Happy New Year

Before I get into the main subject of this week’s post, I want to make sure that everyone is well aware of a change that Redwood City approved last year, but which just came into effect: the hours when we have to pay for downtown parking have changed, as have some of the rates. Specifically, we now have to pay for metered street parking from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. downtown. Previously, we didn’t have to begin paying until 10 a.m., and in the evening street and surface parking became free beginning at 6 p.m. Thus, if you, like me, are used to regularly dropping by one of downtown Redwood City’s breakfast places and not paying for parking, check out the nearby signs to make sure what you are doing is on the up-and-up. For instance, my wife and I dropped in to Mademoiselle Colette just this morning, and I parked beneath this sign:

Not too long afterwards I found myself in the Main Street parking lot, where a sign indicated that here, too, the hours have changed:

Not all of the downtown parking rates have changed, but be aware that in the “periphery zone” (where the cheapest street rates were to be found) the meter rate has been increased to 50 cents per hour (up from 25 cents), while in the Jefferson Garage (beneath the Century Theaters building) the non-peak hourly rate has jumped from 25 cents per hour up to $1 per hour so as to match the rates already in effect at the nearby Marshall Street Garage. Note, though, that in both garages you still get the first 90 minutes free (and you still get four hours free when you get your parking ticket validated at the Century Theatres). Plus, parking rates on the streets and parking lots in the downtown core have not changed.

Welcome to an all new year…that in many ways will look a lot like the last one. One way in which it may well be different, if the last couple of days are any indication, is in its weather: although the amount of rainfall we’ve received to date is not that far off of what we received last year by this same date (counting from October 1, which is the beginning of the meteorological rainfall year, last year we had received 15.38 inches, whereas this year we’ve received 16.27 inches, according to my backyard rain gauge), last year the “storm door” slammed shut right around December 31, whereas this year it appears to be staying well open. Expect more rain in the next 10 days, at least, and pay particularly close attention to this Monday’s storm (January 9), which will be characterized by heavy rain and breezy conditions.

We start off the year in a drought — still — but I’m hoping that by year’s end we are at least upgraded from the current “severe drought” designation to at least “moderate drought” or maybe even “abnormally dry.” More importantly, I’m hoping that the watershed area that provides the bulk of our potable water gets enough rain and snow to properly fill the Hetch-Hetchy reservoir. As of today, that reservoir’s water level remains below what it was this time last year, but not by much.

In any case, this week’s storm was a doozy, although it appears that most of Redwood City, at least, escaped relatively unscathed. Many of us lost power — at my house, we had no power from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. — and there were some parts of the city that were flooded, but I noted only a few downed trees, and as of Friday things were looking pretty good. Then again, I didn’t make it over to where the city’s trailer parks are located, east of Highway 101 and south of Seaport Boulevard: that part of the city has been particularly sensitive to high water conditions in the past. Hopefully the folks living and working over there got through the storm OK.

One area where there was a bit of trouble was the part of the city in the vicinity of Hopkins Avenue. I say “vicinity” because the problems, which seem to have been exacerbated by some temporary measures put in place for the Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming project, appear to have extended onto some of the streets that cross Hopkins. As part of the project some heavy orange mesh was placed over the storm drains, presumably to keep those drains relatively clear while work on the drainage pipes was going on. That mesh, in some areas, caused water to back up in the street, causing some rather large (and deep!) bodies of water through which people were driving. The water then splashed up onto sidewalks and yards, and of course backed up into gutters and driveways. Much of the mesh was removed on Wednesday, though, presumably either by the city or by the contractor, which took care of most of the problems I saw.

One result of the rain on the Hopkins Avenue project wasn’t really a problem, but instead seemed kinda cute. My wife has dubbed the result, at the intersection of Hopkins and Opal avenues, “Hopkins Pond”:

She actually went out at one point and floated some small plastic ducks in one of these temporary pools in order to get some fun pictures. Just so you know, these pools are the result of the contractor installing the curbing around some new medians but not yet filling in the middle. Soon the contractor will come back and fill in these medians with “river cobble and mortar,” so don’t expect these to be quite so scenic long-term. They are, however, already functioning well in drastically reducing the unprotected distance that a pedestrian must navigate when crossing Opal Avenue at this intersection. I, for one, am very grateful for these new medians: not only am I far more visible when I am about to step out into the traffic lane, but the medians force drivers turning from Hopkins Avenue onto Opal Avenue to slow down and make a sharp right, rather than taking the old sweeping turn at high speed. I see a lot of people with kids and strollers crossing intersections like these, and I am sure that they, too, are much happier with the new arrangement.

I began this post by saying that I expect this year to be a lot like the last one, and by that I mean the many infrastructure and development projects we see going on about the city. The Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming project is one of these; it will continue throughout much of the year, but likely will wrap up sometime in 2023. For the remainder of this post I thought I’d summarize the activity that many of the city’s major (and some minor) projects will see throughout the upcoming year.

County Office Building #3, on Marshall Street at Middlefield Road, is one that I expect will wrap up before the end of 2023. The project has been making great progress, and the exterior is largely complete. The county seems very focused on getting its projects done in a timely fashion, and this is one — being the new home for a great many county employees (as well as for the Board of Supervisors) — that I expect the county is working hard to wrap up. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the inside of this lovely mass-timber building; 2023 may just be the year when I attend a Board of Supervisors meeting or two in person.

Speaking of county projects that will wrap up this year, I seemingly can’t write a single post these days without mentioning the progress on the county’s navigation center, which, rain be damned, is moving full steam ahead:

The above picture, which I took from across the intersection of Maple and Blomquist streets, shows both that the Blomquist Extension is essentially done (although we members of the public still cannot drive on it, the crews working on the navigation center are now making good use of it), but also that additional modules are rapidly being installed on the site. That large yellow crane you see in the photo, which we last saw on the opposite side of the project site, is now parked right on the new section of Blomquist Street and was actively being used to drop modules into place when I passed by earlier on Friday. The county has hopes that they’ll get this project open this month, and although the rains are surely affecting their schedule somewhat, they may well make it nevertheless.

The next-door condominium project, at 1548 Maple St., isn’t moving nearly as quickly; that project seems poised to start actually constructing buildings, but I saw nobody on site working when I went by on Friday:

Being somewhat in less of a rush, the folks behind that project may be waiting for somewhat more stable weather before they start forming and pouring building foundations. Or, they may simply be waiting for the Blomquist Extension to be opened to the public, after which they should be able to close off the temporary road leading through their project site (it currently provides the only access to the LiveMoves shelter at the end of Maple Street) and reclaim their entire project site. Either way, this project to build 131 townhouse-style condominiums along the shores of Redwood Creek should soon come alive. I expect that project to be active through the entire year, with condominiums being put up for sale early in 2024.

Back on the west side of the freeway, work was actively being done on the new CVS Pharmacy at the corner of Bay and Woodside roads:

This new CVS is scheduled to open to the public in mid-2023. I had thought that not much would happen just across the street, on the main site of the Broadway Plaza project, until this CVS is open for business and the old one can be torn down, but it seems that the developer has decided not to wait that long: there are several large drills on the main project site now, and just today (Friday) I saw what appears to be the construction project office being delivered to the site.

Expect work on the massive two-level underground garage to get underway any day now, if it hasn’t already. This project is a big one; it will go on for years. The three residential buildings, which I believe will be built first, after the subterranean garage is in place, may not be completed until 2026, if the signs (which have changed more than once) along the edge of the property are to be believed. The three office buildings presumably will be well underway by that point, but apparently won’t be completed until even later.

The small seven-unit townhouse project underway at 31 Center St. (across El Camino Real from Target) is currently pouring concrete for the building foundations; that project will probably wrap up within the year. Next to Target, the 72-unit apartment project planned for 150 Charter St. is still awaiting its building permits; assuming there are no hiccups, I expect that project to get underway sometime this year, and run well into 2024 or even in to 2025.

In Red Morton Park, the new Veterans Memorial/Senior Center building continues to make slow but steady progress. We seem to be nearing the point where the exterior skin will go on, so the building will soon look a lot more like a real building:

Although I’m sure that the city is eager to see this project finished and open to the public, it wouldn’t surprise me if that doesn’t happen until 2024. Either way, construction on this building should continue throughout most of, if not the entirety of, this year.

Out on Woodside Road, the ten-unit condominium building being built at 910 Woodside Rd. is wrapping up: they are just starting to pour cement for the sidewalk in front of the building:

I expect “for sale” signs to go up on this building almost any day now. Clearly, this is one project that will be completed early this year.

Not so early — not even in 2023, in fact — will be the completion of the eight-unit townhouse project that was recently approved for a nearby parcel at 955 Woodside Rd. Although approved, this project is eagerly awaiting its building permits; it cannot get underway until those are in hand. Thus, I expect that this project will get started sometime this year, and wrap up sometime in 2024.

Down close to Woodside Plaza, the relatively small office building that has been underway on the site that was formerly home to CitiBank appears to finally be nearing completion. Then again, this project has moved along very slowly: it got underway sometime in mid-2021.

From the outside, the building itself looks basically done, although the surrounding land is still exposed dirt, and has yet to be paved. I don’t know if this building already has a tenant: if so, work may already be underway to fit out the interior for that tenant. If not, that part of the project may have to wait until a specific tenant, with their specific requirements, has been identified. Regardless, I expect that the exterior of the building and the surrounding grounds will be finished up sometime this year, and the construction fencing removed.

I didn’t take any pictures of Redwood City’s other really large under-construction project — ELCO Yards — this week; although I saw a few people on site, it didn’t look like much was going on other than dealing with our recent weather. Given that two of the six parcels consist of large holes in the ground (for underground parking garages) that undoubtedly are quite wet at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if the contractor on this project is dragging their feet a bit until our weather improves. Regardless, this project will continue for years; expect a great deal of construction on the various ELCO Yards buildings throughout the entirety of 2023. Having said that, one small part of the project actually will finish up this year: the six-story, 39-unit affordable apartment building being constructed at 1304 El Camino Real. That particular building is currently getting its exterior finishes, and will surely open its doors to new tenants sometime this year.

One project that I’ll be watching closely this year is the Harbor View office project planned for the east side of Highway 101 (where the miniature golf course and go-kart tracks once operated). Although the project has not received its final approval, I expect it’ll be approved by the City Council in about two weeks. And given how long the developer has been working with the city on this project, I’m guessing that they’ll be eager to get going. Thus, although I normally wouldn’t expect to see any real activity for a year or two after approval for a project of this magnitude, we just might see some preparatory work on and around the site sometime this year. I’ll be watching…

Redwood City has a number of other projects in the pipeline, some of which may see action this year, and some that may not. For instance, even though the large apartment (and fitness center) project planned for the old Century Park 12 Theatres site (557 E. Bayshore Rd.) was approved late last year, I don’t expect any real work to get underway on that site until 2024 at the earliest. Very near by, the 56-unit townhouse project planned for 505 E. Bayshore Rd. (the Alan Steel site, just after you come over Highway 101 on Whipple Avenue) has yet to be approved, but I’m sure that will happen sometime in 2023. Then it’ll be a year or so before work on that project gets underway, so don’t expect much action there until 2024 or even 2025.

Out on El Camino Real, I’m betting that the 130-unit apartment building proposed for 1330 El Camino Real (the site of The Record Man and Happy Donuts) will get the city’s thumbs-up this year. It, too, wouldn’t get underway until 2024 or even 2025, though.

Two projects I’m not willing to bet on are the two hotel projects proposed for just outside the boundaries of downtown Redwood City. One, which is proposed for the site of a Shell gas station at 690 Veterans Blvd. (at the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Brewster Street), was approved back in late 2020, but has yet to show any signs of progress. The other, which actually has been approved on multiple occasions, for technical reasons needs to be approved once again. That approval likely will be forthcoming this year, but I’ve been waiting for so long to see progress on this 90-room hotel project planned for 1690 Broadway (where today the 18-room Garden Motel stands) that I’m starting to think it may never happen. Hopefully I’m proven wrong, though, since I think that downtown Redwood City would benefit from one or both of these hotels.

Finally, there continue to be a number of other large projects in the planning pipeline, projects that were first introduced as part of the city’s Gatekeeper Process. These projects will at least be discussed at various City Council and Planning Commission meetings, although I’m not sure any of them are far enough along to actually gain approval in 2023. These include 1900 Broadway (the old Wells Fargo Bank building site); 2300 Broadway (the downtown Chase Bank site); 901 El Camino Real (AutoZone, across from Sequoia High School); 651 El Camino Real (American Legion Post 105); 750 Bradford St. (Redwood City School District offices); and 601 Allerton St. (Social Security Administration offices). Oh, plus the mixed-use project planned for 1125 Arguello St. (the former A-1 Rentals building), which was not part of the Gatekeeper Process. All of these, and others, will be the focus of the next round of city reviews, so expect to hear more about them in 2023.

Redwood City’s reputation as a city in the midst of transformation is not changing in 2023: clearly, we’ll not only see a lot of active construction, we’ll also see a lot of talk about new projects (and possible approvals of some of those projects). Thus, don’t expect things to settle down for years to come. Happy New Year…?

5 thoughts on “Happy New Year

  1. I’m bummed about the changes in parking. It was nice to go down before 10 and not have to pay to park. But, thanks for the warning as I probably would not have noticed!

  2. ” The water then splashed up onto sidewalks and yards, and of course backed up into gutters and driveways. Much of the mesh was removed on Wednesday, though, presumably either by the city or by the contractor, which took care of most of the problems I saw.”

    Your reporting is incomplete. The water didn’t just splash. It flowed downhill, as water does. Making its own new path from the Brewster end of Hillview through several yards, garages and downstairs rooms on Opal. It broke through gates and denuded ground in ways never seen in 33 years of living in the area. A neighbor with some wire cutters solved the problem that Saturday afternoon after tracing the outrageous water flow (video available!) around the time of the second drenching part of Saturday’s storm. Storm drains that normally drain a single block were forced to deal with water draining down the high ends of Brewster and Hopkins above Alameda de la Pulgas and down to Opal plus Hillview from Whipple to Brewster. There were whirl pools above drains on Hillview and fountaining of water out of storm drain access covers on Brewster and Opal.

    City storm drain workers came but said they couldn’t do anything about the mesh because it was the contractor’s problem. This while the neighborhood is actively flooding. Thank goodness for wire cutters and initiative. The water crossing Hopkins at Opal stopped once the mesh was folded up. It is difficult to read the city’s admonitions to “prepare for the storm” when no one with “authority” from the city or contractors did anything to remove the Hopkin’s Calming Project barriers to storm drains before a well reported “historic atmospheric river”.

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