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San Mateo County launches ‘smart city’ lab

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Did you know that San Mateo County has a lab?

Not a Doctor Frankenstein sort of lab.  A “smart city” lab.  And it’s brand new.

SMC Labs was just launched by the County to tackle issues like parking, pollution, commuting and energy efficiency using smart technologies like “the Internet of Things, machine learning, big data and blockchain.”

In announcing the new lab, Jon Walton, Chief Information Officer for the county, said, “Housing, traffic, mobility and environmental issues don’t stop at city borders.  Regional problems require a borderless approach, and the County of San Mateo is uniquely positioned to address these issues.  We laid the groundwork last year when we started deploying a countywide fiber and public Wi-Fi network as the first step toward a Digital San Mateo County.  SMC Labs is the next step of this journey.”

That means asking what to do about:  “parking availability for electric vehicles and disabled parking spots; irrigation water conservation with smart moisture sensors; smart mobility, ride sharing, last mile commuting; localized air quality and environmental monitoring;” – and, using the power of technology, coming up with solutions tailored to San Mateo County.

“Despite being located in the heart of Silicon Valley, there are two very different populations in San Mateo County,” said Ulysses Vinson, Chief Smart Communities Officer for the county.  “One is technology-savvy and lives in the larger, resource-rich cities.  The other includes smaller suburban and underserved rural communities with limited digital infrastructure.  My goal is to bring innovative solutions from SMC Labs to serve all San Mateo County residents, leaving no one behind.”

Before anything goes county-wide though, two “test” zones have been set up, one at the San Mateo County Center campus in Redwood City, and the other at City Hall in East Palo Alto – so there will be plenty of opportunity to experiment, test, learn and improve.

2-hour parking limit approved around Jardin De Niños Park

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Redwood City council on Monday approved implementing a 2-hour parking limit around Jardin De Niños Park at Middlefield Road and Chestnut Street.

The parking restriction, which requires a second vote by council, will apply to two parking spaces on Chestnut Street and four spaces on Middlefield Road from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all days except Sunday and holidays.

The move is aimed at limiting longterm parking near the park.

Neighbors and park users expressed concern that long-term parkers are forcing families to park long distances away from Jardin De Niños Park, often walking with children along a busy roadway.

A subsequent review by city staff confirmed that a significant number of parked cars in the area were either employees of nearby businesses or residents storing their vehicles on the street for long periods of time.

Similar restrictions used at Spinas Park on Second Avenue have improved access for visitors and neighborhood residents, the city says.

The restrictions become effective 30 days after council votes on a second reading of the ordinance, at which point staff will issue a work order to install signs and will notify affected neighborhood associations about the change.

353 Main St. project facing appeal

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The Redwood City planning commission’s approval of a multifamily, 125-unit residential development for 353 Main St. is facing an appeal over concern about potential environmental impacts from the project’s construction.

A hearing on a request to appeal the commission’s March 6 approval of the project by ROEM Development is scheduled for tonight’s City Council meeting at 7 p.m.

The group appealing the project, called Better Neighborhoods Inc., believes the development, a six-and-seven story project located on 1.8 acres between Veterans Boulevard and Brewster Avenue, should not have been categorically exempt from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

In a letter to the city, Michael Goolsby, president of Better Neighborhoods Inc., said the city needs to look into the impacts of excavation and construction at the site, including the degree of noise, truck trips to and from the location and potential impacts to groundwater connecting to Redwood Creek. To view Goolsby’s full letter, go here.

City staff is recommending that council deny the appeal by Better Neighborhoods and allow the project to move forward. The city denies the project involves “over-excavation” and adds that dewatering measures have been recommended to address instances when the project reaches groundwater levels.

“This recommendation is not unusual as it was also recommended by the geotechnical engineers for the categorically exempt projects located at 849 Veterans and 707 Bradford, both of which entail 6-7 story residential development in the nearby vicinity and same flood zone area,” according to the city.

The project at 353 Main St. involves demolishing a single-story office building and constructing a residential development with 19 units of affordable housing and two levels of above-grade parking. The development would also have 182 private parking spaces and 42 bicycle parking spaces and includes constructing a scenic, 14-foot-wide trail and overlook point along Redwood Creek. Read more about the project here.

SamTrans Summer Youth pass goes on sale today

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The SamTrans Summer Youth Pass goes on sale today, costing $40 for unlimited travel on any route to youth 18 years and younger from Jun 1 through Aug. 31.

Typically,  compared to purchasing a Monthly Youth Pass for $27 each summer month.

Students purchasing the pass will save $41 since they won’t have to buy three Youth Monthly passes at $27 apiece.

“It’s one of the best summertime bargains for kids and teens to ride all over San Mateo County,” the transit agency said.

The pass is not available on Clipper. Click here to find out how to purchase the pass.

Multi-unit apartment building in Redwood City damaged in fire

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Multi-unit apartment building in Redwood City damaged in fire

Redwood City firefighters battled a two-alarm fire Saturday that damaged an apartment complex at 2411 Middlefield Road, across from the Costco store.

The fire was reported just before 4 p.m. at a multi-floor, multi-unit building, according to the Redwood City Fire Department. About 45 minutes later, officials reported the blaze was under control.

Fire officials shared the photo above of the damage at the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Further details weren’t immediately known.

Upcoming workshop to discuss rebates to help make multi-unit properties more energy efficient

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If you’re an apartment building owner, you have an opportunity to receive $750 per unit to make your property more energy efficient.

Those interested in an opportunity to save not only money but water (and the water bill), and to reduce electricity use (and the electric bill) – or something a little bigger, like more energy-efficient heating or cooling – then don’t miss an upcoming workshop.

The time is Thursday, May 24, 10-11:30 am.  The place is the library community room (1044 Middlefield Road).  The group sponsoring the meeting (and giving out the help) is BayREN (Bay Area Multifamily Building Enhancements Network).

And if you need more information, you can find it here.

Fair Oaks Community School families win chance to keep school open

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Fair Oaks Community School families win chance to keep school open

Following a school district announcement in March that Fair Oaks Community School would close after this school year due to declining enrollment, concerned families pushed back and ultimately won the chance to keep their school open.

At the Redwood City School District board meeting April 25, the Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to allow the school 2950 Fair Oaks Ave. to remain open for one more year as long as it can meet certain conditions, including that a minimum of 200 students be registered by May 15.  Previous to that decision, parents began actively protesting the closure decision, including speaking out at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting, according to an in depth report of their efforts by KALW public radio.

The school’s families successfully met the deadline for registrations, according to a notice from Superintendent John Baker posted to Facebook on May 11.

“I write to congratulate you and to thank you for the role that you have recently taken as the biggest cheerleaders and leaders for Fair Oaks Community School,” Baker wrote, adding, “You met this condition and you achieved it well before the May 15 deadline. You should be very proud of this achievement. We are.”

The battle to keep the school open isn’t over, as more conditions must be met per an agreement with the district. Other conditions require that a minimum of 200 eligible students be attending the school before Aug. 31, 2018. The school’s attendance rate, currently the district’s lowest at 86-percent, must also improve to the district average of 96-percent. The conditions require organized parent involvement in achieving the stated goals.

The school district says it is working with Fair Oaks families to meet the conditions. Baker said the district will “continue to review the numbers to make sure that we remain fiscally responsible while operating Fair Oaks.”

About 180 students are enrolled this year at the school, down from just under 500 in the 2008-9 school year, according to the district. Before earning a chance to stay open, the district projected the student population to drop to below 150, prompting the March decision to close the school. With state funding tied to school attendance, the district said it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to keep the school open. At the time, the district had planned to transfer Fair Oaks students to one of three larger neighboring schools: Garfield Community School, Hoover Community School or Taft Community School, and also to consolidate a charter school’s operations on the Fair Oaks campus.

Photo courtesy of the Fair Oaks Community School Facebook page.

Pop-up park coming to downtown Redwood City on June 9

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A pop-up park is coming to downtown Redwood City on Saturday, June 9.

Parts of parking lots at the downtown library and City Hall at 1017 Middlefield Road will be transformed into park space from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The pop-up park is set to have various activities, including a trike/scoot/bike track (bring your own wheels), a rock wall, skate ramp and slack line, chalk art, helmet decorating, places to chill, and other family fun for all ages. The Main Street lot will remain partially open for people needing to park, along with additional nearby lots.

There’s another motive for this event: the city is going to set up a park design station where residents can provide feedback about their wants and needs for green space downtown.

“This temporary installation will convert parking lot(s) into ‘people space’ for a few hours, populated with outdoor activities that will elicit the feeling of an urban park,” the city said. “There will be activities along the entire length of the pop-up park to help people imagine what a park in that location might feel like. During the event, the City will solicit feedback from the community about the proposed location for a permanent park and their preferences for types of amenities. In addition to the surveys, large touchscreen monitors will be provided for anyone to draw their ideas. The drawings will be digitally captured and shared with the community.”

For more info about this event visit here.

For additional information about the Downtown Park Site Assessment and Feasibility Study and to take the city’s survey, visit here.

 

Tesla on Veterans Blvd. gets planning commission nod

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The Redwood City Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended that City Council approve Tesla’s bid to build a sales and service center at the space at 515 Veterans Blvd., which once housed a gym and restaurant.

In a 4-0 vote, the Planning Commission recommended approval of a zoning amendment, conditional use permit and architectural permit for the Tesla project, which would feature a 4,941 square foot show room and 15,257 square foot service area.

A company representative said Tesla wants to increase sales and service presence in Redwood City, which is centrally located on the Peninsula and can potentially draw customers anywhere from Santa Clara to San Francisco. Its service center will be exclusively used for Tesla’s electric vehicles and will provide charging, software updates and routine maintenance.

Redwood City staff says a zoning change for the Tesla site would remain “fully consistent with the general plan for this location.”

Tesla plans to revitalize the streetscape along Veterans Boulevard by widening sidewalks and adding trees and lighting.

Medical professionals sought for tattoo removal program

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Medical professionals are being sought to assist in a laser tattoo removal program that aims to help people transitioning out of gang life, along with survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Qualified medical professionals are asked to commit at least one session per year — six hours — to help with the laser tattoo removal program, which is a collaboration between multiple law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County.

To learn more about the program and for contact information, go here.

Since the program began in 1996, 2,200 participants have been served, 44,000 treatments performed, with over 1,000 hours volunteered by doctors. The program has led to 25,000 hours of completed community service, as those benefiting from treatments must each perform over 20 hours of community service.

Program beneficiaries must be at least 10 years or old, be attending school or currently working and be willing to meet regularly with a program sponsor and maintain a positive lifestyle.

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