I See You…

I just love it when the construction fences come down, and we can finally see what the finished project looks like, don’t you? I especially love it when the construction fences were blocking the sidewalk, and their removal re-enables access to that sidewalk. The construction fences around the recently relocated Lathrop House finally came down, and although those particular ones hadn’t actually been blocking the sidewalk, the full vision of the house, and its somewhat sparse (so far) landscaping is something to see. The contractors did a terrific job with the relocation of this house, and even if it hadn’t needed to be moved to make way for the county’s newest office building, perhaps it should have been moved anyway. It makes so much more sense, and is so much more visible, in its current location, snuggled as it is up against the back side of the San Mateo County History Museum. I can’t wait until it reopens and I can finally tour the interior. For now, though, I’ll simply take pleasure in looking at this gorgeous example of “Steamboat Gothic” architecture:

One set of construction fences that we’ve been putting up with for just over two years (along with the associated traffic deviations and interruptions caused by the project itself) are the ones around the building being constructed at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Broadway. Officially the Broadway Station Redwood City building, but more commonly known for its office tenant — the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — the building exterior, anyway, appears to have been largely complete for some time now. But the sidewalk rebuilding and the street repaving that needed to wait until the heavy equipment was no longer needed has been underway for a number of weeks now, and appears to finally be complete. As I went by this week I observed workers cleaning up the area. The street has been repaved and the trees and benches along the sidewalk are finally in place, so it should be time for the construction fences, at least along Jefferson Avenue and along Broadway, to be taken down:

There might still be work to be done inside the building, but I’m hoping that the sidewalks can be reopened: I’m getting a bit tired of having to constantly cross the street in order to traverse this block! And I’m looking forward to traffic along Jefferson Avenue getting back to normal. It seems that only the final striping has yet to be done:

One project that needed no construction fencing, but this week gave us a much clearer picture of what the final project (assuming it is approved and built) is going to look like, is the Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming project. I had thought that the city was just going to pilot this with paint and some plastic posts, but they’ve gone much farther than that, and already the pilot appears to be slowing down cars along this very busy suburban street. The simulated median islands at first were indeed just marked with paint, plastic posts, and some rubber bumpers. But this week city crews installed bender board, trees (in wooden crates) and wood chips in order to make the islands feel more solid and more real.

That final set of additions really does seem to be causing people to slow down, if my informal observations are any indication. Certainly, now when you drive up and down Hopkins Avenue you feel the presence of the islands more, and I for one am more conscious of my speed.

Of course, it isn’t just the islands. The city also installed two “speed humps” on Hopkins Avenue, one at Fulton Street and one at King Street.

These wide humps are more than your classic speed bumps, although they have the same effect. As you can see here, they are significantly wider than a simple speed bump:

In the final implementation these “raised crosswalks” would be made of asphalt or concrete, and would not only slow people down but also increase the visibility of the pedestrians and baby carriages that use them to cross this wide street from Stafford Park. Note that there will be “HAWK” lights — those flashing lights that only turn on when activated by a pedestrian — here as well. Expect them to be installed soon.

These speed humps are certainly having the desired effect. I stood there for a while watching cars, and it was clear which ones had been going too fast: you could see their noses really dive as their drivers applied the brakes before hitting the speed hump. I’ve found that going over them at 25 MPH (the speed limit) is a bit uncomfortable, whereas slowing to about 15 MPH makes them easily navigable. Slowing from 25 to 15, and then speeding back up to 15, is no big deal, really. It’s those people who are cruising along at 40 MPH or more that are really having to slow down — and it’s a real pleasure watching them have to do so, if I’m honest.

One final note about the Hopkins Avenue project. I got a real chuckle when I saw this sign, on the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Nevada Street:

Well, this is Silicon Valley after all, so it’s nice to see that our bikes can use the full LAN (Local Area Network). Or maybe the city has to pay for signs by the letter, and they just didn’t have quite enough money in the budget to pay for that final “E”…

Coffeebar opened this week! I stopped by on opening day just to check out the space, and although some of the artwork wasn’t to my taste, overall I liked it. I especially like the exposed brick walls, the high ceilings, and the beautiful wood floors.

I don’t drink coffee, so can’t comment directly on that, but I did get a hot chocolate and that, at least, was very good. I was there on the first day of their “soft opening” and the food menu was very limited, but by the time you read this they may well have begun serving the full menu, which has some interesting looking items on it. I’ll pay them another visit soon and try out some items from the menu, and will likely say more about Coffeebar then. I will note that their location is excellent: they’re in the historic Young’s Ice Cream and Candy location (they’ve preserved the old stained glass windows from back when Young’s was a drugstore and stationery shop), at 2020 Broadway.

Finally, three quick things. One, we have a new company in the Century Theaters building, in the upstairs space that formerly was home to Sequoia Realty Services (entrance to the space is at ground level, on the Broadway side of the building). It is called Silicon FinTech Bay, and it seems to be aimed at assisting startups that are themselves developing technologies (primarily software) to help companies and consumers better manage their finances and financial processes.

Next, I just wanted to point out that the former Signarama building, on El Camino Real just south of Broadway, is starting to look a bit like a used car lot:

I truly need to find out what is going on with this building. When Signarama first moved this building had a “For Lease” sign on it, but that sign is now gone. Construction fences were erected and paper was put up in the windows, which usually indicates that work is going on inside, but that paper is starting to fade and I’m not seeing any real signs of life. It appeared that a contractor was using the space for a while to store their trucks and materials, and then later to construct a tiny home on a trailer. I’m guessing that the contractor was told to clean up their act, since a couple of weeks ago all of that stuff vanished. But now we have two old Volkswagens, both with “For Sale” signs in their windshields. While this place isn’t likely to become a real used car lot — for one thing, I can’t imagine that there is enough room for enough vehicles to make such a venture worthwhile — this building, being so close to one of downtown Redwood City’s main gateways, is kind-of giving the area a bad image.

Thirdly, in last week’s post I mentioned that the small building at 1531 Main Street was being remodeled, apparently for use by DoorDash. Well, this week that building was painted, and it seems clear that DoorDash (or whomever is actually going to make use of the building) isn’t interested in blending in:

Yes, we see you…

Developer Lowe has requested that the City initiate a General Plan Amendment that would cover Sequoia Station, the Redwood City Transit Center, and the Caltrain parking lot along Perry Street, just north of Broadway — what they’re calling the Sequoia Station Transit Sub-Area. They would like the City to consider increasing the Downtown Precise Plan development caps (which have largely been reached), increasing allowable building heights in the area, and reducing parking ratios. This is the very first in a long series of steps that Lowe hopes will lead to their constructing something on the order of 1.6 million square feet of office space, 440 for-rent residential units, and 175,000 square feet of retail space on the properties. For a little bit more about this project, check out the links on the project web page. Or, just wait for me to write more about it, which I’ll do as it progresses.

If you are interested in the City’s efforts to maintain the character of our residential neighborhoods, I must direct you to Redwood City’s Citywide Single-Family Residential Design Guidelines Survey. The survey will only be active until October 9, so don’t delay: go to the linked web page and answer the 10 questions which are intended to “help the planning team gather community ideas, concerns and priorities to help draft the Citywide Single-Family Design Guidelines.” After that, I would suggest that you head over to the city’s Interactive Digital Walk-Shop. The name may be a bit odd, but this is an interactive map on which you can drop pins to give your opinions about design features of two-story single-family homes. The tool can be a bit tricky to use — in particular, the Google Street View links sometimes show the wrong side of the street, so you need to be careful to ensure that you are looking at the correct house — but it is a way to make your opinions known about the design of our existing two-story homes. All of this data will be taken into account as the City works to develop design guidelines that ideally will preserve the essential character of Redwood City’s 17 neighborhoods.

10 thoughts on “I See You…

  1. I was surprised to see the very large expanse of unadorned concrete in front of the Zuckerberg building on Broadway. The remainder of that block on both sides has tile. What were they thinking? Not attractive, and it detracts from the ambiance of the area.

    • I don’t think they were looking to match the other side of Broadway – they were looking to fit in with the other side of Jefferson, which is the Century Theaters building. Although the bottom of that building is stucco, not unadorned concrete, the two look similar.

      • My post wasn’t clear, but I was referring to the concrete sidewalks- as an inveterate city walker I wonder if you pay much attention or have opinions about the various walking surfaces you encounter (primarily from an aesthetic perspective). Personally, I’ve seen enough plain concrete to last me a lifetime. I recently spent a couple of weeks in Europe and blissfully saw almost none.

  2. Design regulations lead to “Little Boxes, Little Boxes, made out of Ticky-Tacky”. Looking all the same. See about the Revolt in Emerald Hills 18 years ago. Its the eclectic building that makes Redwood City what it is. Greg your going down a slippery slop as is the City asking for comments on individual two story homes. Legal issues come to mind as to valuation effects if one was to try and sell after you have dissed one.

  3. From your photo, Lathrop House looks great in its new location — one of the side benefits of its new home is that (I assume) bicycles will no longer be prohibited from using the museum’s parking lot!

    • Greg, I’d be happy to give you a quick tour of the Lathrop House in the next few weeks. The furniture will moved back into the house next week. Then, the house will be fumigated, as unfortunately, there are subterranean termites and beetles actively chewing away. They will be dealt with soon! It will be a while before we can open the house because we have some additional work on the interior and we hope to start the construction of the Redwood City History Gallery on the second floor in what was once the Gift Shop. But, if you want a quick tour, I’d be happy to give you one.

      • Cindy, the house is not open for tours and won’t be for several months. We still have a lot of work to do. My offer was to Greg as he’s reporting on the progress of many projects downtown and I thought he’d like to see how the Lathrop House is doing. Keep your eye out for our grand opening, probably mid 2020.

    • Billy, you’re correct. The Lathrop House is much better situated now and has better visibility. However, the parking lot behind the museum will not be a parking lot for long as we are planning to construct a multi-story Carriage House on that site. Look for more information in coming months.

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