Climbing the Housing Ladder

On Monday I watched some of the cleanup of the now former homeless encampment that had grown up around the Woodside Road/El Camino Real interchange:

This encampment grew from two small campsites, both along El Camino Real, with one just north of Woodside Road and one just south of that same street. I first noticed those two sites back in January of last year, back when you could almost call them respectable:

By October, though, the relatively large space within the cloverleaf on the northwest side of the intersection proved to be too much of a temptation for people desperately looking for a place to live, particularly, I suspect, because the city of Redwood City was relatively powerless to do anything about the site:

For the most part the campsites were tucked in among the trees (see above) — but as the number of sites grew, it became harder and harder for them to remain discreet. Especially when people started setting up camp directly across El Camino Real, where there were no trees to shield them:

Something clearly had to be done, and this week, as I noted at the beginning, something finally was. But not by the city. El Camino Real through Redwood City is part of State Route 82, while Woodside Road is a key portion of State Route 84. Both they and the intersection of the two are thus controlled by the state, rather than the city. Although I believe Redwood City and/or the county have been talking to the residents in an effort to get them into more conventional housing, both were powerless to actually move these people along. For that, it took the state, in the form of Caltrans.

For some months now Redwood City had been working with the state, trying to get the appropriate agencies to pay attention to the state’s properties in the area. But it may have taken the recent fire in a nearby camp near to the southwest corner of Woodside Road and El Camino Real to spur the state into finally taking action. That fire, which took place on February 13, occurred at a small camp at the corner of Hazel Avenue and Linden Street, alongside the ramp vehicles use to transition from southbound El Camino Real to eastbound Woodside Road. Fortunately, the fire was relatively small, only damaging a fence and two cars (there were no injuries). That site, along with the other sites at or close to this interchange, have now been cleared, but evidence of the fire is still quite visible if one takes the time to look:

Before the fire, you wouldn’t have been able to see the two cars that are visible in the above photo; there used to be a wooden fence there. The encampment had been built up against the fence, and when the camp burned, so did the fence, along with a number of plants. Things could have been worse: the fire department discovered five propane tanks on the site, none of which burned in the fire.

Hopefully the former residents of all of these camps have moved into transitional housing or some other sort of housing arrangement that puts them on the road to a more conventional way of life. Both Redwood City and San Mateo County are working hard to provide various forms of housing (and other services that make living here somewhat possible) to people like those who lived in these camps. Surely a converted motel room, or even congregate housing, is better than living in a tent mere feet from a busy highway…

On the subject of the county’s progress towards providing more housing opportunities for those who so desperately need it, I headed over to Maple Street on the east side of Highway 101 this week in order to check on the progress of the 1548 Maple Street project (131 townhouses along Redwood Creek). I noted no real progress on that project, although I did get a couple of nice pictures of the site. While I was there, though, I also got another couple of pictures of the site of the county’s planned navigation center, at 1469 Maple Street.

For the moment that site, too, is relatively idle; they may be waiting a bit for the site, which has been raised by several feet, to settle. The county does plan to begin construction “in the spring” — which around here is March through May. So I expect to see activity very soon.

As I walk throughout Redwood City, I’m seeing a great deal of remodeling going on. Moving up the housing scale from a navigation center, whoever owns the property at 1705 Hampton Ave. (at the corner of Valota Road and Hampton Avenue) is building a new two-car garage with a nice-sized (about 1,000 square feet) accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on top:

I suspect that once the ADU is done, the house will then be torn down and rebuilt; as you can probably tell by looking closely at the above picture, the house itself is in terrible shape, and doesn’t appear to be habitable.

Over on Iris Street, just in from Jefferson Avenue, the little yellow house at 547 Iris St. is in the process of being remodeled. From the street, the remodel looks rather innocuous:

I checked the permit, however, and not only has the 1,600-square-foot house received a 287-square-foot addition (in the rear, presumably), the entire interior of the house is being rebuilt. This particular permit is unusually thorough in its explanation of the remodeling that is/was being done:

Remodel and addition to existing single family residence, including partial demolition of existing roof and deck, construction of new foundation, walls, roof, and finish for the kitchen addition, new windows and doors, replacement of all roof shingles, remodel of existing master bedroom, installation of new floor, wall, and ceiling finishes in existing rooms, and new electrical wiring throughout the house.

With that much work, you have to wonder if the homeowners considered simply tearing the house down and building anew. Then again, thanks to Proposition 13, a remodel makes much more sense over a rebuild.

Speaking of rebuilding, a friend alerted me to yet another TJ Homes project, this one at 176 Hillview Ave. (between Hopkins and Brewster avenues):

I don’t see any building permit applications for this project yet, but if TJ Homes stays true to form, I’m guessing that they’ll build a two-story, four-bedroom home that’ll be just a bit under 3,000 square feet in size. At least this one should fit in reasonably well with the neighborhood: as you can see, the houses on either side of it already have second stories, so a two-story home here won’t stand out. But one more single-family “starter” home — if you can call a three bedroom, two bathroom, 1,470-square-foot home that sold for $1.77 million a “starter home” — bites the dust…

Nearby, on Hopkins Avenue, this cute little house kitty-corner from Stafford Park is receiving a new entry, den, and bathroom, and the living room is being expanded:

Back in 2010, when the current owners purchased the place, it was a 1,790-square-foot, three bedroom, two bath home. But in 2016 they appear to have added some 500 square feet to the house (and rebuilt the detached garage); now they are expanding it yet again. I’m just glad to see that this appears to be a project being done on behalf of the homeowners, presumably for themselves, and not by someone who is in the process of flipping the house.

One block down, the house at the corner of Hopkins Avenue and Myrtle Street is also getting an addition — and the house is being almost completely rebuilt in the process:

This 3,300-square-foot, four bedroom, 3.5 bath home was built in the 1930’s. It sits on a large — 16,500-square-foot — lot that includes a pool (and a pool house, I believe). The current owners purchased it in December 2020, for $3.3 million. I recall looking at the listing back then, and the house clearly needed a lot of updating. It is understandable, then, that, as far as I can tell, the current owners have yet to occupy it. I presume that as soon as the sale closed (if not before), they found an architect and began planning the substantial remodel that you see above. That remodel includes a 624-square-foot addition, bringing the resulting house to just under 4,000 square feet. You can see what I presume is that addition most clearly from the rear of the house:

Along the right side of the above picture you can also see that the pool is being almost completely rebuilt as well.

I marvel at the range of housing in Redwood City. From tents alongside state highways to subsidized units to apartments and condos to 4,000-square-foot single-family homes, we seem to have it all. Coming full circle, although the encampments at the intersection of El Camino Real and Woodside Road are gone (and the sites where they were located are now surrounded by temporary fencing), new camps throughout the city continue to pop up. Just this week, I spied this one, beneath the so-called “bridge to nowhere” that spans Redwood Creek just east of Highway 101:

The noise from the nearby freeway (notice the cars going by above) must be awful. At least they have a waterfront location…

Two full-term seats on Redwood City’s Planning Commission are expiring, meaning that it is time for interested persons to apply! The city wrote a nice blog post explaining just what the Planning Commission does; read it to find out whether a seat on this august body just might be for you. Interested in applying? You’ll find the application for this (and other city boards, commissions and committees) here.

2 thoughts on “Climbing the Housing Ladder

  1. Thank you for your edition today of Walking Redwood City 🙂
    I hope now that CalTrans has evicted the “tenants” of the cloverleaf at #82 & 84 that they will get to work on taking care of the weeds, also! Not sure the State cared about where the people were going to live after the eviction happened.
    Thanks again,

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