Twas the Night Before Halloween

As I write this it is Friday, October 30: the day before Halloween (“Halloween eve,” I guess). I’m really curious to see just how many trick-or-treaters opt to go door-to-door regardless of the pandemic this year. My kids are grown and gone, so I don’t have to deal with young kids wanting to don costumes and go out for candy, but I very much sympathize with those of you who have to decide just what the young ones in your household will be able to do or not do. As for answering the door and handing out candy, reluctantly my wife and I have decided that we won’t be doing that this year.

Although my household won’t be involved in any way with trick-or-treating this year, I of course continue to marvel at the many decorated houses around the city. I was particularly delighted to see that the Turnsworth Cemetery, my favorite house of the past two years, is indeed up and running again this year. They wisely opted not to put out the laser pointers — who knows what the health status is of the people who held those pointers before you that night — but I presume that the automation is otherwise still in full operation (I have yet to go by during the evening, and hope to do so tonight). This place is impressive in the daytime, but should be even better at night, if past years are any judge.

If you want to pay them a visit, be aware that they’ve moved: Turnsworth Cemetery is no longer located on Turnsworth Avenue. Instead, you’ll find them at 224 Iris St. Hopefully they’ll leave the display up for a little while after Halloween to give everyone a chance to see it. And hopefully next year COVID-19 will no longer be an issue and we’ll be able to once again fully enjoy the wide variety of laser-activated interactive elements.

The judges of the city’s First Annual Halloween Home Decorating Contest were slated to view the contestants this past Wednesday night. I’m looking forward to seeing just who wins the various prizes that will be given out. And I’ll be interested to see if this contest has an effect on next year’s celebration — whether more people decide to decorate their houses in the hopes of winning fame and glory.

Enough Halloween talk. This week I decided to take a stroll through San Carlos, given that I haven’t checked up on that city’s various projects in a while. My walking route took me through the Edgewood Park neighborhood and then along Warwick Street, which of course leads into San Carlos. Often when making this walk I then head right down to Laurel Street, but this time I spent a bit of time wandering through the residential areas, looking for interesting Halloween decorations and noteworthy house remodels or rebuilds. I didn’t see much of note, although my eye was caught by a box of shoes along one driveway:

The handmade sign on the box reads “Buy Nothing San Carlos.” It’s an interesting concept, and one that, naturally, has been pretty well formalized. The Buy Nothing Project consists of a set of Facebook groups local to relatively small geographic areas (such as a portion of the City of San Carlos, for instance) through which people advertise things that they’d like to give away, lend, or share among their neighbors. This is not a bartering system: people aren’t trading things for other things. They are simply giving away what they no longer need (or, in the case of services, are simply willing to provide out of a sense of generosity) to people in their immediate neighborhood. It’s an idea that I could get behind, if I had a Facebook account (I don’t, and am not interested in getting one).

San Carlos currently has three Buy Nothing groups: “Downtown / North,” “SC Hills” and “White Oaks / East.” I also note that Redwood City, too, currently has three: “Farm Hill/Emerald Lake Hills,” “Redwood City (Central)” and “Redwood City (Southeast)/Atherton (Northwest).” If this idea strikes you as interesting but you don’t live in one of these six areas, it appears to be easy enough to start a group in your own neighborhood.

I did eventually cut down to Laurel Street, since, as far as development projects go, that is of course one of San Carlos’s hot spots. I first took a look at the six-unit condominium project going up at 1040 (and 1052) Laurel Street. This is a particularly fascinating project in that the units are being built using some very unconventional construction techniques and materials:

Thanks to a sign out front I learned that this project is coming to us from a company called Veev, who is “reinventing the way homes are built and experienced while working together to solve housing shortages around the world.” Their buildings are made from modern, high-tech materials (such as steel) and are laced through with smart devices and sensors. All of this combines to make a high-tech home that is efficient and programmable to meet the homeowner’s needs.

The resulting two buildings will have a rather modern look, as shown in this rendering from the Veev website:

Each building will contain three townhouse-style condominiums. Each three-story condo has about 1,770 square feet of living space on the upper two floors, with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. On the ground floor each unit will also have a two-car garage (just under 500 square feet) plus an “accessory commercial space” ranging from 200-300 square feet in size. The condo’s public areas (kitchen, dining, and living room, plus a half bath) will be on the second floor, while the three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and laundry will all be located on the third floor. As for private outdoor spaces, the two units in the rear each have a 900 square foot yard in back of the building, while the two middle units have 265 square foot yards, and the two front units appear to have no yards at all. Each unit does have a balcony on the second floor, although those are relatively small: either 80 square feet or 44 square feet, depending upon the unit.

Veev is headquartered in San Mateo, so it is no wonder that their projects are concentrated mostly in San Francisco and San Carlos. Of the 13 projects listed on their website at the moment, six of them are in San Carlos. Each of those projects is in a different phase of development; some are still awaiting approval, and others are offering units for sale. 1040/1052 Laurel Street is one that is both still under construction but already offering units for sale. Another is the 34-unit project at 1501 Cherry St. (at the corner of Cherry and Chestnut streets):

Unlike Veev’s Laurel Street project, this building has a more classic look and features condominiums with a variety of configurations: one, two, and three bedroom units are all available. The one bedroom units are a bit under 750 square feet, while the three bedroom units are 1,668 square feet in size. All of the units in this building are flats, meaning that all of each condominium’s rooms are on the same level. The building itself sits upon an underground parking garage with some number of EV charging stations. The building also has a rooftop deck with an outdoor kitchen and a fire pit that is presumably open to all of the building’s residents.

Like the Laurel Street project, each unit in the Cherry Street building has a high level of home automation built in, with control panels in every room (including the bathrooms). Also like that other project, the units in this building are currently for sale.

Of Veev’s six projects in San Carlos, the remaining four are currently in the development stage. I paid a visit to the site of one of those projects, the 35-unit building planned for three parcels at 626, 640 and 648 Walnut Street (across Walnut from the Wheeler Plaza building). These parcels:

According to their website this project has worked its way through the Planning Commission and was set to go before the City Council meeting in the second quarter of 2020. After making a quick check it does not appear that this project has made it to the City Council as yet, but it is possible I just didn’t look hard enough. In any case, here is a rendering of what they expect the building to look like (assuming it is approved as-is):

The plans call for two five-story buildings with parking (using stackers to squeeze in enough cars for the 35 residential units) and retail spaces on the ground floor of each. The upper floors of the two buildings would be connected by an open bridge, as shown in this second rendering:

As for the condominiums themselves, they would have either three or four bedrooms each, and two or two-and-a-half bathrooms, and would average 1,834 square feet in size. Four of the 35 would be “offered below market rate.” The four fifth-floor units in each building would have their own private rooftop decks (526 square feet in size), in addition to the balconies you can see in the above renderings. Units on the lower floors would only have those roughly 140-square-foot decks. Rather than decks, the three ground-floor units (in the rear, behind the retail spaces) would have private yards ranging in size from 841 to 1,371 square feet in size.

On this week’s walk I didn’t visit the sites of Veev’s other three San Carlos projects, but one, which is apparently just waiting for a building permit in order to get started, consists of two buildings of very different architectural styles, one at 549 Prospect St. and there other at 575 Prospect St. (Prospect Street is one block west of Cedar Street; these buildings would be located just a bit north of San Carlos Avenue.) Together these two buildings will contain a total of seven townhomes, each three stories in height.

Here is the building planned for 549 Prospect St., which will contain four of the seven townhomes:

And here is its sibling, slated for 575 Prospect St., which will contain the remaining three townhomes:

Each townhome will consist of three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. Each will have designated parking for two vehicles.

Veev also has a project planned for 782 Elm Street, one that looks similar to the rendering immediately above. This building, which may already be underway by the time you read this (demolition was scheduled for last July), will be made up of four townhouse-style condominiums, each with three bedrooms and three-and-one-half bathrooms, plus parking for two cars.

As for the final project, it’s a big one: a 68-unit townhouse complex in which the units are “organized into separate groups of 4-5 buildings dispersed across the property” at 808 Alameda de las Pulgas: the former location of the Black Mountain Spring Water Company. Of the site’s 11.4 acres, 2.4 of them would be dedicated as a Natural State area, and would be undisturbed by the construction process. The project includes public walking trails, meaning that once it is complete those of us who won’t be living in the complex will still be able to walk through and get some enjoyment from this fascinating and unique parcel. This particular project is still early in the planning process and so there don’t yet appear to be plans for the individual buildings, but the city does have a site plan on their website that shows how the various buildings may end up being laid out:

For orientation, Alameda de las Pulgas runs along the right edge of the site plan. Vehicles would enter from that street and drive up a new road that snakes up through the property.

Veev is clearly busy transforming San Carlos, but of course they aren’t the only developer out there. I made my way over to the corner of Chestnut Street and San Carlos Avenue in order to get a peek at the finished building on the corner, at 600 Chestnut St.:

Landmark Development Corporation built this “Santa Barbara style” building, called The Quintessential, with retail and resident parking on the ground floor and six large luxury condominiums on the upper three floors. The condos, all of which have three bedrooms and either two or three bathrooms, range in size from about 1,900 to 2,300 square feet. All of the layouts feature a single large kitchen, dining, and living space. Each unit has one or two private balconies, some of which feature outdoor fireplaces.

Not far away, Grove Construction is building a small project at 545 Walnut St. It appears ready to get its outer skin on, meaning that it is likely to be wrapped up and ready for sale (or rent?) soon:

This four-story building is primarily residential — it contains nine dwelling units — but also contains a 945-square-foot “commercial space.” That space does not appear to be designed for retail; likely it is a small office space for a professional such as an architect or a lawyer.

After looking at buildings in or close to downtown San Carlos, I then took a stroll down Holly Street. When I reached Industrial Road I turned south towards Redwood City. I had to work a bit to skirt my way around the Alexandria project; that massive project is currently in a stage that is involving a great deal of roadwork, making things tricky not just for cars but for pedestrians as well. As you can see, the exteriors of the two buildings are mostly wrapped up, although there appears to be a great deal of interior work still to go.

Hopefully the contractors will get the street back to normal soon while they continue working on the interior buildout of this biotech facility. At least two companies have pre-leased space in this complex: ChemoCentryx Inc. has leased 96,000 square feet, while Allakos Inc. has leased 98,133 square feet (together the two buildings comprise some 526,178 square feet). When those companies might actually move in is anyone’s guess given the pandemic, but Allakos had been planning for a mid-2021 move-in, which may still work.

I’ve driven or walked by the Alexandria building a handful of times over the last couple of months, so I knew what stage it was in. On this walk, I was more eager to see what was going on at the corner of Brittan Avenue and Industrial Road. Once upon a time there were plans to build a hotel on this site, but those plans fell through and another developer stepped in with plans for — any guesses? — a life sciences building. The rather nondescript single-story building that once stood on this site has been wiped away, and the site now stands ready for the heavy equipment to move in and begin digging the two-level underground parking garage. On top will be a three-story, 140,000 square foot building that should look something like this:

Given that this new life sciences building sits fairly close to the border between San Carlos and Redwood City, that wraps up this week’s exploration of our neighbor to the north. I always enjoy walking through San Carlos, and am interested to see how that city is changing. Clearly they are adding a lot of new housing (most of which is market-rate, though) and are establishing themselves as the premier biotech/life sciences hub of the Bay Area. For those Redwood City residents who bemoan the changes that our city has experienced, we aren’t alone; this isn’t our father’s San Carlos any more.

Redwood City is starting to plan out their new Transit District (shopping, jobs & housing with a new transit center for trains and buses), but before any designs can be proposed they need input from us. The project website can be found here, and there is a virtual tour of the project here. As you move around the virtual room and explore the various presentations, be sure to click on the blue easel labeled “Feedback Welcome! Click Here” (and then click on the October 2020 Survey) to let the city know how you want this project to go. Our feedback at every stage of this project is extremely important, but perhaps at no point more than this, given that nothing has yet been done and we can still have a major influence on this particular effort.

2 thoughts on “Twas the Night Before Halloween

  1. Hi Greg, I hope in your travels through Redwood City you’ll start seeing more and more of these Redwood City Strong signs. There are different signs available through Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation website and a beautiful flag (in front of our house). They were designed to signify that as residents of Redwood City we are strong and working together to get through this crazy time. I hope you can open the link.



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