Full Immersion

Longtime readers may know that this time of year I typically do a roundup of some of the better Halloween decorations I’ve come across in the weeks leading up to the spooky season. This year, however, it feels as if fewer people are decorating their homes. Perhaps it is because Halloween is on a Monday, and thus some people might be waiting until this weekend to put up their decorations. Or, perhaps people for whatever reason just aren’t into Halloween this year. Whatever the reason, although there are as always a few standouts, I don’t feel justified this year in writing a whole post about Redwood City’s Halloween scene.

Having said that, the city once again did hold its annual “Haunt Your Home” contest, and although the winners have yet to be notified as I write this (and thus, the list of winners and video showing many of the entrants and the winning homes not yet being made public), the map of the entrants is available, here. You can use that map to visit some of the better-decorated homes in Redwood City. On that same page the list of winning homes and a link to the video should be posted very soon as well, so keep checking back.

Because it is a perennial favorite (for good reason), I want to once again direct folks over to 224 Iris St., where you’ll find the Turnsworth Cemetery. This house seems better than ever this year, with the laser-pointer-activated animations once again up and running (walk down the driveway towards the garage to find them; look for, and aim at, the small targets). Be sure to visit after dark, when the effects are the most dramatic. And bring your family and friends! It’s always a good time.

Although I’m not going to use this whole post to highlight people’s Halloween decorations, I can’t resist highlighting a couple. My favorite for most creative this year is this place, at 2205 Hopkins Avenue:

With the house in the middle of a remodel, I was tickled by the “skeleton crew” that was seemingly helping out.

My award for cutest decoration goes to this one, at 1002 Valota Rd.:

You can’t get much simpler than a bedsheet pinned to a tree (or using some sort of internal framework; I couldn’t tell from the sidewalk) with cut-out paper eyes and mouth attached. It looks great, though, and in a gentle breeze the ghost animated nicely. Finally, it appears to have been a family project, which is always worth extra points in my book.

Last year, the big commercial decoration was a giant “dark angel” that I ran across in more than one front yard. The year prior (2020), it was the 12-foot skeleton. This year, though, this appears to be the decoration du jour:

The witch is attached only to the broom, which is supporting her entire weight (which I presume isn’t very much). I’m guessing that the broom is spiked into the lawn, in order to provide enough support for the broom and its rider. I found this particular one at 1503 Virginia Avenue, where it intersects with Palm Avenue. There is another on Alameda de las Pulgas — somewhere between Woodside Road and Jefferson Avenue, I believe (I drove past that one and didn’t record the precise location).

Moving away from Halloween, I took a couple of walks this week, one to catch up on all of the usual suspects when it comes to Redwood City development projects (of which I have little of interest to report; just progress as usual) and another to check in on some ongoing projects in San Carlos. That latter walk, too, was mostly to catch up on the in-progress projects in that city; I’ll hold most of what I found for a future post. I will show one not-so-interesting picture, though, just because this is a project I’ve been waiting to get underway for a very long time now:

Since you’ll probably not recognize the site from the above picture, allow me to show you a somewhat older picture taken from a different viewpoint:

Yes, at long last the Applewood Pizza building at 560 El Camino Real has been torn down. Applewood Pizza, which began in Menlo Park (that location also closed some time ago) expanded to this building in San Carlos some 10 years ago, but it didn’t seem to last more than a handful of years. The San Carlos Applewood Pizza closed a number of years ago, and the building you see above has sat, empty, until very recently. I wondered about its fate, until January of 2019, when an all-new new project was approved for the site.

The new project that was approved is for a four-story building containing 24 for-sale condominiums and two ground-floor commercial spaces (one retail, one restaurant) totaling 2,756 square feet. Of the housing, two of the units will be BMR (below market rate) units, one at the Moderate Income level and one at the Low Income level. The building itself will look like some other newly built projects in San Carlos, and thus may give residents a feel of deja-vu:

Parking for the project will be accommodated via an internal garage that will be accessed from the rear of the building. The 35 parking spaces will be squeezed in behind the building’s lobby and the two commercial spaces through a combination of regular spaces, tandem spaces, and mechanical “puzzle stackers” that will fit 14 cars into the space normally needed for five.

The condominiums, all of which will be located on the upper three floors, will range in size from one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom units occupying about 980 square feet, up to a couple of 1,425-square-foot two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom units that also include a study. Just one of the units contains three full bedrooms (and two bathrooms); that one is sized at 1,350 square feet.

This new building will be conveniently located close to the Caltrain Station and to downtown San Carlos: all of that city’s terrific restaurants, shops, and service businesses are easily reachable without the use of a car.

So far, the lot has been cleared and work is being done preparing for the building’s foundations. The garage will be largely at ground level, but the mechanical stackers will extend below ground: they will stack three cars, placing one below ground level, one at ground level, and one just above. Thus, although there isn’t a great deal of digging going on, there is some.

My other blog-related activity this week happened just this morning, when thanks to an invite from a friend I was able to tag along to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Orion Alternative / Mandarin Immersion school at the corner of Avenue del Ora and Jefferson Avenue (the school formerly known as John Gill Elementary). I have been monitoring and reporting on the progress of the major construction project there ever since it got underway nearly two years ago. Thanks to Measure T funds (Measure T was approved by the voters some ten years ago), a number of aging single-story classroom buildings (buildings in which my own two sons began their stint in Redwood City’s public school system as kindergartners, as a matter of fact!) have been replaced by a modern two-story building that not only contains classrooms, but also serves to bring the school’s main office out close to the street, where it belongs.

Here is what the building looks like from Avenue del Ora:

Here is another view, from further up the street:

The first-floor windows (facing the porta-potties in the above picture, which is from a couple of weeks ago) contain the Principal’s office and the school’s main office. Here is that office’s front desk, all ready for Halloween:

And here is one of the new classrooms (this one is a pre-K class that is part of the Mandarin Immersion program):

Tucked in behind the L-shaped building is a nifty little playground reserved only for the pre-K and kindergarten students:

The project involved more than just this one building; it included some terrific landscaping work to accommodate the school’s hillside location, along with this new outdoor dining structure:

The historic main building (built in 1932), which is now connected to this new building by a walkway, also received some much-needed upgrades. In particular, a pair of the older classrooms were upgraded to this marvelous STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) lab:

Here is a picture from on campus, showing the old main building (on the right) in relation to the new one (in the center of the photo):

I must say, this new facility is fantastic. Especially as one who spent a lot of time on the campus many years ago when my oldest started in the K-2 program there, the new classrooms — and even the revamped older ones — are night-and-day above what was there back then. The rooms are brighter, safer, cooler (the upper floors of the new building are fully air-conditioned; imagine that!), and employ the latest technology to give our young learners every advantage. Even so, they still look very much like classrooms, with new desks that look a lot like what I sat at when I was in school:

The above is an upstairs kindergarten classroom in the new building. Note the large computer monitor tucked into the corner of the room, at the right edge of the photo. But also note the traditional whiteboards, with cardboard signs running across the top showing the alphabet and numbers from 1 to 20. As you can see, when we were there, the kids were decorating pumpkins.

My kids got off to a great start at (the then-named) John Gill Elementary, ending the Redwood City part of their educational career by graduating from Sequoia High School. Thus, I admit to some bias, and to having a special place in my heart for the school that is now Orion. I’m delighted to see this historic campus continuing to thrive, and hope it will carry on doing so for many years to come. Back then John Gill Elementary was a fairly traditional elementary school, but these days Orion Alternative School serves grades TK (Transitional Kindergarten) through fifth using a parent-cooperative model, making it ideal for parents who want to be involved with their child’s education. Its Mandarin Immersion program also provides a unique opportunity for those families raising children to be bi-literate. While Orion may not be for everyone, it is just one of a handful of schools in the Redwood City School District, all of which have their unique aspects. And with any luck, I’ll be able to illustrate some of those schools, and some of those aspects, in future posts.

Have a great weekend. And Happy Halloween!

6 thoughts on “Full Immersion

  1. As far as great Halloween decorations go, have you checked out Dug the Dinosaur’s costume this year? It’s great (especially if you’re a fan of Stranger Things).

  2. Thank you for your walking tours! 🙂
    The name of John Gill School should still be used because it was, after all, John Gill who donated the land for the school!

    • Actually, Eagle Hill (upon which the school sits) was owned by Horace Hawes, who wanted to put a university there. The school that was built was called Jefferson (after Thomas Jefferson) but was renamed after John Gill, the school superintendent, died suddenly in 1937. At least, that’s the story as documented by the folks who wrote “Images of America: Redwood City” and “Redwood City: Then and Now”…

      • Very good!! Yes that is true! I am reminded of my RC roots! Horace Hawes willed it and his wife contested the land donation but lost the fight! Thanks for my history reminders!

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