Nothing in Common

I love it when I can weave a couple of topics together into a semi-coherent story. Unfortunately, I can’t always come up with a common thread that ties a couple of disparate (but, I think, interesting!) topics together. This is one of those weeks. I have three items I want to cover — the California Water Tank, the Highway 101 Underpass, and the Strada condominium development — and although any two probably have things in common, I’m having trouble coming up with a unifying theme for all three. Fortunately, there is no one standing over me, cracking the whip and insisting that I come up with one. So I won’t.

After our recent (and slightly disappointing) rains, our “Climate Best” is once again shining through. My wife and I had lunch in our backyard today, enjoying the warmth of the sun and watching the birds flit through the trees. As I write this, it is 68 degrees in our yard. Although the next couple of days aren’t going to be quite as warm, we still should have some nice sunshine.

Earlier this week I took advantage of our recent spate of nice weather and took a walk into Redwood City’s western hills. I wanted to check up on the California Water Tank and Pump Station Project, which is nearing completion at the corner of California Way and Tum Suden Way. In case you don’t know where that is, it is very close to the Easter Cross, which of course you can see from most parts of Redwood City. This project, which involves constructing a new 750,000 gallon water tank on the site (along with a pump house and some piping to connect it to the city’s water system) is to the point where the tank itself appears complete, although I believe it has yet to receive its final exterior finishes. The pump house, which contains three water pumps and an emergency generator, also appears complete. Here is a photo of the project site, taken from the intersection:

The tank, as you can probably see, is just behind the large redwood tree. The new pump house is towards the right side of the photo, with the blue/green metal roof. Also in the photo is a construction trailer, in front of the tank, a storage container, at the very right side of the photo, and a small wooden house-like structure. That wooden building holds an older set of water pumps that will be replaced by the ones in the new building (which is more soundproof, for one thing).

Ever since about 1933, this site has been used as part of the city’s water system. At one time there were two wooden tanks here that held about 150,000 gallons, but those were taken out in 1999. Since then, the site has been largely empty except for the old pump house. Soon that old pump house will be taken out, and when the project is completed the construction trailer and storage container will also be removed, leaving little more than the new tank and the new pump house.

That tank, as you can probably imagine, is quite large, at 80 feet in diameter and 23 feet high. The city is doing what it can to minimize the visual impact of the tank. For one thing, they’ve located the tank well back from California Way. Then, on the side facing Tum Suden Way, they’ve constructed an earthen berm that makes the tank look shorter than it is:

(The green construction fencing is hiding most of the berm, but in the above photo you can just make out the mostly plastic-covered earthen berm just behind the fence.)

The city has also planted a great many trees on the property, trees that will one day help mask the sight of the tank — although they won’t really have a significant effect for several years. The following photo, which I took from the far end of the property along California Way, shows a number of the trees that have been planted:

[click the photo for a version you can zoom in on]

This photo also shows the black metal fencing that will enclose the working part of the property (beyond the new trees), and the split-rail fence that will mark the rest of the site. The metal fencing is intended to keep people out, but the split-rail fence is more for show: I believe that this portion of the site will be open to the public.

Hiking to this new tank certainly takes effort; from where I live, it is uphill all the way. Most of the walk is through Emerald Lake Hills, which, because it is an unincorporated part of San Mateo County, means that there are very few sidewalks. If you decide to make the walk yourself, be very sensitive to the fact that in many places you have no choice but to walk along the very edge of the street itself, and that at times you’ll find yourself contending with cars that suddenly come zooming around blind corners. I do recommend sticking to smaller, mostly quieter streets, of which Emerald Lake Hills fortunately has plenty.

Topic number two this week — the Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing — is something I had planned to check on this week, but wasn’t going to write about unless there was something worth saying. But when I visited the project site earlier today, I approached the construction fencing just as one of the project workers approached it from the other side. I was able to have a nice conversation with her about why the project is taking so long, and what they are up to now. Thus, I can actually answer a question posed to me just yesterday by reader Carson, who asked if I had any updates on this project. He observed that the project was originally supposed to be completed by last October, and that the project “looks like its been sitting at a stand still for the past few months.”

Here is what the project looks like today:

The fact that I was able to speak with someone tells you that they are indeed actively working on this project. Today the crew was sinking pilings along the side of the underpass closest to Redwood Creek (the right side, in the above picture); these pilings will help shore up the wall that will keep the creek from overflowing into the underpass.

As for what has taken so long, I was told that the delays were partly due to communications issues between the various project subcontractors and the city. Whenever an issue arises on the job site, work stops while the subcontractor works out a satisfactory resolution with the city — something that can take quite some time, depending upon the issue. Given how the job has seemingly been proceeding in fits and starts, there must have been a number of those issues. Other delays have arisen due to the nature of the project. When it rains, water runs down into the site from both sides, making for difficult, if not impossible, working conditions. Finally, our periodic high tides have a similar effect: when the creek rises to its highest point (which is above the low point of the underpass), work again has to come to a halt while the crews wait for things to dry out.

Although the project is running well behind original projections, clearly it hasn’t halted altogether. As for when it might actually be done, the woman I talked to said that if all goes well from here on out — which they hope and expect to be the case — it should be done by May of this year. So, in another three or four months we may well be able to walk or ride a bike along this new connection between Main Street, on the western side of the freeway, and the roundabout next to the Courtyard hotel, on the eastern side. Just in time for summer…

As for topic three, the Strada project, I hadn’t expected to write about this one for some time. As I’ve written before, the site (between Maple Street and Redwood Creek, on the east side of the freeway) has been elevated, and I was going to write about it next when construction on the new condominiums actually started. But I was taking a look at the city’s Safe Parking RV lot at the corner of Blomquist and Maple streets the other week, and noticed work going on across Maple Street from the RV lot, next to Redwood City’s police station. This work:

Until recently, bushes along Maple Street hid this piece of land. But those bushes have largely ben cleared away, and dirt was being moved about. I was initially thrown by the location of this work site, and thought perhaps the city was just trying to clear out the ditch that runs through here. But then it hit me that part of the Strada project involves extending Blomquist Street from this intersection over to the project site. And since this work is going on right where Blomquist Street currently ends at Maple Street, that’s what this must be.

For those of you who have heard of the proposed “Blomquist Extension” — which would extend Blomquist to and then over Redwood Creek, where it would meet up with the roundabout between the Boardwalk auto dealerships and the Courtyard hotel — know that this is only half of that project. Maple Street, which runs parallel to this ditch and is just beyond the left edge of the above photo, eventually makes a complete U and then returns, on the other side of the trucks (which are inventory vehicles stored there by Towne Ford) you can see in the above photo. The Strada project has always intended to extend Blomquist Street across this U, so that it meets up with the farther arm of Maple Street. Then, if the city and the county can come to an agreement as to the fate of the county-owned property where the old women’s jail and the current LiveMoves shelter stand today (just behind the police station), the Strada folks will further extend Blomquist alongside their development to the southern edge of Redwood Creek (about where the “Bridge to Nowhere” is located). If the city and county can’t come to an agreement in a timely fashion, however, that other section of Blomquist won’t be built, at least as part of the Strada project.

If all that description has left you a bit confused, I don’t blame you! As always, a picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks to Apple Maps, I captured a satellite image of the site and roughly sketched in where the two sections of the Blomquist Extension would go. The portion represented by the blue solid line is the part that is currently underway. And if the city and county can come to an agreement, instead of going straight across to Maple Street the road will curve to follow the dashed line along Maple Street, and then turn to run parallel to the freeway.

The above photo is a relatively recent one, and shows the now dirt-covered Strada site. The rectangular chunk taken out of the otherwise triangular property is where the women’s jail and LifeMoves shelter are today; this is county-owned land. By the end of last year, the site, which has been raised some 14 feet into the air, was relatively quiet. But as long as I was looking at the site where Blomquist is apparently being extended, I followed Maple Street around the U and checked up on the Strada site’s progress. I was interested to see that the place is once again abuzz with activity: more dirt is being moved around, there are some pallets of concrete blocks that I’m guessing will be used for retaining walls that will help hold back this massive mountain of dirt.

In the above, the pallets can be seen to the left side of the image, on top of the raised site.

These three projects aren’t the only ones going on in Redwood City right now, but they do show how Redwood City continues to grow and change, even while the pandemic, and our current economy, have some wondering about the future of the Bay Area and of California in general. I have heard that developers continue to see good things in Redwood City’s future, though. Let’s hope that they’re right!

4 thoughts on “Nothing in Common

  1. Where is this water tank in relation to the the existing water tank constructed circa 1967-68″=. I used to ride my motorcycle inside that tank. Upper Emerald Lake and Lower Emerald lake has been destroyed. All that remains is a bit of sour grass and the memories of bucolic living.

  2. Hi Billy. Even though the underpass will be below the water line at high tide, it will have a concrete wall that will keep it dry. Rain runoff that flows into the underpass will drain back to the creek at low tide via one-way flap valves. I can’t wait for this underpass to open!

  3. re “when the creek rises to its highest point (which is above the low point of the underpass),” will there be sewer lines to take runoff flowing to the Bay?

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