The Sporting Life

I’m one of those rare Bay Area residents, it seems, who is not into sports. I don’t watch the 49ers, I don’t follow the Giants, and I certainly don’t keep up with the Warriors. For some reason, even though I grew up in a household where watching college football and basketball was one of my father’s favorite pastimes, it just never clicked with me. It is all the more surprising given the fact that I do tend to have a competitive streak within me. My wife is something of a sports fan, though, and I do occasionally go to games with her (she’s gotten Stanford Women’s Basketball season tickets for many years now) but that is more to be with and to support her, rather than out of some strong desire on my part to watch a basketball game.

I may not be into sports, but I do have other interests. It occurred to me this week that I do have a strange (sort-of) equivalent: watching projects appear and move through various lifecycle stages as tracked on Redwood City’s (and my own) Development Projects and Infrastructure Projects lists. Of course, the process of a building moving from initial proposal through consideration, approval, and development (or not, depending upon how the proposal is received) generally takes years, so if it is a sport, it’s a very slow one! The entire process does fascinate me, though, watching new players (projects) come onto the field and watching some make it to the “end zone” (by being completed) while others fall by the wayside. I root for some, and wish others to fail, just as the typical sports fan probably does. Hopefully, though, at the end the real winner is Redwood City.

Last week I wrote about one proposed project that didn’t make it: the Tesla Service Center that was to be located at the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Whipple Avenue. While the death of that project may not have been a great loss to the city, another that has been withdrawn by the developer—the proposed 250-unit apartment project to be built at 801 Brewster (at the corner of Brewster Avenue and Arguello Street)—is indeed a real loss. While those 250 new housing units would have made a noticeable impact on our housing situation, the real loss is the in the fact that of those 250 units, 50 of them were slated to have been held for those at the Very Low Income level. Thus, when the developer withdrew this project, with it went a real opportunity to make a dent in the affordable housing problem.

Another project aiming to help with our lack of affordable housing, the 612 Jefferson Avenue (Habitat for Humanity) project, is currently marked “on hold.” I presume that this is due to a lawsuit having been filed by a neighbor of the proposed building (one of whom threatened this very action when an appeal of the project’s approval by the Planning Commission was denied by the City Council). The proposed six-story building would provide twenty affordable housing units ranging in size from one to three bedrooms, but unless the presumed legal hurdles can be overcome, this project, too, will likely be withdrawn. I for one am hoping that Habitat for Humanity prevails in overcoming whatever hurdles are keeping this particular project on hold, enabling it to move to the “under construction” phase: we badly need the housing that this project can provide.

Enough with the dead and frozen projects: there are some interesting new and advancing ones as well. One that has actually been on the list for a while now, but got the thumbs-up from Redwood City’s Planning Commission, is the 17-unit project proposed for a handful of lots on and near the corner of Harrison Avenue and Cleveland Street. The so-called California Communities – Harrison Ave project would be right across Harrison Avenue from the McKinley Institute of Technology/North Star Academy campus, and would replace seven aging single-family homes and one accessory dwelling unit on seven separate parcels (433-467 Harrison Ave., plus 515 Cleveland St.) with seventeen three-story townhouses. Each for-sale townhouse would have a two-car garage on the ground floor, topped by two levels of living space. Most of the townhouses would have three bedrooms, although four of them—the ones that would face onto Cleveland Street—would have four bedrooms each.

The townhouses in this development are arranged into five buildings with internal driveways and walkways. Because an alley that parallels Harrison Avenue runs behind the complex, this development has street access on three sides. The seven units that line the alley will have their garages opening directly onto that alley, whereas the garages in the rest of this complex’s units will all face inward. (Two driveways off Harrison Avenue will provide access to those other units.) Thus no garages will be visible from either Harrison or Cleveland.

Why all the detail about garages and driveways? Simply because at the Planning Commission meeting where this project was discussed and approved, every single person who spoke during the project’s public comment period objected to the project, and just about all of their objections revolved around traffic and parking issues. The traffic analysis that was done for the project indicated that the project, once built, would have a negligible impact on traffic, but the neighbors are clearly fed up with existing traffic issues that appear largely to be due to the presence of McKinley, North Star, and to a lesser extent Sequoia High (and, I suspect, Whole Foods, which is located one-and-a-half blocks away on Harrison) and seemed to be taking their frustration out on this particular project. Personally, I’m hoping that the city has heard the residents concerns and will work to deal with the real problem: the traffic and parking issues that arise largely from having three good-sized schools (not to mention a nearby parochial school or two), with minimal on-site parking, in the middle of a residential area with tight streets that don’t flow through to major thoroughfares.

The Harrison Avenue project has moved on the city’s Development Projects list from “Proposed” to “Approved.” At just about the same time, two new projects appeared on the “Proposed” list: the complete revamp of the Toyota 101 dealership that I mentioned last week, and anew office building adjacent to the Kaiser campus, the 610 Walnut Street project.

610 Walnut is not an address that many of you are likely familiar with: it is on the corner of Walnut and Bradford Street, and occupies the same block as the recently built Marston apartment complex. I’ve mentioned this address before, though: the current building at 610 Walnut at one time was owned and occupied by Kaiser, but just over two years ago it was remodeled and a new tenant moved in: Yummly.

Although this building remains within the Downtown Medical Campus (Kaiser) Precise Plan area, it seems that Kaiser sold the building in late 2015 to Windy Hill Property Ventures. Windy Hill then entered into some sort of agreement with Yummly (the building’s current tenant), presumably to remodel the building to suit Yummly’s needs. Yummly has occupied the building for just over two years now seemingly in relative peace, but Windy Hill has decided that now is the time to demolish the existing two-story building and the parking lot that separates it from the Marston building, and replace both with a much larger six-story office building:

Counting the windows might lead you to believe that the building only has five stories, but don’t let external appearances fool you: like many of the buildings constructed in downtown Redwood City recently, that facade conceals two levels of above-ground parking (and one level below ground), topped by four stories of office space. The roof that you can see in the above rendering will be 80 feet above the sidewalk (a roof screen, inset from the edge of the building, will extend an additional nine feet into the air and will conceal the rooftop air conditioners and other equipment, but it won’t be visible from many angles). The building itself is designed to extend pretty much to the edges of the property, but fortunately the L-shaped Marston building was constructed with something like this in mind: the Marston building has blank faces where it would come up against this new building, so none of Marston’s residents should suddenly find themselves staring at a brick wall.

Assuming that the 610 Walnut Street building project is approved and constructed, I’ll be interested to see if Yummly occupies some or all of the new building, or if, after having moved out for the duration of the construction, they fail to return. I would also be interested to learn—although I likely never will—whether any of the people working in this new building end up living in the next-door Marston building. That would be a pretty sweet commute…

Whether or not you agree with me keeping close tabs on watching building and infrastructure projects is kind-of a sport—perhaps it is more akin to a chess game—I certainly enjoy watching players (projects) come on to the field and either advance or retreat. I cheer for some, and silently wish failure on others, and I get a kick out of seeing the ones I support get built and fulfill their destiny. It isn’t a sport that I participate in, of course, and I can’t just turn on the TV and watch a “match” (well, I technically can, and do, in a way: if I don’t attend in person I watch Planning Commission and City Council meetings on the 27-inch screen in my home office). But I track my “teams” on a spreadsheet and on my walks I visit the sites and track their progress in person. Sounds a bit like a sport to me!

Perhaps they thought they could sneak it by me, but I’m always on the lookout for liquor licenses, and businesses that are going to sell or serve liquor are required to post one. Thus I learned that in the retail space at the front of the old Goetz Bros. building at 2627 Broadway we are getting a business called “Bottle Shop” that will be selling—for consumption on the premises, I believe—beer and wine (but not food). It isn’t clear from the license alone whether this will be a wine bar or a wine tasting room, but either way this should be a nice addition to the part of Broadway between El Camino Real and the Caltrain tracks.

Thanks to two of my readers, it seems I don’t have to lament the empty Toys ‘R Us (and, perhaps, the next door Babies ‘R Us space) for long: Sports Basement has publicly announced plans to build their largest store ever, in Redwood City! I do have to wonder what Big 5 thinks about all of this, but ultimately it has to be a net win. Sports Basement still needs to build out their new space, which will take a while, but even though I’m not a big sports fan, I’m excited to see what will result.

9 thoughts on “The Sporting Life

  1. Pingback: Coming Soon | Walking Redwood City

  2. Was that a liquor license application I saw posted on the doors of the former Back Yard Coffee (965 Brewster @ Perry St.)? Anyone know what’s planned there?

  3. Yup, as suspected, just as soon as we reached the office cap in the Downtown Precise Plan we would see a bevy of office projects just outside the DTPP. This is now the 4th major project that is not covered by the DTPP. Combine this with the 7,500 Stanford workers yet to arrive, the 6,000 employees projected for Harbor View, and the 2,100 workers coming to Broadway Plaza; maybe it’s time for an annual cap on office space? Or perhaps it’s time to ask your Council candidates how they feel about all this office space and its impact on displacement and housing prices?

    New proposed projects:
    1) Greystar 5 (589,000 sqft of office / 3,000 office workers)
    2) 1180 Main St (112,000 sqft of office / 560 office workers)
    3) 610 Walnut (63,000 sq ft / 315 office workers)

    Other projects:
    1) Stanford (1.5m sqft / 7,500 employees), status: 1/3 already approved, development agreement in place for the rest
    2) Broadway Plaza (420,000 sqft of office / 2,100 employees), status: proposed
    3) Harbor View (1.2m sqft of office / 6,000 office workers), status: proposed, under Environmental Impact Review.

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