Neighborhoods: Eagle Hill

This week, I present the eighth in my series of blog posts focusing on specific Redwood City neighborhoods. In my last neighborhood post, which I wrote back in October, I examined the Mount Carmel neighborhood. This time I’ll take you through the adjoining Eagle Hill neighborhood. Eagle Hill is very much like Mount Carmel, in that it is largely residential with only a few churches, a school, and a small number of natural and man-made geographic features. In fact, in many ways it is so much like Mount Carmel that anyone would be hard pressed to identify where one neighborhood ends and the other starts. Thus, I’ll begin with the following map from Redwood City’s website, which shows the boundaries of the neighborhood, the streets that run through it, and, if you look closely, every single property within the neighborhood:

[click for a version you can zoom in on]

As you can see, the Eagle Hill neighborhood — the brownish portion shaped something like a ham hock — is completely surrounded by other Redwood City neighborhoods: Canyon and Farm Hill to the west, Edgewood Park to the North, Mount Carmel to the east, and Roosevelt to the south. Street-wise, it is bounded by Myrtle Street to the east, Jefferson Avenue to the south, Alameda de las Pulgas to the west (including a small jog at Brewster Avenue), and Whipple Avenue to the north. Although it is edged relatively cleanly by four streets, as you can see the neighborhood is by no means square. Alameda de las Pulgas, in particular, runs along the base of Redwood City’s western hills, and because it follows their contour, it curves quite a bit.

The Eagle Hill neighborhood is one of Redwood City’s smaller ones. It is small enough, in fact, that I was able to walk every street within the neighborhood in a single afternoon. With a paper map and pen in hand, I marked each street on the map as I went to ensure that I didn’t miss anything particularly interesting. I snaked back and forth and tried to walk an optimal route, but of course was unable to walk the entire neighborhood without having to retrace my steps in some cases, and repeat certain road segments in others. But as you can see from the map, the walk wasn’t especially complicated.

Unlike Mount Carmel, walking the Eagle Hill neighborhood does involve elevation change. The most significant geographic feature of this neighborhood is Eagle Hill itself, which is a rather minor hill when compared with the larger hills to the west. Thus, my walk didn’t prove to be nearly as much work as when I explored the Canyon neighborhood. But many of the streets that make up the Eagle Hill neighborhood follow paths that are dictated by the hill, and many of the neighborhood’s houses are located atop or on the side of Eagle Hill itself (as is John Gill Elementary), meaning that unlike in the Mount Carmel neighborhood, many of the blocks in the Eagle Hill neighborhood are not neat rectangles.

The Eagle Hill neighborhood is almost entirely made up of houses, with one big exception: John Gill Elementary School. Named for former Redwood City School District Superintendent John Gill, the school was dedicated in 1932. The beautiful Spanish-style main building is very reminiscent of the main building at Sequoia High (which was completed in 1924). On the seven acres surrounding John Gill’s main building are a number of smaller buildings of varying ages housing classrooms and an auditorium, outdoor play areas, and a large sports field — all of which combine to give John Gill Elementary a true campus feel.

John Gill Elementary currently has over 450 students spread out over grades K-5. Recent tough decisions at the school district level will mean changes to John Gill Elementary’s mission going forward, but fortunately they do at least assure that the campus will remain a center of elementary-level learning.

While I’m in this part of the neighborhood, I should next say a bit about the Hetch Hetchy right-of-way. Most of Redwood City’s drinking water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which is located just north of Yosemite National Park. A series of pipes bring that water across the state to our area. As you can see when you look at almost any map of Redwood City (including the one I began this blog post with), those pipes run underground in a mostly arrow-straight straight line cutting from southeast to northwest through Redwood City. The pipes first enter the Eagle Hill neighborhood next to John Gill Elementary, running up Avenue Del Ora from that street’s intersection with Jefferson Avenue. At South Place, Avenue Del Ora curves to the right, but the Hetch Hetchy pipes continue straight ahead. They cross Quartz Street, James Avenue, Harding Avenue, and Topaz Street before crossing Alameda de las Pulgas, which is where they leave the Eagle Hill neighborhood. Throughout most of the neighborhood the Hetch Hetchy right-of-way — which cannot have permanent structures built upon it, although there are some driveways, parking lots and yards above it — is clearly visible as a wide swath slicing between homes, mostly bounded by chain link or other fencing.

The Hetch Hetchy system is easy to see. The Eagle Hill neighborhood’s other watercourse, on the other hand, is much harder to find. For most of its path, this creek, which begins beyond Redwood City limits, at Lower Emerald Lake, and ultimately merges with Arroyo Ojo de Agua beneath Red Morton Park, travels through an underground passage. For a couple of blocks, though, it surfaces in a concrete channel within the Eagle Hill neighborhood. You’ll find this open channel just north of Jefferson Avenue, mid-block, along any of the streets from Quartz Street to Topaz Street. Chain link fencing protects the channel: the easiest way to find the creek is to look for the chain link fencing:

And where it crosses Alameda de Las Pulgas I found a manhole cover that presumably provides access to the underground passage:

About the above picture: although that particular manhole cover is in the parking strip on the northeast side of Alameda de las Pulgas between James Avenue and Jefferson Avenue, it isn’t actually in Redwood City. Herein lies the Eagle Hill neighborhood’s one real oddity: for some reason there is a roughly two-and-a-half-block portion of unincorporated land here (this land is part of San Mateo County, but not part of the city). You wouldn’t know it from looking at it: there is nothing that visibly distinguishes the homes in the unincorporated section from the Redwood City homes that completely surround it. But this area, apparently known as Kensington Square, runs from the south side of Harding Avenue to just short of Jefferson Avenue (the homes along Jefferson are in Redwood City), and from the east side of Alameda de las Pulgas to Upton Street (both sides). The 72 properties in this rectangular area are part of San Mateo County, but not part of Redwood City. In case the above description didn’t work for you, here is a map, with the unincorporated properties colored gray and the surrounding Redwood City properties colored yellow:

As you can see the unincorporated section doesn’t extend quite all the way to Jefferson Avenue. Thus, the following house, which sits at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Alameda de las Pulgas, is within the city limits, while the one just beyond it (behind the flag, where the car is parked) is on county land:

As I noted earlier the neighborhood has no significant parks, merely a couple of “parklets” — tiny bits of otherwise unusable land that are planted with lawns and trees and thus can be viewed as mini-parks. All of them are triangular, and apparently are bits of land that were left over when a couple of streets came together at odd angles. All are in the middle of those streets, meaning that you have to cross a street in order to get to them. You’ll find one at the corner of Alameda de las Pulgas and Hopkins Avenue, one where Quartz Street splits off from Avenue Del Ora (just up from John Gill, near Eagle Hill Terrace), a third where Brewster Avenue meets Nevada Street, and the last — and largest, and the only one with a picnic bench or two — where Brewster Ave meets Nevada Street. This final parklet is cleaved in two by Southgate Street, and I believe is also the only one to actually have a name: “Laurie Duncan Parkway.” Either the word “parkway” is misapplied here, or the sign is referring not to the park, but to an alternate name for one of the surrounding streets: the dictionary defines the word parkway as a landscaped highway, not a park. In any case, I did some digging and learned that Mr. Laurie Duncan (yes, he was a man) was born in Hollister but moved to Redwood City in 1919. He was in construction, and apparently built Redwood City’s first apartment house. Mr. Duncan served as Redwood City’s building inspector for some 15 years, and was a member of several fraternal organizations: the Masons, Kiwanis, and the Eagles. He died in 1938.

The Eagle Hill neighborhood’s two churches deserve some mention. Both are non-denominational, and whereas one is quite visible as a church, the other blends in with the neighboring houses. The first, Sequoia Christian Church, is located at 233 Topaz Street:

This church’s property is interesting in that it has a zig-zag, lightning-bolt shape that slices through the entire block, giving it driveway access to Hillview Avenue. The property also abuts the Hetch Hetchy right-of-way, which has been paved so as to give the church additional parking and driveway access to Harding Avenue.

The other church in the Eagle Hill neighborhood can be found near the top of Eagle Hill, at 1536 James Avenue. Their facility looks very much like a house: if they didn’t have the PVC-framed sign out front advertising their Sunday School, you could easily drive right past this place without knowing it was a church:

Painted on the face of the building are the words “The Christadelphians”: this is the San Francisco Peninsula Christadelphian Ecclesia. From their website I learned that the Christadelphians are “a people united by a common belief in the original Christian Gospel, not by organizational structure.” They call their local organizations “ecclesias” to emphasize the fact that they see themselves as a community of believers, rather than a place where people meet. I am interested in the place itself, however, and this one, too, is interesting in that the property is narrow and quite deep, extending down the hill behind the church building all the way to the end of Inner Circle. If you go up that dead-end street, you’ll be confronted by gates, through which you can see the back side of the church building, a parking lot, and two smaller church buildings (possibly where the Sunday School is held):

So far I’ve mentioned everything that makes up the neighborhood except that which constitutes the majority of the properties: the houses. The Eagle Hill neighborhood contains an extremely wide variety of houses, of differing sizes and styles. It doesn’t have many large parcels, but it does have a couple of good-sized homes. For instance, there is this nice Spanish-style house:

Or, there is this very modern house not too far away:

The neighborhood also has a number of older, simpler houses — some with some rather interesting paint jobs:

And some really tiny looking houses:

If variety is the spice of life, Redwood City’s Eagle Hill neighborhood is indeed one spicy place. It has nothing in the way of services (no stores, no hospitals, no libraries, no real parks, etc.) but most of those can be found close by, in the five neighborhoods that immediately surround it. Thus, although on paper the Eagle Hill neighborhood may not appear to have a lot to recommend it, in reality it is one of Redwood City’s most desirable residential neighborhoods, one that is generally quiet and calm but with easy access to many sought-after amenities.

Thanks to Elena Kadvany of Palo Alto Online, I learned that Timber & Salt (on Theatre Way) will be hosting a “barbecue pop-up” this Sunday, December 16, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They will be serving brisket, pulled pork, and potato salad. The folks who are providing the food are hoping to someday open a stand-alone barbecue restaurant in Redwood City; for now, this will have to do. I’m hoping to be there! For more background, see Elena’s article here.

10 thoughts on “Neighborhoods: Eagle Hill

  1. HI Greg,
    I really appreciate all of your research. I especially enjoyed your post on Eagle Hill.
    My Grandmother and Dad built the little Carmel charmer house at 19 Eagle Hill Terrace across from 10 Eagle Hill Terrace.
    When my parents were newly married, and I was a young child we all lived in the house together, until my parents bought our family home at 27 Lowell Street.
    After 34 years of living in Menlo Park, last year my husband and I bought a new home on Nevada St. I was surprised this was Eagle Hill, as when i was growing up in the 60s, we included Nevada as part of Mt Carmel.
    We are so happy to be back in Redwood City!

    • Welcome back to Redwood City! Yes, the neighborhood boundaries seem a bit strange in places; I’m in the same boat as you, thinking for a long time that we were in Mt. Carmel, when it turns out we, too, are in Eagle Hill. Welcome to my neighborhood! 😎

  2. I’m curious about the big old house at the very tip-top of the cul-de-sac on eagle hill. How old is it? Who lived there originally?

    • Are you asking about 10 Eagle Hill Terrace, the two-story Spanish-style house (which isn’t at the very end, but is close)? Right off the bat I can tell you that that house was built in 1919. As for who lived there, I don’t have that information right at my fingertips but I should be able to check. The house isn’t on Redwood City’s list of Historic Resources, FYI. Oh, and it is 3,960 square feet, with four bedrooms and three bathrooms, according to the real estate sites. But let me know if you are thinking of a different house…

      • That’s the one! Thank you! What a grand old house! It was probably all alone up there for a while.
        As President of the Historic Union Cemetery Association, I wonder if the original owner is buried in the Union Cemetery. If yes, I’d link a picture of the house to that person’s page on the Cemetery Website.

  3. Great article Greg. I love reading all the nuances about the neighborhoods. Especially that that one part is county even though it is right in the middle of the city. Very interesting. And, I never knew that hill had a name!

    • Thanks. Yes, there are a couple of unincorporated areas in Redwood City that have me scratching my head. I’m not sure why those folks don’t get themselves annexed into the city. Because they are on County land they have to get building permits and stuff from San Mateo County (as opposed to from Redwood City), and anecdotally I’ve heard that working with the County is more difficult than working with the city. As well, those folks can’t vote for members of the Redwood City Council, and can’t look to the city for services (unless the city has agreed to provide some of them, which they may have). It just seems messy and complicated, but presumably the residents there like things the way that they are, or they’d make a change.

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