Fast and Slow

For nearly ten years now I have been closely monitoring the progress of pretty much all of the larger development projects (and many of the smaller ones) in and around Redwood City, and I find it fascinating how some projects proceed quickly, while others positively drag their feet. I’m pleased to note, for instance, that the ten-unit condominium project at 910 Woodside Rd. is essentially complete and the units are for sale, but this project is one of the slow ones: it was initially approved in January 2017, and got underway in May 2020.

Construction has been going on, then, for nearly three years. Hopefully the result is worth it! Certainly, the units look nice enough. And people seem to agree: as I write this, three of the units are marked as “sold,” three more are in escrow, and two are marked “on hold” — which I assume means that they have been reserved by people who are in the process of obtaining financing or some such.

One project that truly is dragging its feet is the 10-unit residential project underway at 112 Vera Ave. The five side-by-side duplexes currently under construction are replacing five units that appear to be nearly identical to what is being built. According to my records, the project was approved in April of 2019 and construction got underway in August of that same year. For such simple little buildings, the project — which is far from done — is taking an amazingly long time. I have observed it sitting idle for months at a time, only for work to then resume. It feels as if the people working on the project are on other jobs, and only working on this one when they have a few free days. But whatever the real reason for all of the delays, these little duplexes appear likely to be priced at the lower end of the scale (whether they will be sold or rented, I don’t yet know). And given our need for housing, whatever those prices turn out to be, I hope this project will wrap up soon. In any case, here is what the project looks like after three and a half years of construction:

Sometimes you get the impression that a project is moving slowly, but when you pull up the numbers, you realize that it isn’t. One project that falls in this category is the small office building under construction at the corner of Woodside Road and Massachusetts Avenue (by Woodside Plaza):

This project was approved in mid-2021 and got underway not long afterwards. The new, very modern looking building, which consists of about 12,000 square feet of office space on the second floor above a mostly open ground floor parking area, replaced a Citibank building that had sat empty for years. The project still isn’t finished : it may take a full two years when all is said and done. To be fair, it was under construction during some of our most challenging times, and thus was likely affected by both labor and supply-chain issues. Otherwise it might have fallen into the “fast” category. In any case, I’ll be curious to see who moves in: I have no idea of whether this building has been pre-leased, or whether it’ll go on the market once it is complete. I’ll be watching: if “for lease” signs go up on the building, that’ll tell me that the building wasn’t pre-leased.

Most projects take longer than one might expect to complete, but every once in a while a project comes down the pike that is the opposite: it gets built in record time. The county’s navigation center is one of these, especially if you don’t count the time it took to raise the site (to protect against sea level rise). It’s a little hard to pin down when actual construction began, but May 2022 seems about right. If that is accurate, when completed (the project is due to be done in mid-March) it will have taken about ten months from start to finish.

Because the navigation center project is being built using modular construction, one might regard it as a bit of a cheat. So for a more conventional project, I bring you the seven-unit townhouse project now underway at 31 Center St. This project remained in the planning stages for quite some time: it was proposed in March of 2018 and approved in September of 2019, but it didn’t actually break ground until November of 2022. Since then, though, the project has seemingly been in high gear. Here is what it looks like after just a tad less than four months of work:

Considering that they had to demolish the single-family home that used to sit on this large lot, run the underground utilities and construct the foundations for the two buildings, and finally frame those buildings to the point you see here, I’d say that they were zipping right along. Especially when you compare this project to, say, the twelve-unit townhouse project that was recently completed at 120 El Camino Real (where Mountain Mike’s used to be), which began the demolition process in January of 2021, began construction in March, and didn’t wrap up until the end of 2022, after some 21 months of work.

Now that Redwood City has approved its 2023-2031 Housing Element (which had previously been given the thumbs-up by the state), the City Council has just ensured that we’ll be seeing housing construction projects, some fast and some slow, for many years to come. Sincere congratulations to the city on getting its Housing Element approved, though; we are one of only four of the 101 Bay Area cities that managed to do so. (For the curious, the other three cities that managed to get their plans approved by the deadline are Alameda, Emeryville, and San Francisco.) This means that Redwood City won’t be subject to the dreaded builder’s remedy that you may be hearing about in other parts of the region. Redwood City showed that it took the process seriously by going well beyond what was being required of it: the city’s Housing Element calls for as many as 7,000 new residential units (houses, townhomes, apartments, Accessory Dwelling Units, and the like) built between now and the beginning of 2031, and some might argue that the “builder’s remedy” alternative might have been preferable. But with the plan now in place, new housing of that magnitude means that we’ll be seeing a great deal of housing construction over the next eight years, particularly along the busy traffic corridors of El Camino Real and Woodside Road.

If news of so much construction gets you fired up — pro or con — this is an ideal time for me to point out once again that the Redwood City Planning Commission has two partial-term vacancies it needs to fill. Community members “who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and experience to help shape City programs and policies” are encouraged to apply. But don’t delay: applications are due by next Tuesday, February 28. Want to know more, or ready to apply? Point your browser to

Encore Books on the Square — the wonderful used bookstore beneath the San Mateo County History Museum — has a ton of new books, thanks to people cleaning out their collections during the COVID lockdowns. Accordingly, they are having their first half-price sale of the year (on top of their already very low prices!) on Saturday, March 4. Encore is currently open only on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but if you, like me, love to read, it’s well worth making the effort to pay them a visit. Look for their banner on the railing leading down to the basement beneath the museum, just to the left of the old courthouse’s steps.

19 thoughts on “Fast and Slow

  1. Pingback: Floods and Fires | Walking Redwood City

  2. A burned down McDonalds on Woodside since Aug 8, is a huge disgusting looking scene. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that McDonalds. But having it be in that same condition this long is utterly terrible. It took ten years to get a low income housing project rebuilt – Hallmark. It should not take more than a year to get a profitable stand alone business rebuilt. I recall that the old McDonalds on Whipple was torn down and the Chick-fil-A was back up and running in what had to be record time.

    • It’s even WORSE now, after the big wind storm last week! Bits of the building blew all over – he other day, a big chunk of roof was hanging over the sidewalk!! And so did one of the vinyl signs telling about the Chestnut St. McD’s that used to be on the fence. ANY WORD when that will be torn down? Is it even going to be rebuilt? WHY is it taking so long? Insurance issues? They’ve never even cleaned up all the garbage they took out of the building, still in the parking lot behind the temp fence! I hate driving by that eyesore.

      • They applied for a demolition permit, which was granted on January 17. So expect the building to be torn down soon. FYI, the foundation and slab will remain, and all utilities will be capped. As yet they don’t seem to have filed for a permit to rebuild, so it will likely remain in that unbuilt state for some time (but at least the site will be relatively clean…). The fact that they are keeping the foundation and utilities in place indicates that there is a chance, at least, that a new McDonalds will be rebuilt on the site — but no guarantees. As for why it has taken so long — the fire was on August 7, and the demolition permit was filed for on December 7, a full four months later — your guess is as good as mine. But I suspect that they were considering their options, such as whether to repair the building, to completely rebuild it, or to simply walk away and sell the site to a developer of some sort.

  3. Thanks Greg for the updates. I think the city has taken a wonderfully balanced approach to addressing the Peninsula’s housing shortage and adding more housing over the past 20 years or so. Looking forward to the potential widening of Caltrain tracks in downtown core and the Transit Center development.

    • That Caltrain project will be an interesting one for sure (and it’s badly needed). Hopefully the actual construction process isn’t too disruptive (although for those who live close to the tracks, I can’t see how it won’t be).

  4. Thanks for keeping us so informed!
    The Homes on Woodside have no pictures of in their gallery of these homes to be on Woodside Rd just one shoot of the floor plans. Disappointing but shows photos of housing in LA.
    I appreciate your weekly issues and the updates but I, too like others, miss our small town community feel, where neighbors are neighborly and when we could see the hills and the Bay from many locations!

  5. Thank you for this article. Wondering if you knew anything about the construction at 865 Woodside Rd. It used to be a drive thru coffee place that sat for a while, then temporary fencing went up around it. Now, the temporary fencing is gone and there is new wood fencing along one side and the back, but the building looks to have remain in tact.

    • As far as I could tell, they weren’t actually doing anything with the coffee place, but instead we’re just using the site as a staging area for a project to upgrade the apartment building that stands next to, and behind, the coffee place. They put in all new windows and presumably did other upgrades (including that fence, I guess). I just checked and there are no building permit applications for 865 Woodside.

      • The fencing around it has finally come down! That explains why one day I saw a bunch of washers and dryers there. I thought they were building a laundromat in it! I guess it was for the Apt. building next door.

      • The temporary fencing has been removed. (Finally!) That explains seeing a bunch of washers and dryers there one day. I thought they were building a laundromat in there! I guess they were either the new or old washers/dryers for the apartment building. I hope they put something there.

  6. Raised in RC, but haven’t lived there for decades. It’s been great reading your blog, seeing the changes, and seeing things that look pretty much the same.

  7. I for one am not excited by all of this building. We have a small town in Redwood City, San Carlos and Menlo Park. Nobody has done anything to alleviate the traffic nightmares. The restaurants are disappearing and there’s no fun things for families to do. I have had to leave bucks at least two times trying to find a place to park to eat lunch. I finally just went home For me, I feel like this is shaping up to be a nightmare. It is just a town of office buildings and apartments with no soul. I do not applied all this additional growth.

    • You are definitely not alone; I hear something along these lines a lot. Although I might have to disagree with you on restaurants; my wife and I eat out regularly in Redwood City and although we’ve lost a few, we’ve gained as many as we’ve lost, if not more. Which doesn’t help if what we lost was one of your favorites, of course. But there is no question that the character of a number of Peninsula cities is changing rather significantly.

      • Thank you Greg for your response. I think you do an absolutely fabulous job of covering growth in Redwood City. I just sort of grieve for the small town. It used to be. Certain amount of growth is great but now it impacts every single one of our lives. I have to get on Woodside Road every time I leave my house and it’s just brutal. For some reason the people are driving like they’re crazy and no cops around so we just don’t seem to have the infrastructure to control this amount of growth. And I don’t really see the police getting involved in anything so people are being preyed on crime wise. And I also think our city council is in bed with developers, and somebody has made a lot of money to the detriment of the majority. Thanks for

      • Greg, I also meant to add that we should’ve had light rail decades ago. Why do they cram people in on roads that haven’t been improved or widened. It is just a recipe for frustration for all who live here.

      • I’d love to have a light rail system – I’m a big mass transit fan – but I must admit that the economics are really tough. And people just live their cars…

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