Back Down Middlefield

Before I get to my main topic, given our recent weather it seems to be an appropriate time to point out that San Mateo County has a program through which you can get 50-gallon rain barrels for the really low price of $80 each (these particular ones normally cost $144). Before you say that “even $80 is still too much,” the county is then offering a rebate to qualifying applicants that can cover up to the full pre-tax price of those barrels. Note, though, that are a couple of important details:

  • You can only get two (or one) at this price.
  • They don’t deliver; you have to pick your barrels up yourself (they nest, though, and should fit in almost any car with a backseat).
  • For Redwood City, the pickup MUST be made on Saturday, December 3, from 9 a.m. to noon. You pick the barrels up at 1400 Broadway, at the corner of Broadway and Chestnut Street.
  • If you’ve gotten a rebate from the county in the past for rain barrels, you cannot apply for the rebate this time around (you can still buy the barrels for $80 each, though).
  • You have to provide proof of installation in order to obtain the barrels (I believe a photograph or two will suffice).

Because I purchased and installed two rain barrels some years ago, and received a rebate from the county for those barrels, I don’t qualify for the rebate. However, my barrels are working so well that I paid the $175.80 (including tax) to get two more. Along with the two I already have, I’ll then be able to store up to 200 gallons of water for use in my garden.

Interested? Go here to order your barrels.

One other item of note: The Zoppé Italian Family Circus has extended its run, and will now be performing through November 27. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that although I’ve been meaning to go for years, it wasn’t until this year that I finally made it. And now I know why everyone talks so highly about them: they put on a terrific, and completely charming, show. This is an old-school circus, in which the acts are primarily acrobatic. There are a couple of horses, and a dog act, but don’t expect lions or elephants. With just a single large tent, the show is far more intimate than the circus performances I remember seeing when I was younger (and you can pay extra for front-row seats if you truly want to get an up-close look at the action). I took my wife and her niece, who happened to be in town, and we all had a terrific time. My wife and I will definitely be going back again next year, especially given the prices, which are quite reasonable. Anyway, if you haven’t been but are even the least bit curious as to what is going on in the downtown library parking lot, I highly recommend heading to this website and buying tickets (it may also be possible to simply walk up and buy tickets, but Zoppé’s shows are often sold out, and so you may find yourself out of luck if you don’t plan ahead).

Several years ago — in 2015 — I walked the length of Middlefield Road, from Redwood City down to where North Fair Oaks borders on Atherton. Naturally I wrote a bit about that walk, although I mainly used it as an opportunity to photograph the entire route for future use. This week, wanting to check up on the county’s project to upgrade Middlefield Road through North Fair Oaks, I repeated that walk. It gave me a good chance to admire the similar project that Redwood City recently completed, wherein the city gave the section of Middlefield Road between Main Street and Woodside Road a significant upgrade. If you’ve been down that section of Middlefield Road lately, you’ll probably have noticed the much wider sidewalks, the bike lanes physically separated from the vehicular driving lanes, the planters, the beautiful new streetlamps, and, most notably, the absence of wires criss-crossing the street.

Here is a “before” picture from back then, showing the ugly rats nest of wires that used to ruin the view of the sky:

And here is a photograph showing what Middlefield Road looks like today:

Quite a difference, eh? Yes, there are still one or two wires (literally: just one or two); the one you can see in the upper left corner of the above photograph exists only to service the side street:

The difference along Middlefield Road itself, though, is pretty incredible. And something very much like it is what North Fair Oaks is getting. The county is moving the many overhead utility wires underground, and then removing the utility poles between MacArthur Avenue and Fifth Avenue. While the streets are so torn up, the county is also replacing the existing sewer lines between Douglas Avenue and Sixth Avenue. But those two elements are just the start; here is how the county describes the project overall:

The Project consists of the following components: roadway improvements including a new traffic signal system near and including the South County Health Clinic (Clinic)/Redwood Junction driveway, pedestrian and bicycle improvements, utility undergrounding, sanitary sewer replacement work, public WiFi along the Project corridor, and replacing the existing streetlights with a new streetlight system. The roadway improvements will reconfigure Middlefield Road between Pacific Avenue and Fifth Avenue from a four-lane roadway to a three-lane roadway (one travel lane in each direction with a center left turn lane) with parallel parking, bike lanes, and wider sidewalks. The wider sidewalks will accommodate the street amenities recommended by the North Fair Oaks Community Council (benches, trees and landscaping, streetlights, trash receptacles, street art, and public spaces) and low-impact development features for stormwater quality management.

This is going to make a massive difference to Middlefield Road through North Fair Oaks, and undoubtedly will bring more people to the many small businesses that line the route. Of course, a project of this magnitude cannot be done without some disruption, and some of those very businesses seem to be suffering. I can only hope that the county is giving those businesses some financial assistance to help get them through the multi-year construction project that is making access to some of those businesses difficult.

Here is a picture that I took just the other day. It shows that the overhead wire situation, is just as bad, if not worse, than what Redwood City used to have along its section of Middlefield Road:

Note, too, how wide the street is, with four lanes of traffic and two lanes of parking, and how narrow the sidewalks are. This project will be reducing the travel lanes to two (one in each direction) plus a center left-turn lane. By eliminating two travel lanes, the city will be able to widen the sidewalks and add bike lanes in both directions. This will also shorten the distance a pedestrian has to walk in order to cross the street, which, as I can personally attest, will be a major improvement.

Ultimately, the street should look something like this:

I’m certainly looking forward to being able to walk along those beautiful sidewalks, and perhaps rest on one of the benches they plan to install (something Redwood City did not do, alas).

Currently, the city has dug up the sidewalks and part of the street on the southbound side, in order to build the channels through which the newly undergrounded wires will run:

As you can see, this makes access to the buildings on the right rather difficult for the time being. A combination of wooden bridges and the occasional fenced access walkway helps, but you really have to want to go to one of these businesses to make the journey.

Hopefully, those businesses can hang on. And hopefully it’ll all be worth it in the end.

As is often the case, taking a walk like this revealed to me far more than just the progress on the project (the circus, for instance). What follows are just a couple of things I observed.

The county’s under-construction office building at the corner of Middlefield Road and Marshall Street is looking pretty buttoned-up from either street, but step onto the County Center property, as I did, and take a peek at the backside of the building, and you’ll see that the inner part of the “H” is still pretty wide open:

A few steps down Main Street from Middlefield Road revealed to me that Ghostwood is indeed the name being given to Ghostwood Beer Co.’s new venture in the long-empty restaurant space at 911 Main Street:

This building, at 1204 Middlefield Road, was for many, many years the Forester’s of America Lodge Hall, after which it became offices for tech company YuMe:

These days, this building is home (headquarters, perhaps?) to another tech company, Cana. Among all the tech companies out there, this one is particularly interesting: they are making what they claim is the world’s first “molecular beverage printer.” That’s right, they’re making a machine that “prints” drinks, right on your kitchen countertop. According to them, their machine can “produce a variety of beverages — from juice, soft drinks, and iced coffee to hard seltzers, wine, and sophisticated cocktails — without the carbon-intensive, trash-generating, industrial beverage and bottling complex.” Color me a bit skeptical, but very, very curious.

Close by the building where Cana is reinventing the future is the empty lot where Bethlehem A.D. provides a recreated walk-through of old Bethlehem during the time of Christ. Thanks to an affordable housing project proposed for the site (see my post Going to Bethlehem for a detailed description of that project), signs along the perimeter fencing indicate that this will be the last year that Bethlehem A.D. will be held on the property:

I choose to remain optimistic, though, that Rise City Church, who puts on this annual event, will be able to find another home for it.

Curiously, for all of the work that went into Redwood City’s Middlefield Road project, the new traffic signals at Middlefield Road and Chestnut Street still have not been activated:

Given that the city held its “ribbon cutting” for the project back at the beginning of February, one has to wonder what is taking this particular feature so long…

By the time I made it across the border into North Fair Oaks, Allow me to put in a plug for Capelo’s Barbecue (at 2655 Middlefield Rd.); they do a great job, and have lots of nice outdoor seating for those of us still reluctant to dine indoors. Our days may have gotten quite cold, and yet the sun did a nice job of keeping me warm while I enjoyed my Beef Brisket tacos.

Fueled up and ready to get back to walking, I crossed the street, where I was interested to note that work has commenced on the 3.2-acre parcel behind the North Fair Oaks Health Center (at Redwood Junction) where Mercy Housing will apparently build a 155-unit affordable housing development that includes a childcare facility as well as some much-needed open space:

You literally have to drive (or walk) around the left side of the Health Center in order to even get a glimpse of this project. (Thanks to reader Mac Hart for the heads-up on this particular project; I likely would have missed it, otherwise.)

When I got to the southern end of my journey, I tried hard to get a glimpse of the very modern addition to the classic Garfield School campus. This was the best I could do: the new building is well tucked away behind the main one:

For comparison, this is what that main building looks like:

I’m hoping to someday get a tour of that new two-story building, which apparently includes elementary, creativity, science, and middle school classrooms, along with a new library/media center.

According to my iPhone, my entire walk was right about 10 miles. I should note, however, that the one-way walk from where I started (on Veterans Boulevard at Middlefield Road) to where I ended (at Middlefield Road and Eighth Avenue) is only about 2.2 miles. The additional mileage is accounted for by the fact that not only did I have to walk back, but I also had to walk from my home to the Veterans/Middlefield intersection. Plus, as is my nature, I did some additional exploring, which took me off the main track at several points. In the end, though, it was all worth it. I’ll definitely be doing this particular walk again.

5 thoughts on “Back Down Middlefield

  1. I’m very much looking forward to the new stop light that will be installed to access the Fair Oaks Medical Center/ Redwood Junction industrial park as part of this MiddleField project. A lot of local families send their kids to Bayshore Elite Gymnastics in the industrial park and turning left onto Middlefield can be a real challenge. It sounds like this new affordable housing project will be accessed via the same road at which point an unprotected intersection would be a nightmare. That whole section of street is going to feel completely different, a big improvement! Lots a great places to get a tasty burrito on that stretch of road…my personal favorite is Cuco’s!

    • I just drove through where that new stop light will be installed; they’re actively working right there, with new lanes “penciled in” on the streets. Those new lanes may be just during the construction phase, though; I’ll have to go back and compare those with what was proposed. I sure could have used that stop light when I was out walking; getting across Middlefield Road there is a bit of an adventure… 😎

      I’ll definitely have to try Coco’s; perhaps next time I walk down that way. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. My most frequent destination there is Connoisseur Coffee, which is shown in one of your photos. The construction configuration, two lanes with stop signs, is much more civilized.

  3. The current four-lane Middlefield Road in North Fair Oaks is the scariest place I ride my bicycle. Riding next to the diagonal parking, where long trucks force me into the traffic lane and I can’t tell whether a driver who can’t see me is going to back out, is exciting! It’s also a joy that drivers rarely yield for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

    • Wish they would configure Middlefieldthe the way they did a stretch of Arguello~ the bike lane is closest to the curb with the cars parking closer to the lanes in the road.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s