Friday, November 30, 2012

Update on 7-11 Development at 501 N. San Mateo Drive

On September 17, 2012, after receiving numerous complaints from San Mateo residents about the opening of a 7-11 store at 501 N. San Mateo Drive, I called for public hearings on the continuation of a non-conforming use of the property at 501 N. San Mateo Drive.

Hearings on the issue of whether the property owners at 501 N. San Mateo Drive have a right to continue to use their property for a non-conforming use were held on November 15, 2012. Further hearings have been continued into next January 2013. In the interest of providing a fair and unbiased hearing for the property owners and the neighbors, I will continue to keep an open-mind on the issue, and not render an opinion or judgment on the issue until the public hearing is held.

However, in early November, as I learned more about the issue and timeline related to the granting of permits for the 7-11 by City staff, I made a request to the City Attorney’s Office to begin gathering all public records related to this issue, including “Any correspondence (email, letters, phone logs)” between City staff and City Councilmembers related to the development of 501 N. San Mateo Drive.

Earlier today, as a result of my earlier request, the City Attorney’s Office released phone logs from the City Planning Division which raise legitimate questions about communication between City staff and members of the City Council that might be seen as having influenced the granting of a building permit for the 7-11 at 501 N. San Mateo Drive.

While there is most likely a reasonable explanation for what the phone logs appear to show, even the appearance of impropriety is unacceptable in serving the residents of San Mateo openly and honestly. For that reason, City staff will continue to investigate the matter. The results of those investigations will be released and scrutinized in public hearings by the City Council. I will also personally support the role of outside agencies, including the media, to fully investigate and get to the truth of this matter.

Moving forward, I will continue to work as I have since I first learned of this issue – asking questions and making inquiries for all relevant information on behalf of the citizens of San Mateo.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Apologies for typos!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Leaf Blower Ban - A Win-Win-Win for Our Community

Last night, the San Mateo City Council voted 3-2 to continue a discussion about banning all gas-powered leaf blowers in the City of San Mateo. However, there is still much work to be done on this issue, and I invite all residents to join me in the discussion.

I support a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, but I do NOT support criminalizing the ban to punish local gardeners who rely on the leaf blowers for their livelihood. Here is how I see this issue:

Gas-powered leaf blowers are relics of the 1970's. While every other piece of technology has improved in the past 40 years, most leaf blowers still use the same engines developed in the 1970's. Emission standards for leaf blowers have not improved. Sound dampening for leaf blowers has not improved.

An hourly wage-worker who straps on a gas-powered leaf blower is exposed to carbon emissions well above what any of us would expose our own friends or family to. We wouldn't buy a car with similar emission standards, and yet we resign our gardeners to clean our yards with a 1970's gas-powered engine strapped to his back.

Particulant matter driven into the air by leaf blowers is also a source of unhealthy air quality for an entire neighborhood. Asthma among Americans is at an all-time high, so it is incumbent up municipalities to help protect air quality for our residents.

Despite these well-known facts about leaf blowers, enforcement of a full ban on gas-powered leaf blowers is problematic for two reasons.

First, a ban on leaf blowers is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Police and code enforcement officers in jurisdictions where leaf blower bans exist report that it is very hard to enforce bans on leaf blowers.

Second, enforcement of a leaf blower ban through fines against gardeners is unfair to the gardener. Most often, these gardeners are local residents who run their companies as a small business. It is simply unjust to punish gardeners for trying to make a living.

Therefore, my proposal is to ban leaf blowers to protect both workers and the community from the ill-effects of leaf blowers, but at the same time find ways to educate and offer incentives to gardeners to stop using leaf blowers.

I believe the technology exists in 2012 to stop using 1970's-era leaf blowers.

I believe that by banning leaf blowers, we should offer alternatives to gardeners, and we should help them find the mean to pay for these alternatives. That is why I proposed the following steps last night at our City Council meeting:

1) Ban all gas-powered leaf blowers in the City of San Mateo.

2) Offer monetary incentives in the form of grants or subsidies to local gardeners to purchase more worker and enviornmentally friendly garden vacums.

3) Use education and outreach to encourage gardeners to apply for these grants to use these more moden technologies to transform their businesses into more "green-friendly" businesses.

In the coming months I will be seeking state, federal, and foundation grant funds to fund this process. I will be holding community meetings and demonstrations to assess these new technologies. I will be reaching out to the gardener's groups and neighborhoods to seek their input.

By working together I believe we can craft what will be a "win-win-win" situation: A win for neighborhoods bothered by leaf blowers, a win for gardeners and their workers, and a win for the environment.

I hope to hear from all of you intersted in this topic.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween Party at CuriOdyssey

San Mateo is host to many fun Halloween events. Tonight we are at CuriOdyssey's Halloween event. Lots of fun learning about "spooky science"!

Silicon Valley Leadership Group Luncheon

On Friday I attended the Silicon Valley Leadership Group annual luncheon of CEO's and community leaders of Silicon Valley.

I pay my own way to events such as these (not using taxpayer money), but my goal is to promote San Mateo.

At these events I am always on the lookout for new businesses looking to relocate to San Mateo. I am also networking with regional and state leaders on issues important to San Mateo.

While being your Councilmember only pays part-time wages, I am always working full-time for our City!