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Giselle Hale announces City Council candidacy

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City Council hopeful Giselle Hale formally announced her candidacy this morning in a most fitting way – a Facebook post.

The director of media partnership at Facebook, who currently serves on Redwood City’s planning commission, is a young leader with years of professional experience and community service under her belt. Hale said she is running for City Council to “ensure residents and families of all ethnic and economic backgrounds” can live and thrive in the city.

“I believe my combined experience as a businesswoman, current Redwood City Planning Commissioner, community volunteer and most importantly a mother provides me with a broad perspective on what it will take to create and maintain a vibrant and livable Redwood City for all residents,” Hale said in her announcement.

Hale joined Facebook in 2010 after co-founding the startup Civio. Professionally, she is an expert in fields including marketing, program management, business development, channel strategies and startup operations.

She’s also been very active in the public sector, serving as campaign manager for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in 2008, who won re-election decisively that year. Prior to that role, she was a regional field director for former President Barack Obama’s campaign.

Hale has served on the Redwood City planning commission since 2014, and is also active with the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, health care access, and policies that help parents meet the demands of work and family.

She earned an undergraduate degree in International Relations from University of Wisconsin-Madison and a graduate degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

“My husband and I came to Redwood City to start our family because it was a place that matched our personal values of hard work, kindness, family and fun,” Hale said. “Redwood City stands out across the Peninsula as a place that embraces diversity, families and every generation with an unmatched quality of life.”

Hale’s campaign website can be viewed here.

Going to Bat

in Community/Education/Featured by

By Bill Shilstone

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge John. L. (“Jack”) Grandsaert called the courtroom to order with some unusual introductory remarks to the defendants:

“The discipline that you showed during your military training and service is what convinces me that you can successfully complete your probation and treatment in this court. Veterans deserve different treatment. They have already sacrificed part of their lives for the benefit of the rest of us.”

Any of the county’s 29,000 military veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law should hope to end up in Judge Grandsaert’s Redwood City courtroom. Instead of facing fines or a jail term that will build on feelings of rejection and anger that often plague veterans, he or she will find an authority figure who talks to them like a favorite uncle and offers a helping hand.

Grandsaert and the team he put together to establish the Veterans Treatment Court are dedicated to helping the veteran complete probation and get treatment. Convictions may be expunged. Fines may be reduced or excused. Perhaps most important, the veteran may get the feeling that the system can be accepting and assisting instead of accusing and adversarial.

At a recent hearing, Grandsaert had a twinkle in his eye, not a glare, as he engaged nine veterans, in turn, in friendly, personally directed conversation.

“How is the rock climbing going? I know it’s therapeutic for you.”

“You made all your appointments; good for you. We’ll see what we can do about your restitution problem.”

Eight of the nine received the same treatment: a smile, a handshake, congratulations on a positive report, a gift certificate for coffee and a “See you in a month” sendoff. Courtroom spectators applauded each one. One no-show and one report of a probation violation were the only negatives.

Grandsaert, who was raised in Redwood City, was appointed to the Superior Court bench in 2004 and started the veterans’ court six years ago. He’d read about similar programs and had an affinity with the military, having served 10 years in the Army Reserve and a son, Patrick, making a career in the Air Force. “It seemed unfortunate that we couldn’t help a veteran by taking into account that military service is where problems originate,” Grandsaert said. “To me it’s an easy sell.”

Easy sell maybe, but with no budget for judges and staff for an extra court, it took Grandsaert a year and a half to get the Veterans Treatment Court going. He started gathering people he knew would be receptive, either veterans themselves or with veterans in their families. He convened meetings with representatives from offices of the Veterans Administration, district attorney, private defender, probation, and county behavioral health and recovery – all players on today’s  VTC team. They took on the assignment pro bono, on top of their regular jobs.

It’s the team working together, plus a willing veteran, that is responsible for the program’s success, said Danielle Barringer, a deputy probation officer assigned to the court, with a son in the Army.  “We figure out what is best for each and every veteran, we support them, watch them fail, pick them up again and watch them succeed.”

Milton Mooney, a recent graduate, and Tim Healy, one of his mentors, are typical of the defendants. Proudly showing off the certificates of achievement on the wall of his cozy Menlo Park apartment, Mooney told of turning to drugs and alcohol in Vietnam to mask painful memories from his two-year Army tour. He himself suffered a serious head injury in a Jeep crash. When he left the service, “My family didn’t want anything to do with me because of the drugs and alcohol.” He bought a car and began a cross-country journey “stopping in every state to get high” and leaving behind a string of driving-under-the influence arrests.

After almost 40 years of homelessness, Mooney was referred to the Palo Alto VA’s Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program at the Menlo Park campus. As long as a veteran is committed to reform and is crime free, he or she has a bed for six months and transition to the VA’s many rehabilitation programs.

Mooney didn’t quite make it. Another DUI put him in county jail in Redwood City for three months. VA clinical psychologist Matthew Stimmel came to the rescue and got Mooney into Grandsaert’s court. After 29 months of rehabilitation, Mooney, 65, was able to say to the celebrants at his graduation in November, “I’ve finally become a law-abiding senior citizen.”

“Counselors helped me get to where I am: DUI convictions gone from my record, a car, money in the bank, a job, housing (federally subsidized),” Mooney said. “I’ve never been there before. I want people to know it’s a blessing to be a vet, that we’re not bad people, and that vets court is God’s gift for giving us a second chance.” Mooney is now the newest mentor in Grandsaert’s court, someone who can “put an arm around the shoulder and say he knows the feeling,” said David Grillo, manager of the VA’s treatment liaison with the court.

Healy was a Navy airman from 1986 to 1990, and his story echoes Mooney’s.  “Alcohol is part of the culture in the military,” Healy said. “I graduated to bigger and better things and became a crystal meth addict. That led to losing jobs and being ostracized by family. I was an angry drug dealer. I pulled guns on people who owed me money. I was ugly.” Healy ended up in HVRP in 2010 and now works for the VA as an outreach specialist and is the lead mentor in the veterans’ court. Honored (with Grandsaert) in 2016 as co-Veteran of the Year, Healy’s personal turning point came when a psychologist told him, “If you change the way you think, you’ll change your life.  You create what happens.”

“I think what happens to many veterans who get in trouble,” he continued, “is that the adrenaline is suddenly gone. The military puts you in charge of life-and-death equipment, then you get out and go to work stocking shelves at Safeway. That was me. I’ve seen many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who just get bored. That leads to trouble.”

The success rate for the 175 veterans who have gone to the court is 100 percent, defined as connection with housing or treatment, Grillo said. From the court standpoint, the success rate is almost as good. “I’d say about two percent have problems after completing the program,” Grandsaert said. Nationwide, the rate of recidivism (another offense within three years) is 45 percent for misdemeanors and 60 percent for felonies.

“I also measure success by all the wonderful stories I hear,” Grandsaert said. He told of a man with a serious gambling addiction who was cured by his assignment to community service with the Warrior Canine Connection program, in which veterans train dogs to become service animals. “`Man’s best friend’ can be therapeutic for somebody down on their self-image who has trouble dealing with people,” he said.

Defendants eligible for assignment to the Veterans Treatment Court must have prior or current membership in the military and a diagnosis of trauma, substance abuse or other mental health issues that stem from military service. He or she must be eligible for VA benefits and for probation and not charged with serious violence. The VTC has handled cases of bank robbery, assault, and many DUI’s, Grandsaert said.

David Rice, a VTC mentor and assistant director of the Office for Military-Affiliated Communities at Stanford University, helps manage education benefits, connecting the 150 veterans on campus and facilitating needed social rehabilitation.

In both his mentoring and Stanford roles, Rice tried to ease the same kind of “culture shock” he experienced when he left the Army as a captain in 1997 after 11 years and went to work in graphic design. “My supervisors were afraid I was after their jobs,” he said. “In the Army, I knew my fellow soldiers had my back. It’s not like that in business.” Rice went to work at the VA as an addiction therapist and volunteered for the treatment court mentor program. He believes the program is successful, in part, because Grandsaert “talks to the veterans like they mean something.”

Grandsaert sums up the court’s benefits in the conclusion of his introductory courtroom admonition to the defendants: “If you are honest with me and the people who are trying to help you, and you give it your best effort, you will get through this, and good things will begin to happen for you once again.”


Culinary Disaster: When Good Intentions Go Horribly Wrong

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By Emily Mangini

“No, no, it tastes delicious,” our guest generously lied, taking another timid bite. I knew he was just being polite, and I tried desperately to convince him and his wife that it was not necessary to soldier on. After all, I was eating the same dessert, my beloved Basque Cake. I was tasting the same rich, luscious pastry cream sandwiched between two thick rounds of sweet cake. Only unlike our dinner guests, I was not in denial because every other bite was bastardized by the rum extract I had used in the pastry cream. It was my fault, I had cut corners and used rum extract instead of real rum. Instead of lightly flavoring the pastry cream, the extract hid, like tiny land mines of bootlegger’s sweat, waiting to explode in a cruel assault on innocent taste buds.

I could not believe this was happening. I was a pro at Basque Cake, and it was always a crowd-pleaser. That said, it was a natural choice to make the cake for the small dinner party that my husband and I were hosting. Living in Florence, Italy, was an amazing adventure. We were sometimes lonely, and were eager to bond with a pair of newfound, fellow ex-pats. My intentions had been pure: I would solidify our friendship with cake. And so I went to great lengths to execute the Basque Cake in my foreign home, knowing my efforts would be rewarded with a larger social circle.

I scoured the Italian markets for the more obscure and expensive ingredients in the cake: rum and cake flour. I procured the cake flour, but the rum was way too expensive for my English tutor budget. Instead, I opted for the much more affordable rum extract. What could go wrong, I reasoned while admiring the cute little bottle and its 2 Euro price tag. Quite pleased with my fiscal ingenuity, I headed back to the apartment to start baking.

It should be noted here that baking in a tiny Italian kitchen was not easy. For the most part I successfully fumbled my way through our minuscule kitchen. When the electrical fuse blew, though, I took a full-on dip in the pool of hysteria. Somehow I managed to get my masterpiece in the oven.

When sufficient time had passed and the beautiful, golden cake emerged, a tidal wave of relief washed over me. The night would no longer be a disaster, and in the end we would have new, lifelong friends. Thank you, Basque Cake.

But that’s not what the Italian gods had in store for me. Of all the trials and tribulations faced leading up to my moment of grandeur, it was the seemingly innocuous decision to use rum extract instead of rum that brought my victory to its knees. With a single, heavy-handed pour, I had ruined a cake born in an age when forks were a novelty and the average life expectancy was 38 years old.

Despite the burn of fake rum still singeing our tongues, we made plans for another dinner party. We even set a date for me to visit the couple in Barcelona when they moved the following month. The night had not gone perfectly, but I had survived. Best of all, our friendship was seemingly intact.

That sense of victory—not unlike what I felt when I pulled the cake from the oven—was false and short-lived. Once our friends moved, they disappeared, never to be heard from again. Phone calls and emails went unanswered.  I found myself stranded in Barcelona, scrambling to find something safer than a park bench on which to sleep.

Where they went will always be one of the great unanswered questions for me and my husband. Having settled on the self-inflated notion that we are much too delightful a couple to so drastically run off new friends, we have agreed that they were undercover spies. Or fugitives, evading the law. But every now and then my husband will bring up the Basque Cake and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, it all could have turned out differently.


Tall Ship from Washington to visit Redwood City

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Lady Washington, the official tall ship of Washington State and her companion vessel the Hawaiian Chieftain is scheduled to visit Redwood City from March 9 through March 15.

The ship will offer a family friendly event, “Evening and Battle Sails” which will feature a living history experience with demonstrations of tall ship handling, sea shanty singing, and maritime amusements.

The event will take place at the Port of Redwood City Marina.

To view the program or purchase tickets visit here.

Trailblazing Admiral instructs sea cadets in leadership

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A retired U.S. Navy rear admiral who navigated around restrictions women once faced in the military urged Sea Cadets gathered Saturday in Redwood City to create their own opportunities, offering advice from her own life about how to transform setbacks into success.

Speaking Feb. 3 during an annual inspection ceremony for the city’s unique U.S. Naval Sea Cadet unit, Rear Admiral Bonnie Potter, who is a physician, described her disappointment in 1975 when she came on active duty as a lieutenant and was told that she could not go to sea. She’d wanted to follow the path of her father, who had served the country in World War II.

“I thought, if I can’t go to sea, what else can I do?” she told the young people, their families and friends during the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Band of the West Division’s inspection ceremony and performance. The event was held at American Legion Post 105, one of the sponsors for the nation’s first and only Sea Cadet band.

Potter described how she focused on becoming the best she could be in her Naval assignments, which included a tour as Chief of Medicine/Residency Program Director at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and as Director of Medical Services for the USNS Comfort during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In 1997, she was promoted to rear admiral, becoming the first female physician in the military to be selected to for “flag” rank.

Potter, who received her second star in 1999, retired in 2003 and is active with the Navy League.

Among the keys to success, she told the cadets, is to look for opportunities and not to allow the possibility of failure to hold them back.  People who aren’t necessarily “born leaders” can still be great leaders but need to continually assess their own strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s not a destination,” Potter said.  “It’s a journey. I still work on being a leader.”

Demonstrating how times have changed, two female cadets – Samantha Wen and Jenna Ghaddar – were pinned as chief petty officers, a rank achieved by only about two percent of all cadets.  Both are Aragon High School students.

The 48-member Band of the West is a unit of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a national youth program which develops skills in leadership, musicianship, basic seamanship, courage, self-reliance and discipline. Sea Cadets have opportunities to attend trainings conducted nationwide, which are supported by the U.S. military, in career fields such as cyberwarfare, STEM, aviation, medicine, law, engineering and more.

The band, which was commissioned in 2013, has steadily grown and does about 20 performances a year for veterans, military personnel and their families. During Saturday’s ceremony, the band paid musical tribute to Band Officer John Evans, who died in January.

Redwood City port director announces retirement

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Mike Giari, executive director of the Port of Redwood City, recently announced that he will be retiring effective May 1, or when his successor is in place.

Giari first joined the Port of Redwood City in 1988 as a manager of trade development and has been the executive director since May 1995.

“Mike has been instrumental in helping the Port grow and sustain that growth,” Port Commissioner Richard Dodge said in a statement. “Tonnage across the Port docks has more than tripled since Mike assumed his position in 1995 and the Port has attracted new businesses that benefit Silicon Valley.”

Giari is a past president of the Bay Planning Coalition and the California Association of Port Authorities (CAPA). He was also the past chairman of the Redwood City-San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce where he has been an active member for nearly 25 years.

He is a Redwood City resident and is married with three adult children.

Carrington Hall Honors Redwood City’s Remarkable Music Man

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By Jim Clifford

Who was the “Carrington” of Carrington Hall, the Sequoia High School auditorium that has given generations of budding musicians and amateur thespians a chance to try their wings as performers?

The Carrington in question was Otis Carrington, a long-time art, music, and drama teacher at the high school. He was much more than a campus legend, however. He was one of the most prolific writers of children’s operettas during a time when operettas, as they say in show biz, “packed ‘em in.” Examples of the musical form, which was usually a light play set to music with speaking, singing, and dancing parts, include Franz Lehar’s  “The Merry Widow” and Victor Herbert’s “Babes in Toyland” and “Naughty Marietta,’’ all produced in the early 1900s.

This would have been about the time Carrington, who came to the school in 1907 as a music instructor, launched his professional operetta career with “Windmills of Holland.”  The year was 1912 and the scene of the debut was the Sequoia auditorium.  By 1927 “Windmills of Holland” was produced in high schools all over the nation. Other popular works by Carrington included “Polished Pebbles,” “Isles of Chance” and “Bits of Blarney.”

The auditorium, which opened in 1923, was christened Carrington Hall in the early 1960s to honor this musical innovator, who was born in 1884 and died in 1964. A plaque notes that his works were performed 25,000 times worldwide. In 1949, the Christian Science Monitor ran a feature on Carrington that said hardly a day passed without a showing of at least one Carrington operetta somewhere.

“The secret of Otis Carrington’s success lies in his ability to write simply,” the Monitor’s music critic Harold Rogers wrote. “He understands the limitations of his young singers and actors and always works within those limitations.” Carrington wrote “Windmills” after he was unable to find any suitable operettas for his students. The operetta was so successful it was performed 30 times in California in the first year alone.

In addition to turning out high school musicals, Carrington authored sacred music. In 1960 he won a contest sponsored by Lorenz Publishing, a national publisher of sacred music. The songs were “I Hear Children Singing” and “Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord.”  One of his sacred songs was inspired by a window at the First Congregational Church on Euclid Avenue, which Carrington attended. The work entitled “Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock” stemmed from his gazing at a church window that depicted Jesus knocking at a door.

Carrington was a man of many other gifts, according to an interview published in 1962 when he was 78 years old. Redwood City Tribune reporter Otto Tallent said Carrington, who retired from the high school in 1950, painted in watercolors to relax, mostly redwoods and marine scenes.

Tallent described Carrington as a “quiet, unassuming, genteel man who, if he can’t say something good about someone, doesn’t say it at all.”

Carrington credited his wife of 54 years, Alma, with much of his success, saying she had “plenty of patience.” The couple had five children.


Moving Away from the Peninsula: Take the Money and Run?

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By Scott Dailey

Local residents are crashing out their million-dollar-plus home while others couldn’t possibly leave.

From his home in the Belmont hills, Jim Bigelow had a panoramic view of the Peninsula – and one of its drawbacks.  Not only could he see from San Francisco to Santa Clara County, he had a front-row seat for watching clogged traffic on Highway 101 and the San Mateo Bridge.  His wife, Barbara, avoided the freeway but still encountered traffic taking city streets to her job in downtown Redwood City.

Now 76 years old, Bigelow had lived on the Peninsula since 1947.  He worked for nearly two decades at Quantic Industries in San Carlos, and later as an executive for Bay View Bank before joining the San Mateo County Economic Development Association and eventually becoming a local transportation and housing consultant.  He had served as president of the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce and was active in the Oak Grove Lions Club in Menlo Park.  Barbara Bigelow worked for the Redwood City-San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce.  Jim Bigelow’s 92-year-old mother still lived in Burlingame.

In short, it’s hard to imagine a couple with personal and professional roots dug more deeply into the Peninsula.  But they took a hard look at the traffic and the swelling population and in 2014, cashed in their house for more than $1.3 million and a year later moved into a new custom-built, 2,400-square-foot home in a senior-citizen-oriented development on the west side of Reno, Nev.  There, they enjoy views of the eastern slope of the Sierra, along with no mortgage, no state income tax, lower utility bills, clean air, four distinct seasons and minimal traffic.

The Bigelows are hardly alone.  According to U.S. Census data, nearly 2,700 more people left the county in 2016 than moved in.  Still, it’s a big decision to leave behind a place that has been home “forever,” let alone an area that remains one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

Those departing may be retirees for whom the lure of a more relaxed pace beyond the Bay Area suddenly has a new appeal. The abundant educational and cultural amenities that come with living so close to San Francisco and two top universities may no longer be important now that the kids are grown and out of the house, and getting to The City to visit the museum has a been-there, done-that quality.

At the same time, the well-documented failure of the region to produce housing commensurate with demand means that as a result of external forces, homeowners may find themselves sitting on a seven-figure equity.  The housing shortfall first started in the 1970s, before the current employment boom, with subsequent decades seeing lower levels of housing construction. A report produced last year by two regional planning bodies to address  housing, transportation and infrastructure deficiencies by the year 2040 says the Bay Area today may have the most severe housing crisis of any of the nation’s large metro areas.

The 2040 plan describes situations all too familiar: The underproduction of housing of all kinds causing prices to skyrocket. Kids unable to afford buy where they grew up, forced to leave the area to raise their families. Lower- and middle-wage workers being pushed out. At the same time, regulatory and tax changes have reduced the supply of affordable housing. All of those factors and more play into the decisions local residents ponder when they mull whether to take a chance and call a new place “home.”

John and Toni Sieling and their friends Scott and Nancy Vitangeli are among those who have relocated.  Both couples are from San Carlos, and a year-and-a-half ago they converted their modest yet million-dollar properties into a 20-acre compound with two large houses and a new barn east of Portland, Ore. – all for $920,000.  Located near Troutdale, between Portland and Mount Hood, the acreage includes a large vegetable garden, apple and pear orchards and easy access to an adjoining regional park and fishing on Oregon’s Sandy River.

Sieling, a Realtor for Keller-Williams in San Carlos who kept his California practice even while opening shop in the Portland metro area, notes that the flow out of the Bay Area is scarcely new.

“The clear fact is that this has been going on for decades,” Sieling says, sparking memories of the popular 1970’s Northwest slogan, “Don’t Californicate Oregon.”  Sieling observes that the migration from the Bay Area includes both homeowners unexpectedly made rich by appreciation, and others priced out of the local market.

“People come because there’s an economic benefit to them,” Sieling continues.  “And then, of course,” he adds, “there’s a lifestyle enhancement.”

Well, only if one considers nearby hiking, camping, skiing, river-rafting, restaurants, theater and music – and, as Sieling says, “all supported by a lower cost structure.”

Sieling and his wife selected Portland after considering Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Spokane, Wash.  The couple loved the physical environment in the lakeside town of Coeur d’Alene, but found the politics too conservative.  Famously progressive Portland, even with its rain and infrastructural shortcomings – one decades-long resident calls it “Pothole City” – was more their style, and they haven’t regretted the move.

“I’d do it again, absolutely,” Sieling says.  “I like being on the West Coast and I like being where we are.  There’s a friendly vibe.”

Warm relations with townspeople were also an attraction for former Redwood City resident Cathey Trumbull, who relocated to the Sierra foothills town of Pine Grove in 2010 and then moved to the north Georgia burg of Gainesville, population 39,000, last April.

“The pace in Pine Grove was very slow, and it was a very friendly town,” Trumbull says.  “It was a place where you got to know the postman by his first name, you got to know the person at the doughnut shop first-name, at the pharmacy and at the little gas stations.”

Meanwhile, in Gainesville, Trumbull says, the reputation for Southern hospitality has turned out to be true.

“All the children are taught, ‘yes, ma’am, no, ma’am,’ and there’s a lot of respect and a lot of friendliness and a lot of outgoing people,” she says.  Friends worried that in relocating to Georgia, she’d be headed for a backwoods – and backwards – existence.  To the contrary, she has found the southeastern hub of Atlanta a center of culture, commerce and excellent medical care.  And whereas she harbors regrets about leaving her old neighborhood and lifelong friends in Redwood City, she decidedly doesn’t miss what she calls the growing “me-first attitude” that she first detected in the 1980s as high-tech began to dominate the Peninsula’s economy.

Trumbull’s friends, Jimmy and Corky Valencia, also opted for small-town life.  Ten years ago, they left their condominium in Redwood Shores for the tiny community of Copperopolis, around 15 miles from Sonora.  Their home is across the road from Lake Tulloch, and they enjoy a sliver of lake view through the trees.

Like Sieling in Portland, Jimmy Valencia has maintained his business ties on the Peninsula.  He’s a detective who works principally for San Mateo County’s private defender program, in which the county assigns private attorneys to represent indigent defendants.  Also like Sieling, he’s delighted with his choice of a different place to live.

“We’re totally enthralled with the area,” Valencia says.  “We’ve made some great, great friends.”  In contrast to Sieling, he welcomes the region’s political conservatism.  He also enjoys local restaurants, which include two pizza parlors, two Mexican eateries, one formal dining establishment and a redoubtable hamburger joint.  There’s also a tavern that Valencia says functions as almost a second town hall.

Valencia lived in and around Redwood City for decades, ran his own detective agency, served as a deacon at the San Carlos First Baptist Church and was deeply involved in local civic organizations including the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce and the San Carlos Kiwanis Club.  Also a professional jazz drummer, he played in nightspots throughout the Bay Area and anchored the bands for the San Carlos Chickens’ Ball and Kiwanis Variety Show.  With all of those Peninsula connections, did he find it difficult to move to California’s historic gold country?

“Yes and no,” he says.  He and his wife joined a local church, although they still stay in close touch with their old one in San Carlos.  He has also latched onto the local Lions Club, and enjoys the typical civic activities of a small town – Fourth of July and Veterans’ Day parades, crab feed fundraisers and the like.  On the other hand, the lack of local jazz has created his biggest void.

“Up here, there are two kinds of music – rock and roll, and country and western,” he says.  “They’re just not my cup of tea.”  Valencia continues to drive two-and-a-half hours to the Bay Area to play jazz, investigate cases and visit family and friends.  Nonetheless, he confides, “I don’t like going down there because of the massive population and the difficulty of getting through traffic.”

Back up in Portland, graphic designer and former ad-agency owner and magazine publisher Michael Kavish also keeps one foot in Northern California while experiencing a more relaxed lifestyle and considerably fewer worries about money and retirement.  His home-based graphic design business in leafy southeast Portland serves all California-based clients.  The neighborhood, meanwhile, reminds him of his former surroundings in Palo Alto, which he and his wife, Lynne, left in 2006 after selling for a then-astonishing $1.8 million.

He admits the Pacific Northwest took a bit of acclimation, especially with a rainy season that extends from October to July.  Still, the year-round greenery makes him think he’s on a permanent mountain vacation, and he can walk two-and-a-half blocks to a creek that feels remote even in the heart of the city.

That said, the biggest change may be relief from the financial pressure and resultant need for striving that he constantly felt in Silicon Valley.

“We looked at things, and asked ourselves, ‘Is this sustainable – the cost of housing and how leveraged we felt we were?’” Kavish says.  “It just seemed like this never-ending juggle factor.  And property taxes, even though they were under Prop. 13, were still quite expensive.  That pressure of having to make that much money to support a house, and have a life and go on vacations and do all the rest of it – the thing that wasn’t happening was we weren’t saving enough money.  It didn’t make financial sense to continue to do that.

“We felt like we were doing extremely well, but at the end of the day, when you looked and said okay, how much do we still owe on this house, and how big of an equity line do we have, and how much are we saving, it was clear it was all going into the house.  I have to say the financial pressure of maintaining that for years and years took a toll.  And now that we’ve got the contrast, we say, ‘Boy, that was nuts.’”

For Nancy Vitangeli, who moved from San Carlos to Troutdale, the issues were both financial and generational.  She and husband Scott were doing well with a family-owned business in Belmont, but feared their adult children, even with college degrees and good jobs, could never afford a home in the Bay Area.

“Our kids ended up sharing a condo or a house with another person, just to alleviate the astronomical expense of either a mortgage or rental payments,” Vitangeli says.  Now, one of their daughters currently owns a house on the 20 acres that the Vitangelis purchased with the Sielings, and a longtime friend and her daughter plan to move there soon.  The goal, Vitangeli says, is to establish what she calls an “intentional community” similar to what she experienced in the sports world with her previous husband, the late Olympic wrestler and 1984 gold medalist Dave Schultz.

Like Sieling, she says Portland aligns well with her liberal politics.  And, like Kavish, she feels less stress. “The people here are extremely friendly and laid back,” she adds. “There’s a very casual atmosphere.”

Affordability and an attendant change in family life represented primary objectives for Candice and Norman Bún, who recently left Redwood City for the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C.  Since September, they’ve been renting a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in Rock Hill, S.C., just across the state line, for $1,050.  Candice Bún says comparable units in their Redwood City neighborhood typically rented for around $2,800.

Reduced housing expenses have helped the couple live on one-and-a-half salaries (Candice Bún works full-time as an executive assistant at a real-estate firm, and Norman Bún is employed part-time at the Rock Hill city library).  That allows them more time with their young son, Peri.  Meanwhile, Candice Bún says that she and her husband, both devout Christians, also feel more comfortable in Rock Hill than in Redwood City.

“Where before my circle of faith was predominantly located within my church members and people I associated with in my congregation, I find that here faith is much more pervasive and much more openly talked about, even in professional and work settings,” she says.  “That’s something that some people would say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I would not want to be in a place like that.’  But, for me, it’s something that is quite welcome and a breath of fresh air, and it works for me.”

As content as she feels in the Southeast, Candice Bún says she misses her family and friends, and especially Philz coffee – so much so that she’s had it shipped in.  What she doesn’t miss is the frenetic pace that made it hard for her and her husband to spend time with their son. “It was more important for us to be able to feel like we could put our roots down in a place where we felt like our family would thrive,” she says.

For many, moving from the Peninsula is a choice, even if sometimes accompanied by mixed emotions.  But for others, such as Rose Lloyd, it’s a necessity.

Lloyd, who earns an hourly wage as a cashier at the Lucky supermarket in San Carlos, moved with three family members to a three-bedroom apartment in Fremont last year. Even with federally funded housing assistance, her rent was eating up a substantial portion of her pay.

“Over there (in San Carlos), I was really living paycheck-to-paycheck, to where I was broke every time I got paid, because I’ve got to pay that rent, or I’ve got to pay this or I’ve got to pay that,” she says.  “Over here, I can breathe a little bit.  Every paycheck is not going to my rent.”

In making her move, Lloyd was assisted by Samaritan House, a San Mateo-based non-profit that helped with the security deposit, often a barrier when people seek housing.

Bart Charlow, the organization’s chief executive officer, says the number of people coming to Samaritan House for rental assistance has increased by at least 50 percent in the past year.  Typically, he says, their household incomes are between $25,000 and $40,000 a year – far below the annual $75,000 that studies suggest as a minimum threshold for sustainability on the Peninsula.

The math, he says, is pretty straightforward.  An average rent of $3,000 a month comes to $36,000 a year – more or less an entire salary for a Samaritan House client – and that’s before taxes, utilities, food, transportation costs and other expenses.

“It’s a big problem for our basic services economy,” Charlow says.  “The people we deal with are who you would call the working poor.  They’re people who hold one to two jobs per adult in a family – often teenagers have to work, as well – and they’re the folks who are servicing your car, they’re probably cleaning your house, they’re mowing your lawn, they’re working in construction or building additions on your house or doing repairs to it, they’re taking care of hospitality needs at restaurants and hotels.  If you think of all of those lower-paying jobs, these are the people we serve, and these are the people we’re pushing out of our community.”

Even with people leaving, either because they’re cashing out or priced out, the continuing tech boom has others still streaming in.  Lindsey and Rob Daniel arrived in Redwood City in 2011 after living in New York City and Philadelphia. Coming from high-priced real-estate markets, they avoided the sticker shock that greets many from other locales.  They chose Redwood City because they found it offered more for their money than Menlo Park, Palo Alto or San Carlos.

“We love Redwood City,” Lindsey Daniel says.  “The schools have been really good to us (the Daniels have three children).  “We’re at Clifford Elementary, and we’ve met a wonderful community over there.  We love to go out to downtown Redwood City.  We’re at the Bay Club in Redwood Shores a lot.  We do a lot over here socially, as well.”

Daniel adds that her cul-de-sac off Edgewood Road has attracted numerous young families.  “The kids are able to go outside and play in a treehouse without so much worry,” she says.  “It’s just been wonderful.”

When it comes to the Peninsula’s high housing costs, real-estate agents Liz Rhodes and Michele Harkov of Alain Pinel Realtors in Palo Alto work with clients beforehand to soften the blow.  As relocation specialists, Rhodes and Harkov deal almost exclusively with people moving to the Peninsula for work.

“We spend a lot of time educating them just so they’re very clear,” Rhodes says.  “Our goal is to do that even before we get in the car and go out and look at homes.  So they’re very clear about here’s what an average, three-bedroom, two-bath house costs in a good school district.”

Rhodes says a recent client from Nebraska was taken aback by the prices, “but quickly bought into the better climate.”  Adds Harkov, “One of the things we usually emphasize to our relocation clients is that they’re not just buying a home.  They’re buying into a community and a whole experience, in a sense.  Because in the Midwest, on the East Coast, you need your basements because you’re hibernating in the winter.  And here, on the West Coast, the environment is almost an extension of your home.”

The Peninsula’s temperate weather was a prime factor in motivating one Menlo Park couple to stay after nearly moving to Portland to be near their grown children.  Clem Molony and his wife, Jane, found Portland’s climate too cold and rainy.  The Molonys also like to walk, and considered Portland too hilly.  Finally, they looked at their many longtime personal and professional connections on the Peninsula, as well as the region’s physical environment, and decided they couldn’t leave.

“The Mid-Peninsula is magical,” Molony says.  “It’s the coolest place, really, in the United States, probably in the world, to live.  And that’s why the housing costs are so high here – because everybody wants to live here.”

For those still in the mood to move, various transplants offer advice.  Sieling urges people to do research, spend time renting in the new location before buying, and, if possible, hold onto the house back on the Peninsula (it can act as a safety valve in case the move backfires, and may also continue to appreciate).

Sieling says he has seen many buyers take their windfall from their Peninsula home and treat it as “candy money.”  Often, he says, they purchase a much bigger house than they need, only to trade it later for something more suitable.  By renting for a year, Sieling says newcomers can come to know a region’s neighborhoods and suburbs, and gain an insider’s knowledge of the housing market.

For Trumbull, who ultimately settled in small-town Georgia, cultural considerations are as important as any financial outcome.

“One of the first things people should ask is, are they sure they want to move to a different cultural area?” she says.  “Are they sure they are going to happy with a move to a different pace?  I think I would just make sure they were willing to come to a place and try to fit in and not try to make people fit into your routine … You have to be able to see the culture as it is, and to fit in with it.”

Beyond discovering the house of their dreams, many find that slower pace exactly the appeal.  As Candice Bún observes, the decision is often about more than money.  Shorter commutes and working hours translate into more time for family and recreational pursuits.  Friendly folks and palatable politics – on both right and left – can ease long-felt tensions.  Colorful autumns and crisp winters hold a certain allure.

And with the Peninsula’s housing prices rising still, the temptation to uproot will have its appeal  —  and with it the necessity to look before taking the big leap.






Residents invited on sunset hike to Mindego Hill

in Community/Headline by

Craving some fresh air?

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) is inviting folks to hike the Santa Cruz Mountains on March 3 for a 5-mile hike from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The hike will take you from the Russian Ridge Open Space to the top of the POST Protected Mindego Hill and back. During the hike you will hear from POST representatives on how they protect the property and have an opportunity to ask questions. The hike is tough so make sure you are ready to work out.

Registration is required for the event, which is free.

Register here.

Celebrate Black History Month at San Mateo County History Museum

in A&E/Community/Education/Headline by

The San Mateo County History Museum’s Noah’s Ark: San Mateo’s Historic Restaurant runs through April 15.

The Restaurant was originally opened by Noah William’s an entrepreneur in the city of San Mateo in 1920. Noah William’s was a former railroad chef, who established Noah’s Cafeteria at 139 South B Street. The restaurant was famous for its baked ham, fried chicken and impressive décor.

The exhibit will feature paintings of African animals that hung on the walls including a nine-foot tall painting of a giraffe.

The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 2200 Broadway, Redwood City.

Photo Courtesy of San Mateo County History Museum Facebook Page

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