Posting Without a Theme

Ideally, each of my posts have some sort of unifying theme that ties most (or, ideally, all) of the topics together. They don’t always, though, as is the case this week.

Lately I’ve been writing a lot about a couple of large projects (ELCO Yards, 1548 Maple, etc.), and in an effort to take a bit of a break from those, I purposely tried to avoid downtown on my walks this week. But the ELCO Yards project continues to attract me like a magnet. It is making such progress that I just had to drop by and take a couple of pictures for posterity. I’ll save most of them for my archives, but forgive me for showing two or three; I know that several of you reading this don’t live in Redwood City and thus don’t get to see all of the action on a regular basis.

Above is the block where the Towne Ford showroom and service center were until just a couple of weeks ago. The entire block has been wiped clean.

This second picture shows the block that formerly housed the Hopkins Acura showroom. Just a week ago that building was untouched; now it is no more than a pile of rubble. Currently the demolition crews are sorting the various materials for recycling, and the wood is being shredded on site. Within a couple of days it’ll likely be as clean as the Towne Ford site.

This one shows the block where the Perry Feeds shed used to stand, at the corner of Chestnut and Spring streets (I took the above picture while standing on the bit of Spring Street that merges into Main Street, just across from the McDonald’s restaurant; Chestnut Street runs along that green fencing at the right side of the above picture). This entire block, too, is now clear.

Only three blocks have yet to be cleared: the one where the roller rink and the self-service carwash are located, the block that contained the Main & Elm restaurant, and the block just behind the one where the bulk of the Ford dealership was located. That last block may be the next to go: it contains both the old Towne Ford body shop building, and a small apartment building. Both appear to be made largely from cement blocks, and both will be completely demolished:

In the above picture, you can just make out a building in the distance between the body shop building (on the left) and the apartment building (on the right): that building is on the Main & Elm block, and will be coming down soon as well, along with the Main & Elm restaurant building itself.

One last comment on the ELCO Yards project: the sidewalks (and, I believe, the streets) through the project will be redone as well, which means that some or all of the trees planted along those sidewalks need to be removed. I was delighted to see that rather than just ripping them out and tossing them away (only to be replaced at a later stage of the project), at least some of them actually seem to be getting boxed up and preserved:

Moving away from that project (finally!), this week I walked through the residential areas between the Bonfare Market shopping center (at Oak Knoll Drive and Canyon Road) and Woodside Road. Along the way, I dropped by Red Morton Park to check in on the Veterans Memorial Building/Senior Center project. For the past several weeks work has been concentrated on getting the forms in place for the building’s foundation, and ensuring that all of the utilities and such that need to penetrate that foundation are accounted for. The crews appear to be making good, albeit somewhat slow, progress:

Once the forms are in place and the concrete is poured, the building should really begin to take shape.

Along my walk, I passed this little house at 1580 Redwood Ave. (at the corner of Redwood Avenue and St. Francis Street):

There’s nothing particularly special going on here; I just find such small homes fascinating. In truth this house isn’t that small: it’s just a tad under 1,200 square feet. But according to Redfin, this is a duplex, with each unit being 596 square feet. The building, like the lot, is long and narrow: the lot is roughly 31 feet wide and 103 feet long. That means that the building itself is likely no more than 20 feet wide, and therefore must be about 60 feet long. Since I got the information from Redfin’s website, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they estimate that this little house on its tiny parcel is worth in excess of $1.4 million (and it isn’t for sale).

The above house is by no means the smallest in Redwood City; I’ve run across a couple that are well under 1,000 square feet. Two such homes that aren’t technically in Redwood City (they’re located in an unincorporated part of the county) came up in this week’s San Mateo County Board of Supervisor’s meeting. A developer has been trying for a number of years now to redevelop two adjoining parcels along Woodside Road at Rutherford Avenue, and the county finally gave the approval needed for the project to go ahead. I did some digging on the properties, and one of them floored me. The house itself is tiny: 700 square feet, with one bedroom and 1.5 bathrooms. The lot is also quite small, at 3,600 square feet. But it is the dimensions of the lot that really get me: 27 feet wide by about 130 feet long. However do you fit a house onto a lot that is only 27 feet wide?

Here is a picture of that house, which you’ll find at the corner of Woodside Road and Rutherford Avenue:

As you can probably tell, the property includes a two-car detached garage. Oh, and according to Redfin it is worth about $1.15 million.

The house next door, at 1311 Woodside Rd., is slightly larger, at 870 square feet. It has two bedrooms, but only one bathroom. At least it sits on a much larger lot, at 9,450 square feet. The house, which was built in 1934, actually looks kinda cute:

By combining the two lots, the developer has gotten a nice-sized parcel that they can really do something with. Originally they had hoped to build a ten-unit apartment building on the combined properties, but that idea was quickly withdrawn when the neighbors objected. The replacement — a six-unit townhouse-style condominium complex — is also something that the neighbors object to, but by a tight majority the Board of Supervisors OK’d it anyway. Although townhomes clash with the surrounding single-family homes, weighing in the project’s favor is the fact that the county desperately needs more housing to be built, and six large townhouses beats two tiny single-family homes any day. Add in the fact that one of the townhouses will be subsidized to make it “affordable” (which doesn’t make it cheap, but will make the price a bit more manageable), and the objections of the neighboring homeowners were noted but overridden.

As currently designed, the townhouses have a couple of fascinating aspects. For one, five of the six will have four bedrooms each (the subsidized unit is one of these; it, too, will have four bedrooms). The remaining townhouse will be a two bedroom unit. All will have two-car garages and some amount of living space on the ground floor. In the four-bedroom units, the fourth bedroom, along with one full bathroom, makes up most of that ground floor living space. Finally, the units are comfortably large: one of them contains a whopping 3,242 square feet of living space, while another is 2,650 and three more are all 2,214 square feet in size. The smallest — the two-bedroom unit — is still not at all small, at a roomy 1,846 square feet.

The three units along Woodside Road have double-doors facing that street; those doors open into what could be a home office. In fact at least two appear as if they could function as “live/work” units, although I don’t believe that the properties are officially zoned for that. Otherwise, all six are for the most part conventional townhouses, with most of the bedrooms on the top (third) floor and living, dining, and kitchen spaces on the second floor.

Here is a rendering showing what these townhomes might look like when viewed from Woodside Road:

The six are arranged in two rows of three, with a central driveway providing access to the garages and the unit front doors. That driveway will actually be accessed from Rutherford Avenue, which is just beyond the left edge of the rendering.

Interestingly enough, this project has nothing to do with Senate Bill 9, which theoretically allows a total of four housing units to be built on each of these properties (for a total of eight). Given that one of the lots is only 27 feet wide, in reality I can’t imagine any way to build four units — even tiny Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) — on that particular parcel. Instead, the Board of Supervisors agreed to rezone these parcels from R-1 (single-family residential) to R-3 (one-, two- and three-family residential), thereby allowing the kind of development that was being proposed.

As long as I was in the area — the townhouse project is extremely close to the Woodside Plaza shopping center — I of course checked in on the project going on at the corner of Woodside Road and Massachusetts Avenue:

This project is progressing very slowly; I have to wonder if they are having supply chain problems. It doesn’t appear to be completely stalled, however; I did see two or three workmen on site puttering around. Once the exterior materials have arrived (mostly glass, I think) I’m guessing that the work will once again shift into high gear, and that this project will start looking like an actual building.

Elsewhere in the city, I passed by the Harrison Avenue townhomes site (at Harrison Avenue and Cleveland Street, across Harrison from North Star Academy) and was interested to note that 16 of the complex’s 17 townhouses have been sold. The only one that remains, it seems, is the largest unit (1,924 square feet, 4 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms). So the “for sale” signs there should be coming down soon.

I also touched on downtown a bit: I happened to be in the vicinity of the remodeled building at 55 Perry Street, and peeked inside to see if it had been leased. It appears so:

A small company called Snorkel AI, which began as a Stanford AI [Artificial Intelligence] Lab research project, is “empowering not just engineers but also scientists, doctors, and journalists to put AI to work.” Although I have yet to see anyone actually working inside this lovely little office building on Perry Street (basically, behind City Pub), clearly they’ve moved in.

Finally, walking along Main Street the other day I saw this sign pointing down the driveway between the library and the John Offerman House (which previously was home to The Main Gallery, an art gallery that has since moved to Menlo Park):

I’m guessing that the kitchens either in the John Offerman House or in the next-door house that until the pandemic was home to Alana’s Cafe are being used to cook Japanese food for delivery (via DoorDash) or pickup. Shiki Express appears to be a “ghost kitchen” that is part of the chain of Shiki restaurants, the closest of which can be found on Laurel Street in San Carlos. To see the Shiki Express menu and/or to order for delivery or pickup, head to the DoorDash webpage, here. I note that the menu looks rather small; I have to wonder if they will expand it over time. Regardless, as a new Redwood City business (that I have yet to try myself, I should note), I’m happy to draw attention to them. If you’ve given them a try, let us know in the comments.

Have a great week! And as you move about the city, keep an eye out for the small stuff. The large projects are always interesting, but so are the many smaller things I find in and around Redwood City.

9 thoughts on “Posting Without a Theme

  1. Many of the homes in NFO are very narrow, on 2500 sf lots. House size often less than 800 sf, depending on how much has been added on.

  2. Hi Greg,
    thanks for posting such up-to-date info. The background on those trees is that they were planted in 2016 by CityTrees volunteers as an NFL donation for the Super Bowl that year. It was 49 trees in total. CityTrees has been taking care of them along with the city, and when we found out the area will be levelled, we lobbied the developer (Greystar/IQHQ) to relocate them along Main St (outside of the scope of project). They were very kind and accommodating! Following multiple rounds of vetting with planning staff and arborists, the trees have been replanted on Lower Main (by the Hoffbrau, McDonalds, beauty salon, etc.), and some up by Maple St. Hopefully they survive the transplant and remain as a reminder of the NFL donation/Super Bowl in our area.
    President, CityTrees

  3. Unrelated to this: the Habitat site is having its car stacker removed right now. The workers don’t know why. Very strange!

    • Update: apparently they didn’t like that model and are getting another one, possibly from another manufacturer. This is according to the trucking folks on scene who are loading up the old one to haul it away.

  4. Can’t believe that CITY approved, by such a slim margin, the Rutherford townhouses!
    Housing shortage or not….that complex seems to be out of place there. The corner building Woodside/Mass/Virginia Rds, is another one built to the limit. Why not require arcade-style to shelter walk-bys from the (increasing) heat or heavy rainfall as is done in southern countries?

    • I should just note that this project is in the county, not the city, and therefore was approved by the County Board of Supervisors. Redwood City had nothing to do with it.

      • I live in the Sequoia Tract where these townhomes are to be built, albeit at the extreme other end on Stockbridge Avenue. I never really understood the opposition to this proposal, even the original. I would understand the outrage if the proposal was near the center of the neighborhood surrounded by mostly single story SFHs but that’s hardly the case. Of the 7 adjacent lots to the proposed project (I’m counting parcels across the street(s)) only 2 are single family homes. Three are commercial properties (the majority of which are multistory), and two are multi-story apartments. The complex itself fronts a 6 lane state highway, hardly an ideal location for a single family home. I’d love to know why Woodside Rd is randomly 6 lanes through the Massachusetts intersection as that bothers me FAR more than this proposal…incentivizing cars to speed through an intersection and built up commercial area is beyond backwards. The existing zoning in this area is a hodgepodge given there are three different jurisdictions coming together in one area (unincorporated county, city of RWC, and CalTrans (since Woodside Rd is a state highway). If this entire area fell under city of RWC these lots would have been re-zoned years ago. This section of Woodside Rd is lined with numerous multistory apartments, condos, and commercial properties; single family homes are far and few between. Literally two lots over on the corner of Alexander Avenue and Woodside Road is an existing 3 story apartment complex that likely has a greater F.A.R. than this project. I feel like the outrage over what to my eyes is a sensible project gives fuel to the NIMBY label.

  5. Thanks for the article.  The long narrow houses on narrow lots – Shotgun Houses  Shotgun house – Wikipedia Believe my Grandfather, Charles “Bill” Humphrey had a market on Main Street when all the changes are going on.

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