Take a Walk on the Water Side

It’s official! The city has just added to its list of proposed projects an entry for a Tesla service and sales facility, to be located at the corner of Whipple Avenue and Veterans Boulevard. The plans that are linked to from that page clearly answer the one question I still had when I last wrote about the project, which is whether or not the Chef Peking Restaurant space would be included, or if Tesla would only be taking over the Crunch Fitness portion of the building. The answer? Tesla is taking over both spaces. Thus, assuming that this project receives the necessary approvals (and the needed zoning change), Crunch Fitness and Chef Peking Restaurant will either be moving or closing. Of course, that won’t be for a while, given the (lack of) speed with which projects like this take to work through the system. But if I was a betting man, I’d bet on Tesla to receive the necessary go-aheads. And given the speed with which Elon Musk operates other parts of the business, perhaps this construction project, too, will move along at a quicker than usual pace.

I have frequently noted that one of Redwood City’s crown jewels is its connection to the bay. Our port, our marinas, our wetlands, and the various points at which members of the public can look at, stroll along, or otherwise interact with the San Francisco Bay all add up to an amenity that few other cities within the San Francisco Bay Area can match. But unless you own a boat, or are one of the relatively few Redwood City residents who live along the water’s edge (or, even fewer, on the water itself), you likely never spend any time down where Redwood City meets the waters of the bay. However, in an effort to make this part of our city a place where, someday, you actually would want to spend time, allow me to suggest that you “take a walk on the water side” of our city.

(For purposes of this article I’m focusing on Redwood City’s connection to the bay between Woodside Road and Whipple Avenue. Redwood Shores, which is within the city limits, is another thing entirely that needs its own blog post.)

Lately it seems that most of what our City Council and our Planning Commission are dealing with are projects and issues on the east (north, in truth, but it seems like east) side of Highway 101:

  • The main (and only, as it turns out—the other item was pulled at the last minute) topic of discussion at the Planning Commission’s meeting earlier this week was the large housing and sport club complex proposed for the site that currently houses the long-unused Century 12 Theaters, on the bay side of 101 near Whipple Avenue.
  • The primary topic of last week’s City Council meeting was a possible amendment to the general plan that would be needed for the proposed Harbor View Place project. Harbor View Place is a giant office complex that developer Jay Paul hopes to build on the former Malibu Castle and Golf, Malibu Grand Prix, and Lyngso properties (among others) which are between Seaport Boulevard and Maple Street, on the bay side of the highway.
  • During the public comment period in that same City Council meeting, a number of Docktown residents spoke, hoping to get the City Council to halt the ongoing removal of the floating homes and their occupants.
  • Immediately before that same City Council meeting, the council met in closed session along with the city’s attorneys to discuss a lawsuit that has been brought seemingly by some of those same Docktown residents (under the guise of San Francisco Bay Marinas for All , Inc.), a lawsuit that apparently hopes to keep Docktown viable.
  • On July 18 the Planning Commission took comment on and discussed the scope of a to-be-written Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a proposed 131-unit townhouse development at 1548 Maple Street, property which happens to include the parking lot adjacent to Docktown Marina—and is where the Docktown residents currently park their cars.

In addition to these projects, add in the recently completed Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Bair Island Road, and the soon-to-be-completed Blu Harbor development at the end of Bair Island Road where Pete’s Harbor once stood. All together they make for a great deal of activity within a relatively small part of Redwood City.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this part of Redwood City was one in which my family and I spent a lot of time. For instance:

  • my wife took sailing lessons at Spinnaker Sailing, which was located in Pete’s Harbor
  • on occasion we ate at the Harbor House restaurant, also located at Pete’s Harbor
  • we ate at the Diving Pelican Cafe, a restaurant that was located where the One Marina condominiums now stand
  • we watched many, many movies in the now-unused Century Park 12 theaters
  • with our kids (and occasionally without) we played miniature golf and arcade games at the Malibu Golf complex
  • our kids, when they were old enough, drove the go-karts at Malibu Grand Prix
  • my wife and I occasionally dined at the restaurant on Seaport Court in the Port of Redwood City (it had multiple incarnations, including Arrivederci Italian Seafood Restaurant and Bella by the Bay)
  • I had an occasional lunch at Charley Brown’s, also on Seaport Court in the port

Nowadays the only reason my wife and I have to go to this part of town, at least for pleasure, is to walk out on Bair Island. And unless you are a member of the Bair Island Aquatic Center (a rowing club located on Maple Street adjacent to Docktown), I suspect that you, too, probably spend very little time on Redwood City’s waterfront (unless you live or work there—but that puts you in a very special minority). And why would you, really? Given that basically all of the recreational opportunities that my family and I used to enjoy there are now gone, today there is little reason to duck under or over Highway 101. And not only is there little reason, there is almost nowhere to go. For general recreational purposes we residents are pretty much limited to walking on the paths around Bair Island or Blu Harbor, or wandering through the Port of Redwood City, admiring the boats in the Redwood City Municipal Marina. All of the restaurants I mentioned are gone, as is the go-kart track and the miniature golf center. Spinnaker Sailing, at least, still exists, so there’s that. And except for the above-mentioned paths, you’ll find no real amenities. Indeed, in the Inner Harbor area there aren’t even any sidewalks—you’ll need to walk along the road shoulders.

So now that I’ve convinced you that there is no real reason to go out to what is known as the Inner Harbor area (the area where the Malibu complex was all the way over to Docktown) and hardly any reason to go to the Bair Island/Blu Harbor area, I’d like to ask you to do just that. Why? Because there is so much being proposed for that area, and it is such an important part of what makes Redwood City special. Over the next many months the City Council and the Planning Commission will be dealing with a number of issues and proposals for this part of town, and the better informed we, the residents of Redwood City, are, the better. Although I know it is tempting to simply connect to certain Facebook groups and form an opinion based on what we read there, that method tends to leave one with a slanted perspective. Given how easy it is to go out there, why not head to Redwood City’s waterfront and experience it for yourself? If you do, pay close attention to what is there today, and what is being proposed for the area (I’ve linked to the various projects, above)—and also put your imagination in gear and spend some time dreaming about what you personally would like to see out there. Finally, see how well your dreams align with the results of much hard work by the Inner Harbor Task Force (work that has been put on hold, unfortunately).

There are three ways to get there with a car, and really only two decent places to park. If you want to start on the more developed end, use Whipple Avenue to cross Highway 101, then follow the road past One Marina and park in the designated lot for the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge. If you are more interested in the Inner Harbor area, you have two options to drive there: either cross under Highway 101 at Woodside Road (which becomes Seaport) and make a left at Blomquist, or cross over Highway 101 at Maple Street (Kmart is at the corner of Maple and Veterans, if you’ve never taken Maple before). Either way, on Maple just past Blomquist you can nose into the fence and park where you see the temporary construction offices that were used for the Correctional Center project (at this point you are on city-owned land that could become a park, a development, wetlands, or…?).

From whichever end you start, I highly recommend crossing our little “bridge to nowhere” and exploring the other end as well. The bridge crosses Redwood Creek and is located by the Courtyard hotel near Highway 101. From the Bair Island Road end the path to the bridge starts at the traffic circle, close to the highway. From the Inner Harbor simply follow Maple where it parallels the waterfront, then head into Docktown and follow the road to the left where it parallels Redwood Creek. You’ll find the bridge at the very end, past Docktown’s floating homes.

Particularly when walking along Maple Street (shown above), consider the city property with the temporary construction offices (just beyond the right edge in the above picture) and the much-greener area on the other side of the street (where all the trees and bushes are in the above picture), and the waterfront itself. These areas, in particular, are ripe for some new uses. But of course even the areas proposed for development (Harbor View Place, 1548 Maple Street, and the old Century Park 12 site) are not entirely off the radar: we still can have our say as to how those are developed, so take a look at those properties, too, and consider what you would like to see there.

Regardless of how you do the walk, I strongly urge those of you who are able to spend an hour or so walking around out in the Inner Harbor and in the One Marina/Blu Harbor area, gaining a clear idea of what is there today and what is being proposed. This is an important part of the city that is rich with potential, and it behooves us as citizens to individually decide just how this area should be used, and how much should be open to the public. After you’ve done so, consider letting your City Council and Planning Commission members know just how you feel, either by speaking at a meeting or at least writing one or more email messages or letters. This is our city, and our leaders need to know how we, the people, really feel after we’ve taken a walk on the water side.

10 thoughts on “Take a Walk on the Water Side

  1. Pingback: Bay Tours | Walking Redwood City

  2. I’m in the camp of some development. Not houses or office space but I’d love to see a playground, green area, rec area, nature inspired area. Most would be an improvement over an empty parking lot and movie theater.

  3. What are the prospects of a 2 lane road over Redwood Creek adjacent to the east side of 101, between 101 and the pedestrian/bike Bridge To Nowhere? This would connect the circle on the north side by the new Courtyard hotel and the turning circle on the south side at the end of Docktown. Right now, if you are at Blu Harbor, for example, and you want to get to the other side of the creek by car, you have to take Whipple to 101 South to Woodside/Seaport Blvd exit (which can get very congested), or Whipple to Veterans to Maple to Bloomquist. Either way, it’s a long way around. If a lot more development and residents are going into the harbor side, consideration should be given to connecting the two sides of the Creek. Additionally, this road can be built in conjunction with the planned underpass below 101 along the Creek. Provide more ways of acess for the residents – by car, bike, and foot.

  4. Greg, this is a great article! Thank you. Let me share with you and your readers another article from several years ago that’s also inspirational and affirms some of the same things you said. It calls our waterfront a “hidden jewel” and compares its waterfront redevelopment potential to the San Antonio Riverwalk and even Paris.

    Click to access 2010_03_article_embracing_the_bay.pdf

  5. Greg,
    Maybe it is time for another public walk led by you, to that area. What do you think?

    I do a walk most weekday around the Port of Redwood City Marina and around some of the building there. I then take a walk to the other side of the marina, past the buildings on Galveston and on around the builds on Penobscot to catch the bay front walk. On weekends I go the end of Seaport and do a walk around the Pacific Shores area including Westpoint Harbor. I’ve never walked the area you are talking about.

  6. Greg, stellar work as always. I think a more apt title for the post would be “opportunity lost”. We had a fantastic opportunity with the Inner Harbor Specific Plan but it got hijacked by a market-rate townhouse project and 1.2m soft of office space. Our waterfront has been sold off to the highest bidder for high-density development the community is never going to get it back.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • It’s not clear to me Kris, exactly what fantastic opportunity you are talking about. You never attended any of the Inner Harbor sessions and my impression is you have a lot of misconceptions about that process, its objectives, and roles of the participants. Are you actually aware of the visions presented in those meetings, or the substance of the discussions?

      Dropping the plan had little if anything to do with Strada. The Inner Harbor area is actually the land adjoining the creek, not the Malibu lands along the freeway, and you are absolutely correct that J. Paul was not and never should have been part of the Inner Harbor plan. One Marina and Blu Marina, which ARE in the harbor and should have been the focus along with Ferrari and Docktown, were conveniently pulled. Pete’s Harbor was actually written into the plan but pulled the day the proceedings began because Paul Powers was ready to make his move and did not want delays or opposition. So you are right that selling out to development created a lost opportunity but the real culprit when it comes to mindless town house development is on the other side of the creek.

      The owners of the land at Docktown were very well represented in the Inner Harbor hearings from the beginning via attorney Michael Brown, and developing it was always part of the plan, even as it got delayed by the more controversial issues.

      Harbor View, which was never part of the original plan, DID hijack the Plan and was a major reason why it was dropped. It was never even part of the plan during the planning process and was grafted on after the City took over the project from the task force. So again blame the city for that fiasco.

      But dropping the plan was also and largely because of the City’s lack of success, until Hannig got involved, in getting rid of Docktown. A floating world enjoyed considerable support during the task force meetings. More time was spent in the Inner Harbor sessions on the look of the waterfront, the place for a floating community, and Docktown in particular than any other subject yet that is not even part of the conversation here.

      It’s all well documented.

      The Vision of the task force was debated in detail over weeks and months (until the meetings were prematurely truncated) and was sabotaged by the City with help from Hanning and the intervention of the Jay Paul project when things didn’t turn out the way the city anticipated.

      One of the city’s main objectives was to use the plan as cover for getting rid of Docktown. When that didn’t work they turned to Hanning.

      The greatest shame isn’t even the loss of Docktown as it exists per se. It’s the loss of an opportunity to create a something special in the Inner Harbor, and like visionary waterfronts in many parts of the world more in tune with rising sea waters, that including a floating community, adaptive development, and visitor attractions. The City never seriously considered that opportunity.

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