On the Waterfront

The sheer engineering involved in the assembly and use of a construction crane never fails to bring out the little kid in me. Although you couldn’t pay me enough to be one of the people who assemble them, or the person who sits way up on top operating it, I love to watch them rise up and operate. The assembly of our latest construction crane—for the Broadway Station project at the corner of Jefferson and Broadway—certainly couldn’t be missed, unfortunately, given that it necessitated the two-day closure of a section of Jefferson Avenue near the theater garage entrance. But now that Jefferson has reopened, we’ll be able to watch this massive crane in operation as the four-story retail/office building is constructed.

I wanted to acknowledge the traffic issues that the crane caused, but the rest of this post is about something else altogether. It is time once again to shine a spotlight on Redwood City’s waterfront: there is a lot going on down there these days.

On Monday evening our City Council reviewed and unanimously approved the 1548 Maple Street project. Like the members of the Council, I was delighted to see that, for a change, every single member of the public who spoke about the project supported it. And like the members of the public, when it was the Council’s turn, pretty much everything the councilors had to say about the project was complimentary.

1548 Maple Street, for those who don’t know, is the land immediately adjacent to Docktown Marina, across Highway 101 from Kohl’s Plaza. The mostly triangular-shaped parcel (there is a square chunk missing from one corner) is just under eight acres in size, and currently contains parking for the Docktown residents, the Harbor Master’s Office, the Peninsula Yacht Club (which is located beneath the historic tank), a light industrial building used for storage and maintenance, and several flat, empty acres that are currently being used by Honda Redwood City to store excess inventory. Redwood Creek and Maple Street form two sides of the triangle, while Highway 101 forms the third side. That missing chunk I mentioned earlier contains the LifeMoves Maple Street Shelter, which is not on the subject property and thus would not be affected by this development.

The property’s shape makes it a bit hard to photograph. This shot, taken from near the eastern tip of the property, looks west towards Highway 101:

The road you see runs down the middle of the property and provides access to Docktown resident parking. In the center you can see the Peninsula Yacht Club and the historic tank—which as we learned at the meeting was not a water tank but in fact was an oil tank used by the tannery that used to be located in the area. Towards the left side of the picture is the light industrial building. Farther to the left of that you can see a field of automobiles, but these are not the Hondas I mentioned earlier. Instead, these cars are on an adjacent parcel that is owned by Redwood City—a parcel that one day may become a waterfront park. Maple Street actually runs between that parcel and the blue-and-white metal building: that is the portion of Maple Street that leads to the LifeMoves facility.

So what did the City Council approve for this property? Townhome-style condos. 131 of them in total, organized into twenty individual buildings. These will be three-story units, with garages on the ground floor, and, on some units, an optional roof deck. Each will have either two or three bedrooms.

Even for those not buying one of these units, this development still has a great deal to offer, which explains many of the positive comments the project received. First, along the creek, between the development and Docktown (which is located in the creek itself, and is not part of the project), we’re getting a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail. This trail will include seating areas and a bike tune-up station, and will run from today’s “bridge to nowhere” (that spans Redwood Creek and leads to our new Marriott hotel) to the development’s east end.

Whether or not the city constructs a park on their parcel, San Francisco-based Strada Investment Group (whose project this is) plans to construct a small park of their own at the very eastern tip of their property. Although the details of the park have yet to be worked out, Strada’s presentation included this rendering, which shows one possible version:

They plan to include a ramp for hand-launched watercraft (think canoes and kayaks) among the park’s amenities. Personally, I can’t wait for this park to be built!

In the above picture you can get a hint at another of the project’s amenities: public parking. Strada will rebuild part of Maple Street, lining a portion with more than 40 parking spaces for use by the public, whether they are enjoying Strada’s small park, the (hopefully) adjacent Redwood City park (which can just barely be seen along the top of the above rendering), or the Bair Island Aquatic Center (BIAC), which seems to have no dedicated parking of its own (it is that little white building in the upper-left corner of the rendering).

Perhaps the largest potential public benefit from this project is the Blomquist Extension. Blomquist Street currently runs between Seaport Boulevard and Maple Street, but dead-ends adjacent to the Redwood City Police Department headquarters. Fingers crossed—a deal still has to be worked out with the county, who owns an involved parcel—Strada will extend Blomquist so that it proceeds north alongside the police station, turns west to travel between the station and the LifeMoves facility, and then turns north once again to parallel Highway 101—up to the point where it hits Redwood Creek. Then, if the city constructs a bridge from this point to East Bayshore Road near the Marriott Hotel, it will establish a connection between Seaport Boulevard (Woodside Road) and Whipple Avenue on the east side of the freeway. This would provide the much-needed second exit for not only the residents of this new development, but the current residents of One Marina, Blu Harbor, and the other residential developments on the east side of Highway 101.

Here is an overhead rendering of the project site, showing the roads and some of the project surroundings (including the potential city park, which is not part of this project and is by no means guaranteed):

[click for a larger version]

I for one hope that they start on this project soon; it will go a long way to enhance a long-underutilized corner of Redwood City. Especially when considered in conjunction with the US Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing Project, which will establish a pedestrian and bike-friendly connection between downtown Redwood City and the east side of Highway 101, this part of town has the potential to become very popular with a wide variety of Redwood City residents. And this project, because it consists of townhomes, should provide desperately needed housing to those looking to buy but who cannot afford a detached single-family home.

While visiting the Strada property I spent some time looking over the adjacent Docktown Marina. As you may know, for various complex legal reasons the city is in the process of eliminating liveaboards at Docktown Marina. I have walked through the property quite a few times, and this time in particular I noted that it feels a bit like a ghost town. I am not entirely sure how many of Docktown’s floating homes have been sold to the city (one or two have been moved, but the vast majority are still in place), but it must be a significant number: I noted a good many that have been boarded up or padlocked, signaling that the city has paid off the owners and taken possession. As well, the parking lot appeared far emptier than usual, further indicating that quite a few of the 70 or so residents that used to live in Docktown have moved on. I should reiterate, however, that the fate of Docktown as a place to live is independent of the 1548 Maple Street project. However, because this project would eliminate the property upon which the Docktown residents are parking and upon which their Yacht Club and Harbor Master Office (and their land-side restrooms and laundry, for that matter) stand, life for any remaining Docktown residents may get tricky. But they must have some ideas: at Monday’s meeting even one of Docktown’s most vocal spokespersons spoke in favor of the 1548 Maple Street project.

If the idea of a waterfront park with a hand-launched boat ramp stirs your interest, allow me to mention one other recent waterfront development: the old restaurant space on Seaport Court in the Port of Redwood City has been transformed into California Canoe & Kayak:

If you have any interest at all in getting out onto Redwood Creek, I urge you to pay them a visit. The delightful folks at California Canoe and Kayak not only sells kayaks, they rent them too. And they offer classes, so if you’ve never before been on a kayak, don’t let that deter you. These folks used to be located on Brittan Avenue across from REI, but apparently no one seemed to know that they were there, and people had trouble finding them. When their rent got too high, they took the opportunity to move to a superior location: one that is here in Redwood City, and is right on the water. San Carlos’s loss is very much our gain! This is a beautiful store that caters to all of us who would like to explore Redwood City’s waterfront:

As you can see, California Canoe and Kayak has everything you might need (except canoes, curiously; some of their other stores have them, though, so they can get you one) for a great day on Redwood Creek. They’ll happily sell you one of the kayaks you see above (and some are pedal-powered; I need to try one of those!) but if you aren’t ready to make such an outlay, they rent kayaks by the hour. Rentals run from $25 an hour for a plastic single kayak up to $50 an hour for a snazzy pedal-powered, two-person one. And if the fact that you don’t have a place to store one is keeping you from buying, talk to them: they are considering having a storage facility where, for a monthly fee, you can keep your kayak right near the water.

I was very impressed by California Canoe and Kayak, and plan to rent one of their kayaks soon: I’m looking forward to getting a water-side perspective on Redwood City!  I particularly want to poke around Middle and Outer Bair Island, as well as to explore Blu Harbor and the Docktown portions of Redwood Creek. I’m hoping that relatively soon I’ll be taking some pictures of the under-construction 1548 Maple Street project from the water. I guess I should think about getting a waterproof camera, or at least a waterproof camera housing…


Reminder: Open House for the 1601 El Camino Real Project

On Wednesday, May 16, Greystar will be hosting a public open house to enable Redwood City residents, businesses, and others to learn more about their proposed 1601 El Camino Real development project. I first wrote about this project in my post On the Beech; the proposed mixed-use development, which would be comprised of residential, commercial, and open space, would occupy six city blocks and would take the place of today’s Towne Ford, Hopkins Acura, Main & Elm, and the now-closed Redwood Roller Rink, among others.

Interested persons can attend either of two sessions: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (lunch will be provided) or 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (light refreshments will be provided). Both will take place at the Fox Forum (not the Fox Theatre; the Fox Forum is in the first block on the downtown side of the Caltrain tracks) at 2411 Broadway in Redwood City.


Radwood City—a small organization that is working to build “a community for 20’s and 30’s living in Redwood City, CA”—has invited me to join them on a short “Arts & Culture” walking tour of our downtown. Any of you who would like to join us are welcome (and pass the word!). The event is free, and will take place on Saturday, May 19, starting at 4 p.m. Meet us in Courthouse Square! For more information, see the event’s Facebook page.

3 thoughts on “On the Waterfront

  1. Redwood City already has problems keeping shops open downtown due to every increasing rents, yet they’ve approved even more building for retail? What’s wrong with this picture?

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