Looking Forward

Happy New Year! It’s a new year, and I don’t know about you, but I’m putting 2021 behind me, and simply looking forward. The year 2022 should be an interesting one in a lot of ways. Locally, of course, I expect a lot of projects to get going this year, giving me a lot to write about. Already, the county has jumped on its project to build a navigation center (a place with housing and services for the unhoused among us) on the Maple Street land it obtained from Redwood City in a land swap just a few short months ago. I went by there today, and was amazed by the amount of activity that is going on over there right now. There was heavy equipment and workers all over the site:

Note the people towards the left edge of the image. The site is being raised to protect it from sea level rise, and the block wall that they are building will help retain that soil.

As I was there, large trucks were coming and going loaded with soil, and a street sweeper was going back and forth in an effort to keep Maple Street at least somewhat clean. I thought at first that all of the activity was just focused on this one site, but when I got to what is left of Docktown Marina I realized that work on the site just across Maple Street from the county’s property — the site where 131 new townhomes are to be built — has recommenced:

So far the website that shows the status of Redwood City building permits doesn’t indicate that any of the project’s building permits have been issued, but I do wonder how quickly a status change to a building permit makes its way to that site. It is possible that further work is being done on making the site ready for foundations, in anticipation of those building permits (which were applied for back in mid-September) being issued. Whatever is going on, it is substantial work: I saw multiple individuals in safety vests and hard hats walking around up there, and as you can see in the picture there was at least one backhoe and one tractor busily doing something up on top of the raised site. I plan to head back over next week and see if I can get a better look at what is going on; I’ll write more about this project — and the county’s project directly across the street — when I know more.

Another site that I checked in on this week is this one:

If you’ve been reading my site for a while, or if you drive up and down El Camino Real a lot and pay attention to this kind of thing, you might be wondering what’s the big deal. After all, this former carwash was surrounded by green fencing quite some time ago, and it was used as a staging area for materials and equipment during the construction of the next-door affordable apartment building. Although that building — Fair Oaks Commons, at 2821 El Camino Real — opened its doors in December of 2020, cleanup of this next-door staging site went slowly, and the construction fence remained up. Until recently, that is: just a week or so ago I noticed that the fence had come down. And then this week, as I drove by, I realized that the fence was back. Since I always thought that this site was ripe for redevelopment — the deteriorating gas station (later used as a carwash) building on the site didn’t seem very usable as-is — and it seems that I am not the only one thinking that. A quick check of the county’s permit system (although this site has a Redwood City address, it is actually located in North Fair Oaks, which is an unincorporated part of San Mateo County) shows that someone has plans to build a “four-story 20-unit condo development, with one retail unit on the ground floor” in place of what is there today:

This being a fairly prominent corner — El Camino Real and Dumbarton Avenue — I for one will be glad to see this property put to better, and more attractive, use.

On the subject of somewhat unattractive buildings along El Camino Real, although it continues to make very little progress, at least visually, I am pleased to note that this place has at least cleaned up the grounds in front of the building:

The idea, as I understand it, is to transform this building, which last was home to Signarama (a maker of custom signs) to a restaurant space for a new venture to be called “Maizz.” But the building’s transformation has taken years, and as you can see it is not complete. The actual building permit to transform the building itself seems to have expired, but recent permits were applied for and recently granted to run a new underground water line, and to work on the building’s fire suppression system. Much of the digging for all of that appears to have been started quite some time ago, and the job was left half-done: a large pile of dirt stood in front of the building long enough for weeds to grow on it. But that pile is suddenly gone, and things are otherwise cleaned up a bit. So there is hope that, perhaps this year, this project will wrap up and some practical use will be made of this building. Whether that is indeed a restaurant called Maizz, or something else, we’ll presumably have to wait to find out.

Just this week, our County Supervisors expressed their intent to purchase yet another Redwood City hotel and turn it into housing. The hotel that they have their sights on is the Comfort Inn on El Camino Real. If you didn’t realize that there was a Comfort Inn on El Camino Real in Redwood City, you’d likely be in good company: driving by, you really only see the hotel’s sign:

That building behind the sign that looks like it is a hotel is indeed one — but it is a Holiday Inn Express. The Comfort Inn is actually somewhat better situated to become housing, because it doesn’t sit directly on El Camino Real but instead is tucked in behind a retail building and is accessible via the driveway you see in the above photograph. To really see the hotel, you have to do what I did, which is walk by:

From this vantage point you can see the hotel building and the porte-cochère that marks the building’s entrance. Unlike some of the other hotels that the county has purchased and repurposed for housing, this 51-unit building would not be transitional housing but would actually be remodeled and turned into permanent affordable housing for residents of the county’s transitional buildings and for those living in Redwood City’s Maple Street RV Safe Parking lot.

The hotel rooms are already plumbed for kitchenettes (that plumbing doesn’t appear to be used, currently; the hotel rooms sport microwave ovens and fridges, but no kitchen sink), so turning them into studios should be a relatively easy, and relatively inexpensive, process. County Manager Mike Callagy estimates that construction and maintenance costs would add roughly $600,000 to the $17 million purchase price.

Note that although the county intends to purchase the hotel, it has not yet done so. It is currently in the process of requesting additional Project Roomkey funds to help acquire what would become the latest piece in the puzzle that is solving our county’s homelessness problem.

That’s about it for this week, although I anticipate having much more to share in the weeks and months to come. I noticed, for instance, that some work has resumed on Broadway in front of the Broadway Plaza project site, and The Sobrato Organization, who is bringing us that project, seems to be making great progress on the new CVS that they are constructing just across Woodside Road from the site. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of impending activity on the South Main Mixed-Use (aka ELCO Yards) project, but I’m guessing we’ll see some sort of activity on that one sometime this year. And, as seems appropriate for the first post of a new year, a new project proposal just popped up on the city’s Development Projects list: a 6-story, 95-unit multi-family development project to be built at 590 Veterans Boulevard (in the front) and 91 Winslow Street (in the back). 590 Veterans Boulevard is currently the site of “B.S.L. Auto Center” (B.S.L. apparently stands for Buy, Sell, Loan), a used-car dealer that prominently also advertises that “We buy gold”. As for 91 Winslow Street, well, I mentioned this one just a couple of weeks ago, when I observed that the old long-unused building at that address had suddenly been cleared from the site. I’ll investigate this project a bit more, and take some good photos of the sites, and will write more about it in an upcoming post (likely, next week). But until then, have a happy new year, and keep looking forward towards what I hope will be a much improved future.

3 thoughts on “Looking Forward

  1. Pingback: Good Day Sunshine | Walking Redwood City

    • The timing of your question is excellent: just one hour after you asked this, I received an email from Towne Ford stating that next week they will be moving out to Bair Island. I went by their dealership today, and then walked out to Bair Island, and they’ve already started, it appears. Towne Mazda, which previously occupied one of the three main showroom buildings in the Boardwalk dealership complex is gone (where, I do not know) and Towne Ford is in the process of moving in. This Sunday, January 16, will be Towne Ford’s last day at their dealership on El Camino; after that, they’ll be out on Bair Island Road.

      This is the first — and by far the biggest — domino to fall in the sequence that will eventually see the area redeveloped as ELCO Yards. Three of the six blocks that that project will consume are currently occupied in full or in part by Towne Ford. One other is the block where the roller rink and self-serve carwash were — and that block has been idle and fenced for some time now. Another is occupied by Hopkins Acura (which, I believe, is owned by the same folks who own Towne Ford); I expect that they’ll be moving out soon after Towne Ford. So to my mind, the project is starting to get underway…

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