Essentially Building

Before I get to the main topic of this week’s post, I wanted to remind everyone that if you or someone in your household hasn’t already done so, please take a moment and fill out the census online. It’s extremely easy to do, and quick: to fill it out for my two-person household took well under ten minutes. If you received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau with a code, that’s great, but you don’t actually need one: all you need is your home address. Only one submission is needed per residence (indeed, they only want one per residence; the form has you list everyone who lives there), so don’t think that every individual has to fill out the brief online form. For those of you who are reluctant, know that it is extremely important that every member of every household be properly counted. These counts determine how funds for emergency services, health care, and housing assistance are doled out, and they also determine how the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are apportioned. California currently has 53 representatives (well, 51; two posts are currently vacant), and depending upon the results of this year’s census we might gain or lose some of them. Since it is so easy, if you haven’t already done so perhaps now would be a good time to do so, before you proceed to read the rest of this blog post. Just click on this link to begin:

In last week’s post I mentioned that I was still seeing construction activity around Redwood City, on projects both large and small, and indicated that I wasn’t sure whether construction was considered an essential activity, one that could legitimately be done during our shelter-in-place. I should have done then what I’ve done since, which is to actually check. According to the rules of the state-wide self-quarantine order that Governor Gavin Newsom put into effect as of March 19, 2020, these are listed under “Essential Workforce”:

Construction Workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction)


Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, construction material sources, and essential operation of construction sites and construction projects (including those that support such projects to ensure the availability of needed facilities, transportation, energy and communications; and support to ensure the effective removal, storage, and disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste)

So rather than simply wondering about whether or not construction is allowed, I should have checked: clearly, the activity I’d been seeing is allowed. Given that, and given that most of us are largely stuck and home and thus may not know what’s going on around the city these days, I thought I should take a quick survey of the major construction projects that were underway as of March 16, when San Mateo County enacted its own shelter-in-place order. For my own safety I didn’t take a long walk this week, but rather put together a list of projects and then drove around town, parking and hopping out of the car to take pictures of the various projects. One small caveat: I did this on a Friday, when some construction trades traditionally take the day off. Thus, it is possible that a construction project that appeared idle to me might actually still be underway.

Most of the projects I observed were housing or office projects. I checked in on all of the projects listed as “Under Construction” on Redwood City’s Development Projects web page. I also checked in on a couple of other projects that I knew were active, including this first one, which is neither a housing project nor an office project:

This is the site of the Magical Bridge Playground being constructed on the Valota Road side of Red Morton Community Park. As you can see (if you look closely), work continues on this playground; a variety of construction activities were ongoing as I watched. Many of the play structures now seem to have been installed, and the foundation for the playhouse and stage appears to be in place. The timing on this particular project may just turn out to be ideal: it just may be complete around the time (or soon thereafter) that the shelter-in-place is lifted and children are once again allowed to frequent our parks.

Over on Harrison Avenue and Cleveland Street, workers are crawling all over the 17-unit townhouse-style condominium project, which, as you can see, is really taking shape:

A little harder to see — most of the workers are to be found deep inside this particular project — is the activity on the 8-story, 350-unit apartment building being erected at 1409 El Camino Real:

You will occasionally see that tower crane swing around, though, and the orange construction elevator strapped to the left side of the building periodically goes up and down. Given how desperately our area needs housing, I’m glad to see that work on this particular project is continuing.

One project that I’ve been watching for quite a while now, with little to show for it, is the 10-unit townhouse-style condominium project slated for a now-empty lot at the corner of Vera Avenue and Adams Street. Finally, for the first time, it appears that work really is commencing. Although there was no activity on the site when I was there, a couple of pieces of heavy equipment have appeared since the last time I visited, a temporary power pole (not yet hooked up) has been erected, and many of the parking spots around the property have been blocked off, reserved for use by the contractors. So this empty lot apparently won’t remain empty for much longer:

Over on Main Street, the site of the office project slated for the lot across the street from the Main & Elm Restaurant (and near the Main Street Dog Agility Park) looks pretty quiet:

I’ll have to pay the site a few more visits in order to determine whether it was just quiet when I was there, or if they are truly holding off on construction activities until our shelter-in-place order has been lifted. This project involves draining the site; I’ve noticed them pause work for multiple days on at least one prior occasion in order to let pumps do their work. That just might be what is happening here again.

While I’m here, I should point out that the Main & Elm Restaurant is trying to remain open for takeout, and they close for the day when it appears that there aren’t enough customers — which was the case when I went by. As I’ve said before, if we want our restaurants to survive, one of the best things we can do is continue to patronize them (via takeout or by having food delivered from those places that support delivery) during this difficult time. The shelter-in-place is hitting restaurants and many forms of retail extremely hard, and although the government is taking some steps to help, restaurants in particular really need our support.

Continuing down Main Street, the remodel of the old Young’s Automotive building at 929 Main St. looked quiet (this picture shows the project from the rear, which is on Maple Street):

Even before we were all ordered to shelter in our homes, this project was proceeding slowly. Thus, it didn’t really surprise me to see a lack of activity here. Then again, I might have just visited on an off day…

I was more surprised to see that the large office/retail project at 851 Main St. (which apparently they are going to refer to as 855 Main) was also idle when I went by:

Contrast that with the site of the Arroyo Green housing project at 707 Bradford St., which was abuzz with activity:

This project will add 117 units of much-needed affordable housing to the city’s stock of affordable housing. The sooner they can finish this particular project, the better.

Even downtown Redwood City’s little 20-unit Habitat for Humanity project showed signs of activity. So far the work has been focused on prepping for the building’s foundation, although when I went by today it appeared that crews were digging up Jefferson Street, likely to bring utilities to the project site.

Redwood City has yet another affordable housing project going up nearby, at 353 Main St. So far the site of this 125-unit apartment building has been prepped, but not much else has been done. The site was quiet when I visited today:

From there I headed across the freeway in order to check on how the 131-unit “Strada” townhouse project was coming along. Given this project’s size and its proximity to the bay (it sits right along Redwood Creek), site preparation was expected to take around a year. Thus, I wasn’t surprised to see that crews are still pushing dirt around. But there was plenty of activity going on when I was there; these folks aren’t letting the shelter-in-place hold them back:

Back on our side of the freeway, I’m sure no one would be surprised to see that Kaiser continues to work on their new Medical Office Building:

From the outside this building has looked nearly complete for some time now, but I imagine that the interior of such a building requires a lot of work, given the various medical services that they will provide here. If I recall correctly, this building isn’t expected to be completed until sometime next year.

I didn’t expect much, and thus wasn’t disappointed when I took a peek at the Broadway Plaza project. (This project will ultimately result in six new buildings: three apartment buildings and three office buildings.) I was actually a little surprised to see two men on the site doing what, I couldn’t tell. I believe that the project is still in the soil testing phase, which will presumably be followed by a time of soil remediation after which the digging will be started for the project’s giant underground parking garage. In any case, here is what the site looks like today:

It wasn’t originally on my list, but for some time now work has been going on at the old Foresters of America Hall at the corner of Middlefield Road and Maple Street. Since I was going by, I added it to my list. As I stood I watched four hard-hatted men come out of the front door and head for their cars, so count this project as one of the active ones:

Lastly, although I didn’t see a lot of activity, there were at least some people working on the 33-unit for-sale housing project going up on the former site of Honda Redwood City at 601 El Camino Real. The builder, KB Homes, really seems to be concentrating on completing two of the five buildings that will eventually make up this development. I had mentioned in a previous post that the first building to be completed, along the El Camino Real side of the property, required some rework. That work seems to have been done, and the building looks, at least from the outside, to be complete. KB Homes is starting a list of people who may be interested in buying one of these units, so I expect that they’ll begin selling the units in these first two buildings soon.

Here is what that project looks like when viewed from the Hopkins Avenue side:

Oh, and although it doesn’t fall into the same category as the above projects — it has yet to even break ground — I did want to mention that it appears that the 10-unit condominium project slated for 910 Woodside Rd. will apparently get underway soon. This project has been on the books for a number of years now: it was approved by the Planning Commission in 2017, and then re-approved in 2019. It needed re-approval because projects must get started within two years of approval or the approval is yanked. Since nothing did happen in that intervening time, the developer was forced to go back before the Planning Commission with essentially the same design. In any case, today 910 Woodside Rd. is the site of Thaibodia Bistro (a Thai restaurant), and while I was running around trying to determine which restaurants were still serving during our shelter-in-place, I noticed a sign on their door. It said that they would be serving takeout food only until the end of March, when their lease runs out. Presumably the property owner is waiting for that lease to expire, at which time I expect to see the developers move in.

Even during our shelter-in-place a lot of people in the construction trades are still hard at work, transforming Redwood City. Fortunately, construction seems to be one of those industries where most of the work can be done while maintaining a safe (as far as COVID-19 is concerned) environment. Taking the necessary steps to ensure worker safety (which should be paramount) may slow the work down somewhat, but I’m glad to see some folks, at least, still out there earning a living doing what they do best.

15 thoughts on “Essentially Building

  1. Pingback: Submitted for Their Approval | Walking Redwood City

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  3. Great mental health break to take this walk with you. Good to hear a few of the Redwoodites made it down to Scottsdale for Spring Training before we went into lockdown. “The sun will come out tomorrow.”

  4. Hey Greg-

    As you may remember, I work on construction related projects for a global company (who I do not represent here.) My industry observations:

    COVID impacts on construction projects are still widely varied. In some places trades are calling stops, in other cities the trades encourage continuing work.

    Even where the sentiment is to continue, inspection offices may be closed or severely short staffed, resulting in defacto site closures while waiting for authorization to proceed. The same impact may be felt if a specialty subcontractor alone calls a stop.

    My projects are all out of state, so I know nothing about Redwood City, in fact you taught me today that construction was included in essential services in California. But my non-authoritative guess is we see a lot more stop/start day to day until we get to a better understanding of COVID.

      • Phoenix area, AZ Dept of Trans freeway projects up and moving ahead. Will go by some of the large housing/condo projects N. Scottsdale to see what’s up there. Can see the cranes from this new construction from our streets, but do not know if work still in progress. Our neighbors who work in the trades have been wonderful helping us out with fix it stuff around our homes.

  5. Thanks for the info on the old Forrester’s Hall. What are they doing to the building. It seems like just a few years ago it was renovated. Any idea what they’re doing to the building?

    • According to the permits they are doing structural repairs to the roof and the exterior walls. They’re also relocating an interior stairway and doing some work on the interior finishes.

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