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Hillsdale Shopping Center entertains with new North Block

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Reflecting a nationwide trend, Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo is opening its new north block – the former site of the Sears store and the mall’s food court – to include entertainment as well as shopping and dining. 

Venues in the redeveloped two-floor, 290,000-square-foot section of the iconic shopping center began opening their doors in late November, and continue to open this month and next.  Included are: 

  • Cinépolis Luxury Cinema – Featuring waiter service, a full bar, chef-inspired food items, advanced digital projection and sound, reclining leather seats and online reserved seating.
  • Pinstripes Bistro Bowling and Bocce – A 12-lane bowling center with three bocce courts, from-scratch Italian-American food, private event space and off-site catering.
  • West Elm – A division ofWilliams-Sonoma, featuring furniture and home decor.
  • lululemon – Women’s athletic clothes for yoga, running, workouts and other active pursuits.
  • Shake Shack – Serving classic burgers, fries, hot dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine and more.
  • BelcampoMeat Co. & Restaurant – A casual rustic restaurant and butchrey showcasing a full menu of organic meats. 
  • MidiCiNeaWpolitan Pizza Co. – wood-fired pizzas, appetizers salads and desserts. 

Introduced just in time for the holiday shopping season, the north block currently features a 40-foot-high tree with a light show coordinated with nearby fountains.  The show will run through the holidays. 

Hillsdale is hardly alone in its strategy to incorporate entertainment such as the new cinema and bowling-bocce complex.  According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, malls across the U.S. are combating online retailers and luring shoppers with attractions ranging from laser tag to escape rooms and glow-in-the-dark miniature golf. 

They’re also getting patrons to stay longer.  The manager of one mall chain told the Journal that customers were staying up to six hours while enjoying various amenities. 

“We realize there’s more to retail than just offering stores,” says Hillsdale Marketing Director Christine Kupczak.  “And in order to be competitive in today’s market, you really need to offer an entertainment value in the shopping center.  We took a look at an aging portion of the shopping center, which was the old Sears, as well as the old food court.  We demolished those, and put together a brand-new entertainment venue, which is really what shoppers are looking for in today’s market. 

“It’s all about creating a social gathering place where the community can get together and enjoy dining, as well as experiences and retail,” Kupczak continues.  “And that’s what we’ve put together for the north block plaza — something that was different and unique to the area.  We wanted to bring something new and fresh and vibrant to that mix of experiential entertainment.” 

Two of the new establishments – Pinstripes and the Cinépolis cinema complex – will be the first in Northern California, Kupczak says.   

Pinstripes, in fact, will be opening its first venture in the west.  Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the company currently has 12 other venues, including one scheduled to open this month in Norwalk, Conn.  Many of the Pinstripes locations sit in fashionable burgs such as Edina, Minn. (Minneapolis), Overland Park, Kan. (Kansas City) and the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. 

Cinépolis, meanwhile, is reported to operate more than 300 theaters in the U.S., Latin America, India and Spain.  According to the company’s website, it has eight movie complexes in Southern California. 

Whereas many malls across the country have been fighting a downturn, Kupczak says business at Hillsdale remains strong. 

“It’s been very busy,” she says, adding that on Veterans Day, “it was so crowded, it was unbelievable. 

“We’ve seen a constant flow of traffic,” Kupczak continues.  “It’s been great.  We’re anticipating with the opening of this north block that the appeal will only increase as well, and just really provide a different amenity to our shopper.” 

Kupczak says the new development will elevate the mall, which opened in the mid-1950s, from simply a shopping center to an entertainment and retail destination. 

“It’s going to be just a fabulous community gathering place for people to socialize and be with their families and friends,” she says.  “Where they can really just enjoy themselves and have the opportunity of being able to enjoy some experiential entertainment, have a good time wining and dining. It’s really just about having a special place to be together.”  

 This story was originally published in the December print edition of Climate Magazine. 

‘Bring it on!’ Hometown Holidays will go on despite rain forecast

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Rain, rain, go away. And if not, “Bring it on!”

That’s the message from the Redwood City Downtown Business Group, which says its popular 14th Annual Hometown Holidays Festival and Parade is set to go on Saturday, rain, wind or shine. A tent will be used to keep people dry at Courthouse Square and also over the snow lot, and Santa photos will move into the museum, officials said.

The free annual event is, as always, jam-packed with fun for the whole family, with 15 live entertainment acts throughout the day at Courthouse Square, a carnival and vendors starting at 10 a.m. The Santa photos line will also begin at 10 a.m. and cease at 3:30 p.m.

The event, which occurs the first weekend of December, will feature its parade at 4:30 p.m., followed by a tree lighting at Courthouse Square at about 5:45 p.m. and a visit by the Caltrain Holiday train at 6:10 p.m. at Sequoia Station.

For more information, visit the Hometown Holidays website here.

Photo Credit: Redwood City Downtown Business Group

Redwood City council set to install new mayor and vice mayor

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The community is invited to recognize outgoing Mayor Ian Bain and to witness the installment of new Mayor Diane Howard and Vice Mayor Shelly Masur at City Hall on Monday, Dec. 9.

The evening starts at 6:30 p.m. with an hors d’oeuvres and refreshments reception, followed by the installation at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, according to the city.

In 2017, Mayor Bain was selected by his colleagues on council to serve as mayor for a two-year term.  The practice of having council select one of its own to serve as mayor and vice mayor has since changed. In September, council unanimously voted in favor of moving to a seniority-based rotation system in selecting the mayor and vice mayor.

For more information about each council member, including their terms of service and biographies, go here.

Photo credit: City of Redwood City

Uncle John’s Carrot Ginger Soup is food for the soul

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Andy Williams said it best, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Still, this season is not without its stressors and heartaches. It’s not just the stress of finding the right gift for everyone from the mailman to your mother-in-law, or the pressure to bake the perfect holiday cookie. It’s that over time, the holidays also become a unit of measurement, tallying the years that a loved one has been gone. 

In whatever way your heart and mind may be taxed this season, food is a great salve. And I don’t mean in the eat-your-feelings kind of way, though the holidays do lend themselves to that nicely. No, the healing power of food shines this time of year because it can pull double duty: the perfect gift that keeps the spirit of a loved one alive.  

For me, I feel closest to one of my late grandfathers when I make his legendary cheesecake. Closeness with the other grandfather comes when I pour a bowl of Cheerios. Clearly, they were distinctly different men. But cheesecake in large quantities is not a realistic holiday gift, and gifting a box of Cheerios … well, even I have a hard time gussying that one up.  

But Uncle John’s Carrot Ginger Soup is perfect. Every Christmas Day, Uncle John — who was not actually an uncle but so profoundly shaped my father’s life that he was well deserving of the honorific — would visit us, a jar of his homemade soup in hand. As a child I never really understood my mom’s excitement over Uncle John’s giant, orange-filled Mason jar. Soup was soup in my childhood mind. But as the years passed I started to understand. With its earthy, carrot-sweetness and zip of ginger, this soup poured like velvet, if velvet could be poured. It was worth every ounce of yuletide anticipation.  

This will be our second Christmas without Uncle John, but I’ve decided it doesn’t have to be the second without his soup. This is what I’ll be gifting my family this year (spoiler alert for the 60 percent of Redwood City I’m related to), and now I’m sharing it with you, too. Whether for gifting or just a chilly winter night, this soup is something I hope you’lI enjoy. Perhaps you have your own family member or friend to honor — if you do, I hope you’ll embrace this opportunity. After all, what better time to celebrate our loved ones than the most wonderful time of the year.  

Carrot Ginger Soup 

By Epicurious  

Like most good things, I took for granted the annual consistency of Uncle John’s soup and never asked for the recipe. This one is from Epicurious, and is most like what my family remembers from the original. The natural carrot sweetness pairs perfectly with the zippy warmth of the fresh ginger. The lemon juice and zest give this soup a brightness that can be enjoyed all year long. 


  • Makes: 4 servings, I highly recommend doubling it.  
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium carrots, peeled, chopped (about 3 cups) 
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped (about 1 1/3 cups) 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel 
  • 3 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth.  
  • Vegetable broth would also work well. 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream (I used plain yogurt)  
  • Salt and pepper to taste. 


  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until the soft, translucent, and just starting to get a little golden brown. Stick your face over the pot and inhale. If a sense of rich, buttery euphoria doesn’t fill your soul, give it a few more minutes. 
  2. Post-butter-onion euphoria, add ginger and garlic; sauté for a few minutes. Add the chopped carrots, tomatoes and lemon peel; sauté for one minute. Add 3 cups of stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and let simmer until the carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes (longer if you’re doubling the recipe). Cool slightly.
  3. Puree in batches in a blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.)
  4. When it’s time to serve, bring soup to simmer. Epicurious says you can now thin the soup with more stock if you want. I’m not a fan of thin soups, so I didn’t think it necessary. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. 


Redwood City Was the “Chrysanthemum Capital of the World”

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The recent announcement that the Bay City Flower Company is going out of business closed the books on a story that began decades ago when the Japanese community planted roots that would gain Redwood City the title of “the chrysanthemum capital of the world.” 

Bay City Flower Company moved to Half Moon Bay in 1959, relocating from Redwood City where it was founded in 1910 by Japanese immigrant Nobuo Higaki. According to the company, Higaki cut carnations, chrysanthemums and gardenias for florists in San Francisco. Four generations later the company called it quits, mainly because of the cost of doing business “nationally while operating in the costliest place in the nation,” said company spokesman Harrison Higaki. 

According to the Redwood City Historical Blog Series, in 1907 immigrant brothers Eikichi and Sadakusu Enomoto started growing chrysanthemums in Redwood City and shipped them nationwide. Sadakusu Enomoto’s son, William, recalled in a 1967 interview that he and his father delivered a railroad car filled with chrysanthemums to the All Saints Day festivities in New Orleans in 1913. The shipment proved so popular that by 1920 Redwood City growers were sending 20 rail cars to the New Orleans event. 

The Enomoto brothers helped immigrants from Japan to start their own flower-growing businesses, enabling them to soon dominate the field. By 1926 Redwood City drew the moniker of the “chrysanthemum capital of the world” with local income of more than $7 million. The flower industry began to expand to other cities in the area and in 1931 the California Chrysanthemum Growers Association was founded. 

The success of the flower industry in the area came at a time of “intense anti-Asian racist sentiment and policy,” according to the October 2018 issue of Historical Happenings, a monthly publication of the San Mateo County Historical Association. Local boosters promoted the Peninsula as “a flower-filled suburb” with campaigns that “often framed out the very Japanese-American working-class families whose labor cultivated the blooms they celebrated.” 

Japan’s bombing of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941 proved to be the coup de grace for the industry.  Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps located away from the Pacific Coast during a war that, ironically, saw the enemy resort to kamikaze suicide planes it called “floating chrysanthemums.”  

The Enomotos escaped being relocated, having moved to Utah before the government issued the evacuation order.  Their property and other financial interests in Redwood City were watched over by their banker, a remarkable man named J. Elmer Morrish, who performed the same service for many of his interned clients. Kevin Kaatz, a professor at Cal State East Bay, co-authored a book entitled “Citizen Internees: A Second look at Race and Citizenship in Japanese-American Internment Camps” that recounts the Morrish episode.  

“Surprisingly, not much has been written about what the Japanese-Americans were doing to actually preserve their houses, property and businesses when they were forced into these camps,’’ Kaatz said.  Some relied on Morrish “to help them navigate between their internment and what they were forced to leave behind.” 

When Kaatz spoke at the Redwood City library in October, one member of the audience asked if Morrish might have had any financial advantage to gain by his efforts. Kaatz replied that he had read hundreds of letters exchanged between the banker and those in the camps and was convinced that for Morrish “it was a matter of the heart.” 

Morrish, whose correspondence with those in the camps is preserved in the history room of the Redwood City main library, died in 1957 at the age of 71. The San Mateo Times reported his death on the front page. The obituary recalled his many civic honors, including being selected Redwood City’s Outstanding Citizen a year earlier. There was no mention of his helping people in the camps. 

Another oversight can be seen at the post office in Redwood City, according to the aforementioned Historical Happenings, which noted that a 1937 mural there called “Flower Farming and Vegetable Raising” fails to depict “legibly Japanese American workers.” 

 This story was originally published in the December print edition of Climate Magazine.

Memorial Park campgrounds getting major update ahead of 100-year anniversary

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New restroom and shower buildings, improved campsites, a new wastewater treatment plant and wastewater collection system are among the projects set to improve the aging campground at Memorial Park in San Mateo County.

At the San Mateo County Park Commission meeting on Thursday, County Rangers Mario Nastari and Kevin O’Brien are scheduled to deliver a presentation updating the commission on ongoing improvements to the campgrounds, which last year served over 57,000 visitors during camping season.

Memorial Park campgrounds have been closed since Oct. 20 and will remain closed during the entire 2020 camping season as San Mateo County Parks moves forward with the first comprehensive improvement project for the park, which was dedicated on July 4, 1924. Memorial Park currently has 141 campsites, a visitor center, amphitheater, day use picnic areas and almost seven miles of hiking trails.

In preparation for the park’s 100-year anniversary in 2024, the County has begun a two-year-long infrastructure and building replacement effort. When campgrounds reopen in 2021, visitors will see seven new restroom and shower buildings in place of those constructed in the 1970s, the County said. ADA upgrades, paved drive aisles and parking lots, new barbecue pits, picnic benches, fire pits, and other campsite amenities are also part of the improvements, according to the County.

Currently, a new wastewater treatment plant is under construction and is expected to be completed in July next year. An “obsolete” wastewater collection system will be replaced.

All restroom and shower facilities that aren’t replaced during the 2020 closure are expected to be replaced before the 100-year anniversary, the County report states.

For more information, access the Commission agenda documents here or attend the commission meeting, which starts at 4 p.m. in Board Chambers at 400 County Center in Redwood City.

Above photo, shared on the San Mateo County Parks Facebook page, depicts the Memorial Park campsite, which was at full occupancy the night of the dedication for Memorial Park on Pescadero Creek in 1924.  Photo courtesy of Gertrude Kuentzel Sorenson Collection/”San Mateo County Parks, A Remarkable Story of Extraordinary Places and the People Who Built Them”/San Mateo County Parks Foundation

Caltrain Holiday Train coming this weekend

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The Caltrain Holiday Train is set to launch for its 17th year on Saturday, Dec. 7, and Sunday, Dec. 8, bringing holiday treats, entertainment and characters such as Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph and Santa’s elves to nine stations between San Francisco and Santa Clara.

For the free events, families are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the Holiday Train Toy Drive. Presented by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Caltrain Holiday Train partners with local organizations to collect toys at each station for underserved community children.

On Saturday, the Holiday Train will be in San Francisco at 4 p.m. and will feature Bay Area Face Painters for entertainment. Also on Saturday it will stop in Burlingame at 5:25 p.m. (Show: Dan Chan Presents: Balloon Twister, Magician and Juggler); in Redwood City at 6:10 p.m. (Show: No station entertainment due to local Hometown Holidays event); in Mountain View at 7:25 p.m. (Peninsulaires Barbershop Chorus); and in Santa Clara at 8 p.m. (Santa Clara Depot presented by South Bay Historical Railroad Society).

On Sunday, the Holiday Train will be in San Francisco at 4 p.m. (Bay Area Face Painters); in Millbrae at 5:20 p.m. (Bay Area Face Painters); in San Mateo at 6 p.m. (Core Taekwondo); in Menlo Park at 7:05 p.m. (Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra); and in Sunnyvale at 7:50 p.m. (Dan Chan Presents (Balloon Twister, Magician and Juggler, winter ice rink).

Onboard entertainment includes the Masterworks Chorale and The Salvation Army Christmas Brass Ensemble on Saturday, and the Barbershop Harmony Society and The Salvation Army Christmas Brass Ensemble on Sunday.

For more information, go to

Poll: Republican Glew, Democrat Masur lead senate race

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Poll: Republican Glew, Democrat Masur lead senate race

In the highly competitive race for termed-out State Sen. Jerry Hill’s District 13 seat in the 2020 election, polling predicts that Republican candidate Alex Glew (pictured on left) and Democrat Shelly Masur (right) will be the two candidates to win the California primary, according to a recent poll by EMC Research.

The emailed poll garnered responses from 709 likely Senate 13 District voters from Nov. 11-17.

Twenty-five percent of respondents said they would vote for Glew, a longtime mechanical engineer in Silicon Valley who currently serves on the Los Altos Design Review Commission, followed by 22 percent saying they’d vote for Masur, a former nonprofit executive who currently serves as a Redwood City councilmember.

Regardless of their party affiliation, the top two vote-getters in the California primary, set for March 3, 2020, will earn their spot on the ballot in the November 2020 election.

Glew is likely to earn a spot in the top two because, as the lone Republican, he’ll have consolidated support from voters in his party unlike his five Democratic opponents, according to EMC Research.

Still, Democrats tend to win District 13 in November, and Masur, who benefits from name-recognition and key endorsements by State Treasurer Fiona Ma, the California Teachers Association, and California Federation of Teachers, has emerged as an early favorite among her party’s voters, pollsters say.

Josh Becker, a Menlo Park resident who created the Full Circle Fund and serves on the California State Workforce Development Board, received support from 16 percent of voters. Former State Assemblymember and Mountain View mayor Sally Lieber had 9 percent; Michael Brownrigg, a two-term mayor and 10-year councilmember for the City of Burlingame, had 7 percent; and Annie Olivia, a realtor and Millbrae city councilmember, had 4 percent. Eighteen percent of the electorate, however, remain undecided, the poll suggests.

When additional information is provided to voters about all the candidates, Glew’s lead over Masur slightly narrows, 27 percent to 25 percent, and interest in nearly all other candidates tick slightly upward as well.

Seal found in downtown Redwood City parking garage

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A seal that somehow ended up in a downtown Redwood City parking structure Sunday morning is now under the care of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, fire officials said.

The Redwood City Fire Department posted a video to Facebook from the rescue of the 5-month-old seal they’ve named Santos.

A citizen called the fire department at 7:39 a.m. Sunday after spotting Santos in the parking area of 601 Marshall St.

The seal was first brought to a fire station “where he posed for pictures and took a nap,” officials said. Later, officials from the Marine Mammal Center picked up the seal and took him to Sausalito to be monitored, treated and eventually released.


Sheriff: Speeding driver in North Fair Oaks had loaded gun, drugs

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A driver who was pulled over for speeding in North Fair Oaks Thursday morning was arrested on numerous charges including possession of a loaded handgun, stun gun, dagger, drugs and other weapons, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

“Speeding is not only dangerous, but it also draws attention to yourself,” the sheriff’s office stated about the bust, which occurred at about 11:10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Marshall’s at 2545 El Camino Real.

The driver, Hector Gonzalez, 25, of Moss Beach, falsely identified himself, and sheriff’s deputies eventually learned he had two outstanding felony arrest warrants for drug-related charges. A search by deputies uncovered “a lot more than just an illegal amount of marijuana” and cocaine, deputies said.

Gonzales was booked into San Mateo County Jail.

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