For many years, a sign at the Redwood City boundary on Highway 101 boasted: “Climate Best by Government Test.” It seems that an old survey of America’s best year-round climates found that Redwood City’s topped the charts.
The weather is quite mild, with San Francisco Bay and breezes off the water modulating the temperature so that it seldom tops 90 or drops below 40. But Redwood City — once derisively called “Deadwood” by critics of suburbia — has more to offer than consistently pleasant weather.
Oh, sure, it’s a suburb, located almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. But with the growth of the latter city, the bedrooms in this bedroom community are now filled more by employees of Silicon Valley firms to the south than workers in San Francisco high rises to the north. Redwood City’s population has grown to its current number of about 80,000.
While the heart of Silicon Valley may be in such places as Cupertino (Apple) and Mountain View (Google), Redwood City residents can legitimately say they’re part of the “Valley’s” tech culture, too. The futuristic office high rises of Oracle are in the southeastern corner of Redwood City (in the Redwood Shores development on bay landfill) and Ampex was a pioneer of audiotape recording in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps Neil Young taped songs on Ampex machines; he refers to Redwood City in “Heart of Gold” (“I've been to Hollywood/ I've been Redwood ...”).
While the computer engineers who live in Redwood City’s Emerald Hills and Farm Hill neighborhoods may look to the future, the city does have a rich past. This county seat of San Mateo County was incorporated in 1868 and established an early foothold on the San Francisco peninsula with the opening of the first (and still the only) deepwater port on the western side of the bay. That allowed fallen redwoods culled from the hills to be shipped out of the harbor, giving the city its name.
Fortunately, redwoods and pines still blanket the steep slopes of the hills above the city, which are protected from development in Huddart and Wunderlich County Parks. At a third county park on the western edge of the city, Edgewood, fitness-focused Jerry Rice once coaxed 49ers teammates into running up a steep hill with him to get in better shape during the team’s glory days. The 49ers have long been associated with Redwood City because the team training camp was located there for decades.
Several sites of historical interest can be visited in Redwood City, notably the County History Museum, housed in the 1910 stained-glass-domed courthouse. The 94-foot cross atop one of the city’s highest hills, Sequoia High School (with its own Japanese Tea Garden), and the Old Fox Theater also have long histories. New businesses and ethnic restaurants have, meanwhile, revitalized the old downtown, which is most crowded each year on Independence Day for the parade, one of the state’s largest.
If you come to the parade, don’t worry about the weather. Remember: “Climate best …”
Written by Bob Cooper