Fair Trade

This week’s post covers one of those subjects I could have sworn I’ve written about before. Apparently, though, I have not. That’s what comes from writing for multiple outlets, I guess! In any case, at this week’s City Council meeting the Redwood City Council unanimously agreed to a land swap with the county in the Inner Harbor area. Just a few hours later — the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors met the following morning — that body unanimously voted to accept the deal as well. Thus, as soon as all of the paperwork has been signed and filed, Redwood City will find itself in possession of the 2-acre parcel at 1580 Maple Street, which is where the women’s jail used to be and is today where LifeMoves runs its Maple Street Shelter. In return, the county will hold title to a 2.5-acre parcel kitty-corner from the city’s acquisition, one on which they plan to rapidly construct a Navigation Center. Oh, and there are also a number of other considerations — mostly financial — that compensate for the relative values of the two properties.

This new Navigation Center is intended to offer “on site a range of intensive safety-net and other housing (to promote stable long-term housing), stability, and recovery focused case management services.” It will have 240 units of short-term housing, along with a commercial kitchen and training center. The hope is that some of the residents will be able to get some training, training that will enable them to get a paying job in our community. That, plus the other services that the county aims to provide, will also, hopefully, help the Navigation Center residents make the transition to a more stable and conventional living situation.

To clarify just where we are talking about, I’ve marked up a map that roughly shows the Inner Harbor area:

The Inner Harbor area lies northeast of Highway 101, and southeast of Redwood Creek. It continues off the map’s right edge, but I’ve chosen to focus in on the portion that is the subject of the swap. Maple Street is the white line that crosses Highway 101 and then makes a U-turn where it reaches Steinberger Slough.

The three parcels — which are just roughly drawn; I didn’t make any attempt to be at all accurate — are:

  • 1402 Maple: city owned. Temporarily being used as a safe-parking area for RVs
  • 1469 Maple: part of a larger parcel (that consists of everything within the Maple Street “U” except for the police station property) that is owned by the city. The parts of the larger parcel that are shown in green are wetlands; the rest is mostly just flat dirt that has been used for years as inventory storage by a number of automobile dealerships.
  • 1580 Maple: currently home to the LifeMoves Maple Street Shelter, and former home of the women’s jail. This parcel is owned by the County of San Mateo.

The county could simply build their Navigation Center on the property they currently own, at 1580 Maple St. However, I’ve roughly drawn in a dotted line showing the first phase of the so-called “Blomquist Street Extension,” which, as you can see, would extend Blomquist out to Redwood Creek. If you look at the map closely (you can click it for a version you can zoom in on), you’ll see a narrow line crossing the creek at that point: that is the “Bridge to Nowhere,” which is a walking bridge across the creek:

At some future point in time, the city hopes to replace this bridge with one that can handle vehicular traffic. That would then allow Blomquist Street to connect to the roundabout on E. Bayshore Road between the hotel (clearly visible in the above picture) and the Boardwalk Auto dealerships. At that time, traffic would then be able to flow between these two parts of the Bair Island neighborhood. This new road would provide a desperately needed secondary means of exit for those living in the many homes on that side of the creek: in the event of a major emergency, the only way for all of the people in One Marina, Blu Harbor, and the other apartments and condos over there to evacuate is E. Bayshore Road, which leads to the Whipple Avenue overpass. A completed Blomquist Street would also give those who will someday be living in the many townhouses being constructed between Redwood Creek and the parcels marked 1580 and 1469 a fairly direct route to Highway 101 (at Whipple Avenue).

In order for this vision of vehicular bliss (which has some definite issues; I’ll get to those in just a second) to come to fruition, though, the city needs to secure the county’s parcel at 1580 Maple St., so that they can run Blomquist Street through that parcel. Why now? Two reasons. For one, if the city waits, the county — who is eager to get started building their Navigation Center — will just build it on their existing property, and the city will have no hopes of ever running a street through there. Second, the folks building the townhouse development (at what is current known a 1548 Maple St.) will construct this segment of Blomquist Street as part of their development — and they’ll pay for it. Otherwise, although they would still be obligated to pay the city the cost of building this segment of street, that would leave the city with the job of building the street itself (and, as I said, no place through which to route that street). So this swap needed to happen sooner than later.

As for the potential issues with a connected Blomquist Street, Blomquist parallels Highway 101. By connecting it to E. Bayshore, and thereby to Whipple, savvy drivers stuck in freeway traffic might decide to use it as a way to skip around traffic between Woodside Road and Whipple Avenue, thus clogging up Blomquist Street during heavy traffic times on the freeway. But the city has already indicated that it has some traffic calming measures in mind, measures that hopefully will make such a detour not worth the effort. And in any case, until the new bridge over Redwood Creek is built, there is no connection to Whipple, and thus the issue is moot. In the future, though, if the city manages to secure the funds for a new bridge, you can be sure that this issue will be raised once again.

Referring back to the map, I’ve marked three properties. Originally, the trade was to be between the county’s property at 1580 Maple, and a portion of the city’s land that I’ve marked as 1402 Maple. This parcel:

As you can see, though, it sits immediately adjacent to GraniteRock’s materials processing facility. That facility not only has a lot of heavy equipment going in and out of it on a daily basis, it also generates a lot of dust (and, likely, noise). Thus, the 1402 Maple site isn’t ideal as a place where people would live, even if it is only until they can find something more permanent. Both GraniteRock and a number of members of the public pointed out the problems with the 1402 site, forcing the city to go back to the drawing board.

The city came back with the 1469 site, which is much better. Not only is it farther from GraniteRock, it is also farther from Highway 101 than the current shelter, which I’m sure the future residents will appreciate. Plus, this new site is likely to be right next to a new city park, which further increases its attractiveness as a place to reside.

As I noted, at one time the entirety of the city-owned land within the Maple “U” (other than the part that is wetlands) was being used by automobile dealerships to store excess inventory. Here is what this looked like some time ago:

(I took this picture back in 2018, from the bend in the “U”, looking back along Maple Street towards the Redwood City Police Station.) Nowadays, most of the land sits empty; the city has been working with the various dealerships, helping them find other places to locate their vehicles. The last time I was there, Towne Ford still had a small operation out there, with what appears to be a small portable office and the various trucks and vans that make up their fleet sales arm:

Within the “U” the parcel is 4.5 acres in size, although the county will only be taking possession of about 2.5 acres. The remainder will remain city property (including all of the wetlands areas), as will the land on the other side of Maple Street where the 1402 site is today. The city also owns the land between the base of the “U” and Steinberger Slough.

Once Blomquist Street is extended as far as the creek, it can be used to gain access to both the county’s Navigation Center and to the 1548 Maple townhouses. That would enable the city, if it so chooses, to eliminate parts of Maple Street, allowing all of the remaining city-owned bits of land in this area to be connected. The following image, which was included as part of the staff report on the council meeting agenda item for the swap, shows all of that land put together, shaded in green. Note the segment of Maple Street that just might be eliminated:

Also note that this oddly shaped (but contiguous) parcel touches both on Steinberger Slough (at the top) and on Redwood Creek (at the left). The Y-shaped dock and the surrounding docks and buildings on the slough make up BIAC (Bair Island Aquatic Center); that facility is likely to stay. Along Redwood Creek, the image still shows floating homes at Docktown Marina, most of which are now gone (more will likely disappear in the coming months). A park in this area would undoubtedly highlight Redwood City’s access to the bay waters, with a public launch ramp at the very least.

Together, these bits of land total about 10 acres, which the city is strongly leaning towards making into a park of some sorts. The staff report also included a rough drawing of what such a park could look like:

I need to emphasize, however, that this drawing was provided solely to give everyone an idea of the kinds of things that such a park could be home to, and the wide variety of activities that this one parcel could host. Actual planning for the park — if it is indeed a park; the city could decide to do something else with the land — should being next spring. Those interested in helping shape the future of this part of the city are advised to keep their eyes open for opportunities to get involved and provide public input.

Before I leave the above drawing, note the red dotted pathway. The developer of the 1548 Maple townhouse project is already on the hook to provide a public path running along Redwood Creek, from the Bridge to Nowhere out to the tip of their property. Whomever drew the park plan then presumed — most logically — that this path, which would be a key missing part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, would then run through the park and out to Blomquist Street. Hikers along the trail would follow Blomquist Street out to Seaport Boulevard, where a segment of the trail already exists that runs out to the Pacific Shores complex at the end of Seaport Boulevard.

As someone who regularly walks through this area, I’m delighted to see that in the future I may well be joined by many other Redwood City residents. Since the Bridge to Nowhere also connects to the Highway 101 Undercrossing (which runs between the roundabout on the east side of Highway 101 and the end of Main Street on the west side), those of us on the west side will have an easy way, when walking or biking, to get to this future new park.

Before I wrap up for this week, I noted that this 10-acre combined parcel would consist of all of the city’s land in that area. That isn’t quite true, since the land that the city is obtaining in the swap will not all be taken up by the Blomquist Extension. This rendering, which also was included in the city staff report, shows the extension and that parcel (outlined in red):

As you can see, after the road is built through the parcel, there is still about an acre and a half of usable land remaining. No firm plans for that land are yet in place, although there appears to be a good chance that the county will lease it from the city and build some other form of affordable housing on the property. Alternatively, Redwood City itself may choose to arrange for some form of affordable housing to be built there. Either way, it appears likely that that isolated chunk of land will be another key piece in the puzzle that is dealing with our area’s severe lack of affordable housing.

This land swap, although technically only needed to enable the extension of Blomquist Street, has, in the process, spurred a whole lot of activity that ultimately should result in this entire part of the Inner Harbor being developed in a variety of ways. The market-rate, for-sale townhouses should soon be underway on the substantially elevated parcel at 1548 Maple Street, as will at least a portion of the Blomquist Street Extension. The County plans to get their navigation center built quickly, using modular components to enable the doors to be opened as soon as the end of 2022. The park (if it is indeed a park) and the Blomquist Street bridge will take longer, although as I noted the planning process for the park should begin next spring.

I’m delighted that I’ll continue to have reasons to visit the area: there will be projects to document for years to come. And with the Highway 101 Undercrossing, getting there for all of us will be so much easier…

The staff report on the land swap is a document that just keeps on giving. In particular, this quote, which begins at the bottom of page 14:

Strada Investment Group, the principal member/owner of 1548 Maple, LLC sold its interests in the LLC entity to Carlyle Group who is now controlling the company and leading the development of the project.

So yes, contrary to the impression I was given by city staff, it appears that indeed there was some truth to the rumors about the project being sold — although it certainly wasn’t sold to the city, as one rumor suggested. And technically, the only change is to who owns the company that is building the townhouse development. From what I can tell, the development itself is unchanged. “1548 Maple, LLC” is continuing to build the 131 townhouses as originally planned, and will honor their commitments to build their portion of Blomquist Street. So the only real change of any import is an extremely minor one: I can no longer refer to it as the “Strada” project (which was a nice shorthand) but instead will have to call it the 1548 Maple project. I can live with  that…

I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate Warung Siska, one of Redwood City’s newest downtown restaurants, who has been included in the 2021 Michelin Guide. Being listed is a prestigious honor, and is a testament to the quality of this Main Street restaurant. According to the restaurant’s website, “Warung Siska is designed to be […] a “fine casual” Indonesian warung [typically, a family-run roadside eatery] marrying the taste level of fine dining food with an atmosphere that is open and welcoming to all.” I have yet to give them a try, but I very much intend to. They are currently serving dinners from Wednesday through Sunday, from 5 – 9 p.m., at their 917 Main Street location. See their website for the menu, and to order online (their food is available for pickup and delivery, as well as for in-store dining).

4 thoughts on “Fair Trade

  1. For all of you new comers here that aren’t aware of what might have been here before y’all arrived, the 1469 lot used to be the Redwood City’s sewage treatment plants and a model airplane recreation park!! In high school biology class we went on a field trip to understand “what flushes down, must come out somewhere!” Thanks for your walking story updates 🙂

  2. It’s not the current ped/bike bridge that is the “Bridge to Nowhere” – it’s the future car bridge. The future “Blomquist Extension Bridge” is a waste of money and resources.
    There are plenty of EIRs about projects in the area that confirm that there is currently no safety issue for residents. On the contrary they warn about the future ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ bringing commuter traffic into this otherwise calm area.
    That bridge wouldn’t be used by residents in this hypothetical ‘case of an emergency’, but it would be used daily by Seaport employees to cut through and be faster on US101. No ‘traffic calming’ in the world can prevent that.
    In 2016 the County had plans to upgrade the old homeless shelter to 216 units. Apparently they also wanted to remove the old Woman’s Jail and put their 200-unit Navigation Center on the lot and still have space for some RV parking.
    We could have had 400-500 homeless units in this area for the last 5 years already, but Redwood City wanted this ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ and prevented that vision.

  3. Thanks for this wonderful summary. Coupla things: the Bridge to Nowhere is described here as a walking bridge and as you probably know it’s also been used for decades by bicyclists. You write that the city hopes to make it a vehicular road, so Blu Harbor et al. residents would have a “secondary means of exit” without walking (o the horror!). (btw I appreciate the value for emergency vehicles.) And tell me you’re confident the pathway through a suggested park would accommodate cyclists as well as hikers, as does the Bay Trail — Yes? Finally, as for the Michelin Guide, it also recognized my favorite food truck:
    Keep up the good work sir!

  4. Having an office on Seaport court I would be delighted if they extend Bloomquist across the bridge and connect to Whipple. As anyone who watched the Fourth of July fireworks at the Port and those who work at the Emerald Isle (Pacific Shores Center) and along Seaport Blvd know that there is only one way out-Seaport Blvd. When Seaport Blvd is blocked there is no way of getting out without a boat. I remember the fire at Sims Metal about 15 years ago was bad, it could easily have been a complete and more toxic disaster. We desperately need an alternative escape route. Especially being in a area prone to tsunamis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s