Grab Bag

This week, I’m deviating slightly from my usual format and presenting a “grab bag” of short topics.

I rarely express opinions on this blog, but one topic I am happy to express my feelings on is the idea of building a park in Redwood City’s downtown: I’m solidly in favor. As the analysis and design process on this project has proceeded, I am delighted to see that SERA Architects, the lead consultant on the project, has focused in on the idea of a linear park that would extend from the Bay to downtown, following Redwood Creek. Both they and the City Council seem excited about a park that would occupy the banks of the creek from Highway 101 to Bradford Street, plus one that would run through the current Main Street parking lot from Broadway to Middlefield, plus one that would subsume the small parking lot to the east of the downtown library, merging it with Roselli Park (which sits right behind that parking lot). Together this series of parks would honor the history of Redwood City by providing a continuous path along the course of Redwood Creek, a creek which was instrumental in making Redwood City what it is today. Although a good portion of the creek these days lies underground, the Main Street and Library Lot parks would sit on top of this underground waterway and would allow you to walk from where the creek heads underground (where Maple Street crosses the Caltrain tracks) to where it once again is exposed to daylight, at Bradford Street between Jefferson Avenue and Main Street.

Following last Monday’s presentation of the latest draft of the Downtown Parks Site Assessment & Feasibility Study, the City Council has given the green light to proceed to the design phase for all three of the studied parks (known as “Library Lot A/Roselli Park,” “City Hall / Main Street,” and “Bradford Street / Redwood Creek”). Once the designs are complete and more accurate cost estimates have been developed, the Council will give direction as to which parks will be built, and when. There was some talk about a phased approach, starting with the park on the Library lot and then proceeding to the park on the Main Street lot. However, I sincerely hope that the money can be found to do them all at once (or in very rapid succession); otherwise, it is going to be many, many years before we ever see the largest and most interesting of the parks — the one on the Main Street lot — get built. Yes, these things take time and cost a lot of money, but this seems to be a project that is worth prioritizing.

I can see not putting a great deal of money into the Bradford Street / Redwood Creek “park” right away, given that as development projects along the creek are constructed the developers are building their own sections. I’m mostly happy to just let the developers pay for and build their sections in turn. Only one short section exists today (behind 333 Main Street), but assuming that the 353 Main Street project gets built, that will account for another large section. Then, the 707 Bradford Street project will add yet another large section. At that point I can see the city stepping in and adding some connecting pieces, but those hopefully won’t be too complicated or expensive. Together with the Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing project, the creek park plus the two downtown parks would give us a nearly continuous walking path (with some street crossings, of course) from Bair Island to the downtown branch of the Redwood City library. As someone who loves to walk, I can’t wait!

One word about parking, since two of the parks would sit on what today are downtown parking lots: the preliminary designs in the Site Assessment & Feasibility Study retain some of the parking in both the Library lot and the Main Street lot (and the 16-space City Hall lot appears to be kept entirely). There did seem to be some sentiment on the Council for eventually phasing out the remaining bits of those parking lots over time, but at least initially it appears there still will be a reasonable amount of parking in both locations. If you are curious about the thinking here, I recommend that you take a look at the 160-page study.

I finally managed to try Orenchi Ramen, the noodle restaurant at 2432 Broadway, on the Broadway curve near the Caltrain tracks. This place has been open for some time now, but I always see huge lines, which are both a deterrent and a testament to their food. On Saturday my wife and a friend of ours had walked downtown to take a peek at Redwood City’s Oktoberfest (we didn’t have tickets, and so couldn’t get in), and wanting to get lunch we decided to try Orenchi Ramen. There didn’t appear to be much of a line when we first arrived, but that was an illusion: there was a sizable waiting list. We added ourselves to the list, and settled in to wait. One tip: you can use the Yelp app on your smartphone to add yourself to Orenchi’s waiting list, something I highly recommend doing. We ended up waiting for almost an hour, and were seated not long before they closed their doors (they only serve lunch until 1:30; they then close their doors until they reopen for dinner).

Although we waited for quite a long time, all three of us enjoyed our food very much. As first timers, we began with two appetizers: edamame and shishito peppers. Both were excellent. In particular, we couldn’t get enough of the edamame, which came steamed in a small basket. Our ramen bowls then came, and although they were nothing like what you get when you dump a packet of dried ramen noodles into a pot of boiling water at home, that’s a good thing: these noodles were fat and flavorful, and came in a rich broth that was absolutely delicious. Along with the noodles, the Orenchi Ramen bowl includes a whole soft-boiled egg, slivers of pork, green onions, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, sesame, and a chunk of seaweed. Altogether it makes for a delightful blend of flavors, which was perfect for our lunch.

The prices were pretty reasonable, too: the Orenchi Ramen bowl runs $13, and should be large enough to satisfy most appetites. Great food, and a great value: we all agreed that we’d be back, although next time we’ll take advantage of the Yelp trick to cut down on the waiting.

Ghostwood Beer Company, in the old Backyard Coffee location at the corner of Brewster Avenue and Perry Street (across from the Caltrain parking lot), is now open! They seem to be in soft opening mode, and aren’t really advertising the fact that they are open, but my wife and I dropped by on Wednesday afternoon and sampled their wares. So far they are only pouring three craft beers, but from the number of taps they have I expect that there will soon be more. Because these are early days, the decor is sparse, although there are plenty of places to sit. Note that Ghostwood only serves beer: they have no plans to sell food, and it doesn’t appear that they will be pouring wine for those who aren’t into beer.

The taproom is bright, thanks to the many windows on both the Brewster Avenue and Perry Street sides of the building. There is a small parking lot behind the building accessible from Perry Street, so you aren’t limited to the somewhat scarce street parking (after 6 p.m. and on weekends I believe you can safely park in the Caltrain lot). There was one TV on one of the walls, but no one was paying it any attention; hopefully it will remain the only one.

Ghostwood is very new, so I’ll give them some time before passing judgement. I will say that we certainly enjoyed our one visit so far, and the beer we had was very good. We’ll definitely be giving them another try.

Ghostwood Beer Company can be found at 965 Brewster Avenue. Monday through Friday they are open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturday they are open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Ghostwood is closed on Sundays.

I stumbled across a new home-based business in San Carlos the other day. Blue Truck Bakery is a small cookie business that Mia, the proprietor, runs out of her front yard. She is only open from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (or until she runs out) on Wednesdays, but based on what I’ve tried so far, planning a trip to this place is worth it. You’ll find them at 1125 Walnut Street in San Carlos, just off of Brittan Avenue. Just look for the bright blue truck, which I understand is only on the street when she is open.

As I understand it, Mia always has chocolate chip cookies with a light sprinkling of sea salt, and snickerdoodles. Mia also makes a “flavor of the week”: something extra special such as brownies or lemon sugar cookies. These are truly excellent cookies, and thus they go very quickly. Accordingly, if you do plan to visit, try to get there early. And note that you can pre-order cookies for pickup during their regular operating hours: just email Mia at

In case you were wondering what all the construction activity is about on Hillview Avenue between Whipple and Hopkins avenues, it seems that PG&E has decided to replace the gas line that runs down this section of the street. They cut a nice clean trench down the middle of the street and then fed a bright yellow flexible gas line into it. They are rapidly sealing the trench back up, after which I’m pretty sure they’ll cut crossways trenches from this new line to the homes along this street; my understanding is that each home in this block will be getting a new gas connection.

I was very pleased to see that PG&E appears to be doing what it can to minimize the impact on the homes in this block. Although there is only so much they can do when they have a large open trench in the middle of the street, they have been sealing things up at the end of the day and reopening the street to traffic. As for the noise, well, there isn’t much they can do about that: this is a noisy operation and I have sympathy for the people who live along this part of Hillview Avenue. Fortunately, PG&E appears to be working fairly quickly; hopefully this project won’t drag on for too much longer.

As part of the Veterans Memorial Building/Senior Center-YMCA project, the city hopes to deal with some neighborhood concerns about traffic on Madison Avenue between Valota Road and Iris Street by implementing a handful of traffic calming measures. In order to see how well the proposed traffic calming measures would function in a real-world environment, on Wednesday a number of city employees were out on the streets chalking out bulb-outs, crosswalks, an island, and, at the intersection of Madison Avenue and Myrtle Street, a small roundabout. They used traffic cones and a number of potted trees to more accurately simulate the various obstructions, and then watched as cars negotiated the modified streets. The real test, though, came when they had the local fire station bring out a couple of their trucks. Watching the hook-and-ladder, especially, negotiate the various obstacles was quite fun. Somewhat surprisingly, given its size, the hook-and-ladder actually seemed to do better than the much smaller pumper truck: the fact that the hook-and-ladder has a separate driver for the rear portion of the truck makes it surprisingly maneuverable. The pumper, on the other hand, wasn’t able to negotiate a proper left turn around the simulated island without having to back up.

The firemen quickly realized that if they simply went to the left of the island when making a left turn, negotiating the turn was significantly easier.

Although the results seemed to have been a bit mixed, this was just a test. Failures are just as valuable as successes, since a failure simply tells the engineers that they need to go back to the drawing board. Whether or not they need to redesign the roundabout, I’m betting that they’ll need to rework the small traffic island that they were experimenting with on Valota Road at the Madison Avenue intersection: the fire trucks couldn’t seem to squeeze through without crushing a number of cones.

I certainly had a great time watching the city’s “Traffic Demo,” and look forward to seeing what they ultimately do here.

The Port of Redwood City’s annual “Port Fest” will take place this year on Saturday, October 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to the webpage devoted to the event,

PortFest is a day-long waterfront festival held at Port of Redwood City. It welcomes the community to learn about the maritime heritage of the Port, the industrial working waterfront, as well as recreational activities on San Francisco Bay. The day will also include live music, children’s activities, food trucks and booths, and more.

There will be boat rides, tours of the waterfront, music, and food (including beer and wine). I’ve attended in past years, and it can be a lot of fun. I highly recommend checking out the schedule of events, and then paying them a visit.

3 thoughts on “Grab Bag

  1. If anyone would like to join us, CityTrees is running a tree planting at Redwood Creek (Main St & Veterans) on Oct 20th. Details & sign up at our website:

    While this is not directly related to the full plan for downtown parks mentioned here, we will be adding native trees & (eventually) other plants as well to improve the health of Redwood Creek.

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