Bayfront Living?

This week’s post is primarily about what I learned while taking a walk out along the Bay earlier this week. However, allow me to begin with a brief review of Mademoiselle Colette, which is finally open in Redwood City!

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may be getting a bit tired of me mentioning Mademoiselle Colette, Redwood City’s newest patisserie. I just did a quick search and realized that I’ve mentioned the place in seven previous posts — although in my defense most of those mentions were extremely brief. Now that they are open, however, I can finally say something about the final product and then, unless something momentous happens, stop talking about them…

Mademoiselle Colette is a French pastry shop and restaurant that serves a select number of breakfast and lunch items. They are located in downtown Redwood City at 2401 Broadway, on the corner of Broadway and Winslow Street. Many Redwood City residents will know this as the storefront that previously was home to Pamplemousse Patisserie & Café, which in its day had a strong and loyal following. Partly because Mademoiselle Colette has a lot in common with that previous patisserie, and partly because, from the small sample I’ve had so far, they make excellent pastries and food, I’m guessing that Mademoiselle Colette will do quite well. Their breakfast and lunch menus are small, but seem to favor quality over quantity: my wife and I greatly enjoyed our lunch at their Redwood City location on its opening day, and we were both impressed by both the quality of the ingredients and the way things were put together.

My wife really liked her Grilled Peach salad. For my part I had the Smoked Salmon “sandwich” — which technically isn’t a sandwich since it only had one piece of homemade Focaccia bread on the bottom, and none on the top. Top slice or no, though, it was really, really good. It came complete with a salad topped with a nice light dressing:

As you can see, we also shared a Chocolate Croissant, which was light, flaky, and had just the right amount of chocolate inside. To drink I had a small bottle of sparkling water, while my wife had a latte, which she noted was one of the best she’s had in Redwood City.

For lunch Mademoiselle Colette also serves a couple of different sandwiches, a Goat Cheese Tartine, Croque Monsieur (ham and cheese) and Croque Madame (the same, with a fried egg on top), a daily soup (cauliflower, the day we were there), a “Quiche of the Week,” and a variety of salads. They have a menu of teas, a variety of coffee drinks, a handful of non-alcoholic beverages, and a selection of wines and champagne.

Clearly, if you are looking for a hamburger or something heavy, this isn’t your place. But for a light, healthy seeming lunch (or breakfast, which I have yet to try), do check them out. And of course, there are the pastries, which you can get anytime: as you can see from the top photo, they serve quite a variety of house-made pastries. I of course have yet to try them all, but I can dream…

Mademoiselle Colette’s other two locations — they have one in Menlo Park and one in Palo Alto — both close at 5 p.m. on weekdays. Their Redwood City location, though, will be staying open until 7 p.m., recognizing that because many restaurants in our downtown have wine service in the late afternoon and early evening, they should too. So if you are looking for a place to have a glass of wine after work, do give Mademoiselle Colette a try.

Mademoiselle Colette has a reasonable amount of indoor seating, including a small semi-private room towards the back, along with a handful of outdoor tables. The building is light and airy, with high ceilings and plenty of glass to let in the sunshine. I find it a delightful place to enjoy a meal or a light afternoon snack, and plan to visit whenever I can. I’ve been waiting for them to open since the very beginning of this year, and am extremely pleased to report that Mademoiselle Colette’s Redwood City location was well worth the wait.

I’ve been watching the heavy machinery working over at Strada Investment Group’s 1548 Maple Street project whenever I zip by the site on the freeway, and this week decided that it was time to pay the project another visit. Strada will be building 131 for-sale townhouses on the east side of Highway 101, on land that previously was being used by the now-shuttered Docktown Marina both for parking and for the handful of buildings that supported that marina, as well as on land that was being used by local automobile dealers to store excess inventory. Because this site sits right up against the water — it fronts onto Redwood Creek — dealing with future sea level rise was an important part of the project planning. Indeed, in the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) it was specifically noted that one of the project’s objectives is to

Fortify the site against future sea level rise by raising the site significantly

Grading, which involves the addition of some 67,750 cubic yards of fill (after the removal of roughly 14,350 cubic yards of soil) is expected to take a full year, after which the numerous buildings that make up the project will be built on the newly raised site.

If you view the site from the Kohl’s Plaza parking lot, on the other side of the freeway, you can see the soil is currently piled up to a height well above the level of the freeway. Much of that will be compacted down, I suspect; I’m not sure that the property is ultimately going to be raised that much. But the current level of much of the property was well above my head when I paid the site a visit. It’s hard to get a sense of how high they have gone from photos taken while standing right beside the site, so I walked across the creek and took some pictures that show the water level (which was fairly high), some of Docktown’s floating homes, and, behind them, the site as it looks today:

As you can see, the current level of this portion of the site is quite a way above the water line.

I circled the site as best I could, and while out on Maple Street had to avoid the nearly continuous stream of dump trucks bringing soil onto the site. They would empty their loads, which were then distributed by tractors and then compacted by a very heavy-looking rolling compactor:

This portion of the site formerly held a number of the buildings that supported the Docktown Marina, including the Harbormaster’s office and the Peninsula Yacht Club, a sort-of clubhouse, bar, and restaurant built largely beneath the historic water tank. All of those buildings have been torn down, but I found myself wondering about the water tank, which was to be preserved and will have some sort of place, in a non-functioning capacity, in the new development. As it turns out, that the tank is temporarily being stored in a parking lot behind LifeMove’s Maple Street Shelter and the freeway:

With all of the buildings gone, and access to Docktown Marina’s berths being restricted to a single gangway at one end of the former marina site, life at Docktown Marina these days must be very difficult these days. The vast majority of the former residents have moved on in one way or another, and there are (I believe) only a small handful of people still living on boats at the marina’s docks. From across the creek I could get a good view of the boats and floating homes that remain, and it is clear that Redwood City is finally making headway on disposing — either by sale or by simply scrapping them — of the boats and floating homes that it had to purchase in order to close the city-managed marina. On previous visits nearly all of the slips were occupied, but this time I saw that many were empty. And of the boats and homes that remain, many are padlocked, awaiting final disposition.

All that remains of Docktown these days, besides the docks themselves, is a very small parking lot and a two-unit portable toilet trailer parked in that lot providing basic sanitary services to those remaining residents who need them.

Many of the former Docktown residents have moved on, but I noticed a handful of people living in RVs, buses, and vans along Maple Street; they may well be former Docktown residents who have yet to find somewhere else to go (or former residents who simply cannot afford to leave):

Given all of the construction activity going on, and the heavy trucks constantly driving along this street, it must be a terrible place to try and live. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Thus, I wasn’t entirely surprised, when I later walked out along Seaport Boulevard towards the Redwood City Municipal Marina, to discover just how many people are currently living along Seaport Boulevard in a variety of makeshift homes. On past excursions I had noted one or two small encampments on the south side of Seaport Boulevard, between the sidewalk and the ditch marking the edge of the Cargill salt ponds. On this trip, however, I discovered that the number of encampments on that side has grown to about half a dozen or so — and some are quite sophisticated, with rather nice-looking tents and propane stoves.

I was more startled to realize that there were even more encampments across the street, between the freight railroad tracks and the industrial sites (home to Harbor Redi-Mix and others):

Given all of the traffic on Seaport Boulevard (both the commute traffic to the many offices out in this part of the city, and the many cement, gravel, and other trucks that travel to and from the Port of Redwood City), plus the freight trains (its hard to see in the above picture, but the tracks lie between the street and the tents you can see) plus the heavy equipment working just on the other side of the trees behind those tents, this must be a truly awful place to try and live. Yet, as you can see, quite a few people appear to be living there.

That one’s probably the worst, but I should point out one more that I encountered early on in my walk. There is a path on the west side of the 1548 Maple Street project that allows pedestrians and cyclists to walk around the construction site. There are fences on both sides of the path, one to keep people out of the 1548 Maple Street project property and one to keep people away from the freeway. But someone has cut a hole in the fence separating the path from the freeway, and has built a small camp out of wood scraps and nylon tent material in the ditch that runs alongside the freeway. This person appears to have a rather nice bicycle that presumably they use to travel to wherever they go in the daytime; they park this bike right by the hole in the fence whenever they are in residence:

The hole is somewhat hard to see; if you are curious, click on the image and enlarge it. The hole in the fence is to the left of the bicycle, at the base of that next fence pole. This person’s “home” is right behind where the bike is, well-disguised by the bushes that grow along this section of the path.

Getting back to Seaport Boulevard, I was surprised to learn that Cargill has resumed some of their salt-harvesting operations in Redwood City. Perhaps it was announced some time ago and I simply missed it, but there is a lot of heavy equipment working in the salt ponds right now, scraping up salt and depositing it into dump trucks. Presumably those trucks take the salt over to the East Bay, where I believe Cargill has their processing operation.

According to signs on the property, they began harvesting the salt at the beginning of August, and plan to work right up until just before Christmas.

Cargill ceased operations here in Redwood City back in 2006, and some time later they tore out most of the infrastructure that they used when harvesting salt in Redwood City. This includes the small train that ran around the perimeter of the salt ponds (the salt was scraped from the ponds and dropped into the open cars of this train); the conveyor belt that transferred the salt from the train beneath Seaport Boulevard, beneath the wooden boardwalk that ran alongside the Port of Redwood City Municipal Marina, and up a tall bridge-like structure from where it fell onto a giant salt pile; and the bridge-like structure itself.

With the resumption of activities that ceased some 13 years ago, I find myself wondering: are they doing this simply because the economics once again make sense, or does this have something to do with their efforts to foist their enormous Reimagine Saltworks housing project on Redwood City?

This post has gone on long enough so I’ll wrap up, but as long as I am in the neighborhood I should provide the obligatory update on the Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing project. It still has a fair way to go, but the work has moved on from simply digging the portion under the freeway and has now been extended all the way to the sidewalk behind the Courtyard by Marriott hotel (where I am standing when I took this shot):

It will extend from where Main Street dead-ends into Highway 101 (by Sports Basement) and will allow easy passage between the waterfront side of the city and downtown. I for one will be using this pedestrian undercrossing a lot, and can’t wait for this to be finished.

1 thought on “Bayfront Living?

  1. Looking forward to checking out Mademoiselle Colette. I’ve walked to the original Menlo Park spot a handful of times, but it’s always nice to check out different locations.

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