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San Mateo PD asks residents for security footage to ID sexual assault suspect

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San Mateo police are searching for a suspect in the sexual assault of a woman in the city on Wednesday night.

Police responded to the area of 9th Avenue and S. El Camino Real at about 10:40 p.m. and met with the victim, a woman in her 60s, police said.

The victim described the suspect as a light-skinned male in his late teens to early 20s with brown, bushy hair and wearing dark-colored clothing, police said. The suspect was last seen walking southwest from the intersection where the reported attack occurred. Police are asking residents in the broader area with security cameras to review their footage for any person on foot or riding a bicycle between the hours of 10 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

“This investigation is ongoing, and information is preliminary at this time,” police said. “Should further information become available, an update will be issued. We understand the impact of this event and we appreciate any help provided by the community.”

Anyone with information and/or security camera footage is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Lee Violett at (650) 522-7662 or by email at lviolett@cityofsanmateo.org. Anonymous tips can be submitted here or by calling (650) 522-7676.

San Mateo County health officer calls state’s watch list ‘fundamentally flawed’

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San Mateo County Health Officer says people refusing to practice social distancing 'spit in our face'

San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow on Thursday criticized the state’s move last weekend to close certain indoor businesses in the county, saying there’s no evidence to suggest the spread of COVID-19 is higher in those businesses than in others that are allowed to operate.

Dr. Morrow’s statement Thursday drew news headlines for its dissent against the state’s coronavirus watch list, which aims to monitor and curb trends of rising COVID-19 cases. Currently, all Bay Area counties are on the watch list.

“The brand new, arbitrary and constantly changing framework that the State has set up to put counties on the watch list and to determine closures (beyond the State “floor”) is fundamentally flawed in several ways,” Dr. Morrow said.

What’s causing the spread is “not primarily from barber shops, nail salons, or the other businesses that were targeted in this most recent closure,” Dr. Morrow said in the statement.

“While it’s certainly a theoretical possibility that some transmission can occur in the businesses/operations that were just closed by the State, there is no evidence that I have, and no evidence the State has provided to me, that leads me to believe the spread is higher in these businesses than those businesses/operations that are allowed to operate,” he said.

The majority of infections the County is seeing involve front line workers and those who live in crowded multigenerational conditions, Dr. Morrow said in an earlier statement on July 20. Many infections are related to “fairly small gatherings of family and friends,” he added.

“Try getting compliance with isolation and quarantine when the infected person is the breadwinner for the family and the family will be out on the street if they don’t go to work,” he said. “And when they go to work they will, perhaps, interact at that job with you.  There is not enough enforcement capacity in the world to stop this from happening.  The implication of this is that the current business focused restrictions will do little to stem the spread of the virus when the spread is exacerbated by these conditions.”

Dr. Morrow also said the “very restrictive measures put into place in the Spring” didn’t do a lot to drive down the rate of the infection’s spread in San Mateo County. The rate has been “slowly dropping for at least 4 weeks,” he added. Hospitalizations in the county are on a downward trend and deaths are low, Dr. Morrow added.

“If you have read my previous statements, you know I put great import on balance,” he said.  “We have to minimize spread while not destroying everything else in the process. I watch the news and I certainly get alarmed by some of what’s going on in the country, and even in our state.  But I have to make the best decisions and recommendations based on our data which reflects the situation in our community.  Our numbers indicate we are in a relatively stable state in regards to the spread of the virus.  For those who want to drive the spread to zero, this is simply not possible.”

While Dr. Morrow lauded Gov. Newom’s “many great, broad and appropriate actions” over the last few months, he’s come out against the state’s current watch-list policy, citing inconsistency in data and state benchmarks that may not work on a local level.

“The underlying framework has no room to take the context of what’s actually going on in a locality into account,” he said.  “A rational and logical look at the true meaning of the data (which we should do with all data) has no role in the process.”

Dr. Morrow added, “I feel the State has made the wrong ‘diagnosis’ and therefore is prescribing the wrong ‘treatment’ for San Mateo County.

“Probably the biggest problem I see is in the application of public health law.  While it is true the State Health Officer and the Local Health Officer have partially overlapping statutory authorities, it is generally understood, and there is very long precedence, that the State Health Officer doesn’t take action against the Local Health Officer unless there is an ask to do so, the Local Health Officer can’t take action because of extenuating circumstances, or the Local Health Officer is negligent.  I didn’t ask for these actions to be taken, I’m certainly capable of taking these actions if warranted, and I do not believe I’m being negligent. ”

Either way, San Mateo County residents must cease gatherings outside of immediate households, use facial coverings extensively, and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said.

San Carlos schools get $1.5M gift from Alexandria Real Estate Equities

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Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. has pledged to donate $1.5 million to assist the San Carlos School District and the San Carlos Education Foundation (SCEF) in their efforts to serve the students of San Carlos during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gift, announced by the city on Monday, “couldn’t have come at a greater time of need,” said San Carlos Mayor Ron Collins.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit our community hard, particularly the school district, which has historically been underfunded by the state,” Collins said.

Alexandria is currently building a large biotech campus on Commercial Street in San Carlos.

“The generosity of Alexandria’s donation, and its leadership in support of our schools, will result in an immediate and tangible benefit to the district, helping us to address our budget shortfall and avoid further cuts,” said Carol Elliott, president of the SCSD Board of Trustees. “We’d like to express our deepest appreciation to both Alexandria and the City of San Carlos staff and Council members for their partnership.”

Photo credit: San Carlos School District

Award-winning Ghostwood Beer Company to close taproom

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Ghostwood Beer Company announced on social media this week it will close its taproom at 965 Brewster Ave.  in Redwood City after this month. However, its brewery on East Bayshore Road will remain in operation, with “kegs being distributed locally and to-go crowler/growler fills,” owners said, adding that details on pickup options would be posted on its social media pages in the coming days and weeks.

Economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic were cited for closing the taproom. The brewery says help from friends and neighbors have enabled staff to be fully paid since pandemic shelter-in-place orders began in March. But “with the uncertainly surrounding the future we simply can’t afford to keep losing $15,000-$20,000 per month with no end in sight,” it said.

“When we opened the taproom in September 2018, we had one goal: make amazing beer in and for Redwood City,” according to the brewery’s statement. “With the help of our friends and family we were able to open a cool place on an admittedly neglected street corner on the outskirts of downtown and, hopefully, made it a little better.”

In February, the brewery gained accolades after its Triple IPA, Clearly Dangerous, won bronze at the 20th annual Double IPA Festival in Hayward. It was a monumental feat for the young brewery, which beat out Russian River’s coveted Pliny the Younger in the competition.

In a subsequent profile, The Six Fifty detailed how Ghostwood began when co-owners and local residents Jason Simpson and Mike Hedlund decided to launch their own backyard brewery while sharing a beer. They wanted to be “something by Redwood City, for Redwood City,” the publication noted, and would eventually sign separate leases for the Brewster Street space and warehouse brewing space.

Photo: Google Maps

‘Painful’ cuts at Superior Court mean long wait times for public

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San Mateo County DA issues price gouging alert due to coronavirus outbreak

San Mateo County Superior Court released a statement Wednesday warning the public to expect significant delays in its operations, as state budget reductions have caused layoffs and mandatory furloughs that will force the Court to cut public hours by 50 percent.

“The pandemic and the social distancing requirements needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19 had already caused the Court to substantially limit jury trials, curtail court hearings, and limit its operations to reduce the number of people in its court facilities,” the Court said in a statement Wednesday. “However, as a result of these budget reductions, the Court must continue limiting services indefinitely.”

The state’s recently-adopted budget includes over $54 billion in reductions, primarily due to the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has resulted in $4.5 million in reductions to the Court. Next year, 2021-22, could be worse, Superior Court Executive Officer Neal Taniguchi said in the statement.

In response, the Court is laying off 20 positions, imposing mandatory furloughs of 5 percent, or roughly one day per month, for professional, management, and unrepresented employees; imposing a hiring freeze; reducing its non-personnel budget by 10 percent, or over $800,000; and spending down all of its modest reserves. The Court also plans to suspend Family Court Service appointments at its South San Francisco Courthouse, as well as close the Clerk’s Office and the Self-Help Center.

Court office services will be by appointment only. Online chat and telephone services will be limited to the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to the Court.

The public can expect significant delays in obtaining judgements, electronic file processing, fulfilling records requests and obtaining appointments to file documents in cases.

“The pandemic emergency left us with little time to plan and absorb the enormous revenue losses occurring statewide,” Taniguchi said. “We had no choice but to cut our budget, impose furloughs and issue these layoff notices.”

Taniguchi said it’s possible the state could receive federal bailout funds in the fall, “but the state imposed our budget reductions effective July 1, which left us with no choice but to act as quickly as possible.”

“If the economy does not improve markedly, we could be facing additional layoffs and continued furloughs, resulting in further court closures, and curtailment of services, “he said.

For further information, contact the Court at (650) 261-5016.

$5 lunch at Parkview Café is back, with new schedule

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Parkview Café, the City of San Carlos’ lunch program at the Adult Community Center (ACC) that aims to provide nutritious meals for older adults, is back in business with a new schedule.

Lunches are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. with curbside pick-up and home delivery available. Orders must be made by 5 p.m. the day before by calling the ACC at 650-802-4384. Monday lunches must be ordered by 5 p.m. on the Friday before.

Each meal costs $5 and payment will be taken over the phone when ordering.

See below for a full weekly menu:

Monday, August 3

Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes

Wednesday, August 5

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Friday, August 7

Orange Chicken Bowl

Monday, August 10

Steak Tacos & Refried Beans

Wednesday, August 12

Italian Sausage Bake

Friday, August 14

BBQ Chicken & Potato Salad

Photo: San Carlos Adult Community Center/Credit: City of San Carlos

People refusing to wear masks in San Mateo County now face fines

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Refuse to wear a mask when one is required? You could be fined.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors today adopted an urgency ordinance to impose fines on individuals and businesses who violate the COVID-19 public health orders.

Individuals can receive a $100 fine for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for additional violations with the same year.

Commercial entities risk a minimum fine of $250 and a maximum of $3,000 per violation “depending on the gravity of the health risk, prior warnings and any good faith efforts to comply,” according to the county.

The administrative fines could be issued by members of the county sheriff’s office, local police departments, county health and parks officials and health and code enforcement officers, and others as designated by the county board.

To cite an individual for a violation, an enforcement officer must witness the infraction, but violations by a commercial business can be determined via a credible report, the ordinance states.

While violations of COVID-19 health orders are already punishable as a misdemeanor offense, county leaders say administrative citations are less punitive and costly than enforcing criminal offenses.

An uptick in COVID-19 cases prompted the fines. Supervisors David Canepa and Warren Slocum jointly introduced the ordinance and said they prefer education as a first step, but felt more needs to be done to ensure compliance.

“This ordinance decriminalizes violations of the health order essentially but at the same time gives us an added tool to enforce compliance of the state’s face covering and social distancing mandates,” Canepa said in a county statement. “If we want to return to normal and save lives then we must wear face masks, it’s that simple. But since many continue to thumb their noses at or do not understand these mandates, we must step up our outreach and enforcement efforts and let people know if you violate the law there will be consequences.”

Contra Costa, Marin, Mendocino, Napa and Yolo counties have all adopted an administrative penalty structure for public health violation fines related to COVID-19.

“Just this weekend, San Mateo County had to close additional businesses due to being on the state’s COVID-19 Monitoring List more than three days,” Slocum said in a statement. “Our case counts continue to rise, our Latino and low-income communities are bearing the brunt and a vaccine is still not in reach. We can’t know when this virus will be defeated but what we do know is a key step to stemming its spread — wearing a face covering.”

For more information about San Mateo County’s response to the pandemic, go to www.smcgov.org.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

San Mateo launches online permit center

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San Mateo is among local cities to have implemented new online systems for property owners seeking building or planning permits.

The systems allow property owners to apply for a variety of permits from the safety of their own home, helping to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials say.

San Mateo’s new Online Permit Center allows property owners to apply for a building or planning permits and receive virtual building plan reviews online. Property owners can schedule virtual appointments with plan checkers and can access written instructions and short “walk-through” videos on the web page.

This new system is much faster than the traditional in-person service at City Hall, officials said, and allows the city to complete a range of residential, commercial building and planning permits as well as accept, review, receive payments, and issue planning entitlements and building permits all online.

Belmont also recently implemented an online permit center, e-TRAKiT, which allows property owners to complete tasks online associated with their property, applications, permits and projects. Permits available online are express residential building permits, electrical service panel upgrade, furnace replacement, water heater replacement and tree removal.

To apply for a permit through the City of Belmont, visit their Permit Center e-TRAKiT website. To apply for a permit through the City of San Mateo, visit their Online Permit Center website.

Person fatally struck by Caltrain in Redwood City

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Caltrain to increase service starting June 15 as shelter-in-place restrictions ease

A person was fatally struck by Caltrain Tuesday morning on tracks in Redwood City, the transit agency said.

The collision involved the northbound 215 train and occurred at 7:33 a.m. The intersection of Broadway and Arguello Street was closed due to the collision, Redwood City police stated in an advisory.

No injuries were reported on the train, which was carrying 25 passengers, according to Caltrain.

San Mateo County considers fines for violating public health orders

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San Mateo County is considering fining individuals and businesses who don’t abide by public health orders.

At its meeting Tuesday, the county’s Board of Supervisors will consider passing an ordinance that would fine non-commercial entities and individuals — such as someone who fails to wear a mask when one is required — up to $100 for a first violation, up to $200 for a second violation that occurs within one year and up to $500 for each additional violation within that same year.

For commercial entities violating the health order, fines would range from $250 to $3,000 for each violation.

The administrative fines could be issued by members of the county sheriff’s office, local police departments, county health and parks officials and code enforcement officers, and others as approved by the board.

An enforcement officer must witness the infraction in order to cite an individual or non-commercial entity, the proposed ordinance states. However, an enforcement officer doesn’t have to catch a commercial entity in the act, but can determine a violation “through investigation and from credible sources,” it adds.

The ordinance provides all who are cited an ability to appeal the fine.

The fines aim to gain compliance with COVID-19 pandemic health orders amid a spike in cases. Last week, San Mateo County was placed on the state’s coronavirus watch list, which aims to monitor and address concerning COVID-19 trends, prompting the re-closure of certain indoor businesses, including gyms, barbershops and shopping malls.

While violations of COVID-19 health orders are already punishable as a misdemeanor offense, county officials say administrative citations work better in enforcement than criminal citations.

“Criminalizing violations may be overly punitive, consume a high amount of community resources, and take a long time to process,” officials said. “The infraction and administrative citation structures offer additional tools to give the County and cities and towns flexibility and supplement their efforts to encourage compliance and deter violations.”

San Mateo County wouldn’t be the first county to adopt fines. Contra Costa, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, and Yolo “have adopted similar infraction or administrative citation structures to allow them to issue fines to enforce face mask mandates and other public health orders,’ according to the County.

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