Flying High

I seem to have received a late Christmas gift: a new set of aerial photographs of some of Redwood City’s most interesting projects taken by Sam Johnson. Given that a lot of Redwood City projects seem to have shifted into a low gear, likely due to our recent weather, Sam’s timing was perfect. As always, because of the unique viewpoint that drone photographs can provide, in many cases these do a much better job of illustrating the current state of a project than the photographs I typically take. For the record, all of these pictures were taken on Sunday, January 8; some of the projects may have made additional progress since then.

I’ll start with one of the projects that continues to make progress seemingly irrespective of our weather. Most of the photographs I’ve taken of the county’s new navigation center actually do a pretty good job of illustrating what is going on there, but this particular overhead shot does something that I cannot, which is show the entire site in one image:

[click on the image to get a larger version you can zoom in on]

The bulk of this development, and the reason it is being built so quickly, are the prefabricated modules that make up the residential and office portions of the project. This navigation center will consist of four rows of modules, many of them stacked up to three high. As you can see, the lower row (which sits along the northeastern side of the project site) is complete, and the upper row was, as of Sunday, about half-done. The two rows in between have yet to be started, but as you can see, the foundations for them are in place.

From this photo, you can also clearly see the relative size of the two conventionally built buildings: the larger one, in the lower-left corner of the image, will be the dining hall, while the other will, I believe, house both the center’s community building and its support center.

This picture also does a good job of showing the center’s main driveway and parking areas. The road running kind-of across the top of the image is the extension to Blomquist Street, which used to terminate just off the left edge of the photograph. The navigation center’s entrance and exit will be off of this new section of Blomquist Street, between the edge of the parcel and the buildings. The center’s driveway runs down the left side of the image, and then turns to follow the bottom edge. Parking, with cars positioned perpendicularly to the drive, will line the driveway on both sides.

Early plans showed the driveway terminating near the lower right corner of the image, with no access to the street you see running up from the lower right corner. However, it is possible that that has changed, and that there will be access from the center to that street, which is a relocated section of Maple Street.

That new section of Maple Street is something I’m really glad is shown in the above image. That street, which used to be located just a bit to the right, was shifted over to give the adjacent project — the townhouse project going up at 1548 Maple Street — a bit more elbow room. In addition to  being relocated, the street, as you can see, now has designated areas for parking, which, as on the navigation center property, will be arranged so that cars park perpendicularly to the street.

Shifting over to the adjacent project, we have this:

Here you can see where Blomquist Street and the relocated Maple Street rejoin; as you can just barely see, Blomquist Street currently drops down into the parking lot/driveway area in front of the LifeMoves Maple Street Shelter. Eventually Blomquist will continue straight through, all the way to the edge of Highway 101, where it will turn north and parallel the freeway until it reaches Redwood Creek (partially visible in the above image). The LifeMoves shelter will be torn down (but not until the navigation center is completed, and the residents of the shelter relocated), and, apparently, a new low-income housing project will then be built in its place by the county (on land that is now owned by Redwood City; presumably, the county will lease the parcel from the city).

As you can see, the parcel upon which the 131 townhouse-style condominiums will be built is pretty much ready for the various buildings to be erected. You can’t tell from the image, but the parcel has been significantly raised above the level of the creek, and all of the utilities needed by this project have been undergrounded. So it is time to construct the forms for the building foundations, pour the cement, and then start assembling the buildings themselves.

The above picture also gives you a partial view of Redwood Creek, along with a portion of the old Docktown Marina. As you can see, many of the docks themselves still remain, although most of the floating homes have gone. At least one — and possibly all three — of the floating homes you can see in the above image have been purchased by the city and are in the process of being disposed of (the largest of the three is for sure: it is boarded up and likely set to be demolished). I haven’t heard what plans the city has for the docks themselves; I assume that at some point they’ll be torn out.

Jumping across Highway 101, here is an aerial view of the Broadway Plaza project site:

For orientation, Bay Road runs up the left side, Broadway runs along the right side, and Chestnut Street marks the top edge of the property. In the lower-left corner is a portion of the existing CVS Pharmacy’s roof (and a portion of its parking lot can be seen to the right). Once the new CVS Pharmacy being built across Woodside Road is complete, this old pharmacy building and the parking lot will be removed, so that the entire block, minus the corner occupied by the Denny’s and Jack in the Box restaurants, will be available for redevelopment. As you can see, though, some of the heavy equipment needed to start construction of the subterranean garage, which will extend pretty much to the edges of the entire project site, is already in place. I presume that work will shortly commence (if it hasn’t already) on digging out a portion of the site for that garage, and by the time the massive hole has been dug and the sides shored up on the part of the parcel you can see above, it’ll be time to tear down the old CVS and start digging for the remainder of the underground garage.

Speaking of underground garages, Sam of course worked his magic on the ELCO Yards project, which sits between El Camino Real and Main Street, from Cedar (and Chestnut) to Elm streets. Two of that project’s underground garages have been dug so far, the large one on Parcel E along the Caltrain tracks, and a smaller one beneath where Towne Ford used to operate. Here is the hole for the larger garage:

Note the ramp, covered with a white tarp or some such, that allows construction vehicles to enter and exit the pit. To orient you here, Main Street runs along the bottom of the image, the Caltrain tracks run along the top, and a portion of Chestnut Street is visible cutting diagonally along the image’s upper right corner.

This two-level garage is planned to have room for 509 cars and 25 motorcycles. Atop it will sit a pair of office buildings, plus, at the corner of Chestnut and Main, a small public plaza with an adjoining restaurant designed to look much like the old metal shed that once stood at that corner.

This next picture shows where the three-level garage that will sit beneath the building soon to be built on Parcel B, where Towne Ford used to do business, will go. You may recognize the BevMo parking lot, to the left of the parcel, and El Camino Real, running from the image’s left edge to its top. And as you can see, this particular hole collected a lot of water from our recent rains! Thanks to this photo I took a closer look at the project plans; I hadn’t realized that this garage will have a bit of a step to it, with the topmost level extending all the way to El Camino Real, and the lower two levels going not quite as far.

One other interesting thing to note in this picture is the street running up from the lower right corner out to El Camino Real (just off the top of the image). As you can see, this street — Beech Street — currently runs arrow-straight out to El Camino. However, see how the building’s garage angles away from Beech Street as it approaches El Camino? That is a clue as to how Beech Street will be realigned: it will bend so as to line up with Lincoln Avenue, which begins on the other side of El Camino Real. FYI, although Beech and Lincoln will line up, I don’t believe that you’ll be able to cross El Camino Real at this spot in a car — I think that cars approaching El Camino Real from either Beech or Lincoln will be forced to turn right — but there will at least be a crosswalk here, giving cyclists and pedestrians an additional point where they can cross busy El Camino Real in relative safety.

Before leaving the ELCO Yards project, allow me to include just one more image. This one shows the entirety of the main project site (it doesn’t include the site of the six-story, 39-unit affordable housing building being built just down the street, at 1304 El Camino Real, which is also part of the ELCO Yards project):

What once was six parcels, on six blocks, is now five: the large triangular parcel between Main Street and the Caltrain tracks used to be divided by a short dead-end section of Cedar Street, but that section was torn out quite some time ago and the blocks joined. As you can see, the three parcels that have not yet been dug have been almost entirely cleared, and now are seemingly being used for staging of equipment and materials. Note the triangular building at the top of the image (with the white roof); that isn’t part of the ELCO Yards project, but is the three-story office building that was recently constructed at 1180 Main St. That building is essentially complete: as far as I can tell, the contractor is now building out the interior for its new tenant, which, unless something has changed, will be the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Just below that building you should be able to make out a small building at the corner of Main and Elm streets. This small portion of the larger square block is also not part of the ELCO Yards project; for some reason, when the developer was assembling the parcels for this huge project, they didn’t acquire that one portion. So that small one-story building with four retail/office spaces remains, and will be dwarfed on two sides by the seven-story, 249-unit residential building (atop a two-story subterranean garage, I might add) that will occupy the remainder of the block.

Just one project remains in my belated Christmas gift: the city’s new Veterans Memorial Building/Senior Center (VMSC), now under construction on the Madison Avenue side of Red Morton Park:

Although I like to think that the photographs I take from around the sides of this project show it off pretty well, an aerial view, in addition to showing the building’s rooftop, also shows something else I can’t really capture from the ground: a picture showing the relative size of the new VMSC building and the old one, which you can just make out between the trees at the top of the image. That existing building (with the tan sloping roof) is not only smaller in footprint, it is only one story, whereas the new one is two. In pretty much every way imaginable this new building is going to be a major step up from the old, and will be able to provide a lot more amenities and services to our city’s seniors.

This aerial viewpoint also shows off one of the building’s most interesting features: the large opening in the roof of the left-hand portion of the building. That hole exposes a large portion of the building’s second floor to the sky; below that hole, on the second floor, there will a running/walking track. Below that track, on the first floor, will be large rooms dedicated to wellness and “adaptive PE.” And to the left of the hole, that entire end of the building will be a two-story-high gymnasium.

As for the portion of the building to the right of the soccer field, much of that will be occupied by a large indoor theater. The remainder will contain a handful of multipurpose rooms, a large kitchen, a cafe, and offices.

That about does it for Sam’s current batch of drone photos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! If I get additional drone photos in the future I’ll of course share the best ones, but in the mean time I’ll continue to be out there, pounding the pavement and taking my own photos from whatever vantage points I can come up with. In the mean time, stay dry, and stay safe.


A local Boy Scout, Liam Williams, is working on his Crime Prevention merit badge (I don’t recall there being such as thing when I was a Boy Scout; times have changed, I guess!), and has identified a couple of online tools intended to help alleviate burglaries, break-ins, and package theft. As he puts it, “neighborhood safety and education is the best way to keep our communities protected.” Accordingly, I’m linking to the tools he found, here:

Hopefully someone out there will find these useful. In any case, my publishing these for Liam should help him get his badge, which, I guess, means that I did my good deed for the day… (my old scoutmaster would be so proud!)


With more rain on the way, I wanted to help spread the word about San Mateo County’s Alert Notification System, SMC Alert. This is a service you can register for, one that enables the county to quickly notify you about urgent or emergency situations via your smartphone. If you aren’t already signed up, I recommend that you check it out, here.