Rob Weiss is a long time resident of Redwood City and the President of the Emerald Lake Country Club. Natalie and I recently spent a morning at the little lake tucked in the hills and learned more about its history, the membership process, and the community. If you haven't been to Emerald Lake before, this weekend is the perfect chance to check it out before summer ends. They are hosting a concert on Saturday, September 3 at 7pm.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Emerald Lake?
Emerald Lake was incorporated in 1920 as a nonprofit recreational neighborhood association. The site is actually kind of a natural wet spot. Two seasonal creeks feed this area. The story goes that it was actually a watering hole for cattle and perhaps even a stagecoach stop between Redwood City and Pescadero back around the 1860s and '70s. The dam that's here now was built in the late 1920s.
It was built originally by a couple of developers named Leonard and Holt in 1920 to be a recreational area for people living in San Francisco to escape the summer fog. Behind us here, on Lake Boulevard, were a bunch of old cabins and the plan was to rent them out for the summer. There was a golf course up the hill to the northwest. Emerald Lake was meant to be a vacation spot that was an easy ride from San Francisco. That was the actual genesis of this version of the lake.
After about six years, I think their plan wasn't working out so well. A group of neighbors ended up buying the lake from Leonard and Holt for $10 and reformed Emerald Lake to be what it is today. Today it's owned by 50 families, who we call Active Members, and we sell a limited number of summer memberships for those who want to just come in the summertime. They have no ownership rights. That's the short history.
For people interested in joining, what does the membership and ownership process look like?
Membership is not restricted by the owner's residence. But most of our Active Members live nearby. To become an owner you begin as a summer member. Anyone can apply for summer membership through an open application process that starts February 1 of each year. Again, ownership is limited by our organizational policy to 50 members. Summer members simply show interest in the lake, by volunteering at our work parties) and at the Lake’s social events. Upon approval by the board of directors, you can move to what's called Associate Membership. That means that you're essentially on a wait list to become an owner. I would say maybe one ownership stake opens up every two or three years at most. Openings only occur when an owner returns his membership to the Club. We actually have two families that can trace their ownership stake in this lake back to its formation in the 1920s.
How long have you been a member and how did you get involved?
I've been a member since 1992. I was living in San Mateo and used to hike in Edgewood Park all the time. Walking on the trails I would look down and see the roofs of this neighborhood down here. I wondered what this neighborhood was. One day I decided to drive down to get a closer look. As I drove up Oak Knoll and saw the lake’s water slide and the high dive I thought, "Oh my, this is pretty nice. This feels like somewhere in the Sierra foothills ." I grew up with swim holes and thought, "This is great, My kids will love this." So within a year or two I bought a house nearby and joined the lake.
What are some of your favorite things about being involved in the Emerald Hills Country Club?
One of the things that's really great about this lake is that because it's in a neighborhood and most of the membership lives nearby, there's a real sense of community here. You can come down by yourself and you're undoubtedly going to find people who you know well. You’ll kick off your shoes, sit down and talk and have a cold (non-alcoholic) drink. Maybe swim, picnic and share some stories. Absolutely a big part of the real charm of the Emerald Lake is this sense of community.
The other thing that I find really, really delightful is seeing the kids playing in the sand and jumping in the water and throwing a ball around in the shallow end, just the way they would have in 1920. They're not playing video games, they're not on their devices. They're doing the same kind of fun stuff they would have done 100 years ago. Call our lake retro, that’s fine with us.
Do you have any favorite spots to hang out in Redwood City?
I love to go to the Friday night concerts downtown and I often go to the Wednesday ones at Stafford Park. I play softball at Red Morton Park. There's a little sushi place I like called Yokohama. And a Japanese restaurant called Higume on El Camino and Whipple. And, of course, La Viga for the best Latin seafood in town. But don’t tell anyone. It’s already too crowded.