One of These Things is Not Like the Others

If you are of a certain age, that title surely triggers a melody in your head, causing you to mentally sing along with that memorable Sesame Street song:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you’re absolutely…right!

(Lyrics obtained from http://members.tripod.com/Tiny_Dancer/one.html. Original words and music by Joe Raposo and Jon Stone.)

As the song played, the host stood next to a number of items — usually four, it appears — all but one of which looked pretty much the same. This being Sesame Street, the one item that was different from the rest was usually quite different, making it rather obvious for most people. Of course, Sesame Street was watched by little kids, so perhaps for the very young it really was a bit of a challenge.

This week I paid a visit to four residential projects within easy walking distance (by my standards) of each other, all of which are in a very similar state of construction. Each project has at least one thing that distinguishes it from the others, although in reality each has more than one unique aspect.

I begin with the project at 707 Bradford Street, now named Arroyo Green. This project is normally shown as it will appear from Bradford Street, but I prefer the view from along Redwood Creek:

Arroyo Green will be a seven-story apartment building with an internal parking garage and, on the ground floor, a preschool. The preschool will face the creek, as will many of the apartments. Along the creek itself, between the creek and the building, there will be a park of sorts whose primary feature will be a section of the “Redwood Creek Trail.” All told the building will have 117 apartments (a mix of studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units), all of which will be for low-income seniors at the Very Low and Extremely Low income levels. Most of the apartments—99 of them, in fact—will be reserved for people receiving voucher assistance. In addition to their apartments and the building’s garage, residents will have access to a community space, a workout room, a computer room, a game room, and a library/reading room. On the third floor residents will be able to enjoy a lovely outdoor plaza with planters, benches, and a gas grill. The project plans also show a Bocce court, and a portion of the plaza covered with artificial turf. This plaza, which is up near the top of the palm tree in the rendering, should provide residents with a nice view of the creek, and thus should be a pleasant place to relax on a sunny afternoon.

Arroyo Green — which is being brought to us by the good folks at MidPen Housing — is going to be a real help to people in need, and you can bet that demand for these apartments will be high. As for the preschool, it will be run by Footsteps Child Care, Inc., which currently has schools in City Center Plaza (in downtown Redwood City), in Redwood Shores, and in Belmont. The school is being designed to accommodate some 70 kids ranging from infants and toddlers up to five-year-olds, and will include protected outdoor play spaces behind the fences you can see in the rendering.

Here is a current view of the construction from roughly the same angle as the rendering:

Because I couldn’t enter the property I had to settle for taking the picture from the Main Street bridge across Redwood Creek. But you can see that the walls and posts that will make up the ground floor — which will consist of the building’s lobby, the preschool, and the lower level of the two-story parking garage (which will be entirely above ground) — are either in place or have been formed and are ready to be poured.

Here is another view of the project, this time from Bradford Street, that shows the construction activity somewhat more clearly:

Of the four projects I’ll go over today, this one is unique in its location — the other three are all located on El Camino Real — and in the fact that it has some nice public benefits in both the preschool and the section of Redwood Creek Trail.

My second housing project is located at 1409 El Camino Real. This eight-story apartment building will sit right next to Huxley, its sister project, separated only by Diller Street. 1409 El Camino Real will be a large building not only in height but in width and depth: it will front onto El Camino Real and will extend all the way back to Franklin Street, and it will stretch from Diller Street down to the small alley that will separate it from the Security Public Storage/Chain Reaction Bicycles building. Not only will 1409 El Camino Real rise eight stories into the air, it will also dive three stories underground: this 350-unit apartment building will sit atop a three-level subterranean parking garage that will be able to accommodate 441 cars and 89 bicycles. Although 90% of this building’s units are market-rate, 10%, or 35, of them will be made affordable at the Low income level.

This building may appear to be a giant monolith, but it is open in the center. That is where the building’s private landscaped open space area — which will have trees and other plantings, an outdoor kitchen, an outdoor fireplace, and soft seating — will be located. Within the building residents will have access to a common room, an activity room, and a “business lounge.” Up on the eight floor, where you can probably just barely make out some trees and some people in the rendering, there is a pool and spa, plus a fitness room. Around the pool and spa is a deck, which as you can see looks out over El Camino Real.

As for the apartments themselves, they will range in size from studios up to 3-bedroom units (although there are only five of those). If you look extremely carefully along the street level in the above rendering (click it for a version you can zoom in on), you’ll see that some of the ground-floor apartments have exterior entrances, with “stoops.” These apartments can be found not only on the El Camino Real side of the building, but also on the Diller and Franklin Street sides as well.

Continue to look closely at the above rendering and you might notice that there is a sign above the corner space that says “Retail”. Although this building consists almost entirely of for-rent apartments, it does have one small 1,400 square foot retail space on the corner of El Camino Real and Diller Street. Nine of the parking spaces in the uppermost level of the garage are reserved for use by this retail space, so although there will be a number of angled parking spaces along Diller Street, it appears that shoppers will also be able to make use of the building’s garage.

Up until now most of the work on this project has been towards digging the hole for the massive parking garage, and then building the forms and pouring the concrete for that garage. Today that garage appears to be nearly complete:

So just what distinguishes this project from the others, beyond its sheer size? For one, it is the only project of the four that has an underground parking garage. And it is also the only one that has a retail component.

My next project is down El Camino Real, beyond Woodside Road. This project, at 2821 El Camino Real, is being built by Palo Alto Housing. As you might guess, it will be an affordable housing project, in this case for low-income families, for veterans, and for people with special needs. Palo Alto Housing intends to make these units affordable to households at the Low, Very Low, and Extremely Low income levels. The building will contain 67 apartments in total, most of which will be studios but some of which will be one-bedroom units.

The lot on which this project is being built is not large (.59 acres). The four-story building under construction will make the most of that space, however:

The building’s three residential floors will sit on top of a ground-level parking garage that can accommodate some 53 cars.

This particular project is a bit tricky to photograph; I really need to stand on the other side of El Camino Real and see what I can do. Here, however, is a picture I took standing on the sidewalk just south of the building (off to the right of the above rendering), looking back north:

From what I can tell, the entire ground floor, which is mostly all garage but also contains the building’s lobby, I believe, appears to be in place, and work is now taking place on the first residential level.

If you aren’t clear on where this building is located, you’ll find it on the east side of El Camino Real, just a little bit south of Dumbarton Avenue. Between Dumbarton Avenue and this building is the now-closed “Eco Green Auto Clean” car wash, which the builders of this project are using as a staging area.

Like the previous two projects, this is a multi-story apartment building. Like Arroyo Green, this building will be serving some of our area’s low-income residents. So what makes it different from the others? This one isn’t actually in Redwood City! It isn’t far from the border — only about 3-1/2 blocks beyond it — but this particular project is on county land, in North Fair Oaks.

My fourth and final residential project, like the last two, is also on El Camino Real, and this one is back within the city limits. But when you see the rendering, you’ll immediately see what makes this one different from the other three:

This isn’t a very good rendering, but it is the best that KB Home, the developer, has made public. This project is located at 601 El Camino Real, at the corner of El Camino Real and Hopkins Avenue, on the former site of Honda Redwood City. And as you might be able to tell from the rendering, this is a townhouse project. It will actually consist of five separate buildings, each containing a number of three-story townhouses. The rendering above shows how the one building that will front onto El Camino Real will look. Three of the other buildings will sit behind this one, and the final building will stand end-on to this one, to the right of the above image.

Being townhouse-style, each of the project’s 33 units contains a two-car garage on the ground floor (some side-by-side, some tandem). These garages are accessible from the rear of the buildings, via three streets internal to the project (you get to these streets from Hopkins Avenue). All of the units have exterior entrances on the ground floor, but no real living space. Instead, each unit’s living space is entirely on the second floor, on the third floor, or divided between the two.

As for open space, all of the units have very small decks (most are 65 square feet, but two of the units have 56-square-foot decks). There are a few tiny common landscaped spaces, but no pools or spas, and no large common grass areas. These units seem to be designed for people who don’t want to spend any real time outdoors while at home. And note that it is situated between El Camino Real and the Caltrain tracks, so external noise just might be a factor.

This photo shows the most recent progress on this particular project:

This particular photograph was taken from what will be the only vehicular entrance and exit from the project; I’m standing on Hopkins Avenue with Burger King behind me, and El Camino Real just out of the frame to the right. Those vertical slabs towards the right side of the image are steel supports that will help frame the garage doors. That row of units where you see those metal slabs is actually the set of units shown in the rendering, although here would be the backsides of those units.

The developer seems to be working on each of the buildings in turn. The building that fronts onto El Camino Real is the farthest along, to be followed by the building that will span the above picture at the far end of the street. That particular building will face onto the next-door American Legion buildings; the white house that you can see just beyond the green trailer is on their property. The other three buildings will apparently be built last.

The differences between this project and the other three should be quite apparent: rather than a single monolithic building, as the other three are, this project consists of multiple buildings. As well, each unit in this development occupy multiple floors, whereas in the other three each unit is entirely on one level. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this project’s units are for sale, whereas in the other three the units are for rent.

It never ceases to amaze me just how much construction activity is going on in Redwood City right now. And this is just a sample; I could have mentioned other projects as well. But these four projects alone will be adding 567 new housing units to our immediate area, 219 of which will be at less than market rate. For an area that seems desperate for housing, that’s a big step in the right direction. And the fact that each one has unique aspects means that potential occupants have choices, which is always a good thing.

3 thoughts on “One of These Things is Not Like the Others

  1. “These four projects will be adding 219 below market housing units”. That’s nothing- that’s minuscule – and “below market” (because market rates are so inflated) does not necessarily mean “affordable housing”

    • I’d rather have 219 new affordable housing units than none at all. Glad to see these projects progressing. Anyone know if they’ve actually started construction on the habitat for humanity building yet?

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