approved, but very much being talked about right now is the other “new kid” I wanted to bring to your attention: 801 Brewster Avenue.

If this address sounds familiar, you may have been there (I know I have). The current building’s tenants are, I believe, predominantly members of the medical profession:

The proposal on the table is to tear this building down and replace it with a 250-unit apartment building. Before you sigh at the thought of yet another apartment project being built in Redwood City, it does have one or two stand-out features. For one, its design—assuming that the finished building looks something like the rendering supplied by the developer—is somewhat interesting:

Unlike most of the other new residential developments within our Downtown Precise Plan area, the building’s height will vary, ranging from four to six stories. Although this one won’t have ground-floor retail, only a handful of the apartments will sit at ground level (and most those will have private entrances off Brewster Avenue). The remainder of the ground floor will largely be composed of a parking garage (that also extends one floor below ground), plus the lobbies (one each on Warren Street, Brewster Avenue, and Arguello Street) and mechanical and trash rooms. On the second floor there will be two inner courtyards plus a pool and fitness room, and the fifth floor will have a roof deck overlooking Brewster. Otherwise the remainder of the building will be composed of a variety of apartment styles that range from 576 square-foot studios to 1187 square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments.

The second stand-out feature of this project? Anton Development, the project’s developer, is proposing that out of those 250 apartments, 50—a full 20%—will be set aside for Very Low Income residents. Families who are classified as Very Low Income make between 31% and 50% of the Area Median Income. For a family of four in San Mateo County, that works out to no more than $58,600 per year (for two persons, the upper limit is $46,900). For them there are very aggressive rate caps that will limit the amount that they will pay in this development. Specifically, for a one-bedroom apartment the rent is capped at just under $1100 per month, while a two-bedroom unit would cost a family in the Very Low Income category just over $1300 per month. Relative to what other nearby apartments are renting for (we don’t yet know what the 200 market-rate units in this development will cost), the rents for these 50 apartments will be very affordable indeed. And I’m very pleased to see that the affordable units will not be segregated within the building, but instead will be scattered among the market-rate units.

Changing this site from a professional building to housing seems most appropriate: at one time this was the location of lumber tycoon Charles Hanson’s mansion. Back in the early 1900s, here’s what you would have seen:

In the 1920s and early 1930s the mansion was used as the convent for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, California Province (who came to Redwood City in 1885 to establish Our Lady of Mount Carmel School). Unfortunately the three-story gothic mansion was torn down in 1949. But turning this site back into housing—housing in which a large component will serve persons who don’t earn enough to otherwise live in our community—somehow seems proper, doesn’t it?

Here in Redwood City the projects just keep on coming. Now that the limits on office space within the Downtown Precise Plan area have essentially been met, the focus seems to have shifted to the 2500 net new housing units allowed under the plan. Of that 2500, about 1500 have been approved (and most are under construction) while another 600 or so are in the queue, awaiting a decision. In a future post I’ll break down these numbers by project, and will go into the low-income aspects of each (along with the City Council’s latest resolution regarding affordable units), but for those of you keeping score, that’s where we stand today.


If you’ve been reading my columns for a while, you know that I am a big fan of Redwood City’s various summer concert series. With summer once again upon us, Redwood City is again setting up the stages and screens!

  • Movies on the Square began its run on Thursday, June 2 and will continue through September 1. A full list of the movies being shown and their dates can be found here.
  • Music on the Square begins tonight, June 3, and will continue every Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. through September 2. This page contains the full list of bands that will be performing.
  • Music in the Park (my favorite!) can be enjoyed at Stafford Park (on Hopkins Avenue, at King Street) on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. from June 15 through August 17. My wife and I tend to go regardless of who is playing, but in case you are wondering, the full lineup is here.
  • For those of you living in Redwood Shores, Sounds of the Shores will take place in Marlin Park on June 12, July 17, and August 21. The three bands that will be playing can be found here.

Redwood City also has other events, including classical music concerts, Kidchella (July 17, August 21, and September 18), and Shakespeare in the Park (this year they are doing The Winter’s Tale; see the website for dates and details). Do spend some time looking over the various offerings and add the ones that interest to you to your calendar! These free events are a great way to not only have a great time, but to get to know your neighbors as well. I hope everyone takes advantage of as many of these events as they can, and then lets the city know how much you appreciate them. It is our positive feedback (plus a few dollars tossed into the donation buckets that occasionally make their way through the crowds) that keep these events happening.

4 thoughts on “New Kids on the Block

  1. Pingback: Go Stanford! | Walking Redwood City

  2. love your stuff…………..but ck your source on the convent…….your are a block off. it was across from train track at corner of Brewster and argello(?)

    • 801 Brewster indeed sits at the corner of Brewster and Arguello, right across Arguello from the train tracks. Isn’t that where you are saying the mansion/convent was? I got the initial info from the book Redwood City Then & Now (page 64), which shows a picture of the mansion (“then”) and a picture of 801 Brewster (“now”). The text says that “Today a medical office building occupies the site” [of the Charles Hanson mansion]. I guess that they could be referring to a different medical office, but the pictures imply otherwise. Then, the text also says that [the mansion was] “located on a block bounded by Arguello, Fuller, and Warren streets at Brewster Avenue” which indeed puts it right were 801 Brewster stands today.

      Before I committed the article to the Internet I also checked “Redwood City: A Hometown History” and it partially confirmed the mansion’s location: on page 251 it states that “By that time [1881] he [Hanson] was living in Redwood City in a mansion on Arguello Street.” Unfortunately that’s all the detail it gave, but at least it confirms Arguello Street.

      Finally, the photo (which came from our public library) has a caption that also confirms Arguello Street and also confirms that the estate was later used as a convent until it was torn down in 1949.

      After all that, I think I have the locations correct in my head, but maybe it didn’t come across that way on paper (well, electronically…)? Am I not seeing something?

      Thanks for reading, and let me know if I still need to change something here.

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