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One dead, one injured in Redwood City house fire

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One person died and another person suffered non life threatening injuries in a single-alarm house fire in Redwood City Saturday night, according to police and fire officials.

The fire was reported just after 10 p.m. in the 500 block of Jackson Avenue.

KRON-4 reports that officials say the fire started in the kitchen, but that the investigation is ongoing.

“The fire is under investigation by the Fire Department in coordination with the Police Department,” police said.

No further information was immediately available.

Photo credit: Redwood City Fire Department

Helicopter lands in parking lot at Redwood City Kmart

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A mechanical issue forced a civilian helicopter to land in the Kmart parking lot in Redwood City on Saturday.

The helicopter had a minor mechanical issue while en route to San Carlos Airport, so the pilot made a safe and controlled landing in the parking lot of the store at 1155 Veterans Blvd., according to the Redwood City Police Department.

Mechanics from the San Carlos Airport were notified and they came to fix the issue. At 6:26 p.m., the helicopter returned safely to San Carlos Airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board was notified and an incident report was taken, police said.

“No injuries, no damage to the aircraft and no damage to public or private property,” police said.

Photo credit: Redwood City Police Department

Coming soon: Climate Best Awards 2019

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It’s that time of year again, and we are excited to announce the Climate Best Awards 2019 kicks off Monday!

Last year we celebrated the first annual Climate Best Awards. The Climate Best Awards is an opportunity to recognize and highlight the people, organizations and businesses who make Redwood City a special place to live and work.

We’re counting on community members to decide which Redwood City restaurants, bars, coffee shops and other businesses should be recognized. We encourage you to nominate local businesses that fall into a number of categories.

The nomination period will begin this Monday, March 25th followed by a voting period, and the award winners will be revealed at the Climate Best Awards event in May.

Stay tuned to Climate online and our Facebook page for more Climate Best Awards updates.

Housing top priority in State of The City

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These citizen 'extras' play key roles in Redwood City government

Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain boasted a long list of city accomplishments in 2018 during Monday’s State of the City address. That paved the way for a council discussion on priorities for 2019, which includes, in this order of priority, housing, transportation and children and youth.

A video played during the State of the City showcased accomplishments made under seven strategic priorities, such as:

  • Expansion of Neighborhood Watch in alignment with Neighborhood associations
  • Expanded inclusive programs and recognized as a model statewide
  • Enhanced library early childhood technology activities
  • Began construction on the Magical Bridge Playground
  • Advanced the Veterans Memorial Senior Center City- YMCA project
  • Established a Retail Task Force and adapted recommendations to develop a Downtown retail vision
  • Implemented a cannabis-related permit regulations and new tax
  • Designated as a Green Power Community by the EPA
  • Ranked #7 nationwide for Green Energy Consumption
  • Implemented the City’s new inclusionary housing ordinance
  • Generated funds for affordable housing through developer fees
  • Approved $6 million in funding to support two 100% affordable housing projects
  • Fire Department received prestigious Class 1 ISO rating
  • Increased training for police personnel to interact with those experiencing a mental health crisis

Following the video, all seven city council members gave their comments on their priorities for Redwood City this year. Three focus areas were selected for the coming year: housing, transportation and children and youth.

HOUSING

Housing is the city’s top priority. As is elsewhere in the region, high demand  and short supply for housing units have led to skyrocketing prices and displacement. Currently, the city is working on three housing rehab projects that will preserve over 150 affordable units. In addition, council recently allocated $6 million in affordable housing funds will advance housing projects “building 297 low or very low-income level housing units this year,” the city said.

Affordability remains a problem, however, as skyrocketing rents have led to protesting. Some housing advocates say renter’s protections installed by the council last year aren’t doing enough.

The city says it is assessing the impact of the recent regulations and looking at new approaches to support renters. It also aims to inspire more accessory dwelling units by making them easier and less expensive to build, to seek new sources of affordable housing funds from both the state and local employers, and, in the longterm, create more affordable housing via developer fees and affordable unit mandates on new development.

TRANSPORTATION

Specific priorities include moving forward with installing ferry service to Redwood City, the U.S. Highway 101 Managed Lanes project, and various rail projects including Caltrain electrification and modernization, High Speed Rail, and the potential Dumbarton Rail project. The city also wants to work with employers to reduce the number of people driving solo to work in Redwood City by developing a Transportation Demand Management program.

Other projects noted: U.S. Highway 101 Pedestrian Undercrossing; U.S. Highway 101/84 Interchange; Middlefield Road Improvements and Utility Undergrounding; El Camino Real Corridor Plan; Broadway Street Car Study and Transit Center; and Whipple Grade Separation.

CHILDREN, YOUTH

The city recently launched an interactive map of childcare and preschool centers to help parents identify childcare. It also unveiled plans to increase the number of quality childcare spaces in the community. The City is working with developers and local partners and expects to create 500 childcare spots for local children over the next five years.

The City is also exploring more family fun venues and open space, and expanding community amenities, including developing three sites in the Downtown to create a large, linear park that extends from Downtown to the bay, and opening the Magical Bridge Playground and the Pirate Ship Imaginative Art Area.

OTHER PRIORITIES

Other major themes discussed by the council Monday: ensuring the city’s financial health and economic development, strengthening the City’s governance practices and campaign finance initiatives, further public safety priorities such as a new Community Emergency Response Team program in partnership with San Mateo County, and training for police staff who interact with those experiencing mental health crisis.

Mayor Bain also discussed updating the City’s General Plan and addressing the threat of sea level rise.

“We have to think of the future and figure out what we will allow and which areas,” the mayor said. “We have established a sea level rise committee that will work closely the county to coordinate against efforts between the two.”

He recognized a few notable dignitaries in the crowd: Former Mayor Jeff Gee, Belmont Mayer Davina Hurt, as well as Redwood City Fire and Police Chief.

You can watch the full State of the City Address here.

University Celebrates First Phase of “Stanford Redwood City”

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University leaders celebrated Redwood City becoming “Stanford’s second home” at a festive ribbon-cutting this morning showcasing new buildings where employees are already coming to work.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and other Stanford officials heralded the “bold new vision” that led to the decision more than a decade ago to purchase 35 acres along Broadway and Bay Road which were in recent years the site of the Mid-Point Technology Park — and decades before that, the home of Ampex Corporation.

Members of the board of trustees and others long ago recognized that additional land beyond the original campus eventually would be needed to support the core academic mission, and Stanford Redwood City is the result of that vision, Tessier-Lavigne said.

“This represents Stanford’s first significant footprint outside the main campus,” he told the audience, “and it’s one of the largest financial investments our board of trustees has ever approved in the entire history of the university. This campus is a strategic investment in Stanford’s future.  It’s central to our plan for how Stanford will tackle the challenges, not just of the next decade, but of the next century.”

Tessier-Lavigne and other Stanford speakers said they appreciated the welcome from Redwood City and San Mateo County. “At every step,” Tessier-Lavigne said, “the city officials and county officials have been true partners.” At the suggestion of the Redwood City Council, he added, Stanford is providing “educational enrichment” including speaker programs, courses for entrepreneurs taught by the Graduate School of Business, and leadership training.

Altogether, Stanford’s project will provide more than $15 million in public benefits, according to the university, including neighborhood and street enhancements, a water tank expansion, and storm water, bus shelter and bike lane improvements.

Mayor Ian Bain delivered a welcome on behalf of Redwood City and said he hoped Stanford employees would sample the city’s restaurants, parks, culture and night life. “I hope over time you love Redwood City as much as I do,” he said.

About 175 people were on hand for the ceremony, held in a palm-tree-lined plaza in between an office building called “University Hall” and “Cardinal Hall,” which houses a light-filled café and coffee shop looking out over a grassy landscape. This morning’s audience included the first wave of the 2,700 employees who will be settling into offices five miles north of Palo Alto.  The others will move in over the spring and summer, working in support departments such as business affairs, human resources, development and libraries and archives.

Echoing other Stanford speakers, Provost Persis Drell thanked the “trailblazer” employees who are embarking on something quite new for the university.  “This is a big change for Stanford and it will require everyone – and I mean everyone – to work in new ways,” she said.

Drell added, “I just want to say how excited and how proud we are to be joining the Redwood City community. Thank you for the warm welcome.  We’re looking forward to a long and productive relationship.”

The campus is being developed in phases, based on the university’s ongoing needs. The first, which will be completed this fall, includes four office building complexes, a landscaped greenway, a child care center and over two acres of open space.

Among the happy employees on hand for the celebration was Redwood City resident Tricia Hall, who is a member of the city’s Parks and Arts Foundation. She joined Stanford recently and works at the new recreation and wellness center. Stanford Redwood City, Hall believes, brings “a new opportunity for growth in downtown Redwood City” and will add to the character of the community.

DA will not charge officers in fatal shooting of Kyle Hart

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DA will not charge officers in fatal shooting of Kyle Hart

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday it will not file criminal charges against two officers involved in the fatal shooting of a Redwood City father late last year.

But the family of Kyle Hart said his death was preventable, and has called for change in law enforcement practices in the wake of four office-involved deaths in Redwood City in two years.

Hart, a 33-year-old married father of two young children, was fatally shot at his home in the 400 block of Lincoln Avenue on Dec. 10.

Police responded to the home about 8:50 a.m. after his wife called saying Hart was cutting himself with a large kitchen knife in an attempt to commit suicide, according to the DA’s investigation. Two Redwood City police officers, Roman Gomez and Leila Velez, arrived at the home and encountered Hart’s wife covered in blood in the front yard.

Hart’s wife pointed the officers in the direction of her husband toward the backyard. Gomez had Velez pull out a Taser gun, and he pulled out his firearm, the DA’s report states.  The officers encountered a profusely bleeding Hart armed with a knife, standing about 37 feet away on a dirt pile. Hart “just stared” at Gomez when Gomez repeatedly asked him to drop the knife, the DA’s report states. Then at one point Hart raised his knife and charged down the dirt hill toward the officers, the report states.

When Hart was within 15 feet of the officers, Officer Velez discharged her Taser, striking him near his ear with only one of the two probes connecting. The Taser shot failed to provide an incapacitating charge, the report states.

When Hart was within 8 feet of the officers, Gomez fired five gunshots, striking Hart three times fatally. The officer believed there “was no time for an exchange of words ore really talk to him, or back [away] from him,” the DA’s report states.

Hart’s wife later told an investigator her husband of 13 years had never before indicated a desire to hurt himself and had been receiving longterm medical care and medication for anxiety. They had a normal life with a normal schedule previous to this incident, she said. His second child was born three days before the incident. The new arrival and the fixer upper home they had recently purchased  increased Hart’s anxiety, she told the investigator. Still, Hart’s wife expressed shock and confusion when she walked in on her husband cutting himself in the kitchen that morning.

The DA’s investigation ultimately found that criminal charges against the officers for Hart’s killing were not warranted.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe “has concluded that the use of force by the two officers which resulted in the death of Mr. Hart was justifiable pursuant to California Penal Code section 196,” the report states.

In a subsequent statement, Hart’s family expressed dissatisfaction with the DA’s response:

“While our community and families continue to grieve the loss of our dear Kyle, we are further saddened to learn that his cause of death was homicide due to gunshot wounds inflicted by the RWC PD. Upon arrival the two officers aggressively verbally confronted Kyle with raised guns, which caused him to move. He was shot [at] 5 times, three hit him. While the use of lethal force was deemed justified by the DA, the inadequacy of scene management and accessibility of other deescalation options and equipment must be addressed. Shots were fired within a minute of police arrival on scene, officers did not attempt to deescalate the situation or wait for the beanbag shotgun that arrived two minutes later. It is not reasonable that state-of-the-art equipment (body cams and other non-lethal tools) are not readily available to all officers.  Kyle’s death is the 4th Redwood City Officer involved death since March of 2017.  We believe that it is time that our city invest to improve and make readily available updated tasers, body cams, bean bag shot guns in every car, and review protocols related to scene management (during and after incidents) to protect and serve the citizens of this community.”

A gofundme.com account was launched to assist the Hart family at this difficult time. To contribute, click here.

Five adults, one child displaced in North Fair Oaks fire

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Five adults, one child displaced in North Fair Oaks fire

Six people were displaced after three structures and an RV were damaged in a fire in North Fair Oaks Tuesday.

Just before 11:30 a.m., according to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, multiple emergency calls were made about smoke coming from the backyard of a residential structure in the 500 block of Seventh Avenue. Responding firefighters arrived soon after to heavy fire coming from several structures to the rear of the uninvolved main house, fire officials said. Three buildings and an RV were on fire.

After determining no one was inside, firefighters took a defensive approach. A Redwood City fire engine was summoned to Sixth Avenue, the rear side, to ensure the fire didn’t spread to other structures, officials said. The fire was brought under control at 11:51 a.m. with help from 5 engines, 1 ladder truck and 2 battalion chiefs.

Investigators could not determine the cause and location of the fire due to the significant damages. The fire started 20 minutes after the property’s last occupant left the site.

A total of five adults and a child were displaced by the fire, and no one was injured. Although the Red Cross came to assist them, the individuals could not immediately be found.

County building inspectors identified “discrepancies in code compliant building standards,” fire officials said. The property was only permitted to have a smaller main home. All structures were “red tagged” and PG&E was directed to pull both the gas and electrical meters.

“Our Fire Investigators today estimated that the combined structural damage at over $100k and contents at $30k,” Fire Chief Schapelhouman said. “They will also be following up with the County on code compliance and actual permitting, which are always a potential underlying concern in North Fair Oaks. We understand and are sympathetic to the housing challenges and shortage, but potential illegal, non-permitted and compliant buildings can, and have, injured and killed residents and firefighters.”

Top Photo: Captain Ken Babcock wets down a hot spot at the fire on 7th Avenue – Credit Fire Photographer Peter Mootz

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Council postpones vote on district map following opposition

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Political Climate with Mark Simon: Council postpones vote on district map following opposition

In the face of growing dissatisfaction and threats of legal action, Redwood City has put off a vote scheduled for Monday to give final approval to an ordinance establishing a new set of seven council districts that creates only one Latino-majority district, and no others in which ethnic minorities constitute a majority of voting age residents.

The creation of districts was prompted by the threat of a lawsuit asserting that the city’s at-large elections were systematically disenfranchising Latino voters and denying them fuller and more adequate representation on the Council.

But the district map approved in a 4-3 council vote on March 11 has caused outrage in the Latino community, with the Redwood City-based group Latino Focus planning a protest rally 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, just prior to the regularly scheduled Council meeting.

Mayor Ian Bain told Political Climate via email this evening: “After meeting with City staff today, we are not going to put the second reading of the ordinance on Monday’s agenda. Instead, we will conduct additional legal review and bring this back at a future meeting.”

Connie Guerrero, one of the leaders of Latino Focus, said the rally will go forward, even though the vote has been postponed.

“We are cautiously optimistic, but we continue to need to raise our voices,” she said. “The demographics of Redwood City are such that we need to be heard and a lot of people feel that way. We will have to wait and see.”

In the March 11 vote, Bain, Janet Borgens, Diane Howard and Diana Reddy voted in support of the district map, and Alicia Aguirre, Giselle Hale and Shelly Masur voted against.

But after months of discussion and debate over map details, the council could not reach a consensus that could avoid a split vote and now, in the face of rising criticism, it appears the final decision remains in doubt. It seems almost a preordained outcome for a process that seemed to get lost in a maze of conflicting and difficult decisions.

Because the council has until March 29 to approve a districting plan or face a costly and troublesome civil rights challenge, postponing the issue does not appear to be an option available to the council.

That leaves only a couple of equally distasteful choices: Launch a legal defense of the decision the council already made, and risk further alienating the Latino community, among others, or reconsider one of the districting maps it passed over.

Reconsideration would be a win for the community leaders from Latino Focus who are mobilizing in opposition to the plan approved by the Council and were urging the Monday protest rally under the title “SOY,” which is Spanish for “I am” and was doubling as an acronym, “Shame On You.”

A Latino Focus news release said the council “ignored our repeated pleas to create two majority-Latino districts” and “eliminated two coalition districts” that would have had a majority of non-white residents.

The news release expressed support for a map, titled 21d, which would create one majority-Latino district and two other districts where the majority would be composed of Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans.

Latino Focus spokesman Alberto Garcia said the city should have at least two minority-majority districts. “There are so many issues facing the city – displacement, income inequality, educational issues – and as an organization we really want to hold the council responsible to create an attitude of inclusivity,” he said.

Garcia said the council’s approach to the challenge of districting “was very reactive and defensive, as opposed to being more open and receptive to becoming more inclusive.”

Indeed, in public sessions and an interview with Political Climate, Mayor Bain expressed unhappiness that the city has been put into the position of drawing districts based on racial demographics. He said Redwood City residents have a history of not dividing along racial lines and of voting for the individual and not based on race.

The council also seemed, at times, overwhelmed by the number of districting map proposals it was facing – more than two dozen – and the range of considerations that had to be reviewed.

The final outcome not only energized the Latino community, but prompted complaints that the council failed to create a single district out of the Redwood Shores neighborhood, which lies north and east of the city, is physically disconnected from the rest of the city, is actually closer to Belmont and has a high percentage of Asian-American residents.

In creating a Redwood Shores district, the council also included the new development at Bair Island, guaranteeing that Councilwoman Masur would be ensconced in that district, which, it should be noted, she opposed.

Critics called it gerrymandering and noted that the council made sure that none of the current incumbents would be in the same districts and be forced to face off against one another in a future election. Councilwoman Howard expressed particular concern that putting two council members in the same district would be an affront to the voters who put those councilmembers in office, essentially disenfranchising them.

Of course, disenfranchisement is exactly what the Latino community says has been happening to them for decades.

In hindsight, it appears the council should have appointed an independent citizens commission that would have drawn a new set of districts and presented it to the council as a finalized product. Concerned it didn’t have enough time, the council tried to do the job itself.

Council members also were hoping to ride out any criticism by noting that the city will be redistricted following the 2020 census. Some admitted they saw this first set of maps as a placeholder and that some of the tougher issues can be tackled in the next round, probably by a citizens commission.

It appears that didn’t work and council is not done with some hard decisions.

“It’s really important that this be done the right way,” said Guerrero. “We want to make sure they do the citizens advisory committee. We already see it didn’t work this way. We kind of left it to the powers that be and it didn’t work out that well.”

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.

Latino group decries lack of representation in Redwood City district election map

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There also have been complaints that the Council failed to create a single district out of the Redwood Shores neighborhood, which lies north and east of the city, is physically disconnected from the rest of the city, is actually closer to Belmont and has a high percentage of Asian-American residents.

An infuriated Latino community is planning a rally Monday to protest the adoption by the Redwood City Council of a new set of seven council districts that creates only one Latino-majority district.

Latino Focus, a Redwood City-based group of Latino community and business leaders, issued a news release this morning about the planned rally. The group says it is also contemplating legal steps to block the new districts.

Group spokesman Alberto Garcia said the city would ideally have two majority-minority districts.

“There are so many issues facing the city – displacement, income inequality, educational issues and as an organization we really want to hold the council responsible to create an attitude of inclusivity,” Garcia said.

The creation of districts was prompted by the threat of a lawsuit asserting that the city’s at-large elections were systematically disenfranchising Latino voters and denying them fuller and more adequate representation on the Council.

Under the title “SOY,” which is Spanish for “I am” and also is being used as the acronym “Shame On You,” Latino leaders are calling for a protest rally outside Redwood City Hall at 6 p.m. Monday, prior to the 7 p.m. council meeting at which point the district map is scheduled for a second and final vote of approval.

By a 4-3 vote, the council gave preliminary approval to the new districts at its March 11 meeting. Voting for the new districts were Mayor Ian Bain and Council members Janet Borgens, Diane Howard and Diana Reddy. Voting no were Alicia Aguirre, Giselle Hale and Shelly Masur.

The decision since has been embroiled in controversy and accusations the Council could have created at least one more Latino-majority district and that they were too focused on making sure that the current Council members would not have to face off against one another in the same district.

Latino Focus claims council “ignored our repeated pleas to create two majority-Latino districts” and “eliminated two coalition districts,” which would have had a majority of non-white residents.

“Their whole attitude was very reactive and defensive as opposed to being more open and receptive to becoming more inclusive,” Garcia said. “Creating more inclusivity and diversity is a win-win for all of us.”

There also have been complaints that the Council failed to create a single district out of the Redwood Shores neighborhood, which lies north and east of the city, is physically disconnected from the rest of the city, is actually closer to Belmont and has a high percentage of Asian-American residents.

Comment is being sought from council. Check back for updates.

This is the second recent issue where Latino population has felt shafted by local leaders. Parents say the Redwood City School District’s reorganization plan to solve its budget deficit has fallen heaviest on the Latino community. A parent-driven campaign has included 130 letters signed and mailed to local legislators.

Tall ships coming to Redwood City

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Tall Ships coming to Redwood City Friday

Starting Friday, community members are invited to tour a couple of gorgeous ships visiting the Port of Redwood City.

Tall Ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, official ambassadors of Washington State, will offer Adventure Sails, Battle Sails and Vessel Tours through April 10, when the boats depart for Oakland. Although, the boats will be closed for maintenance and crew training during the weekdays, April 1-5.

Vessel Tours open the ships to the public for a suggested donation of $5 per person.

Sailing guests will embark on three-hour experiences, while Battle Sails feature fast-paced maneuvering and live black powder cannon fire as the ships vie to win the battle.

See the schedule below. Other event details, and to buy tickets, go here:

DAILY SCHEDULE

March 22 (Friday)
Vessel Tours: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM ($5 donation)

March 23 (Saturday)
Vessel Tours: 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM ($5 donation) Hawaiian Chieftain
Adventure Sail: 11:30 AM -2:30 PM ($55-$65) Lady Washington
Battle Sail: 3:30 PM – 6:30 PM ($65-$85)

March 24 (Sunday)
Private Charter

March 25-29 (Monday-Friday)
Boats are closed for maintenance and crew training.

March 30 (Saturday)
Adventure Sail: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM ($55-$65) Lady Washington
Discovery EcoVoyage: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM ($59-$65)
GHHS and Marine Science Institute present a tall ship citizen science program on the Bay aboard Hawaiian Chieftain!
Vessel Tours: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM ($5 donation)

March 31 (Sunday)
Battle Sail: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM ($65-$85)
Vessel Tours: 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM ($5 donation)

April 1-April 5 (Monday-Friday)
Boats are closed for ship maintenance and crew training.

April 6 (Saturday)
Vessel Tours: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM ($5 donation) Hawaiian Chieftain
Adventure Sail: 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM ($55-$65) Lady Washington
Battle Sail: 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM ($65-$85)

April 7 (Sunday)
Vessel Tours: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM ($5 donation)
Battle Sail: 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM ($65-$85)

April 8-9 (Monday-Tuesday)
Boats are closed for maintenance and crew training.

April 10 (Wednesday)
Boats depart for Oakland

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