Signs and Portents

If you drive down Broadway from El Camino Real, and don’t walk it, you, like me, probably assumed that the “construction fencing” in front of the building where The BottleShop operates was perhaps due to some work going on in the office portion of that building — which is currently up for lease (the tech company Avast Software, Inc. had been operating out of that space, but it appears that they may have moved their Redwood City office to Redwood Shores). On a walk this week I made it a point to take a peek at what was going on behind that fencing, and was delighted to see that it is not due to construction. Rather, The BottleShop erected it as a way to give those of their patrons who elect to sit outside some degree of privacy, as well as a way to help block the cool breezes we’ve been experiencing lately. On the day I walked by, the proprietors were actually in the process of adding some fake grass to the outside of the fencing, in an effort to class up the place a bit — and likely to help make it look less like a construction project:

The Ritz it ain’t, but it is certainly nice enough, especially when you take into account the handful of plantings in pots that they’ve added to the space, along with the “bistro lights” they’ve hung and the patio heaters that they’ve scattered about. Certainly I can attest to it being nicer with the fencing than it was without, having paid them a visit back in October when the current owners — Tom Boriolo and John Graham-Taylor — first took over from the previous ones, and then having visited again just last night (Thursday, April 22).

This time, my wife and I went to The BottleShop at around 5 p.m. and, after deciding which of the outside tables was going to be best for us (all but one were available at that hour, so we weighed the amount of sun and shade available at each against the relative degree of safety, COVID-wise, we felt at each well-spaced table), we passed a pleasant 90 minutes or so sipping wine and sharing the “Full Monty Cheese & Charcuterie Board” followed by a slice of “That Man Tom, Can Bake” cheesecake.

The BottleShop sells wine by the bottle or by the glass. We stuck to glasses, although if we’d really thought about it we would have done better by simply buying a bottle and taking home what we didn’t drink. We had fun, though, and were happy to support this, one of Redwood City’s somewhat newer (in its current incarnation) eating and dining establishments.

For the record, the cheese and charcuterie board was more than enough to serve as dinner for the two of us. It cost $40, but you get your money’s worth in cheeses, meats, and the various fruits, nuts, and other goodies that come with them. And note that if you really just want a light appetizer, you can always get the “Average Joe Cheese and Charcuterie Board” ($24), or the even smaller “Lone Ranger Cheese and Charcuterie” ($10). Do give their menu a gander: it is surprisingly large given the fact that they don’t have a full kitchen on site.

As for the ambience, the outside area has a much more intimate feel than it did prior to the installation of the fence. Certainly, no fence can completely disguise the fact that cars are driving by just on the other side, but without being able to see them my wife and felt much more comfortable than before. You do still have to put up with the outside noise — particularly the honking trains as they roll across Broadway — but that’s part of the “charm” of being outside in downtown Redwood City.

With the weather getting better, and with COVID-related conditions improving as they are both in San Mateo County and in the State of California as a whole, my wife and I (who are fully vaccinated, I’m pleased to be able to say!) are starting to go out once again — although less than before, and only for outdoor dining at this time. Given the many, many opportunities we have for outdoor dining in our area, it’s likely my wife and I won’t actually sit down inside a restaurant until the weather turns cold again in the fall. And thanks to places like The BottleShop, it appears that we won’t have to.

I almost walked right by, but just down the block on the same side of the street as The BottleShop, I noticed something interesting on one of the light poles:

You can certainly click the above image to zoom in on the latest addition to this light pole, but I took a second, closer photo from beneath that might be enough to save you the trouble:

As you can probably tell, this is a completely circular LED sign that can be used to display text (and very limited graphics, I presume). Notice how the streetlights are on during the daytime? It appears that for the purposes of this test, they are simply drawing power from the lights above the test sign, and thus require that the streetlights be on so that the sign can work. If these new signs pass whatever test is going on (the text that was slowly scrolling around the sign simply said “Test Device”) and are installed for real, presumably the lamppost would be rewired to have always-on power in addition to the switched power that causes the lights to be on at night but off during the daytime.

Also note the small radio receiver, with its characteristic antenna, attached to the light itself; this must be how the sign receives the text it is to display.

Although I haven’t yet had time to learn exactly what these signs might be for, a likely guess is that they are candidates for the electronic signs that the city has for years been talking about installing, signs that would direct motorists to available parking. If that is the case, I question whether these particular ones are noticeable enough, and whether they have enough display capacity, to properly do the job. Compare them with the much larger signs in front of Redwood City’s two downtown parking garages. Those signs — which display nothing more than the available capacity at that one garage — are much more visible and much better at presenting the most important information in a glance-able fashion:

The city has intended to put up electronic signs around downtown that guide drivers to the several garages and lots in the downtown area where parking is actually available. Other cities have signs of this type, but they often list the multiple parking locations and indicate the available capacity at each — something that would be difficult or impossible to display on a single-line, rotating display such as I encountered at the corner of Broadway and California Street. Thus, these test signs may have some other purpose. It is even possible that these aren’t a city project, but are tests being conducted by some local company who simply needed a real-world environment in which to perform those tests. We’ll see…

Finally, before everyone writes in, I should note that the sign I discovered at California Street isn’t the only one in downtown Redwood City. There is at least one more, on Broadway in the middle of the block between Jefferson Avenue and Main Street. This one, as you can see, gives some weight to the theory that these have something to do with directing drivers towards available parking:

Finally, for some time now I’ve been meaning to write about a handful of special parking spaces in the main library’s parking lot “B” (the one on the northwest side of the building that extends to the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Middlefield Road):

Again, you can zoom in on the signs, but I’ll just tell you what they say:

Free reserved parking for library Wi-Fi users
10am-6pm MON-SAT | 2-hour limit
* No parking fee for Library Wi-Fi users remaining in their cars
* Unoccupied vehicles subject to citation

Our Redwood City libraries will likely open soon, but until they do (and possibly afterwards), the library is making their high-speed Wi-Fi network available to the public. As the signs indicate, you can park in one of these five space for up to two hours without having to pay the usual fee, and connect to the free “Redwood City Library” network using your phone, tablet, or laptop. With no patrons inside the library making use of that wireless signal, and few to no people outside using it, I can attest that the signal is strong and the speed is considerable: I ran a speed test while I was there and recorded 100 Mbps down and a whopping 140 Mbps up — which is faster than my home internet connection! Perhaps I should be working on my blog posts from inside my car, parked in the library lot, rather than from my home office…

In any case, I just wanted to make sure that our terrific public library system gets some credit for this nice little service. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of our libraries, I should highlight a comment that Derek Wolfgram, Redwood City’s Library Director, made to a previous post of mine. Although the libraries run by the County of San Mateo opened to the public yesterday (at least, they were scheduled to), he noted that the libraries run by Redwood City won’t actually open up until sometime in late May [last second update: May 24]. According to Derek, “we decided to give all of our employees enough time to be fully vaccinated before we open the doors.” As well, he noted that although the county libraries have limitations on operating hours, when ours open they “plan to be open six days a week at the Downtown Library and five days at the Redwood Shores and Schaberg branches.” There may well be some limitations on what services they provide when they do open, but this is a huge step back towards normalcy, one that is well worth celebrating.

As I was working on this post, Ed, our regular postman, delivered the mail. In it was a small brochure from the Redwood City Parks, Recreation & Community Services department, indicating that the Summer 2021 Activity Guide — which in past years was delivered in paper form to each Redwood City residence — is now online, at When I went to that link, however, I was somewhat amused to see, right at the top of the page, a note titled “Now that we have your attention :-)” and “About that Summer Guide…”. The note goes on to state that the mailer went out a little quicker than the city had anticipated, and that the online summer guide isn’t actually quite ready yet. It does reassure us that the guide is very nearly ready, however, so keep checking back if you are interested in finding out about the many camps, classes, sports, etc. that the Parks, Recreation & Community Services department puts on each summer. Given that registration for many of these activities opens on April 29 — just six days from now — for Redwood City residents (non-residents can sign up beginning May 13), that guide will, I expect, be appearing in just a couple of days.

4 thoughts on “Signs and Portents

  1. Pingback: You Can Go Home Again | Walking Redwood City

  2. It will be interesting to see how these park let/outdoor seating areas evolve after things start to normalize. I recently drove through downtown Los Altos and took notice of how the town had used wine barrels to create the barricades for all of the temporary outdoor dining spaces. Had a nicer feel than a lot of these more hodgepodge setups. Of course hodgepodge was to be expected given they’re supposed to be temporary but with a lot of residents now in favor of keeping some level of increased outdoor dining I think some sort of set design guidelines would be helpful for future less temporary setups (such as LV Mar, etc). It will be worth watching how other nearby communities handle the existing outdoor dining and whether it sticks around…San Carlos, Menlo Park, even Woodside.

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