El Camino, Really

Last week I wrote about the Broadway Plaza project, and how the proposed mixed-use development for the site at the corner of Broadway and Woodside Road sailed easily through the Planning Commission. It seems that other developers are taking notice of how The Sobrato Organization got the city and the public on their side. Although Greystar submitted their plans to the city before Sobrato’s Broadway Plaza project was approved by the Planning Commission, Greystar has added another element to their large 1601 El Camino Real project, somewhat mirroring something that Sobrato did early on with their project: Greystar has added a six-story affordable housing development at the corner of El Camino Real and Jackson Avenue, across and just a couple of blocks down from their large mixed-use 1601 El Camino Real project. This new building would take the place of the single story building that used to house Precision Tune Auto Care+, who closed some months ago:

Greystar’s building would be six stories tall, and would contain 39 units, at least 38 of which would be affordable at some below-market rate. Just about all of the units would be studios, but eight of them would be one-bedroom units. There would also be a single two-bedroom unit, but I have to wonder if that will be set aside for the building manager.

To squeeze all of this onto the 6,500 square-foot lot, some economies have been made. For one, the internal parking garage, which will be entirely on the ground level, will only accommodate 12 cars: 10 using mechanical lifts, plus one van-accessible space and one that has an electric vehicle charger (by law, it appears that in fact this building isn’t required to provide any parking at all). The development’s outdoor space would consist entirely of a 1,625-square-foot rooftop deck. Sharing the ground floor with the parking garage would be a community room, a social services office, a “computer nook,” the leasing office, and the lobby. Each residential floor would have a small laundry room, apparently with a single washer/dryer pair to be shared by that floor’s residents.

Here is one of the renderings showing what the building would look like from the corner of El Camino Real and Jackson Avenue:

Given that the proposed building would sit directly across from Greystar’s Huxley apartment building, and has a somewhat similar appearance (this one is markedly smaller, though), it should fit into its surroundings fairly well. There is what appears to be a small two-story apartment complex behind this site (on Jackson Avenue), but a couple of doors further down on Jackson Avenue there is a four-story apartment building, so even this building’s height isn’t particularly out of line. Given how much we need affordable housing in Redwood City, and given this particular proposed building’s close proximity to Sequoia Station and to our Caltrain station (not to mention the buses that run up and down El Camino Real), there’s a lot to like about this building. I’ll be very interested to see just how affordable the apartments in this building will be — as will the city, I’m sure.

Last week I believe I mentioned how I had taken a walk down El Camino Real in order to investigate some projects that were ongoing south of town. That was a fairly long walk, given that I had to walk well beyond the Redwood City border. I particularly wanted to take a closer look at the former Bonsai Japanese Cuisine restaurant, formerly located at 3401 El Camino Real. Bonsai closed in August of 2016, only to reopen at a new location — the Ladera Country Shopper on Alpine Road — the following February. Since Bonsai left their El Camino Real location, the building has sat empty, and some time ago it was largely demolished. For a while the demolition seemed to be progressing at a good clip, indicating that a remodel (or the construction of an entirely new building of some sort) was soon to get underway. However, the demolition seemingly came to a halt, and I wondered if I could figure out what might be going on by paying the site a visit.

Although the building’s main structure remains, all of the stucco siding has been removed and the interior has been completely stripped bare. I was surprised and somewhat pleased to note that work on the building hasn’t completely stopped, however — although given the length of time it has taken to the building to this point, it clearly had stalled for some time. But when I was there I noticed someone puttering around the site, and I happened to drive by the following day and observed a pair of men tugging at a last bit of old stucco from the side of the building. Thus, although I don’t yet know what the plans are for this site — beyond that bright orange “For Lease” sign (which notes “Dental/Medical Permitted”) — it does appear that the building’s footprint is being enlarged, as evidenced by some work that appears to be underway to augment the concrete slab that makes up the building’s foundation:

I’ll do some digging to see if I can determine what’s the future for this little building, but for now know that work is progressing, albeit very slowly at times.

That was the farthest south I went on El Camino Real that day. Working my way back north, I checked on a couple of other sites. For instance, I took a peek into the old Franciscan Forge/Pool, Patio & Things building:

After Pool, Patio & Things moved out this building was heavily remodeled, but except for the removal of the giant oak tree that used to stand in the middle of the building, you’d hardly know that anything was done. The basic shape of the building is unchanged, and the glassed-in courtyard in the center of the building, where that large oak tree once grew, remains. Looking inside, it almost looks as it did back when this was a retail store — although the current interior is much cleaner, and the windows are nicer. The bulk of the building remains unoccupied and is, I believe, still for lease. The small two-story section at the back of the building has been leased to Oyster Incorporated who, as far as I can tell, is simply a holding company for a handful of gas stations and car washes. No fancy tech companies here…

Next I peered in on the future home of Selby’s, once Chantilly Restaurant. Not much to say here at the moment, other than to note that after sitting idle for a number of months, this project is indeed humming once more. Lots of progress has been made since I last paid the site a visit, and it now appears that they should have no trouble making a summer opening.

I peeked over the construction fences on the low-income housing project being built at 2821 El Camino Real, where Enterprise Rent-A-Car used to be located (next door to the former Eco Green Auto Clean car wash). Everything has been completely cleared off of the site, and the soil nicely groomed in preparation for the installation of foundation forms:

As I wrote last January, Palo Alto Housing Corporation, this project’s developer, will be building a four-story, 67-unit affordable apartment building on this site. A number of the apartments will be set aside for veterans, and all will be reserved for residents earning at the Low, Very Low, or Extremely Low income levels.

That’s about it for the walk I took last week. Since then I’ve been keeping a close eye on two other projects. One, the relocation of the Lathrop House (it’s being moved across Broadway, to the parking lot behind the historic courthouse), was at one time scheduled for this past weekend. I looked in on the project over the weekend, however, and it is clear that the contractor is behind schedule: forms were in place for the building’s new foundation, but the concrete had yet to be poured. Until it has been poured and has properly set, that beautiful old house cannot be placed on it. Perhaps this weekend…

The other project I’ve been watching is Rolled Up Creamery. Rolled Up Creamery, you might recall, is the tiny ice cream shop that is slated to open in the storefront across from City Pub, at 2621 Broadway. Perhaps it has opened by now, but on Monday, when I last checked, they had yet to open their doors. I’ll keep watching…

Finally, I was happy to learn that the Artisan Crossing project, proposed for a site on Old County Road in Belmont, was unanimously approved by the Belmont Planning Commission. When built, Artisan Crossing will be an attractive four-story apartment building featuring 250 apartments, 15% of which will be affordable at the Low income level (those making no more than 80% of the area’s median income level). The site is bordered by O’Neill Avenue, Karen Road and Elmer Street, and today houses a mix of buildings and parking. It is almost entirely surrounded by commercial buildings, although there is a good-sized pocket of single-family homes and apartments very close by. The main buildings on the site, which are apparently empty, once housed a company that made plastic composite products.

In addition to Artisan Crossing’s 38 affordable units, one of the project’s community benefits is enabled by the building’s design, which is cut at an angle at the corner of Old County Road and O’Neill Avenue to leave a large triangular plaza. This plaza is envisioned as a public gathering space, and may also serve as a spillover area for one of the project’s other public benefits: a handful of rooms that the developer intends to be used, rent free, by the Community School of Music and Arts, a Mountain View-based organization that works to make the arts and art education accessible to all. The following rendering, courtesy of the project’s developer, Windy Hill Property Ventures, shows that plaza:

Belmont residents, whether they live in this new building or not, should be interested in another benefit: Windy Hill plans to give a substantial sum towards the feasibility study for a proposed railroad undercrossing at O’Neill Avenue. This undercrossing would simplify access to Belmont’s Safeway shopping center for many of those living and working on the east side of the Caltrain tracks – but note that the city doesn’t envision actually building the undercrossing for at least ten years. Hopefully the feasibility study shows strong demand, spurring the city to build the undercrossing sooner.

The Belmont City Council will have the final say on this project, and will review and vote on the project at its May 14 meeting.

Before I close, one last item. Yet another new project has popped up on the city’s Development Projects web page: a proposal for a new hotel at 690 Veterans Boulevard. To save you from having to reach for your maps app, this is the northwest corner of Veterans Boulevard and Brewster Avenue, where the Shell gas station is today. This four-story hotel would have 92 rooms, and, thanks to mechanical parking lifts, parking for 71 cars and five bicycles in a two-level garage (one level below ground). Here is a rendering of the proposed hotel, taken from the design drawings submitted to the city:

Interestingly enough, for all of the efforts that Redwood City is making to bring a hotel to its downtown, this latest is also just beyond the Downtown Precise Plan boundaries. In fact, Brewster Avenue marks that boundary; the County Center property just across Brewster lies within the Precise Plan boundaries, whereas this parcel does not.

I’ll write more about this project once I’ve had time to study the plans further, and do some additional research. But note that in the above rendering the signage simply says “Hotel Signage,” indicating that none of the major hotel chains have yet aligned themselves with this project.

5 thoughts on “El Camino, Really

  1. The Lathrop House will begin to move May 8-10 from where it currently sits to the corner parking lot right next to it. On May 12 and 13 it will move across Marshall Street to it’s permanent (fourth and final!!!) resting place on the parking lot behind the San Mateo County History Museum. Over 100 years ago, when it was moved to its current site, it was pulled by oxen over redwood logs. This time the one will be handled by a house mover who specializes in moving historic buildings, . When installing rebar for the new foundation, a bone was found and everything had to stop until it was determined that the bone was not human. It wasn’t! Whew!!! The concrete should be poured this coming week and has to cure for 7 days before the house can be set in place. This has been a long process but we are excited that the move will take place soon. Once the house has been set on the foundation, it will take a few weeks for repairs, cleaning and the furnishings returned. Then work will commence on creating the Redwood City History Gallery up stairs in what was once the Lathrop House gift shop and local Realtor and history buff, John Shroyer, will be displaying some of his items from Redwood City history. We expect it will be a few months before the house will be open for business. Stay tuned!

    • The project was approved on September 4. After approval projects like this take a lot of time to secure financing, obtain permits, make construction drawings, and line up contractors, so the “quiet period” since September is quite normal. The project is very much alive, however: they received a building permit on April 25, 2019 that allows them to adjust a sewer line, to remove the gas meter on the existing building and install a new one elsewhere on the property, and to re-route an AT&T “service line”. All of this in preparation for demolition of the existing structures. So watch closely for this utility work: it should be the precursor to demolition, after which construction should begin.

  2. Just some additional information about this sentence: “There is what appears to be a small two-story apartment complex behind this site (on Jackson Avenue), but a couple of doors further down on Jackson Avenue there is a four-story apartment building…” I live in the 4-story building on Jackson. There are apartments on the upper 3 stories only. The ground floor consists of garages and a laundry room.

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