Along East Bayshore

This week Redwood City’s Planning Commission met to take input on the Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, for the 557 East Bayshore project. 557 East Bayshore Road is a fourteen acre site that sits between Boardwalk Chevrolet and the remaining Boardwalk Auto dealerships; it is where you’ll find the now-shuttered Century Park 12 theaters. Because the bulk of the property is made up of an asphalt parking lot, though, for years now it has been used by the nearby automobile dealerships as a place to store excess inventory.

The Century Park 12 theaters have been dark since late 2008, but SyRES Properties, the site’s owner, has been proposing various development projects for their property since even before then. Each proposal met resistance, but SyRES Properties, knowing the value of their property, continued to propose new ones. They finally came up with something that they think might be acceptable, and this particular proposal has reached the stage where an EIR needs to be written. As usual, that report will analyze the various impacts that the proposed project would have to the environment, to things such as water, air, noise, and traffic.

I’ve closely watched this site for years. What SyRES Properties proposes to build on the site is both housing and a large “sport club.” The housing would consist of two five-story apartment buildings that would wrap around, and thus largely hide, internal parking garages. In total the two buildings would contain 480 apartments, 85 of which would be affordable at income levels ranging from Very Low to Moderate. The apartments would come in studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom configurations, and would range in size from 510 to 1,200 square feet.

The two apartment buildings would be located along the side of the property facing Inner Bair Island. The VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa, on the other hand, would sit closer to East Bayshore Road. This club would consist of a nearly 100,000-square-foot, two-story building plus two outdoor pools, an outdoor café area, and an outdoor children’s play area. The club’s aim is to offer “a unique combination of fitness and social programming in a resort-style environment for the entire family.” The giant club building would contain exercise studios, a large array of exercise equipment, a full-sized basketball court, a day spa, two indoor pools (in addition to the outdoor pools), locker rooms, and a café.

The VillaSport club would primarily be for members, although certain features, such as the café and the day spa, would be open to all. As well, some children’s programs (day camps, for instance) would be open to non-members. The club does plan to sell day passes, incidentally, enabling full access for everyone.

Although the size of the project can be questioned, at least this proposal makes more productive use of the property. We can always use more housing, and 85 affordable housing units are nothing to sneeze at. And although I’d need to see the pricing before I decide if I would join, the VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa does look like a great place for families.

In the past I’ve written about something that was clearly communicated by the handful of people who spoke at the Planning Commission meeting. This area already has traffic issues, given the large number of housing units out there (about 850 condominiums and apartments), and the fact that the only way in or out of the area by car is via East Bayshore Road is a problem. Some other good points were brought up, including air quality — those outdoor pools are very close to East Bayshore Road and the highway, meaning that the swimmers will be breathing air of questionable quality — and how the project will deal with anticipated sea level rise, but I believe that every single person that spoke up mentioned traffic. Especially during the evening rush hour, apparently it is very difficult to navigate the Whipple Avenue offramp, which many of the area’s residents have to do on a regular basis. Add in another 480 apartments, plus all of those people making use of the VillaSport Athletic Club, and things are going to get much worse.

Perhaps even more importantly, though, is the fact that if we have a serious emergency requiring evacuation of the area, such as an earthquake or fire, every car attempting to leave would have to use the two-lane East Bayshore Road – the very same road that emergency vehicles coming into the area would use. To my mind, this project really only starts to make some sort of sense if and when the city manages to build the so-called “Blomquist Extension,” which would connect the roundabout by the Boardwalk Auto dealerships to Maple Street by the Redwood City Police station. This would give vehicles a second way in or out of the area, which should greatly improve access.

Adding 480 apartments to the roughly 850 apartments and condominiums already in the northern part of the Bair Island neighborhood gives you about 1,330 housing units along East Bayshore Road (and Bair Island Road, and Uccelli Drive; the street changes names a couple of times). Not enough, you say? Fortunately for you, just last week a new project appeared on Redwood City’s Development Projects website. The so-called Townhomes at 505 E. Bayshore project actually abuts the SyRES Properties project, but would actually be the first set of housing you come to after you cross over Highway 101 from the west side of Redwood City. It would take the place of Alan Steel and Supply Company, a place that appears to be much like a lumberyard, except for metal. They sell steel, aluminum and copper, plus scrap metal and bits of overstock.

Being proposed for the 2.54 acre site are eight buildings that would contain a total of 60 townhouse-style condominiums. Nine of those townhomes would be affordable to those at the Moderate Income Level. All of the units would have rooftop decks, which should provide residents with nice views of Bair Island; it sits just across a drainage channel from the project site.

I mentioned that the project would abut the Century Park 12 Theaters site; it would do so on the far side of the property. Along another side would be the Toyota 101 dealership. That dealership, at least, doesn’t appear to be in any danger of being redeveloped as housing: it is actually hoping to remodel. The third side has a segment of the Bay Trail, the drainage channel, and Inner Bair Island, while the fourth side (kinda facing north) is where East Bayshore Road can be found. Twenty-four of the sixty townhomes face out towards the drainage channel and Inner Bair Island, while the remaining units are arranged in parallel blocks that will sit end on to the Toyota dealership.

This project was just proposed, and the application is not yet complete. Thus, we still have a great deal of time to study and give input on this project before it is approved (assuming that it ever is).

The Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming project has begun! And not a moment too soon. Just yesterday (Thursday) I was driving downtown, following the posted 25 mph speed limit. Some idiot, clearly in too much of a hurry, was right on my back bumper. When I got to Hudson Street I stopped at the stop sign and was momentarily relieved to see the guy pull into the left turn lane. That relief was short-lived, however; he started moving when I did, but rather than turn left, he went straight ahead, into the empty left-turn lane from the other direction. He then zoomed ahead of me, nearly side-swiping me in the process. This street definitely needs traffic calming, and the few well-placed center islands that this project will supply will hopefully help a lot. I’m also greatly looking forward to the flashing beacons that will be installed at either end of Stafford Park. Those should go a long way towards helping both children and adults (many with dogs) crossing to and from the park.

Many of the elements of the traffic calming project are actually somewhat small. The biggest component is to be found at the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Alameda de Las Pulgas, and that is what got underway this week:

Alameda de Las Pulgas is a single lane in each direction at this intersection. But motorists coming south on Alameda who want to turn left onto Hopkins Avenue currently have a “short-cut” of sorts: they can turn left before the “parklet” you can see in the above picture and then turn left onto Hopkins Avenue. The Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming project is removing this “short-cut” (it will remain for people heading west on Hopkins and wanting to turn north onto Alameda), and instead is creating a proper left-turn lane at the intersection of Hopkins Avenue and Alameda de Las Pulgas. As you can see from the picture, they’ve already started slicing into the parklet, to make way for the added width that this extra lane will require.

This project should essentially be complete by late August. At that time the center islands will be formed by temporary barriers (plastic posts glued to the street, perhaps) to give the community time to adjust to the new configuration and give the city feedback. Eventually, permanent islands should get installed.

Demolition on the County Center block that used to be home to the Lathrop House is now well underway:

Now that the Lathrop House has been moved across the street, from Marshall Street it is easy to see that the old Traffic Court building is nearly all gone. Looking sideways, you can also see how the other buildings on the property are starting to come down, as well:

This block should be clear soon. I’ll be watching with interest to see how long it takes the county to get started on the office building that will one day sit on this part of the County Center.

7 thoughts on “Along East Bayshore

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  3. I completely agree the “Blomquist Extension” is sorely needed with the new developments going up there. There should not be only one way in/out (Whipple) for that section of town. I always thought before the Courtyard hotel and the roundabout were built, they should have developed plans to build a road across the creek alongside the highway. This road would be connected the new bike/ped underpass currently being built, and the “bridge to nowhere” would not have been needed. How far along is the planning or proposal for this extension?

  4. I’ll admit that I’ve sped on Hopkins, often doing 30. It’s wide enough to see and plan for dealing with pedestrians and cars coming off of side streets. I know, that’s not good in RWC*. I’ve also had cars pass me on Hopkins because they think 30 is to slow.

    *Other cities often have higher speed limits on similar streets as compared to us.

    • Yep, that’s exactly the problem that this project is aiming to address. It is designed to make the street feel narrower, which should slow drivers down (along with the flashing beacons at the park, the more visible crosswalks, and the revamped curve at Alameda.

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