Friday, October 28, 2011

San Mateo looks to toughen code enforcement rules

October 27, 2011, 02:52 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff
A plan to beef up San Mateo’s code enforcement rules has stalled as some on the City Council are concerned an idea to turn an infraction into a misdemeanor may be going too far.

The City Council considered amending the city’s municipal code at its last meeting to also give citation authority to a broader group of city employees, including the public works director, building inspectors, park rangers, the waste/recycling program coordinator, tree maintenance specialist and parking enforcement officers, among others.

The most significant amendment to the municipal code are revisions to the penalties for violations so that a violation of any code can be punishable as either a misdemeanor or an infraction.

Councilman David Lim, however, thinks misdemeanors should be issued by police, since they are properly trained to deal with such situations.

At the very least, Lim said, the authority to issue a misdemeanor should be left up to either department heads, the city manager or the city attorney.

Changes to the municipal code would also allow the waste/recycling program coordinator, as an example, to immediately book someone into jail.

“I think it is a bad precedent to set for the city to allow those positions to put someone in jail. Sworn police officers are trained properly” and better suited to deal with any potential problems with issuing misdemeanors, said Lim, who is an Alameda County prosecutor.

Councilman Robert Ross, a former police officer, also has issues with broadening citation authority and penalties.

To take the infractions from a fine to possible “imprisonment” goes too far for Ross.

“I don’t know I like that, to take civil behavior and make it criminal,” he said.

The city’s municipal code covers all kinds of behavior, from the size of permitted signs and what is allowed on sidewalks to issues with homeowners, including junk in yards and the proper installation of water heaters, for example.

“These are civil matters and the penalties include daily fees” if someone is found in violation, Ross said. “Do we want to put people in jail for having a sign too big?”

Mayor Jack Matthews understands the concerns considering Lim and Ross both have law enforcement backgrounds but does not have a problem with broadening the rules.

“It is unlikely code enforcement officers will give misdemeanors without the aid of a police officer,” Matthews said.

Councilman John Lee agrees.

He mentioned a parking enforcement officer who was recently spit at downtown after issuing a parking ticket.

“He did the right thing, he called the police,” Lee said.

It is not likely parking enforcement officers will start carrying handcuffs on them, Lee said.

“By allowing the city to charge all violations as misdemeanors or infractions, the city can better tailor the penalty to the specific violation,” according to as staff report to council by Bahareh Abdollahi, assistant city attorney.

The item was continued to a future council meeting for a vote.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fire Station 24

Last Monday I was pleased to give final approval with my fellow Council Members on a much needed remodel for San Mateo Fire Station 24, located on Humboldt and 4th Avenue near Downtown San Mateo.

Final approval for the project comes after months of hard work by City Staff and the Planning Commission.

The approval to rebuild Fire Station 24 into a modern, 21st Century station is part of the continued effort by me and my fellow Councilmembers to provide our fire department with the most modern equipment to keep our communities safe.

I continue to make public safety my top priority, and thank everyone involved in this project for their hard work!

To view the staff report for the approval of Station 24 from last week's meeting, click  here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ensuring Accountablity for Public Safety

At last night's City Council meeting, I made a motion to delay a vote on an important amendment to our City codes so that we could slow down and make sure we are doing everything we can to better protect our communities.

At yesterday's meeting, City Staff introduced a resolution that would amend San Mateo's City Code to make all violations of the Code enforceable as either infractions or misdemeanors.

I support the concept of allowing our City Attorney more flexibility in dealing with violations of our City  Codes as either infractions or misdemeanors.  In today's complex world, there are unfortunately times where the City needs the ability to protect our communities through the use of misdemeanor citations.

In my opinion, however, the ordinance offered yesterday empowered too broad a group of City employees to issue citations for misdemeanors.

While infractions are non-criminal citation which carry fines in the range of $100-$500, misdemeanor citations are criminal violations punishable by fines of up to $1000 and imprisonment of up to six-months in the county jail.  Furthermore a person cited for a misdemeanor violation may face arrest and booking procedures at the discretion of the person who cites them. 

Under the new ordinance, employees such as code enforcement officers or building inspectors with no formal training in law enforcement would be empowered to issue misdemeanor citation.  In my opinion, this is simply too much power in the hands of government. 

I believe that the power to charge someone with a misdemeanor crime should be limited to the City Attorney, sworn police officers, the Fire Chief  and Fire Marshalls (in the case of issues involving fire safety), the City Manager, and City Department Heads. 

By limiting the power to issue misdemeanor citations to the above individuals, your City Council and city  staff can remain more accountable to the public in the judicious use of police power. 

I therefore made my motion to delay action on this ordinance until we can further review, discuss, and consider the issue.  I am pleased to report that my motion was approved on a 4-1 vote.

Moving forward, I plan to stay involved in this issue to ensure that our City is able to fully protect our residents or communities without granting overly-broad powers to City employees.  Protecting the civil rights of our residents is equally as important as enforcement of the law. 

I welcome your view and discussion on this very important topic.  Please feel free to call me or email me if you'd like to talk about this issue. 

To view the staff report on this issue, click here

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Group plans to protest at aging bridge

October 13, 2011, 04:52 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

In an effort to pressure Congress to pass jobs legislation, a local group of activists is planning a protest Friday on a bridge in San Mateo they say is structurally unsafe and should be fixed with federal stimulus money.

The Mid-Peninsula American Dream Council, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, wants Congress to put money toward fixing the country’s ailing infrastructure and to create jobs in the process.

The local Dream Council is a relatively new group made up of members that rallied in August at U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo’s Palo Alto office.

At 4 p.m. Friday, the group hopes to attract at least 100 people for a rally at a bridge that crosses State Route 92 at Alameda de las Pulgas in San Mateo to highlight the bridge’s state of disrepair.

The bridge, built in 1963, has a current structural rating of “4” for the deck, considered to be structurally deficient, requiring frequent monitoring and repair, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2010 National Bridge Inventory.

The bridge has a superstructure rating of “7” and a substructure rating of “5,” according to the report. Any rating below “5” is considered to be structurally deficient. The superstructure supports the deck and the substructure connects the bridge to the ground.

The bridge was last inspected in 2008, according to the bridge inventory report.

“Fixing our infrastructure is a solution to the jobs problem,” said Cilla Raughley, spokeswoman for the local Dream Council.

The intent of the rally, she said, is to pressure Congress to pass the American Jobs Act.

But the Senate shot down President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill Tuesday night. The White House now intends to force additional votes on separate pieces of the measure, such as infrastructure spending, jobless assistance and tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

“The government needs to create jobs before making cuts,” Raughley said.  “Our aging infrastructure is alarming.”

In San Mateo, 74 bridges have been found with ratings below “5,” according to the national bridge inventory report. 

The bridge at Alameda de las Pulgas where the rally is planned is listed as No. 350161 on the report.

The bridge structure itself is the responsibility of Caltrans, said San Mateo Public Works Director Larry Patterson. The city’s responsibility is limited to the paving, railings and other items on the structure, Patterson said.

An official with Caltrans did not tell the Daily Journal yesterday whether the bridge was indeed structurally deficient as the report indicates or when the last time the bridge was inspected.

Regardless of whose responsibility it is to fix the bridge in San Mateo, the local Dream Council wants it done with federal stimulus money.

“Those are good-paying jobs,” Raughley said.

She is not sure how many will attend the rally but she is hoping for at least 100.

The San Mateo Police Department is aware of the event and will be taking steps to ensure public safety and minimal disruption to residents while respecting the right of all citizens to gather and protest peacefully, according to an email from San Mateo Councilman David Lim.

To learn more about the rally visit

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Town Hall Meetings Coming to San Mateo

 Here is a press release going out from my office tomorrow morning:


Contact:           David Lim, San Mateo City Council
Town Hall Meetings Coming to San Mateo:  Councilman David Lim Helps to Host Two Upcoming Town Hall Meetings To Engage Community On Local Issues

San Mateo, CA – October 10, 2011 –  San Mateo City Councilmember David Lim will be helping to host two important town hall meetings in San Mateo over the next three weeks.    

On Thursday, October 13, 2011 from 6-8 p.m. at San Mateo City Hall, David will serve as moderator at a town hall meeting featuring Assemblymember Jerry Hill and former Assemblymember Sally Lieber as they discuss “How Redistricting Affects You.”   

Sponsored by the San Mateo Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, the event is free to all members of the public.  Light refreshments will be served.

“With San Mateo County being drawn into new districts for the California Assembly (22nd District), California Senate (13th District), and U.S. Congress (14th District), it is important for residents to know how these new district boundries will affect their representation at all levels of government,” noted David.  “We are lucky to have two of our local leaders from Sacramento on hand to discuss this important topic in an informal town hall format.” 

On Tuesday, October 25, 2011 from 6-7 p.m. at the San Mateo Public Library (3rd Ave. at El Camino), David will hosting “San Mateo Unplugged” a town hall meeting to discuss goals and issues important to residents of the City of San Mateo. 

In discussing the goal behind “San Mateo Unplugged,” David stated, “Residents asked me to host more informal gathering where instead of agendized meetings, they can just come and chat with members of the City Council about issues important to them.  It allows for a more open exchange of ideas about what’s important to our community and how we can work together to make things happen.”

Flyers for both events can be found attached to this press release. 

For more information, contact San Mateo City Councilmember David Lim at (415) 290-4044.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Asking Questions About Rising Garbage Rates

This past Monday, the City Council reluctantly agreed to set a public hearing for November on a 9.9% rate increase to our trash bill, but not before I asked some tough questions about the need to increase the rate.  

I put together a brief slide presentation on the issue.  You can view the slide show by clicking on the link below, and also watch video of Monday's meeting.  

My basic issue is whether it is necessary to raise our bills for trash pick up in these tough economic times.  

I hope to hear more from all of you when this issue comes up in November.  

To view my slide show, click HERE

To view my questions raised on this issue at Monday's meeting, click HERE

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

OP-ED: Many reasons for new county jail

While I normally don't weigh in on the decisions of County agencies, the decision on the expansion of the San Mateo County jail has the potential to have huge consequences for residents of the City of San Mateo when it comes to public safety.  

For that reason, I wrote the following opinion piece in today's San Mateo Daily Journal, in response to an article written by San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, opposing expansion of our current, out-dated county jail.  

I urge all residents to study the issue and let the Board of Supervisors know your opinion on this critical public safety issue.  As always, feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss this or any other issue. 

OP-ED: Many reasons for new county jail
October 04, 2011, 01:03 AM By David Lim

Supervisor Dave Pine’s decision to oppose expansion of the new jail as proposed is commendable for keeping sight of today’s fiscal realities, but the consequences of not building an expanded jail big enough comes with long-term negative effects on public safety (“Time to rethink criminal justice in county” guest perspective in Oct. 3 edition).

Mr. Pine’s position for a smaller jail based on the ability to reduce the jail population through evidence-based programs to reduce recidivism misses one major point.

When the state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 109 and its companion bills, it fundamentally altered our criminal justice system in ways not seen in more than 100 years. The largest change is that a majority of felons not convicted of “non-violent,” “non-serious” and “non-sex-related” crimes will now be housed in county jails, not state prisons.

This realignment means that hundreds of new convicted felons will be the responsibility of local agencies such as the county of San Mateo.

Mr. Pine suggests a number of worthy programs that are part of the realignment to the criminal justice system, and I agree with him that we should explore those options. However, those programs in and by themselves will not reduce our need for a larger county jail.

For example, even when using more electronic monitoring as suggested by Mr. Pine, there will be a need for periods of incarceration. Upon conviction, an individual charged with a felony will have to be in custody for at least 60 days before being eligible for electronic monitoring. For misdemeanor defendants, the requirement is 30 days in custody.

Thus, even with the new services to reduce recidivism, the need for adequate housing for inmates will remain and even increase in some cases.

There are also possible unforeseen consequences of inadequate housing for inmates. Adequate housing is fundamental to the basic human dignity of those incarcerated. No matter what their crimes, inmates have a right to decent housing while serving their sentences. Failure to provide adequate housing over the long term could subject the county to expensive civil rights lawsuits from inmates and lead to early release of inmates before they are rehabilitated.

Supervisors Rose Jacobs Gibson and Don Horsley set the correct tone in their support for the expanded jail, and I urge Mr. Pine to follow their lead.

Supervisor Gibson has years of experience working to reduce violent crime while a member of the East Palo Alto City Council, and her suggestion to use the expanded space at the new jail to provide alternative services to reduce recidivism are laudable.

Supervisor Horsley has more than 30 years in law enforcement, and was instrumental in ushering in modernization of our county correctional system while serving as our San Mateo County sheriff. We should rely on his expertise and listen to his guidance.

Ultimately, if the county fails to adequately provide for the incarceration of county inmates in the future, it is local communities who will suffer.

Releasing inmates due to lack of space remains a serious concern in our community without an expanded jail. If that happens, it will fall to city police agencies and local city councils to increase their funding in public safety to keep our neighborhoods safe.

I urge Mr. Pine and the rest of the Board of Supervisors to support the expansion of the new jail. The short-term investment will be tough now, but will pay dividends in public safety for years to come.  

David Lim is a member of the San Mateo City Council and works as a deputy district attorney for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. This guest perspective represents the viewpoint of Lim, and is not the official viewpoint of the city of San Mateo.