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.