Living Large

Recently I caught a tweet from the County of San Mateo indicating that the 353 Main Street Family Apartments building, which is rapidly nearing completion, is accepting applications for 16 of the building’s affordable units (the building consists of 125 apartments, all of which will be affordable).

The county appears to be doling out the building’s units in small batches. In total the building consists of 15 studios, 57 one-bedroom units, and 53 two-bedroom units; the 16 units currently being offered (actually, 14 as of this writing; two of them may have already been leased) are all two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments, which should be ideal for families (occupancy limits on these two-bedroom units are 2-5 people).

A URL included with the tweet ( led me to a page that links to the current listings for this building. The page with the current listings clearly spells out the financial details: the rent for these particular two-bedroom units will be $2,950 per month, and to qualify the household must earn at least $4,425 per month in total. There is an upper limit on the household’s monthly income, but that varies based on household size. A couple can earn no more than $9,947 per month, while a family of four can earn up to, but no more than, $12,427 per month (that last works out to $149,129 per year).

For those who qualify, this should be a terrific place to live. It’s an attractive building, with a couple of nice amenities (central A/C and heat, dishwasher and garbage disposal, a small private deck for each unit, communal laundry facilities and fitness center, large parking garage with a bicycle storage room, and a number of services, including after-school programs, adult education programs, and health and wellness programs). The building itself sits along Redwood Creek, and is very close to the intersection of Main Street and Veterans Boulevard. That makes it a fairly easy walk to downtown Redwood City, and a very easy walk to Kaiser’s medical complex and the Peninsula Boardwalk shopping center, where Kohl’s and Sports Basement are both located.

My wife and I have already alerted one family we know of who we hope will be able to qualify; do spread the word!

At the other end of the scale, the ten-unit for-sale townhouse project at 211 Vera Ave. (at the corner of Vera Avenue and Adams Street) appears to be pretty much done now. Although the prices are not generally available, given that each is a brand new, three-bedroom townhome with roughly 2,000 square feet of interior space, these aren’t likely to be cheap. But they certainly are attractive:

Each has a study, laundry room, and full bath on the ground floor along with that unit’s two car garage. The main living space is on the second floor: that’s where you’ll find the main entry (note the exterior stairs in the above photo; your front door is on that second level), the living room, dining room, and kitchen, plus a half bath and a small patio (on this level the patios face out onto the development’s central driveway). Finally, the topmost floor contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus, in all but two units, a small terrace off the master suite facing either Vera Avenue or the neighboring homes along Adams Street.

Now that the construction fences are largely gone, I was able to get up close to the buildings and take a look at the landscaping. I must say, I liked what I saw:

Not only do the plantings seem pretty restrained — the small patches of grass that you’ll find by the entry steps of most, if not all, of the units are fake — the landscaping is being maintained, as that purple sign in the above photo indicates, with recycled water. That sign is backed up by evidence: I noted a number of purple utility access points around the property (purple being the standard color used to designate pipes that transport recycled water):

I haven’t yet determined if the recycled water is simply captured on site and re-used, or whether this development is actually connected to the city’s system of recycled water lines which, I had thought, were restricted to downtown. But given that surely the city’s “purple pipes” have been extended to the nearby ELCO Yards project (just one block over, on the other side of El Camino Real), it is indeed possible that this small development is using the same recycled water that is produced by the region’s wastewater treatment plant out near the end of Redwood Shores. Extending the purple pipes this far would be a huge achievement, and would indicate that there is hope for those of us who live outside downtown Redwood City to someday soon (still years from now, though) get our own hookups. I am curious to find out whether, if this water does come from the city’s system, the toilets in these townhomes are flushed with recycled water. That would be great, and would mean that these ten new homes will be extremely efficient, water-wise. Interested? Head to for interior photos, floor plans, and a way to register that interest.

Just down Vera Street from the townhouse development is another ten-unit residential development of a somewhat different sort. I’ve been monitoring this project at 112 Vera St. for quite some time now. A small developer is recreating a set of five small duplexes, arranged in a “U” around a central driveway. This seemingly simple project has been underway for quite some time now: demolition of the original buildings took place in August of 2019, and this is how far they’ve gotten:

The side-by-side duplexes finally seem ready for stucco, but there still seems to be a fair amount of work to do. At the rate the developer is going, this project — which given the long periods of inactivity this project seems to experience, I wonder if it is being done in someone’s spare time — is still several months from completion. But I’m eager to see this project wrap up; I’d like to know if these are for-rent or for-sale units, and whether they’ll be prices affordably or not.

At the far end of the scale are two housing projects in Menlo Park that I finally got to walk around. These two projects are located on the bay side of Highway 101, among the fairly new office buildings and the Hotel Nia along Independence Drive. Given the location (across 101, and below Marsh Road) this is a tricky place to walk to, and there is almost no public parking in that part of Menlo Park (I’ve found just one short section of street right along the freeway where one can legally park). But I finally made the drive over there, and then walked to the two separate developments, both of which are being done by the same developer, Greystar Development. (Greystar is a familiar name in Redwood City, having built quite a few of Redwood City’s multi-family housing projects, including the project that began Redwood City’s renaissance — 201 Marshall St. — as well as it’s newest, Highwater, at 1205 El Camino Real.)

The first new project, dubbed Menlo Portal, is located on parcels at 104 Constitution Dr., 110 Constitution Dr., and 115 Independence Dr. This is a two-building project: a seven-story building will contain 335 apartments (48 of which would be affordable), while a three-story commercial building will consist of about 34,500 square feet of office space plus a 1,600-square-foot “non-office commercial” space that is being proposed as a child care center:

The apartments will range in size from studios (63 of the units) up to three-bedroom units (14 of them); the majority will be either full one-bedroom units (151 of the units) or “Junior one-bedroom” units (56 of them). The junior units will average about 630 square feet, whereas the full one-bedroom apartments will average out to about 700 square feet.

Head down Constitution Drive a few blocks and you’ll come to the second project, Menlo Uptown, which is even larger than the first:

When complete, this whopper of a development will consist of two seven-story buildings, one facing Constitution Drive and one facing Jefferson Drive, containing a total of 441 for-rent apartments, plus a couple of smaller buildings along Constitution Drive consisting of 42 for-sale townhouse-style condominiums. The apartment building facing Constitution Drive will also include a small (2,940 square foot) bit of office space.

The apartments will range from studios up to three-bedroom units (with, yes, some junior one-bedroom apartments); they all will be located on floors 2-7. Parking will be in an internal garage on floors one and two. Of the 483 housing units, 15%, or 73, units will be leased (or sold, depending upon the mix) at below-market rates.

Put together, that’s a lot of housing for little ‘ol Menlo Park. I find it interesting that these are nowhere near transit, being located on the “wrong” side of Highway 101. They are near a number of office buildings, however, and are very near Meta (Facebook) headquarters, so they would be convenient for people who work there. But I don’t believe that there is much, if any, retail on that side of the freeway in Menlo Park, so for basic amenities many of the residents will find themselves driving, which is less than ideal…

To close, allow me to toss in an interesting discovery unrelated to any of the above. It seems that the old Burger King restaurant just off Highway 101 at the San Carlos Airport is being converted into a Starbucks:

This location strikes me as a bit odd, but at least the building already had a nice drive-through. It’ll have a good-sized interior dining area, too, if the old layout is at all preserved. I’m guessing that Starbucks is looking to attract passers-by on the freeway — a sign on a pole will be easily visible — but getting to this Starbucks is a bit tricky, given that drivers will have to get off at Redwood Shores Parkway, turn right on Airport Way, and then turn right again on Skyway Road. But what do I know? Starbucks has been an incredible success, and surely they know a good site from a bad one. I’ll be curious to see how much business this particular store does.

Next week is Thanksgiving; I hope you all have a good one. I may or may not post anything next week, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see a message in your email inbox (or a tweet) indicating that I’ve posted. Speaking of tweets, given the state of Twitter these days, I should remind those of you who get notified of my posts via Twitter that I only use that service to publicize my new posts; the posts themselves can always be found at And if you elect to switch away from Twitter (or, if Twitter itself goes down), know that you can always choose to receive notifications of new posts via email, simply by providing your email address on Rest assured that I never use those email addresses for any other purpose; the list is maintained by, and I only look at that list on the very rare occasion that there is a maintenance issue.

7 thoughts on “Living Large

  1. Greg, the route to the probable Starbucks is not at all confusing. It’s clearly visible once you get onto Airport Way that the street dead ends a bit further down near the San Carlos Airport runways. People have almost no choice but to turn right onto Skyway. There should be no issue with modern GPS. I can only hope that Izzy’s reopens soon!

  2. Think about how insane the price of an “affordable” unit is: if $4,425/mo is minimum net income, the rent of $2,950 is >66% of that. It’s INSANE. A family of four earning the maximum is spending about 24% of take home on that apartment, which is more in line with rental cost recommendations. But there are a whole range of lower incomes that require spending > 35% of income on rent. A family of four where both parents work 50 hours per week at $18 net per hour (not unusual) would be spending 38% of income on rent.

  3. What is going on with the old Coffee drive through on Woodside road just slightly across the street from Safeway. It has had a green cyclone construction fence for at least a couple of years. Do you have any updates on what they are doing. There seems to be a construction trucks that come and go but it looks more like an overnight parking space for all the trucks. I was just curious as I go by there daily???

  4. Re: recycled water in toilets: My former employer, a tech company with many employees and bidets in Mountain View, was unable to provide bidets for an office in Orange County due to using recycled water for the toilets.

    One can argue that conserving water is currently more significant than paper in California, however it’s a limitation some may want to know of.

    • That’s an interesting point. Bidets would have to be plumbed with potable water. The bidet-like toilet seats would be a problem if the toilet used recycled water, although a separate bidet wouldn’t be, since it would be plumbed separately.

  5. There’s very few drive thru coffee places left around here. Nowadays I usually walk to go get coffee but back when my now 5 & 7yr old daughters were much younger having easy access to a drive thru coffee shop was appealing. They often would fall asleep in the car…and I was up to 3 cups of coffee a day due to my lack of sleep…The closest drive thru Starbucks is in south Palo Alto. I used to go to what is now Pink Pantherz Espresso but stoped after they changed to their rather odd current format. Eventually they grew out of naps, I became more particular about my coffee, and I cut way back on my caffeine intake…but I get the appeal.

    • I HEAR YOU… the alternatives of McDonald’s and oddly enough, that Burger King were not at all appealing. Starbucks essentially turned coffee shops into destinations rather than fast food convenience.

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