Honoring Veterans

After studying the preliminary plans submitted to the city for the 590 Veterans Blvd./91 Winslow St. project — plans that, I should note, are lacking the typical amount of detail (such as how the apartments might be laid out) — it occurred to me that it was high time to take a walk along Veterans Boulevard in order to record its current status. I did that this week, walking from the northern tip where it starts as an offramp from Highway 101, to where the sidewalk ends about a block or so beyond Chestnut Street. Most of what I was doing was simply photographing as much of the buildings along the street as I could, for posterity’s sake, and thus most is not worthy of much comment. I did see a few things of interest, though, that I’ll share below.

Before I get to Veterans Boulevard, Sam Johnson sent me his latest batch of drone photos, and I thought I’d share some of them: the views they give of some of our area’s development projects are spectacular (and quite illuminating). Especially when they are taken from a bit of an angle, like this photograph showing the current status of the Wika Ranch development up in Emerald Hills:

[click on the image to get a full-resolution version you can zoom in on]

For those interested in the goings-on at the county’s navigation center site, here is a wonderful image showing the entire site:

Note the proximity to the water (on the left) and to the police station (on the right). This photo also clearly shows where Blomquist Street will run: along that gray-colored area between the navigation center site (which is covered with brown soil) and the police station parking lot. For reference, Maple Street runs across the very top and very bottom of the image, and also runs along the water’s edge on the left side of the photo (the street makes a large “U” around the navigation center property). The bits in green are wetlands that may or may not be developed into some sort of park in the future.

To see where this site lies in relation to the 1548 Maple Street townhouse development site, here is a photo showing that site, along with some of the navigation center’s site:

The buildings on the square chunk taken out of the 1548 Maple Street project site are the current LifeMoves shelter and former Women’s Jail; these buildings will soon be demolished, and Blomquist Street will be extended through there.

Outside of Redwood City, Sam also flew above the site where a three-story biotech building will be constructed in San Carlos, at the corner of Industrial Road and Brittan Avenue:

When you drive past this site on either Industrial or Brittan, the construction fencing keeps you from seeing much. But this photo, especially because it is taken from an angle, lets you see how deep the crews have gone in order to construct the two-level underground parking garage that will sit beneath the building. For orientation, Industrial Road runs along the bottom of the photo, Brittan Avenue angles up from the lower right corner, and Highway 101 is just out of the frame, on the top.

If you are as impressed with the quality and utility of these photos as I am, I’m delighted to be able to tell you that Sam Johnson is now offering his services to anyone who might be interested via his highly polished “Droning Around” website: https://www.droning-around.com. He charges by the hour, and will be happy to give you a quote if you think you could use his services. Do explore his site, and see what Sam can do for you!

Turning to Veterans Boulevard, this week I walked down Whipple Avenue to Veterans Boulevard, crossed over, and then turned left and walked up to where the street begins, as an offramp from Highway 101. This gave me a chance to take a close look at the triangular tip of land between the freeway and Veterans, which for some time now has been used as a dumping ground for wood from recently felled trees:

The wood, which is cut into manageable lengths, is free for the taking (there is a sign stating that the wood is free, and people were actively selecting pieces as I watched). The wood seems excellent for burning in a fireplace (perhaps after drying), although you’ll likely have to split it yourself: the wood is cut for length, but isn’t split, and it appears that anything small enough to burn will have already been snapped up. Of course, if you have other uses for this wood — chainsaw art, anyone? — there are some nice big pieces just waiting to be taken.

The woodpile is just past the Good Nite Inn. If you haven’t lived in the area for a long time, you may not be aware that this hotel was originally a Howard Johnson’s. But if the architecture of the lobby doesn’t give it away, take a close look at that building’s roof: the paint is peeling, revealing the original orange roof beneath (you may need to zoom in on this one to see that):

The corner of Veterans Boulevard and Whipple Avenue is an extremely prominent one. While I’m glad to see that much of the site is getting some use by the area’s automobile dealers (such as Land Rover Redwood City, which is the closest), I wanted to note that the old Dennis Nelson’s gym (which was then replaced by Crunch Fitness) building, along with the adjoining Chef Peking restaurant space, still seems to be empty.

For a brief moment it appeared that Tesla was going to take over this building (the right-hand one in the above photo), along with the parking lot you see in the foreground, but that venture fell through. Thus, for the last three or four years the buildings have sat, unused. Seems a waste.

After taking the above picture, I then directed my gaze across Veterans Boulevard and took the following rather uninteresting-looking picture:

The picture isn’t the greatest — the lighting was tough (I was shooting into the sun) — but I wanted to record the space between the Radius Apartments building (on the left) and the brick AAA building (on the right). In this space are, from left-to-right, the pawn shop that may be replaced by the 90-unit apartment building that was recently proposed to the city; a SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service place; and the former site of Custom Truck, which now just seems to be filled with junk. The Custom Truck site, in particular, seems ripe for development. I’m a little surprised that one of our big area developers hasn’t snapped up all three sites and combined them into one large site where a housing project on the scale of the Radius building (with its 264 for-rent apartments) could be built.

Just beyond the Radius Apartments building, on the same side of Veterans Boulevard, is the Salvation Army building, and then a Shell gas station (at the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Brewster Avenue):

Roughly a year and a half ago the city approved a proposal to build a four-story, 92-room hotel in place of the gas station. I’m curious to see if this project actually gets off the ground; the clock is ticking, and there have been no signs of activity since the project was approved. COVID may be playing a part, or perhaps it really is just taking that long to get the final plans drawn, contractors and materials lined up, and financing in place. We’ll see…

This next isn’t actually on Veterans Boulevard, but it’s close: I had mentioned in a previous post that on a recent visit I had seen no activity at 353 Main St., where a 125-unit affordable apartment building is under construction. This time, though, I was relieved to see (and hear) work going on. So for now I’ll stop worrying about this particular project:

Passing over Redwood Creek, I noted that the water level was quite high. The birds seemed to be enjoying it, though.

Following Veterans, the last building you get to before reaching the Chestnut Street intersection is a two-story white building with green trim that is painted with the logo of CMS, or Carpet Maintenance Supply. That business, however, seems to have closed its doors back in September of 2017. Now, it appears that the building is being used by a company called Because Market, a retailer of healthcare products for older adults (this could just be a warehouse or offices though; I didn’t see any signs indicating that it was a retail outlet). Further along is the current home of Custom Truck, who moved to this spot from their previous location down closer to Whipple Avenue. Custom Truck, in case you are interested, sells accessories for pickups and SUVs.

Finally, I came to the freight tracks. The rail line that runs down Chestnut Street curves upon reaching Veterans Boulevard, and then ducks beneath Highway 101. There has been talk off and on about trying to put in a bicycle/pedestrian underpass alongside the tracks here, although as you’ll see there isn’t a lot of room. Perhaps this could be done as part of the reconfiguration of the Highway 101/Woodside Road intersection, which is close by.

The sidewalk crosses the tracks here, and there is actually a paved walkway that parallels the tracks up to where they pass beneath the freeway. I looked all around and didn’t see any “no trespassing” signs — the railroads are usually quite good about putting up lots of those — so I followed the walkway almost to the underpass itself and took this picture:

As you can probably tell, though, there is a growing homeless encampment tucked up against the freeway there, so I didn’t linger. Instead, I retraced my steps back to Veterans Boulevard. Because there isn’t any sort of pedestrian crossing across Veterans Boulevard at Chestnut Street, I was considering my options at this point (the sidewalk ends just past the tracks) when I heard a train horn. I assumed that the train was coming down Chestnut from the main line along which Caltrain runs, but try as I might I couldn’t see any sign of one. But soon the horn sounded again, and this time it was closer. That persuaded me to stick around, and I’m glad I did:

At one time the freight trains along this line only ran late at night, but recently I’ve encountered them in the middle of the day. Indeed, the timestamp on the above photo tells me that the train came through at 3:17 p.m. on Wednesday.

That did it for my primary walk this week. However, while driving for Meals on Wheels earlier today I had occasion to go through the area where until this week Towne Ford had been doing business. I was impressed to see how quickly they seem to have made their move out to Bair Island Road. Just last week, for instance, this fenced lot was full of new vehicles:

The fact that Towne Ford had moved was of course no surprise; I wrote about it last week. What did surprise me, though, was how empty the streets around the dealership were. I’ve been delivering meals to this location for years, and always considered myself very lucky to get a parking space on the street. For the last year or two I’ve been pulling into the BevMo parking lot (before the store’s opening hours) and staying with the car while my wife took the meals to a nearby apartment building. But today, here is what Cedar Street looked like between Towne Ford and BevMo:

And here is what Cedar Street looked like when facing the other direction:

Until the ELCO Yards project gets underway, at least, I suspect I’ll have no trouble parking wherever I want to when delivering to this particular location.

4 thoughts on “Honoring Veterans

  1. Curious if you have any idea what’s going on with the old Kmart site on Veterans. They’ve fenced off the parking lot and building, but it’s not clear to me what’s going on otherwise.

    Thanks for another interesting post, Greg!

    • I was also wondering this. I saw a lot of workers there earlier this month removing stuff from inside the store (old shelving, countertops, etc) and throwing it into big dumpsters. It looks like they may be preparing it for demolition.

      • Interesting. I haven’t heard what is or might be going on with the Kmart space. I’ll see if I can find out anything, but if anyone has further info, by all means chime in!

      • I looked at the building permit history for the Kmart and found two relatively recent ones of interest: last March, a permit was issued enabling the addition of a system to monitor the building’s fire sprinklers. Why would you do that for an empty building? And just a couple of months ago, in October, a permit was issued that allowed them to construct a new underground utility vault on Walnut Street — which sounds like they might be upgrading the power to the building. It presumably had enough to power a retail store, but needs more, which makes me think that our former Kmart might be turned into some sort of office or manufacturing space. A wild guess: perhaps Joby Aviation, who previously had a small space on Broadway, but then moved to Industrial Road in San Carlos, and will soon have to move yet again due to a large biotech development that hopes to be built where Joby is now, is moving in? That would be interesting… They are making electric autonomous flying taxis. I’d love to have them associated with Redwood City yet again (their HQ is in the Santa Cruz area, but it makes sense that they want to have a presence in the valley as well).

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