Although Redwood City’s Council just held its first meeting to discuss a handful of the Gatekeeper Process projects, I’ve been thinking about these projects for some time now. I of course keep a close eye on the status of the various development projects listed on the city’s Development Projects web page (and, for that matter, on the infrastructure projects listed on its Infrastructure Projects page), but these projects are something new: except for one, they have yet to be submitted to the city for introduction into the review process (part of which involves adding them to the Development Projects web page). So this process just might end up resulting in nine more projects being added to the twelve that are currently listed there as “Proposed” (and the six that have been approved but not yet started, and the fifteen that are currently listed as “under construction”). Does anyone still wonder why I never seem to run out of things to write about?
Redwood City’s Gatekeeper Process is designed to help the City Council get a handle on all of the requests to amend the General Plan: each of the nine projects would need a General Plan amendment in order to go ahead. (The original project list included ten projects, but one was determined not to need such an amendment and thus no longer has to go through the process. Its nonetheless interesting, so I’ll mention it anyway.) Many of the projects are proposed for Redwood City’s downtown, although not all. Four of the projects are principally housing projects, although all nine of them actually have a housing component of one sort or another. And many of the projects are quite large.
The City Council is holding “study sessions” for these projects, hearing the basic proposals for each project over the course of two meetings. The first study session occurred during last Monday’s City Council meeting; during that meeting the council was introduced to the four projects that are mostly (or entirely) housing. The second study session is currently scheduled to take place during their regular meeting on September 21; then the council will be introduced to the five other projects. Having heard about them all, at some future date the City Council will consider whether, and how, to amend the city’s General Plan. This step will presumably enable some or all of the Gatekeeper Process projects to proceed through the normal process of project approval.
The web page devoted to the Gatekeeper Process lists all of the projects and provides a brief summary of each. It also includes links to PDF documents for each project that provides some renderings and some additional project details. But I’ll describe what I believe are the salient points here.
901 El Camino Real
This project would consume the entire block currently occupied by the Autozone auto supply store, the now-empty Yumi Yogurt shop, and the taqueria on the corner of El Camino Real and James Avenue, replacing those three buildings with a seven-story office building above a 3-level underground parking garage, plus a separate two-story Teen Center. The Teen Center would be located on the corner where the taqueria stands today (just across El Camino Real from Sequoia High School, conveniently enough), while the office building would consume the bulk of the remaining property. In addition to some 154,000 square feet of office space, the larger of the two buildings would also contain between 20 and 30 for-rent affordable apartments. This building would be roughly triangular in shape, with the apartments located on the two sides facing away from El Camino Real, on the first and second floors.
601 Allerton St. currently contains a two-story building that houses our local Social Security Administration office. Premia, this project’s developer, proposes to build a five-story mixed-use building over two levels of underground parking. On the ground floor the building would have eight units of affordable housing and a small café. The upper four floors would all be office space. The design currently shows a couple of Pickleball courts and a “clubhouse” area on the building’s roof. For maximum utility of the limited amount of available square footage, this building would employ “car lifts”: large elevators designed just for cars. This eliminates the need for parking ramps, which take up a lot of valuable space. I should note that this particular technology is being used by the same developer in the office building they recently built at 550 Allerton St.
I’ve written about this project before, but this is a complex project that deserves another mention. The proposal is for a seven-story mixed-use building containing office, residential, and retail over a two-level underground garage. In order to gain enough space for what they hope to build, the developer is proposing that the city abandon the one block of Spring Street adjacent to the Wells Fargo Bank building, which they would combine with the bank property and with the small triangular park across the street.
Most people don’t identify this part of Spring Street by name; it’s the two-block diagonal section that connects Marshall Street to Broadway. For orientation, take a look at this picture:
Unless they want to continue straight through downtown, cars driving from Woodside Road towards El Camino Real along Broadway generally angle right onto Spring Street and then angle left when they reach Marshall Street. The above picture shows Spring Street. In this picture the Wells Fargo Bank is the building on the left. The small park that they want to take over is in the center of the photograph, with the large trees. The portion of Spring Street that they want abandoned lies between the two; Spring would then dead-end at the striped crosswalk you see in the center of the image. By combining these three parcels Wells Fargo’s current five-sided parcel would expand into a full rectangle.
This project’s main building would be L-shaped, with retail and office on the ground floor, offices on floors 2-5, and 54 apartments, all affordable, arrayed on the top two floors. The building would have rooftop decks on floors 3 (for the offices) and 6 (for the residences). In addition to the main building, the project would include a small free-standing retail building on the corner of Main Street and Broadway (where the history displays are today) and would also include a large open plaza on a scale with Courthouse Square.
Just as the previous project would replace the Wells Fargo Bank building, this project proposes to replace the Chase Bank building on Broadway, next to Courthouse Square, with a large office building that would have some amount of ground-floor retail. This particular building would be about as tall as the courthouse itself, at 112 feet, and would occupy nearly the entire space currently used by the bank and its parking lot. Only the small grove of six redwood trees at the corner of Broadway and Hamilton Street (to the right of the bank in the above picture) would be preserved. This project, too, proposes abandoning a section of street: in this case, the portion of Hamilton Street between Broadway and Marshall Street. The developer would like to redevelop the land currently occupied by the street with a green space, to compliment and extend the adjacent Courthouse Square.
Although this particular project as designed does not contain any housing, the developer is proposing to double the affordable housing fees that this project would normally generate, and thereby help create approximately 40 units of affordable housing elsewhere in the city. Alternatively, they are open to replacing the Law Library building (which shares the block with Chase Bank, but is on the Marshall Street side) with affordable housing.
603 Jefferson/750 Bradford
Today 603 Jefferson Ave. is the site of a small building that at one time was going to be replaced by an eight-story, 92-unit condominium complex. That project fell through, however, and the building is now occupied by a small tech company. The next-door 750 Bradford St. is currently where the Redwood City School District has their offices. The Sobrato Organization is proposing to construct two buildings atop a common parking garage. That garage would have two levels of below-ground parking and a third at ground level. On the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Bradford Street (the building to the right in the above photo) they’d erect a five-story residential building containing 68 units of housing intended for RCSD staff and faculty. Where the RCSD offices are today (to the left in the above photo) they’d site a 7-story office building.
This project was originally going to occupy both the parcel at 1205 Veterans Blvd (today’s Veterans Square shopping center) as well as the similarly sized parcel right behind it, at 1260 Oddstad Drive. However, it has been scaled back to just the one property on Veterans Boulevard. The developer proposes to replace the small strip center with a large five-story 430-unit (70 affordable) apartment building. This building would include a small amount of retail on the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Maple Street, plus a childcare center. It would have a rooftop deck with a sixth-story clubhouse. As proposed the building would be a wooden structure wrapping around a central parking structure; parking would be allocated such that residents would park on the same level as their apartment, providing the interesting side benefit of cutting down on the number of times residents would have to use the building’s elevators.
651 El Camino Real
Post 105 of the American Legion has been considering what to do with their aging meeting hall for some time, and has hit on a solution that makes a lot of sense both to them and, it appears, to the city: in place of both their hall and the old once-historic (but no longer, thanks to extensive work done on the place over the years, it seems) house on their 1.7-acre parcel along El Camino Real, they propose building an eight-story residential building that would contain both parking and spaces for a new American Legion hall on the first two floors. This building would have 301 units, and would give preference to veterans when leasing its 68 affordable units.
505 E Bayshore
Alan Steel & Supply Company is currently located in a couple of large metal buildings at 505 E. Bayshore Rd. Developer Regis Homes hopes to replace these with eight separate buildings containing a total of 60 townhouse-style condominiums, many of which would directly face Bair Island. These townhouses would range in size from 1,250 square feet (two bedrooms) up to 1,900 square feet (four bedrooms). Nine of the townhouses would be priced for buyers at the Moderate income level.
This project would be quite different from the others; rather than build something in place of the small one-story block building pictured above, the developer proposes building just two housing units above the existing building. This would be what is referred to as “workforce housing”; the building’s owner would ideally like to have people who work in this building living upstairs.
1322 El Camino
Right off the bat I need to point out that this project, which would take the place of The Record Man, Cycle Gear, and Happy Donuts, is no longer one of the Gatekeeper Process projects. However, it is only no longer on the list because the project as designed does not require a change to the city’s General Plan; it is still a project that may very well go ahead. Thus, for that reason and because the design for the project is still linked to from the city’s website, I’m covering it here.
On this site the developer, Premier Properties (the folks who redid the Philz Coffee building in downtown Redwood City) would like to build a six-story apartment building above an underground parking garage. The building would contain a total of 130 apartments (26 affordable) ranging in size from studios to 3-bedroom units, and would have a rooftop terrace for the resident’s use. As this location sits directly across the street from a seven-story luxury apartment building (“Huxley”), it certainly would fit in, at least from the El Camino Real side. On the backside, where the property abuts a residential neighborhood, the building steps back somewhat as it goes up, softening the impact on the neighborhood.
Those are the nine projects that are going through Redwood City’s “Gatekeeper Process” (along with one that no longer is). It should be interesting to see what changes, if any, the City Council chooses to make to the city’s General Plan as a result of hearing this wide variety of proposals. So far they seemed pretty receptive to the housing projects, but they may well view the others a little differently.
Hopefully the above gives you some idea of what Redwood City could look like some number of years in the future, if some or all of these projects are actually built. If you remember Redwood City before 201 Marshall (the somewhat orange apartment building located where Broadway meets the Caltrain tracks) was built, together these projects are very roughly on a scale with what has been built since then. So as you can imagine, this would be quite a transformation for a city that has already been significantly transformed.
Many of you may already have heard the news that Giuseppe Pennisi, the owner of Pioneer Seafoods (which consists of a 76-foot fishing boat “Pioneer” and a recently purchased food truck/trailer), has shifted his operation from San Francisco to Redwood City. In case you have not, most days of the week Giuseppe and his helpers can be found docked at the end of Seaport Court, very close to where his bright yellow food service trailer is parked. I took a walk out there this week (on Tuesday, when it was cooler) to check out his operation.
You’ll find him by turning off Seaport Boulevard onto Seaport Court and following the signs towards California Canoe & Kayak; the boat and the trailer are both located right behind that kayak rental business. You can’t get fish much fresher than what you can get from Pioneer; they’re selling fish right from the boat. Or, you can buy fish from the trailer. From that rather hard-to-miss trailer they also sell fish tacos, and fish and chips.
Pioneer Seafoods plans to be present and open most days from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but expects to be out fishing towards the end of the week (thus, they may or may not be there on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and/or Fridays). To be sure, before you go check their website and/or their Facebook page. Their website includes contact information where you can get in touch to find out exactly what they will be selling that day — which of course varies by season and by the luck of the catch.
Our easy access to the San Francisco Bay waters is one of the things that makes Redwood City truly special. Being able to buy fresh fish right from the boat is a bonus that further sets Redwood City apart from other peninsula cities. If you can, check these folks out for yourself and patronize them when appropriate; we not only want to encourage this business in particular, but to show other small businesses just how well they can do if they set up shop in Redwood City.
Speaking of small businesses, I just wanted to give a shout-out to Redwood City BBQ, at 640 Woodside Road (just west of Hudson Street). My wife and I had a hankering for barbecue and realized that Redwood City BBQ accepts orders for pickup via the web. We ordered our lunch and then drove over; when we arrived we pulled into one of the clearly marked spaces for customers picking up pre-orders. Their signs said to call to let them know we had arrived, but that turned out not to be necessary; as we were reading the sign one of the restaurant’s employees emerged from the small restaurant with our order in hand. We didn’t even have to get out of our car! Our well-packed lunches were still comfortably warm by the time we got home, and they were delicious.
Redwood City has a couple of other options for barbecue, but the convenience coupled with a great product will ensure that my wife and I, at any rate, will be returning to this fine little establishment.