Border Crossing

My plan for this blog has been to focus primarily on Redwood City, but periodically — once a month or so — spend some time on one of our neighboring communities. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about some of the goings-on in the unincorporated part of the county just south of the Redwood City border. This week I opted to head in the opposite direction: it’s been too long since I provided an update on San Carlos. And given all of the projects going on in San Carlos these days — relative to the population San Carlos just may have more major projects underway than Redwood City does — after crossing Redwood City’s northern border I found a lot to report on.

From my home in Redwood City I walked through the Edgewood Park neighborhood and made my way to the southern end of Laurel Street, just over the border at Eaton Avenue (Cordilleras Creek divides San Carlos from Redwood City here; Eaton Avenue is the next street north of the creek). Walking up the street, the first project that caught my eye — and how could it not, given the materials that have been used so far — is a six-unit condominium project being built at 1040 and 1052 Laurel Street:

Although these will have a very modern appearance — ultimately their exteriors will consist of a mix of smooth plaster, wood, and powder-coated steel — these units will sport a townhouse-style layout, with two-car garages on the ground floor, public spaces on the second floor (living, dining, kitchen, and a half bath), and bedrooms on the top floor (three bedrooms each, plus two full bathrooms and a laundry closet). Each unit will be fairly large: approximately 2,150 square feet in size.

Down at 1001 Laurel (at the corner of Laurel Street and Morse Blvd) the large, 90-unit condominium building there is undergoing some sort of exterior work. This building, which was built on a 1-acre parcel that previously was home to Salvatore’s Italian restaurant, was completed just over 10 years ago. Because condominium projects typically have a 10 year limit on construction defect liability claims, just before that 10-year limit expires homeowner’s associations generally assess the state of the building and file claims for any observed defects that can reasonably traced to the construction of the building. This may be what is happening at 1001 Laurel: the association may be remedying any such defects, possibly using monies obtained through the legal process. Or, it could simply be that after 10 years the building needs a variety of repairs that are best done at one time. Whatever it is, the work is clearly extensive, given that the building has been completely covered in scaffolding:

Further along, I came to the first evidence of San Carlos’ efforts to aid their restaurants by making it easier for them to set up outdoor dining areas on the sidewalks and in the immediate parking spaces:

Although the establishments had yet to set up tables and chairs, this particular barrier seems designed to provide outdoor drinking and dining space for two side-by-side businesses: Ale Arsenal and Refuge. I was there on Tuesday; by now they may have set up for outdoor service.

The barriers grow much more extensive the farther you go down Laurel Street. Just beyond Arroyo Avenue they are set up on both sides of the street:

Then, when you get to Olive Street, the city has closed off Laurel Street altogether to vehicular traffic:

San Carlos plans to keep the two blocks of Laurel Street between Olive Street and San Carlos Avenue closed until the end of the year. (In truth the closure ends just shy of San Carlos Avenue; they’ve left just a bit of the street open so that cars can get into the small parking lot that is located where the Foodville market used to be.) Cherry Street, which cuts across Laurel Street between the two now-closed blocks, remains open. But the closure enables the many restaurants along these two blocks of San Carlos Avenue to have plenty of space in which to set up outdoor dining. Again, when I was there on Tuesday most restaurants had yet to take advantage of their newfound space, but I expect that they will soon, if they haven’t already. Here is the scene that greeted me a bit farther into the closed area:

A scattering of restaurants had tables out on the street and sidewalk that day, including Cask Restaurant & Wine Bar, Sneakers American Grill, and Taurus Steakhouse:

Fortunately, Redwood City has gotten the message and seems poised to do something very much along these lines (blocking off parking in some parts of the city, and closing a couple of blocks of Broadway and Main Street) to help our own restaurants out. Now we just need to patronize these places…

Moving on, I took some photos of the giant Wheeler Plaza development for posterity. In case you haven’t made it to downtown San Carlos in the last couple of years, it is what has taken place of the large parking lot that once stood behind Foodville. I took this picture from Walnut Street, close to the corner of Walnut Street and San Carlos Avenue, showing the residential portion of the project’s main entrance (along the San Carlos Avenue side there are a handful of retail spaces on the ground floor):

Within the building on the first and second levels is a large public parking garage that has more spaces than the surface lot that the project replaced. In addition, there is a second, underground garage that is only for residents living in the development’s 108 condominiums. Both are accessed from Walnut Street.

Not too far from Wheeler Plaza is another recently completed mixed-use development, at the corner of San Carlos Avenue and Chestnut Street. This one only has six residential units on its upper floors, plus a small commercial space and a garage on the ground floor:

If you look carefully at the above picture, you’ll see that another project is underway just to their right of this new building. According to the city’s website the single-family home that once stood on that site is being replaced by another four-story mixed-use building. It will contain 18 condominiums and one commercial unit.

Continuing with this pattern, there is the essentially complete three-story mixed-use building out at 520 El Camino Real, next door to the Shell Station at the corner of El Camino Real and Holly Street:

This particular building contains nine condominiums on the top two floors, and has two commercial spaces on the ground floor.

From here I ducked under the railroad tracks and walked down Holly Street to Industrial Road, where there is also a lot going on. The hardest to miss of the projects, of course, are the two large six-story office buildings being constructed at 825 and 835 Industrial Road. At one time this project was known as “Windy Hill,” and then “Meridian 25,” but now it seems to be called “The Alexandria District for Science & Technology” (think biotech).

The two mirror-image buildings you see above face onto Industrial Road. Behind them, between the buildings and Highway 101, the project’s parking garage is also under construction. This garage, accessible from Bransten Road, will have six levels: three underground and three above ground. In total, the garage should have room for 1,540 cars and 154 bikes, giving an idea of just how many people they expect to be working in The Alexandria District for Science & Technology (that name sure is a mouthful, isn’t it?).

I’ve read that at least one company has pre-leased space in the project: ChemoCentryx, Inc. plans to relocate from Mountain View and will occupy nearly 100,000 of the campus’ total 556,000 square feet.

Down the road a bit, at the corner of Industrial Road and Brittan Avenue, sits this two-story commercial building, at 1091 Industrial Rd:

As you can probably tell by the presence of the heavy equipment visible in front of the building, though, it won’t be sitting there for long (if it even still exists as I write this). Originally this site was going to be redeveloped as 162-room Hilton Garden Inn, but just about a year ago the developer decided that the project would not be financially feasible and sold the property to a new developer. San Carlos has since approved a three-story, nearly 140,000 square foot “life science” building for this site. The building will sit above a two-level underground parking garage that will employ valets to fit 260 cars fit into the relatively limited space that will be available (the garage will include 77 tandem spaces and 184 regular “self-parking” spaces). At least the new building will be an attractive one: the following rendering from the project’s planning application shows how the new building should look from across Industrial Road (which, in the rendering, runs between the building and the cars in the image foreground):

The parking in the foreground is not part of the project. Note the entrance to the new building’s underground garage on the left side of the building’s facade; vehicles will enter from and exit to Industrial Road.

Except for the fact that there is a small two-story retail building in the way, if you stood where the above image was rendered from and turned around you’d see yet another new biotech building in this part of San Carlos. This one is located at 930 Brittan Avenue, and was created out of an old industrial building that once stood there. I took the following picture of this building from the same spot I took the picture of 1091 Industrial Road; from the corner of Brittan and Industrial (but of course I was facing a different direction):

This building was completed not too long ago, and has already been occupied by MBC Biolabs. Apparently these folks provide “rent a bench” lab space to scientists who need a place to work but who cannot afford to outfit a lab just to run a couple of experiments. I don’t know much — anything, really — about this industry; apparently there is demand for this kind of thing.

That was about it for my walk that day. As you can see, San Carlos, like Redwood City, continues to be on a tear, development-wise. Although the city’s main drag — Laurel Street — would still look familiar to a resident who has been away for a couple of years, and although the residential areas are mostly unchanged (except for the usual amount of remodeling and house replacement projects), developers seem to have grown to love the city almost as much as they have Redwood City. Especially out closer to the freeway, the maze of one- and two-story industrial buildings is giving way to some really large, modern buildings that give the city a whole new face. And a whole new tax base, I suspect…

3 thoughts on “Border Crossing

  1. Sounds about par for the course for the Peninsula – a meager increase in housing, a huge increase in office space. Our housing crisis will continue unabated, sadly. I do like the closed streets though!

  2. I propose that we refer to The Alexandria District for Science & Technology as “The ADS&T”, or maybe “The ADSAT”, from now on.

  3. I did a bike ride today and was disturbed by all homeless encampments garbage, debris along the Bair Island marsh between Redwood City and San Carlos along the path that’s alongside hwy 101. Truly unbelievable the amount of garbage.

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