Neighborhoods: Woodside Plaza

This is the tenth in my series of blog posts about Redwood City’s seventeen neighborhoods. Some years ago Redwood City divided the city into a series of distinct neighborhoods for the purposes of community building, identifying areas with common characteristics and interests and naming them, in most cases, after a key feature of the neighborhood. For each the city then worked to establish a neighborhood association, with a chairperson (and, in some cases, other officers) who hold neighborhood meetings either on a regular or an as-needed basis. The Woodside Plaza neighborhood association calls meetings as needed, and holds them in the multi-purpose room on the Kennedy School campus.

As you might surmise, the Woodside Plaza neighborhood includes the ever-popular Woodside Plaza shopping center. With some exceptions, the neighborhood is bounded by Woodside Road, Fernside Street, Goodwin Avenue, and Valota Road. It also encompasses some eight parcels on the far side of Woodside Road, along with a chunk of properties to the west of Fernside Street that includes Adelante School. Finally, the neighborhood includes two blocks on the northwest side of Goodwin Avenue, one on either side of Virginia Avenue.

Here is the city map showing the neighborhood boundaries, along with an inset that shows the Woodside Plaza neighborhood in relation to all of Redwood City’s other seventeen neighborhood associations:

Over the years I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring various parts of the neighborhood. The Woodside Plaza neighborhood is largely composed of single-family homes and a fair number of duplexes. There are a handful of apartment and condominium buildings, but you’ll find those primarily along busy Woodside Road. The neighborhood has its share of houses of worship, and as you can see from the map, three of the Redwood City School District’s schools. Within the neighborhood all of the retail, and the one or two office buildings, can be found in or near the Woodside Plaza shopping center.

The Woodside Plaza shopping center, then, is a key part of the neighborhood. It’s a fairly full-featured center that is separated into two halves by Massachusetts Avenue. On what most people think of as the west side (it is actually the south side), the major tenants are a Lucky supermarket, a Rite Aid drugstore, Hassett Hardware (an Ace hardware store), and Pet Food Express. It also contains a one-hour cleaners (for clothes), a fitness place and a Pilates place (coming soon), a hair salon, a nail salon, and a tiny branch of the US Post Office with seemingly terrible hours: they are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. but are closed on weekends and holidays, and, more importantly they are closed from 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for lunch. Those hours may not sound terrible, but every time I’ve gone by hoping to mail a letter, they’ve been closed, with the door firmly locked.

This side of the center also has two great restaurants. One is Breakers Cafe, a breakfast and lunch place that serves typical diner food. They’ve been there for a very long time, and seem to have a very loyal following. The other is Redwood Grill. Redwood Grill is a great place for lunch or dinner (they do brunch on weekends), with a better menu than you typically find for a restaurant located in a strip shopping center. They have a nice bar and do great cocktails. Redwood Grill is in the process of expanding into a small next-door space, which will give them a room they’ll be able to use for private events. I really like Redwood Grill. If you haven’t been, check out the menu on their website, and consider giving them a try.

Finally, at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Woodside Road, this part of the Woodside Plaza shopping center sports a branch of Wells Fargo Bank, and a small recycling center where you can redeem cans and bottles (plastic or glass) for money.

Crossing Massachusetts Ave., the “east” (north, really) side of the center is anchored by a Ross Dress for Less and a Michael’s Arts & Crafts (within which is an Aaron Bros. framing shop). This side also has a UPS store and a number of restaurants: Round Table Pizza, Yat Sing Restaurant (Chinese food), Sushi Plus (Japanese cuisine), and the combined “Rack & Roll BBQ Shack” and “Lobster Shack,” where you can get both lobster dishes as well as pulled pork and other BBQ dishes. Next to this part of the center — it isn’t clear whether these are part of the Woodside Plaza center or not — is a Bank of America branch, and a now-shuttered Citibank branch.

Across Woodside Road from the center there is quite a bit of retail, but just about all of that is not within the Woodside Plaza neighborhood. In fact, most of that is not within Redwood City at all: in this area the city’s border mostly runs down Woodside Road. A close inspection of the neighborhood map, though, reveals that there are a couple of individual properties on the other side of Woodside Road, properties that are both within the city and within the neighborhood. Most of these are office or apartment buildings. There are two somewhat interesting parcels directly across from the Woodside Plaza shopping center, however: one is home to the very popular Woodside Deli, while the other houses a US Bank branch. The next-door Benjamin Moore paint store, though, sits on county land, and is not within Redwood City’s limits.

The Woodside Plaza neighborhood has three public schools, all of which are part of the Redwood City School District. One is Adelante Elementary School, located in that small chunk of the neighborhood across Fernside Street in the upper left corner of the neighborhood map. Although most of the neighborhood is relatively flat, Adelante sits among some low hills, hills that eventually climb up to Farm Hill Boulevard. Unfortunately, Adelante’s beautiful tree-lined surroundings are going to be lost on future students, as this school is one of those slated for closure. At Adelante students participate in a Spanish Immersion program, one that aligns well with a similar program at Selby Lane Elementary. To save money the district plans to close Adelante and shift Adelante’s students over to Selby Lane Elementary, where they can continue their studies in Spanish.

The second of the neighborhood’s schools is John F. Kennedy Middle School, a large campus that occupies a large block within the neighborhood. Kennedy’s campus not only hosts a number of conventional 6th-8th-grade Redwood City School District students, it also is home to a charter school operated by Rocketship Public Schools. This charter school, dubbed Redwood City Prep, has some 269 students in grades TK-5. It is located in buildings along the Connecticut Drive side of the Kennedy campus.

Given the great number of kids walking to and from the Kennedy campus, it is no surprise that Redwood City targeted three intersections surrounding the campus as part of its Safe Routes to School project. Most of this project has been completed, with bulb-outs, median islands, and much-improved crosswalk striping making the intersections at Connecticut Drive and Oregon Avenue; Connecticut Drive and Washington Avenue; and Alameda De Las Pulgas and Goodwin Avenue (and Maddux Drive) significantly easier to navigate on foot. The Alameda De Las Pulgas intersection has yet to receive the pedestrian beacons that should greatly improve safety for those crossing Alameda, but the conduits are in place so I expect I’ll soon see the beacons. Otherwise, the project at the three intersections appears to be complete.

The Woodside Plaza neighborhood’s third public school is Henry Ford Elementary School. Henry Ford is located on Massachusetts Avenue, not far from the shopping center, and serves students in grades K-5. Like Kennedy this school managed to escape closure, although it won’t be entirely unaffected: Hawes Elementary School, over on Roosevelt Avenue, is closing, and its students will be divided up between a couple of the district’s other schools, one of which will be Henry Ford. Thus, come this fall Henry Ford should see a significant increase in its student population.

Henry Ford Elementary is bounded on one side by one of the neighborhood’s more interesting natural features: Redwood Creek flows through the neighborhood almost entirely open to the sky, although you’d be hard pressed to know that unless you live there since the creek’s concrete channel is mostly located behind and between private homes. It does cross beneath several neighborhood streets, but those crossings are rather nondescript and can be hard to spot, especially when driving. Within this neighborhood the best place to observe the creek is from the neighborhood’s only (I believe) park: Maddux Park, which is located on Maddux Drive at Kensington Road.

If you wander to the back part of the park, behind the play equipment you can see in the above image, you’ll find the creek, separating the park from Henry Ford Elementary’s sports fields. A tall chain-link fence here (and along the entirety of the exposed sections of the creek in this neighborhood, in fact) helps to ensure that people and trash stay out of the creek. Mother Nature still finds her way in, though, as evidenced by this work crew I encountered while walking through the neighborhood:

The red claw on the end of this small crane went down empty, but came back packed with leaves and branches, which apparently were jamming up the creek where it crosses underneath Massachusetts Avenue.

I mentioned earlier that this neighborhood is home to a couple of houses of worship. One, Temple Beth Jacob, is located midway between Kennedy and Adelante and is a familiar sight to anyone who habitually drives along that section of Alameda De Las Pulgas. The temple is squeezed between that street and the Hetch-Hetchy right-of-way, and they’ve cleverly used a portion of that right-of-way, which cannot have permanent structures built upon it, as part of their parking lot:

(I took the above picture from Goodwin Avenue, midway between Alameda De Las Pulgas and Fernwood Street.)

Another large house of worship in the neighborhood is the Woodside Road United Methodist Church, on the corner of Alameda De Las Pulgas and Woodside Road. This one is really hard to miss, being that it is located at the intersection of two well-traveled Redwood City streets:

This church almost, but doesn’t quite, mark the southernmost corner of the neighborhood: the office building across Woodside Road is also within the Woodside Plaza neighborhood.

Schools, churches, shops, and some offices: these make up just a small part of the Woodside Plaza neighborhood. The vast majority of what you find in the neighborhood, though, is housing. And just about all of that housing stock consists of single-family homes. This neighborhood has some very small homes, such as this beautiful but tiny (860 square feet!) house on Poplar Avenue:

Just down Poplar, in the next block, is this much larger (2,300 square feet) home:

Both of these are indicative of the kinds of homes you’ll find in the neighborhood. Homes vary in age, style, and condition, of course, but within a surprisingly narrow range. There are very few homes that appear to be truly old (the little home was built in 1952, whereas the larger one was built in 1991). That 2,300-square-foot home seems to be one of the larger ones; there aren’t many, if any, “McMansions” in the Woodside Plaza neighborhood. Style-wise, there are a handful of homes that have been remodeled using modern elements, such as this house over on Maddux Drive:

Many of the homes in the neighborhood sport some great front yards, and a couple of them have some nice elements of whimsy. One house sported a large wooden bear out front, while another, over on Goodwin Avenue, had this more subtle element:

The Woodside Plaza neighborhood appears to be a great place to live, especially with its schools (which can sort-of double as parks during the off hours) and the plethora of great shopping and dining available at the Woodside Plaza shopping center itself. It is also a great place in which to walk, although if you do so, consider taking a map or a smartphone: many of the neighborhood’s streets curve, and many of them dead-end into others, making it easy to get a bit lost. With so few parks or natural elements, the main attraction to those walking the neighborhood are the houses and yards. Personally, I enjoy looking at both, so that works for me. If you are more into nature, though, although it isn’t actually in the neighborhood the wonderful Stulsaft park is immediately adjacent, and in fact the road leading up to the park’s lower entrance gates is itself in the Woodside Plaza neighborhood (Mitchell Way, which you’ll find in the upper left corner of the neighborhood map).

14 thoughts on “Neighborhoods: Woodside Plaza

  1. My mom and dad moved our family from the midwest to Redwood City in January 1957, when I was six years old. We rented half of a duplex at 1181 Oliver Street and then bought the house at 2752 Kensington Road. We lived there until 1963. We were about 5-6 houses up from Maddux Park and Redwood Creek was an open trench flowing past our back yard and through the park. It was a great playground and we got wet and muddy a lot! I went to St Pius through eighth grade, rode my bike to school every day. On weekend and summer days, me and several of the other kids who lived nearby biked all over the place, the requirement being get home in time for dinner. The town was very safe back then. I recently digitized a lot of photos from 1957-63 from my time on Kensington Road and will send them if you give me an email address. Mine is .

  2. I spent 20 years living on Virginia Ave (& Washington St), from 1951 to 1971, it was a great place to grow up as a child. Back then, Kennedy School was “Goodwin” and you went there for K &1st and returned for 7th and 8th, spending 2nd through 6th at Henry Ford. Our backyard bumped up to a big field owned by the carnation growers and there was an old schoolhouse there. Before Palm and Goodwin streets were extended (pre MacDonald Street also), you could explore fields and the creek all the way to the Redwood Ave area. You and your neighborhood friends could spend all day playing in the creek and come home dirty and tired. After the new homes went in you still had a field to play in and the creek (all dirt then). And Woodside Plaza had a Thrifty’s (3 ice cream scoop cone for 25 cents), a Grants, The Red Steer and, of course, Woodside Bowl. And those alleys between streets were so convenient, there was a almost hidden park where alleys from Virginia, Kentucky & Anamor streets merged. The homes being built in the early 50s in our area were often 2 or 3 bedroom, one bath, single garage at about 1,000 square feet and did not cost over $15K. Ah, the memories

    • Not having grown up here — I didn’t move to Redwood City until 1989 — I can’t claim similar memories. Although so much has happened since I got here that I have plenty of memories of my own. But I do wish I could have seen it back then… It sounds as if it was a wonderful place in which to grow up

      • It definitely was a great time and place to grow up! As Bill remembers, I, too played in the creeks at Redwood Ave where Virginia Ave was a dead end for the Oja de Agua creek!

    • Thanks for identifying Hidden Park for me! I had friends who lived near there, but it wasn’t near my home, and I’ve always wondered if my memory was playing tricks on me. A park with no car access in 1950’s California? Unbelievable!

  3. Some of the streets in this ‘neighborhood’ used to have a number alleys to cut through many of the long streets that you mentioned that dead end or curve!!
    Another bit of history was walking through those creeks when the were open and dirt lined, very lively with pollywogs of various stages to froghood! 😀

    • Yes, spent hours pollywogging. Think I may have gotten down to the creek at Massachuetts. Also came home with poison oak every time. The Ross Store was originally Union Furniture. They had moved from Main St. out to Woodside Plaza. That might have been late 60’s. I started school at the Methodist Church until some then new classrooms at Henry Ford opened up. Walked to Henry Ford School. Then took a bus to the Methodist Church. A big adventure. Scouts also met at the church.

    • If I remember correctly one set of alleys started at Virginia Ave and ended as a entrance to Henry Ford school. And there was that hidden park sandwiched in between Virginia, Kentucky & Anamor & accessed through those alleys. I never went back and checked but was that hidden park divided up and added to the backyards of the surrounding homes ? Oh, another alley connected Palm & Washington and crossed over a creek on a wooden bridge…..the alleys there ending at Goodwin ?

      • Hello Bill! We had great childhoods here in this area! 🙂 I don’t recall the alley coming off of Virginia but Anamor, is my recollection. It certainly may have been there. Maybe some old timer (like us) can help jog our memories. I do remember the alley on the backside of Henry Ford School from Hampton. I didn’t go to Henry Ford but to Roosevelt. When I later became a yard duty and after school sports leader at HF, I used that entrance/exit a lot! I, also, don’t recall the bridges over the creeks between Palm & Washington but the alley was there and continued through to Goodwin. The neighbors got tired of the by-passers and the City let them acquire the property. Later, I was interested in acquire some City property that was only accessible through 2 properties my family owned. It, too, had the bridge that crossed the creek but the bridge didn’t exist until after the creeks were culverted. There is still one alley that remains & it cuts through from Truman to Fairview Ave.

  4. Tiny correction: the Adelante program is dual immersion, English and Spanish. At graduation the goal is to have all students biliterate and bilingual

  5. Great write up! Permits were submitted a while back to convert that empty Citibank into a Starbucks but I haven’t seen any actual progress. I’d imagine there would be some sort of other additional retail space…otherwise that’s a really big Starbucks. I wish something could be done to improve the pedestrian safety of crossing Woodside Rd at Massachusetts to get to the shopping plaza. Really the whole stretch of Woodside rd along the shopping center could use some pedestrian improvements. Being a state road flanked by two different jurisdictions makes me think it might be a while…why they increase the road to 6 lanes at this intersection is beyond me…isn’t that just incentivizing people to speed, the opposite of what should be happening at an intersection. My hope is with selby lane no longer the neighborhood school for the sequoia tract they’ll implement some sort of safety measures for kids crossing Woodside rd to get to what will most likely be the newly assigned schools for the area.

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