They Just Keep Coming

I’ve been observing, and writing about, Redwood City for nearly ten years now, having published my first blog post in August of 2013. At the time, there were a handful of significant development projects underway, and since then the number of projects in active construction first increased, and then stabilized. Just going by the city’s Development Projects web page, today there are seven projects under active construction (not counting the great many individual houses and small buildings being either built or remodeled), and ten more that have been approved but have not yet gotten underway. Finally, there are 23 additional projects currently waiting the city’s consideration and possible approval.

Over those same nearly ten years, I’ve written 461 blog posts (counting this one) and nearly 250 columns for The Daily Journal. Given all of that, I have — as you might suspect — given a lot of thought to writing a book about Redwood City’s transformation. Every time I think about doing so, though, I think about how, based on that large number of projects waiting to be considered by the city, we’re still in the middle of the city’s transformation. I can’t imagine writing a book before I have some idea of what the ending might be. However, if (when?) the city’s development backlog ever drops to a more normal level (whatever that is), I plan to revisit the idea. For now, though, the projects just keep coming…

Exemplifying the point that demand for new development in Redwood City continues unabated, today I’m writing about one project that is close to wrapping up, and another that is newly approved. They aren’t on the same scale, but both are multi-family residential housing projects. And both are, sort-of, on El Camino Real in Redwood City proper.

The first is the 39-unit affordable housing project being built at 1304 El Camino Real, at the corner of El Camino and Jackson Avenue. Although the project is not quite complete, all of the scaffolding has been removed from the building, and its identifying signage has been applied. Those of you who live in or around Redwood City have undoubtedly seen the building, but so that we are all on the same page, here is what it looks like today:

Some work continues around the base of the building, but it should be wrapped up quickly. On its Jackson Avenue side, the portion of the street in front of the entrance to the internal garage is being cleaned up (the sidewalk and the driveway apron already appear to be in place). As for the building’s front entrance, on El Camino Real, an overhang is being added above the front door. Otherwise, though, that side of the building also appears complete. Even to the point where the building’s name — “Miramontes” — and address numbers have been affixed to the building’s front wall:

There is undoubtedly some work going on inside the building, but I’m guessing that it will be ready for occupancy very soon.

As you may or may not recall, Miramontes replaced a single-story building that was most recently home to Precision Tune Auto Care+:

The site was added to the parcels that had been assembled for the massive ELCO Yards project somewhere in the middle of that project’s planning process, presumably when it was determined that the project needed an affordable housing component. As it turns out, though, this is just a small, but important, part of the project’s affordable housing: in total, the project is slated to have just short of 150 affordable for-rent apartments (out of a total of 540). The rest will be scattered among the apartments in the two other residential buildings that will be constructed on the main project site alongside the project’s commercial buildings.

Although Greystar, who conceived of this project and ushered it through project approval, sold the entire project to another commercial developer (IQHQ), they remained involved: as I understand it, Greystar is tasked with constructing the project’s three residential buildings, while IQHQ will build the four commercial buildings. Thus, while IQHQ got underway on the project’s main site, Greystar has been actively constructing the Miramontes building, and should eventually get underway on the two residential buildings that will stand along Redwood Creek.

Just what did Greystar build here? This is a six-story residential building consisting of 38 affordable apartments plus a manager’s unit. Eight of the affordable apartments are one-bedroom units, while the remaining 30 are studios. Given that these are affordable units, they are fairly basic, including only a small bathroom (with sink, toilet, and bathtub), a basic kitchen, and a closet to go with the primary living space(s). One thing the individual units do not have are washers and dryers. However, there is a laundry room on each floor with a washer and dryer to be shared by that floor’s residents.

Most of the ground floor is occupied by the building’s internal parking garage, which I should note has only room for 12 cars — and that only thanks to some mechanical parking stackers. Three of the parking spaces should be “EV ready,” and one of the parking spaces is designated for handicapped parking. The ground floor also contains the building’s lobby, a “community room,” a leasing office, and an office for social services.

Given the small size of the parcel upon which the building sits — it appears to be about 6,500 square feet — the building understandably stretches almost entirely to the property line. Thus, there is no room on the ground floor for any kind of private outdoor space for the buildings residents. Instead, a rooftop deck occupies about half of the building’s roof (the half closest to El Camino Real). According to the plans, that rooftop deck includes not only a BBQ and sink, it also will have a dining table, an L-shaped outdoor couch with a coffee table, a handful of planters, and even a potting table with a sink. So residents hoping to spend time outdoors in relative privacy will have a place to do so, and those hoping to do a bit of gardening will have a place for that as well.

Keen observers may have noted what appears to be a balcony on the building’s top floor, on the El Camino/Jackson corner. On the plans that balcony is marked as “inaccessible roof,” but if you look at the photograph I included earlier, there is an open window through which someone could theoretically climb (that window opens out from one of the buildings studio apartments). While it is possible that the plans changed and that that “inaccessible” section of roof is indeed intended to be accessible, given that you could only get to it from one or two of the buildings apartments, that doesn’t seem likely. But we’ll see if whoever rents those apartments can resist the temptation to go out there, especially on the Fourth of July, when the fireworks show at the Port of Redwood City should be clearly visible from high up in this building. Of course, the building’s rooftop will be the best place to enjoy those fireworks; that is where I expect most of the building’s residents will be.

Miramontes may be wrapping up, but the rest of the ELCO Yards project is still in the very early stages. Expect work to continue on the project’s main site for several years to come.

From Miramontes, if you head south along El Camino Real for about ten blocks, you get to Hemlock Street, and this building:

This little building has had a variety of uses over the years; currently it is home to L’Academy language immersion preschool. This rather colorful building, though, occupies only a portion of the parcel upon which it sits. The parcel actually extends along Hemlock Street for the entire length of the block (but not its width; a couple of other businesses share the block as well). The remaining portion of the parcel contains a small playground for the school, and, mostly, a large surface parking lot. Parking lots, these days, are magnets for developers, and this one is particularly attractive, given its size and the fact that it has a great deal of street frontage. At one time, the city was presented with a somewhat complex proposal for a 16-unit condominium project, one that would have sixteen for-sale condominiums on three floors atop a ground-level parking garage in which some of the parking would be shared with the preschool (see my post Square Deal for a lengthy analysis of that original design). However, that project, as originally designed, never came to be. Instead, it was drastically downsized and resubmitted to the city for approval. And about ten days ago it received that approval, from Redwood City’s Planning Commission.

I wrote about the new design back in January, but now that it has been approved and likely will be built, it deserves another mention. First off, although the project — named Redwood Square — is ostensibly located at 2336 El Camino Real, that is the address of the preschool. Instead, the idea is to split the long parcel into two, and place this project on the back portion, facing Linden Street (which parallels El Camino Real, at the other end of the block). Here is the corner where the development is to be located:

As you can see, some rather large trees and bushes hide most of the parking lot where the condominiums are to be built. But here is what this corner should look like, presuming that the project gets built:

And here is what the building would look like from the rear:

As you can see, there are six garages, one for each townhouse. And as you can probably tell, those garages are one-car wide. However, they are two cars deep; residents can park two cars in them, in tandem fashion, if they have two. Otherwise, they’ll have a lot of extra depth that can be used for a workshop or for storage. As for the two bright red openings among those six garages, those are single-car-depth carports, for visitor parking.

In addition to a garage, the ground floor of each unit will include the unit’s entry foyer, some amount of enclosed storage, and, in just one of the six units, a powder room. From each unit’s foyer, a stairway leads up to the second floor, where you’ll find a living room (facing out over the driveway), a combined kitchen/dining space (in the center) and one of the unit’s bedrooms (looking out over Linden Street) plus a full bathroom. Continuing up to the third floor you’ll find the master suite (on the front of the building) and the third bedroom (facing the rear) with its own dedicated bathroom.

The plans (pdf link here) show each unit as ranging between 2,200 and 2,300 square feet, but that figure includes the unit’s garage was well as its private patio and (for the two end units only) its second and third floor balconies. Subtract those out, and you are left with the largest unit having something less than 1,800 square feet of conditioned living space. Although that still is a fine amount of space (at one time my wife and I owned a three-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot townhouse, and we were very comfortable), I should note that these units are quite narrow, with rooms arranged shotgun-style. Two of the units are a little under 14 feet wide, while the others are just a bit more than 15 feet wide. Subtract out space for stairwells and hallways (which don’t run the entire length of the unit, of course) and some of the rooms can get narrow indeed. Perhaps they won’t feel that way in real life, though; I’m hoping to be able to tour one at some point to see for myself.

As for the location, it’s a good one. The site is located on the edge of a residential area (it sits directly across from a Baptist church), and it’s a very easy walk from this site to the Target shopping center, which is just across El Camino Real and down about a block. Plus, there is good bus service up and down El Camino Real, and I believe all of those buses go to or from the Redwood City transit center. So commuting from these townhomes without a car should be very doable.

Moving on, most of my posts these days seem to have some mention of the county’s Navigation Center project — obviously, I’m just fascinated with it — and this one is no exception. Just a quick mention, though. On one of my walks this week I paid the site a visit, and was interested to see that the newly-installed elevators that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago (in my post Assembly Required) are receiving their outer skin, making them blend in nicely with the residential modules to which they are attached:

Here is a view from the other side of the project, showing both elevators:

I’m pretty sure that both elevators will be white when completed; I think that the one on the right has yet to receive its final exterior finishes. In any case, this has to be one of the last jobs to be completed on the project (I hope!). It should be opening to its residents almost any day now.

That’s about it for this week, although I do want to mention a couple of last-minute activities for those who are reading this on Friday or early Saturday (since these things are all taking place on Saturday, April 15):

  • Redwood City’s annual Spring Cleanup event is taking place on Saturday, April 15, starting at 8:30 a.m. For those who haven’t signed up, walk-ins are welcome: just show up at the Public Works Services Yard at 1400 Broadway (between Chestnut and Woodside Road) by 8:30, and you’ll be assigned to a work crew. Free breakfast and lunch is provided, and you’ll be given supplies and tools. Simply dress in work clothes and head on over. Having participated in the past, I can attest to it being a fun and rewarding (and not too taxing) activity.
  • Over the past week, and continuing on through Saturday the 15th, all members of the community have been invited to “participate with paint and words on a 20 foot art wall installation” in front of the downtown branch of the Public Library. The aim is create an “interconnected, inclusive, and growing visual representation of and with our community.” If you want to participate, or if you simply want to watch the fun, head over to the library (at 1044 Middlefield Rd.) on Saturday, April 15, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Note that there will be a closing celebration from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. that same day.
  • The Port of Redwood City’s “Rock the Dock” concert series is back underway. Two concerts have already been held, with the third occurring on Saturday, April 15, from 3:30 – 6 p.m. Bring a lawn chair and/or a blanket (plus a jacket!) and, if you prefer, something to eat or drink (but note that there will be food vendors there as well) and feast your ears on this terrific but little-known concert series. The concerts run through November, so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy music at the port. To see who’ll be performing, head over to
  • For all of you gardeners out there, Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties is holding its Spring Garden Market Plant Sale & Educational Fair on Saturday, April 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the San Mateo County Event Center’s Redwood Hall (2495 South Delaware St., in San Mateo). Admission and parking are both free. Most plants will sell for $5 each.

1 thought on “They Just Keep Coming

  1. Thank you for mentioning the City’s Pride & Beautification Committee’s spring clean day event! Another successful event!! I always enjoy reading your blog for the up to date building activities, that said NO WONDER we feel that construction of large projects has been going on for a L-O-N-G time, it has-10+ years!!
    That Greystar/IQHQ project certainly shows the proof to rid folks of their cars! 12 spots!
    Whew! That’s a wrap for this week again, thanks,

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