That’s no Monster

Back in June of 2019, I wrote a post called At Home in Redwood City in which I made my first mention of Thomas James (“TJ”) Homes, a Southern California-based developer of medium-sized, single-family homes who had begun snapping up properties in Redwood City. (They are also operating in other peninsula communities, including San Carlos and Menlo Park). Back then I mentioned that I knew of six homes that were definitely going to be torn down and replaced by TJ Homes, although I had heard rumors that there were others (I’ve heard counts of 15 and 17 from various sources). While it is still a bit tricky to nail down the exact number of in-the-works single-family home development projects that are being done by this particular developer, the number has grown to twelve, at least, since that is how many have received their building permits and are now at various stages of development.

While the total number of houses that TJ Homes currently has underway in Redwood City is significant, I’m pleased to note that these homes, although not small, are by no means “monster homes.” All are two-story homes, and all, I believe, sport four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The smallest that I am currently aware of has 2,432 square feet of living space (not including the two-car garage or any decks or porches), whereas the largest has 2,997 square feet of living space. Of course, size is relative — in this case, relative to the homes in the immediate vicinity. So whereas a 2,997 square foot home might not be a “monster home” on paper, if it sits among a sea of, say, 1,500-square-foot one-story homes, it could indeed look like a bit of a monster. So each home needs to be considered in context. Fortunately, plans for some of the projects are easily accessible online, and those plans include renderings showing the homes as they would appear from the street. For instance, here is a rendering for the home to be constructed at 1741 Connecticut Drive (in the Roosevelt neighborhood):

To my eye this one fits in rather well with its neighbors. Whereas another project, over on Carolina Avenue (near Woodside Plaza), stands out a bit more from its immediate neighbors, since most of the homes on that block are single-story houses. But nevertheless it still isn’t particularly imposing:

The various projects that TJ Homes currently has in the pipeline are scattered throughout the city (although all are, I believe, on the western side), and are not part of a single large development as was recently built on Finger Avenue. By my count, five of the homes are located in the Mount Carmel neighborhood, three are in Eagle Hill, two are in Roosevelt, and the remaining two are in Woodside Plaza. Each is replacing an older, usually smaller, home on a large lot.

TJ Homes projects are easy to spot when driving through Redwood City’s residential neighborhoods: this developer uses construction fencing upon which their company logo is prominently displayed:

These fences also have a sign with the company’s “Integrity Pledge” on it, one that also has a slot where the building permit (and, on occasion, the design drawings for the house that they will be building) on it:

Their integrity pledge is a particularly nice touch: if they truly adhere to it, it appears that there will be no smoking, drinking, or drugs allowed on site. As well, they don’t allow radios, so although neighbors will hear plenty of unavoidable construction noises, they at least won’t have to put up with loud music as well. TJ Homes pledges to maintain a “clean and organized jobsite,” and says that they will clean up debris daily. From what I have seen so far, they do seem to be adhering to this — although as yet none of their projects is much past the stage where they’ve poured the concrete for the foundation. Whether they are truly doing anything more than what other developers are doing, I for one appreciate the visible effort they are making to keep the neighbors in mind.

Any construction of this sort has unavoidable impacts to traffic and noise, however, and I suspect that there is not much that TJ Homes can do to minimize those beyond what other contractors do. At least they pledge to adhere to the city’s established work hours, so any impacts shouldn’t occur early in the morning or into the evening.

Although this much home construction — and more; there are plenty of other developers redeveloping individual homes throughout Redwood City — may seem odd given the pandemic, somewhat counterintuitively our area’s home values continue to increase. Even though many of us are working from home, most of those who have high-paying jobs are indeed still working. Our office buildings may be mostly empty, but there is still a great deal of demand for housing in our area. According to one local realtor, in October the number of homes sold increased by 45%, and the average sales price rose by almost 4%, to just shy of $1.8 million. Pending sales were up, as were the number of homes on the market. Thus, despite the increasing number of “For Sale” signs I’ve been seeing out there, there are buyers for those homes, which is keeping upward pressure on home prices. It may seem crazy, but the numbers don’t lie: this is the economy we are living in. Which is of course great for those of us who own our homes, and not so great for those hoping to buy into our market. And, I have to say, it is good for residential property developers like Thomas James Homes: it gives them some level of confidence that when they’ve finished building their homes, there will be buyers out there with the wherewithal to afford them.

These new homes won’t be cheap, of course. For instance, TJ Homes paid $1.475 million for the property at 2403 Whipple Avenue (at the corner of Whipple and Nevada). Start with that $1.475 million price and add in the cost of demolishing the existing home and building an entirely new one, plus profit to get to the final price. I would think that these homes will go for something in the high two millions or even low three millions. For houses that are a good size, and presumably good quality, but are by no means “monster homes.”

10 thoughts on “That’s no Monster

    • I absolutely don’t want one near me but on my street Thomas Homes is planning on tearing down and re-building two existing homes – on each side of a unique and well maintained one story home. No two homes on this street are alike and they all look nice. Each of these existing homes is very unique looking and one story high with large backyards. The new homes will be two stories and tower above the homes on each side of them. I understand Thomas Homes is in the business of building so they don’t really care about neighbors unless the neighbor wants to sell their home to them. The city of Redwood City is actually more at fault for encouraging construction companies to build as many living units on one property as possible while the City gives them more encouragement by changing, exempting or overlooking current ordinances. Bringing up the issue of parking, noise, demolition dust that contains lead & asbestos and all neighbor’s concern for overpopulation in a formerly quiet neighborhood is listened to by RWC’s Planning Commission and then dismissed. Despite of what I read and hear about our city’s creating “affordable housing”, I see none of that happening here. RWC is in the process of allowing builders to completely disrupt a neighborhood by building large homes and ADUs. Also, the average monthly rent for many homes around here begins at about $6000.00/month. This is what I’m sure they call “progress”. I’m sure it’s only coincidence that building homes brings more and higher property taxes into the city and county. I also realize what I think makes no difference to anyone so in the meantime many neighborhood homes are being torn down and reconstructed without real concern. It’s very sad how money always seems to control decisions made by our local government.

  1. I live next to a TH project. In this Menlo Park neighborhood, most homes are 2-3 bedroom, single floor 1950 homes. Now we have a massive two story monolith that has stolen our afternoon sun, views and privacy. Trees were removed and oversize maximum walls on the postage size lot are unsightly. TJ Homes are destrolying out neighborhood and ‘GO AWAY TJHOMES’ are on many neighboors lawns.

  2. The “renderings” provided for the public are completely misleading.
    These are monster homes, since they are on relatively small lots.
    Most of their homes encompass the entire lot.
    The open space/backyards are around 12×12.
    So they are too large nfo for the modest lots of Redwood City.

  3. Pingback: A Home Connection | Walking Redwood City

  4. I am confused. So, is the opposition to a company whose business is to build home and create a profit for it’s investors? Or, is the opposition to the lack of government ordinances and oversight?
    Without the latter, I don’t see where TJ should be faulted. They are taking advantage of the rules of the marketplace. They risk their capital to plan for a profit. If the ordinances and oversight by the government are not being created and enforced before the investment begins, then shame on the government, not the investor. But, if the investor is violating those rules then the government should take appropriate action against the investor.

  5. With these homes not even getting “on the market “ before they are sucked up to be demolished is very sad for those young families who wish to own & work in close proximity of Redwood City! Where once a young family could begin with a smaller starter home and build it out (if so desired) when they could better afford to! BUT that dream is gone cuz it’s very hard for many to get into a $3 million home to start! I just saw a home put on the market one day with sign saying coming soon, only to goby the next day and now the sign read SOLD!!

  6. I agree with Kris. More regulation (FAR ordinance) is a burden on all of us existing home owners. “The still incredibly profitable” size should be limited to each home owner. Although the previous ones did take advantage of “Incredibly Profitable” sales to TJH. So everyone stand in a circle and point to the person on the right ! I do hope however TJH and others adhere to the week end start times of 8am on Saturday and 9am on Sunday mornings.

  7. Also, TJH did not endear themselves to the neighborhood by starting the demolition of homes before they even had a permit. Bottom line, they are no friend to Redwood City. They came here because we had no regulations on home size combined with lax oversight. They scooped up 16 or so homes by offering cash and no contingencies. These small homes were once considered starter homes and were the reason many of us came to RWC in the first place, They bulldoze them regardless of the condition or value of the architecture in order to build a large home for today’s modern family. Ask any real estate agent what they think of TJH and their tactics and you’ll probably get an earful.

  8. While the current Thomas James Homes (TJH) might not be considered “monster homes”, I think it’s worth noting that these homes were all reduced in size from their original plans . Thomas James Homes rolled into town three years ago after building thousands of modern farmhouses in SoCal and began snatching up starter homes and proposing 3,500 – 3,800 sq ft homes on 6,500 sq ft lots. Impacted neighbors were concerned and Council responded accordingly by adopting a soft cap Floor Area Ratio (FAR) ordinance of 45%. That led to TJH reducing their homes to a more modest (but still incredibly profitable) size — 3,000 sq ft on 6,500 sq ft lots. Their greed was indirectly responsible for our FAR ordinance — so thank you TJH for your unintended role in that!

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