Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Volunteer Spirit is Alive and Well in San Mateo!

There is no denying that the City of San Mateo faces some challenging economic times ahead. In the next few months, decisions will need to be made that may drastically cut back services in our City. All parts of our community may be affected -- parks, libraries, children and senior services. Layoffs to city staff might become necessary. Economists predict that California might not pull out of this current recession until 2012.

In these tough times, I've been asked more than once, "Why did you want to be on City Council during one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression?" My answer is simple.

It's what we do in San Mateo.

Our City has a wonderful history of ordinary citizens like you and me stepping up and helping out our communities. Rather than wait for others to do things for us, we in San Mateo embody the American spirit of taking charge of our own destinies and working together for the common good. It is this spirit of giving and volunteerism that makes me optimistic about our City even when times are tough.

From time to time, I will highlight the volunteer efforts of our neighbors both to showcase their good work, and to remind us all of what we can do if we work together and remember what a great community we are blessed to live in.

Volunteer Spotlight: ROBERT BOSCACCI

Mr. Boscacci is a local high school student who is an Eagle Scout candidate. As part of Mr. Boscacci's efforts to become an Eagle Scout, Mr. Boscacci is hosting a blood drive at St. Gregory's Church this Sunday, January 31. Appointments can be made from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM by contacting Mr. Boscacci at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Congratulations to New Community Realtions Commissioner Randy Torrijos

Congratulations to San Mateo's new Community Relations Commissioner Randy Torrijos. Mr. Torrijos is a native of San Mateo who is a licensed attorney and works in public service.

Mr. Torrijos will join four other San Mateo residents on the Community Relations Commission. The CRC makes funding recommendations to the City Council on federal funds used to help social service agencies that provide services to seniors, children, and people facing housing problems. They help to make sure none of our fellow residents are without basic services.

Thanks to Mr. Torrijos for his willingness to serve!

New Program to Encourage Energy Efficiency in San Mateo

Tonight I'm pleased to have voted along with the rest of the San Mateo City Council to participate in a joint program with 14 counties and over 300 other cities in California to allow homeowners to make energy efficient improvements to their homes.

Under this new program to be rolled out later this year, homeowners in San Mateo will be able to apply for low-interest funding through a municipal bond that will allow them to make improvements to their homes that will reduce their overall carbon footprint. Financing for the installation of solar panels, low-energy lighting, and water-saving systems will be available to homeowners through loans that will be paid back over a 20 year period through annual assessments to the homeowners property tax.

This program will be VOLUNTARY only, so no one will see an increase in their property taxes unless they participate in the program.

Thanks to City Staff of working hard to hammer out the details of this program.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moving Forward on Sustainability through Home Improvement Financing

I am committed to helping build a more sustainable San Mateo for everyone. One of the biggest things we can all do as residents is work on ways to reduce our carbon footprint in our own homes.

At this Tuesday's meeting, I'm proud to support a resolution that will allow the City of San Mateo to join over 400 other local agencies throughout California in a pilot program that will encourage homeowners to retrofit and install renewable energy systems in their homes.

The program, known as CaliforniaFIRST, is a program created through partnership between the California League of Cities and the California State Association of Counties. CaliforniaFIRST will allow homeowner in San Mateo and other participating cities to finance renewable energy, energy efficiency and water efficiency improvements on their property.

The improvements by the homeowner will be financed by the issuance of bonds by California Communities, a joint power authority which will oversee CaliforniaFIRST. With this funding, homeowners will be able to pay back the improvements to their property through monthly assessments spread over 10-20 years.

The incentive to homeowners is clear. Instead of having to pay for solar roofing on our own, we homeowners in San Mateo will be able to apply for a contractual assessment through CaliforniaFIRST to get the money we need to install solar roofing, energy efficient lighting, or any other number of environmentally friendly upgrades to our property.

Obviously, our City is in no shape to take on new debt, and raising taxes to fund this type of program is not acceptable. That's the good news about this program. Through cooperation with other Cities and counties, the City of San Mateo will incur no costs to participate in this program. Even the $15,000 estimated to help with start up costs for the program will likely be paid for with Federal stimulus money being applied for by CaliforniaFIRST.

City staff on the Neighborhood Improvement & Housing Department have worked very hard in collaborating with CaliforniaFIRST, and have put together a comprehensive report which will be considered by the City Council this Tuesday, January 19, 2010. I encourage you all to read this report for yourself, and let myself or staff know of any comments or concerns you might have.

You can view the report by clicking HERE.

Overall, I think this is a great step forward in creating a more sustainable San Mateo and I hope you will join me in supporting this very important step forward.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Working to Keep Our Downtown Vibrant for Everyone

Over the past few weeks I've met with various San Mateo merchants to discuss ideas on how to keep our Downtown San Mateo healthy and vibrant. In these tough economic times, it is important to help business owners make it through the challenges they face.

Along with helping businesses, celebrating the diversity of our community through events that appeal to people from all walks of life helps to bring our neighborhoods together. As your Councilman, I am working hard to support projects that will showcase our world-class businesses while reaching out to everyone in our community.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rebuilding California - San Mateo County Summit

This past Saturday, January 9, I spent the morning at Canada College in Redwood City at a San Mateo County summit of elected officials and administrative officers from throughout San Mateo County to discuss the impact of the state budget woes on our community.

The event, called "Rebuilding California From the Ground Up" was moderated by San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, the Chair of The Cities Counties Schools Partnership. Also in attendance were Assemblyman Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom, and over 80 city council members, school board members, and administrative officials from throughout our county.

We heard from speakers who discussed the latest budget woes in California and met in small groups to discuss issues facing our particular communities.

As your new Councilperson, I was thankful to have recently met many of you face-to-face this summer and fall, and so was truly able to bring a personal perspective on the issues facing San Mateo.

Among some of the many items discussed at the summit included:

  • The problem created by the requirement that the budget in California must be passed by a 2/3 vote in the State legislature. Other than California, only two other states of our 50 states has this 2/3 requirement. This 2/3 requirement creates gridlock in Sacramento, and was described by one speakers as "extreme government that serves no logical purpose."

  • The creation of laws in Sacramento and through the initiative process that place additional requirements on cities and counties without providing sources of funding to enact these polices. These "unfunded mandates" require cities and counties to use general funds that could otherwise be used to fix roads, clean up our parks, or provide services to seniors and children.

  • The current efforts underway to reform California through a Constitutional Convention. California has not had a Constitutional Convention to rework our Constitution in over 90 years, and yet the idea is not a radical thought. Many states have a system in place to review their Constitutions ever 5-10 years to make sure that they are serving their citizens' needs. California's Constitution is currently a patchwork mess of amendments through initiatives that is unwieldy and confusing.
All of this is important to San Mateo because the quality of government in Sacramento directly affects our quality of life in San Mateo. As voters, you approved the sales tax measure and hotel tax measure this past November to help close a $4 million dollar gap in the city's budget that was due in some parts to decreased funding from Sacramento. In the upcoming fiscal year, the State estimates another $21 billion shortfall which will again trickle down to cities like San Mateo.

Already, the proposed budget of the Governor takes aim at the quaility of life in cities like San Mateo. For example, the Governor's proposed budget suggests raising revenue through the increased use of "red light cameras" at intersections throughout California. While I support red light cameras if they enhance public safety on our city streets, I absolutely oppose them if they are meant to simply generate revenue, especially if that revenue will not be used to enhance public safety in our own communities.

As your Councilman, I will continue to represent you at meetings that discuss the future of our great State. Cooperation between local, regional, and statewide interests will be necessary to protect our communities, and the communities of all Californians. San Mateo, as the second largest city in San Mateo County, must be part of that cooperative effort, and so I will continue to spend whatever time is necessary to be part of these crucial discussions.

I would also love to discuss what I learned at this summit with all of you, my fellow San Mateo neighbors. If you would like me to come talk to your neighborhood association, school, or church group about these of any other issues, I encourage you to contact me at:


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kaiser Hospital Coming to San Mateo

On Monday, January 4, the City Council unanimously approved the building of a Kaiser Medical Plaza in San Mateo at the gateway to the Bay Meadows area at Hillsdale Blvd. and Saratoga. With a reputation for quality medical service and the ability to employ over 200 more citizens, we look forward to having Kaiser in our City!


San Mateo OKs Kaiser project

January 05, 2010
By Bill Silverfarb
San Mateo Daily Journal

The San Mateo City Council unanimously approved the construction of a 64,700-square-foot medical office building last night to be built at Franklin Parkway between Hillsdale Boulevard and Saratoga Drive.

Kaiser Permanente’s medical building will put a finishing touch on what the council hopes will be a gateway into the city. The medical office will sit directly across the street from the city’s state-of-the-art police headquarters to the west and the Whole Foods Market to the north.

The three-story building will sit on a piece of property that will be the last Bay Meadows Phase I parcel to be developed.

The city had hoped to lure a major hotel to the area and came close in 2002 when W Hotel was approved to be built on the spot. But the financing fell through for that project and the City Council amended the Bay Meadows Specific Plan last night to allow for a medical use on the property.

When it was drafted in 1997, the specific plan originally called for visitor-oriented uses on the property including a hotel, restaurants and conference facilities.

“I lament we did not get a hotel,” said Deputy Mayor Jack Matthews who was on the Planning Commission when the W Hotel was approved. “[But] the Kaiser building will act well as a gateway to the city.”

The medical office building will provide additional services for Kaiser’s 40,000 San Mateo County members north of its Redwood City hospital campus.

The services at the proposed Kaiser medical office building include pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, optometry, radiology, a pharmacy and optical services. Kaiser also proposes a conference room center and health education library, both open to the general public.

Medical services will be provided Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The building will be closed on the weekends and a farmers’ market is proposed to be held in the parking lot.

An arcade and three pocket parks will be constructed on the Franklin Parkway side of the property and pedestrian traffic will be centered at the intersection of Saratoga Drive and Franklin Parkway.

Kaiser’s plans, however, include the ability to expand on the property in the future.

Councilman David Lim was concerned about traffic impacts to the area and whether forecasts had considered the presence of senior citizens who would be accessing the medical building. Fellow Councilman Robert Ross echoed his concern about pedestrian safety and suggested a traffic-calming device be considered for the area.

Kaiser pledged to use local labor in the building’s construction after being asked by Councilman Brandt Grotte if that was the intent. Grotte also expressed concern about the possibility of future expansion on the property and the loss of amenities including the pocket parks and open space.

“Welcome to the city. We are glad to have you,” Mayor John Lee said after the 5-0 council vote to approve the project. “I understand there is concerns about a crosswalk. If there is a problem, let’s fix it.”

The project site consists of approximately 4.22 acres of vacant land on the southeast portion of the Bay Meadows Phase I development.

The building is designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. Parking will be on the surface with 300 spaces and have capacity for 79 bicycles.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

City Council and Parks and Recreation Meeting Next Week

This coming week, after most of December off, the City will hold two meetings.

On Monday, Jan. 4 the City Council will meet to hold a public hearing on the Kaiser Medical building proposal in the Bay Meadows area. A copy of the agenda and items for the meeting can be viewed here.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, the Parks and Recreation Commission will meet to consider creation of a pilot program to allow dogs off-leash in certain parks at certain hours. Currently, all dogs must be on a leash at all times in San Mateo parks.

The leash law issue is something I discussed with many of you over the past year. City Staff and the Commissioners of the Parks and Recreation Department have worked hard to listen to the ideas and concerns of all citizens and have crafted a pilot program which addresses many of those needs. To chime in on this issue, you can review the staff report here, and email your comments to City Staff, or attend the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Jan. 6.