Taking a Seat

At times it can be easy to forget that Redwood City is the seat of San Mateo County. That word “seat” always strikes me as a bit odd, but my dictionary’s second definition for the word is “the place occupied by anything, or where any person or thing is situated, resides, or abides; a site.” And the Wikipedia entry for county seat reads “A county seat is an administrative center, seat of government, or capital city of a county or civil parish.” So the word makes sense. In any case, Redwood City has been the seat of San Mateo County essentially since the county was first formed back in 1856. There was an attempt right at the beginning to make Belmont the county seat, as well as an attempt in 1874 to designate the city of San Mateo as the seat, but both attempts were rejected by the courts, leaving Redwood City as the seat of San Mateo County.

The county’s presence in Redwood City is most visible along Marshall Street, although of course the large “County Center” site — which houses several buildings that support a lot of the county’s administrative functions — is visible from any of its borders along Marshall Street, Middlefield Road, Veterans Boulevard, or Winslow Street. At 400 County Center (which is located at the corner of Marshall and Winslow streets) you’ll find the Hall of Justice, which contains a number of courtrooms and is where many jurors find themselves performing their civic duty. Another popular building on the site is 555 County Center; it contains both the San Mateo County Tax Collector’s office as well as the county’s Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder’s-Elections office. There you can both vote and pay your property taxes.

These days, what draws the most attention to the County Center property is the five-story County Office Building #3 being constructed largely from wood, using mass timber techniques and materials, at the corner of Marshall Street and Middlefield Road. It has been a while since I’ve taken some photos of the building’s progress, but about three weeks ago the project looked like this, when viewed from Middlefield Road:

The last time I went by they were working on the building’s fourth story, so it is somewhat taller now than is shown in my photograph. But given that nearly all of the remaining buildings on the County Center property are made largely from concrete, this new building — which will be where the County Board of Supervisors will have their chambers, along with offices supporting a variety of functions — is showing its pride at being located in a city named for a type of tree.

Before leaving this project, I should note that Middlefield Road will be closed between Marshall and Bradford streets for five days starting this Monday, April 18. And it isn’t the only street that the county is temporarily closing to facilitate construction on one of its projects. Recently I learned that a portion of Bradford Street will be closed off for about a year, which at first had me imagining all of the traffic issues that might result. However, the section of Bradford Street that will be closed is just the one block that runs in front of the old Maguire Correctional Facility, across Winslow Street from the Hall of Justice (the Maguire Correctional Facility is connected to the Hall of Justice by an enclosed bridge that spans Winslow Street). Until relatively recently, the affected section of Bradford Street connected with Winslow Street, but two years ago that connection was severed; this portion of Bradford Street now makes a 90-degree turn and becomes Allerton Street. With that change, I believe that traffic along that portion of Bradford Street dropped quite a bit.

The block that is being closed is the one between Warren and Allerton Streets. This block:

Unless you are heading to the Maguire Correctional Facility itself, or the office building on the left in the above photograph, though, you aren’t likely to be disturbed by the closure.

So why is the county closing this street? Construction, of course. The county is transforming the Maguire Correctional Facility into a new, state-of-the-art Sheriff’s office headquarter’s building. The existing building, which comprises some 42,000 square feet, will have its fourth floor fully enclosed and a fifth floor added, enlarging the building’s usable office space to 50,000 square feet. This will allow a number of Sheriff’s office employees currently working from the third floor of the Hall of Justice to relocate to the new “San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office John Arrillaga Sr. Headquarters Center,” joining their colleagues. (For those wondering about the name, a significant portion of the cost of this project was donated by John Arrillaga, Sr., who recently passed away.)

Here is what the Correctional Facility looks like today (ignore the building on the left; that’s the Hall of Justice, across Winslow Street):

And here is a rendering that shows what the building will look like once it has been transformed into the Sheriff’s headquarters center:

The groundbreaking for this project was held this past Wednesday, April 13. On that same day, the county held a groundbreaking ceremony for its Navigation Center project, which will be erected near the intersection of Maple and Blomquist streets, out by the Redwood City Police Station. Although the parcel the county obtained for this project (from Redwood City, in a land swap) originally had the address 1450 Maple Street, now that that portion of Maple Street has been abandoned and absorbed into the nearby 1548 Maple Street project, the county’s parcel has now been given the address 275 Blomquist Street. Which feels a bit strange given that Blomquist Street hasn’t been extended west of Maple Street yet (and thereby to the Navigation Center parcel) — but it will, and soon. Some time ago there was some work going on where Blomquist will be extended, and I took this picture to show where it’ll go:

In any case, actual construction of the Navigation Center should get underway soon, with the aim of completing it by the end of the year. That goal is made realistic by the fact that modular construction will be used for the various buildings. The pieces that will make up the buildings will be built offsite and then trucked in and assembled to make up the one, two, and three-story buildings that, combined, will provide “240 safe temporary living spaces for individuals and couples along with intensive support services.”

Here is one of the renderings the county has supplied, showing what the Navigation Center should look like:

And here is another rendering, providing a closer look at one of the center’s common spaces:

Assuming that the final project turns out looking like these renderings, I should think that the county’s new Navigation Center will attract a number of currently unhoused individuals who would like to improve their situation but who want to maintain much of their independence. The fact that residents will have their own individual sleeping quarters (which they can share with a partner and/or a pet, under certain guidelines) and not sharing with others in a dormitory-type situation, will hopefully sway a number of those who are hesitant to accept help today. Assuming it works, this new center will likely serve as a model for dealing with large scale homelessness in other areas throughout the country.

Of the center’s 240 units, 168 will have in-unit restrooms. Folks staying in the remaining 72 units will share a set of community restrooms. A shared area for dining will be serviced by an electric commercial training kitchen. The Navigation Center will also sport a community center and space for on-site counseling, vocational training and other services.

Of the $57 million that the project is anticipated to cost, $46.1 million is coming from a California Homekey Grant Award (which also includes an additional $9.2 million to be used for operating costs), $5 million has been donated by commercial real estate developer and philanthropist John Sobrato, and $500,000 was obtained from a federal grant secured by Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

From a development perspective, San Mateo County is taking its seat to a whole new level. Between the new Sheriff’s headquarters, County Office Building #3, and the Navigation Center, the county is proving to be a major player on the Redwood City development scene. Fortunately, these all seem to be fairly non-controversial projects that will do a lot to help the county and, of course, Redwood City.

The Port of Redwood City is hosting a free “Rock the Dock” concert series every Saturday at 3 p.m. starting this Saturday, April 16th, though June 18. Concerts will be held at 451 Seaport Court.

Our public library has a fascinating new benefit: you can now check out a California State Library Parks Pass that provides free vehicle day-use entry into a participating state park unit (there are over 200 of them). A pass (there are a limited number) can be checked out for three weeks, after which you must return it for someone else to use (they cannot be renewed). Go here to place a “hold” on one of the passes, thereby reserving it for a specific period of time. Note that the passes are good for free vehicle day use entry and parking at participating state park locations only; they are not valid for per-person entry or tour fees (such as museums), boat use, camping, group use or sites, special events, additional/extra vehicle fees, sanitation disposal use or for supplemental fees. Also, they will not be honored at state park units operated by federal or local government, private agencies or concessionaires.

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