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Port of Redwood City announces new executive director

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Port of Redwood City announces new executive director

The Port of Redwood City has appointed a new executive director — 25-year port, maritime and commercial real estate veteran Kristine A. Zortman.

Zortman was most recently the vice president of Civic San Diego, a non-profit economic development corporation. Her appointment follows the retirement announcement of executive director Mike Giari. Zortman will join the Port of Redwood City later this summer. During the transition, Don Snaman, 23-year veteran with the Port of Redwood City and current director of operations, will serve as interim executive director.

Richard Dodge, chair of the Redwood City Port Commission, said the selection of Zortman followed “an extensive recruitment effort.”

“Kristine’s successful collaborations with boards, strong community and business partnerships, and experience managing successful internal teams will elevate the Port’s success as we continue as a leader among California and U.S. ports and focus on economic development, transportation and community building initiatives and priorities,” Dodge said in a statement.

Before serving as vice president with Civic San Diego, Zortman was a principal with the Port of San Diego for eight years focused on commercial real estate, according to the Port of Redwood City. In that capacity, she “negotiated long-term leases focused on cargo and maritime trade growth.”

In the statement, Zortman said she is grateful for the opportunity “to develop strong partnerships with the Redwood City community, and local, national and international business leaders.”

“As an economic engine, the Port’s strategic alliances and business partnerships will facilitate it truly becoming the region’s partner of choice in multi-national maritime trade and industry,” she said.

Zortman holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from George Mason University and completed graduate studies work from University of Utah and the University of California Los Angeles with a focus in Hazardous Materials Management. She also has memberships with the San Diego Military Advisory Council and the Propeller Club and has held former board member roles with the Boys & Girls Club and with Cares for Kids (Building Industry Association).

Outside Lands Music Festival generates $75M for Bay Area economy, study finds

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Outside Lands Music Festival generates $75M for Bay Area economy, study finds

The three-day Outside Lands Music Festival may draw dozens of the world’s top musical artists to one spot — San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park — but its economic impact extends well beyond the city’s limits.

A new study said the annual event sinks $75 million into the Bay Area economy. The report, conducted by Marin Economic Consulting (MEC) and commissioned by Outside Lands organizers Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly, states the festival “increased incomes by $32.6 million, created the equivalent of 700.4 full time year-long jobs, and paid $9,465,668 in state and local taxes.”

Researchers reached those numbers by using data gathered from on-site and online surveys. The surveys gathered such factors as demographics and spending patterns of festival attendees and estimated their overall economic impact. With the data, researchers estimated that “total direct expenditures from Outside Lands within San Francisco were $29,995,144. Spending in the Bay Area outside of San Francisco was estimated at $2,596,099. This resulted in total direct expenditures in the entire Bay Area of $32,591,244.”

The study added, “41,448 hotel nights were booked in the Bay Area that are closely linked to the Festival, approximately 41,309 of which were in San Francisco.”

“When visitors stay in San Francisco hotels, they help support an industry that sustains tens of thousands of working families,” said Ian Lewis, Research Director of UNITE HERE Local 2, in a statement. “This study highlights how events like Outside Lands – 60% of whose guests stay in local hotels – contribute to our region’s economy.”

The festival returns to Golden Gate Park for its 11th installment August 10-12 and includes headliners The Weeknd, Florence + The Machine and Janet Jackson. Tickets are available here.

Prosecutors: Fake cop claimed to be real hero

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“Officer Lofu” is no doubt a corrupt cop — it’s good thing he doesn’t exist.

But the 20-year-old San Mateo man accused of posing as a police officer at a home in Redwood City has claimed the real him is — in reality — a hero.

Danny Pita has pleaded not guilty to charges of residential burglary and possession of a firearm as a felon in connection with the May 13 incident. The incident unfolded, according to prosecutors, when Pita knocked on the door of a home where he knew a drug dealer lived and identified himself as Officer Manu Lofu. There is no one named Manu Lofu on the Redwood City police force.

Pita told the person who answered the door, a 20-year-old man, that the police were onto him, and knew he was a marijuana dealer, prosecutors said. He allegedly warned of a police raid later that day, but said he was was giving him this heads-up because he’d heard from his cousin he was a good guy.

Pita went above and beyond the call of duty:  he told the man to give him whatever was in the house that might get the resident in trouble – and walked away with a half-pound of marijuana, a 9mm Beretta pistol and $1500 in cash, according to prosecutors.

The raid, of course, never happened.

On May 17, the resident went to the police, the real police, with video footage from his home surveillance system that featured “Officer Lofu.”  And later that same day, the police found and stopped Pita driving in Redwood City with the gun, and diminished quantities of cash and marijuana.

Pita explained to the police he had just been trying to stop a neighborhood dope dealer.

Pita, who is on felony probation for a 2016 robbery of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the case on May 21. His case was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Redwood City Felony Court on Wednesday, but the case was continued to allow the defense to review police reports.

Pita remains in custody on $50,000 bail.

Caltrain monthly pass fares to increase July 1

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Person struck by Caltrain at Main Street

The cost for Caltrain Monthly Passes is set to increase on July 1, according to the transit agency.

The change increases the multiplier from 14 to 15 days. The price for a one-zone Monthly Pass increases from $89.60 to $96, while the price for a 6-zone Monthly Pass goes up from $404.60 to $433.50. See the charts below to see the July 1 fares versus the current fares.

Caltrain said a number of fare and cost increases were approved by its board in August last year to raise revenue in order to remain fiscally sound. The transit agency already increased adult zone fare by 25 cents last October. That same month, monthly parking prices also went up from $55 to $82.50, and the discounted 8-ticket ride was eliminated.

The Monthly Pass increase was the last in a phased-in approach, with prices last increasing in November.


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A $1 movie ticket? It happens in Redwood City

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A $1 movie ticket? It happens in Redwood City

A movie ticket for $1? Sounds like we’ve gone back to 1965.

But it’s true: The Cinemark Theatres in downtown Redwood City has a Summer Movie Clubhouse series for kids that costs $1 per ticket for shows that play Tuesdays at 10 a.m. And in fact, it’s even cheaper for frequent movie-goers, as the cost is $5 for all 10 movie dates this summer. Each week, it’s a different movie.

Take a look at the flier for the schedule of remaining dates.

Play Ball!

in Community/Featured/Sports by

By Bill Shilstone

Commentators may debate which upstart sport now holds the title, whether it’s football or basketball or even soccer that has dethroned baseball as the national pastime. But on any given weekend, on fields all over Redwood City, hundreds of kids and their parents and their coaches ignore all that chatter and just “play ball.”

Sixty-three Little League and 20 girls softball teams have to juggle and adjust to get access to fields and ball diamonds for a season that starts with that first crack of a bat on Opening Day in March and culminates in August when all-star players get a chance to compete with teams from all over the country.

Strikes. Hits. Errors. Home runs. That’s only part of what baseball is all about, say Little League coaches and leaders. Far more important, they say, are the character-building lessons and other intangibles that have been passed on from generation to generation of kids who grew up immersed in a game that some consider a bit outmoded in today’s rapid-action world.

“It’s about getting kids off the TV and outdoors,” Redwood City Little League Coach Mike Bobadilla said. “Interacting with people from all walks of life. Treating adults with respect. Handling failure and success. Being responsible for cleaning up the mess you left in the dugout. Coaches teach punctuality, preparedness – things that apply beyond baseball.”

To be sure, participation in Little League ebbs and flows, and its popularity has taken a hit in recent years, not just in Redwood City but Bay Area-wide. Recreation leaders say competition from soccer, lacrosse and basketball – and the fortunes of the San Francisco Giants – all are factors.

“There were major spikes in enrollment in the years after the Giants’ World Series victories (in 2010, 2012 and 2014),” said Eric Newby, recreation manager for sports and aquatics for the city. “Go Giants!”

Little League enrollment dropped to 734 this spring from its peak of 1,000 in 2013. “Nothing like a four-game sweep to create interest,” Bobadilla said. He noted that the success of the Golden State Warriors has spawned basketball camps that divert kids from baseball.

The numbers also are down in the Redwood City Girls Softball League, which has 227 girls on 20 teams. Hector Carlos, the league president, said one drain on enrollment is the proliferation of club teams that attract the top players with the opportunity of exposure to college recruiters.

The lost Little Leaguers are missing out on the fruits of a $2 million-plus renovation of synthetic turf fields completed in 2016 that has made Red Morton Park a state-of-the-art facility. Sandpiper and Marlin fields in Redwood Shores also were redone, and the one at Hoover Intermediate School is next. Both boys and girls – and their parents — also are missing out on the intangibles that are considered the heart of both programs.

Kate Severin, one of the two female head coaches in the softball league, provides a perspective aimed chiefly at the girls. Severin, a division chief at the Veterans Administration in Menlo Park, played four years in college and has coached boys and girls in both baseball and softball.

“I dedicate most of my coaching time to softball because young women need strong female role models, like I had, to know that they can succeed not only in athletics but also be leaders with commitment to others,” she said. “As a young player, I learned never to turn my back on a teammate (or today, a colleague) when they’re struggling. Persevering through grueling playing conditions and exhaustion, I learned to believe there is nothing we can’t do if we put our hearts and minds to it.”

Carlos, the league president, is working on recruiting more role models like Severin and Emily Chapman, a head coach in the 6 and Under Division. His daughter Samantha, a San Jose State University student who played at Woodside High, coaches third base for his team and coordinates umpires for the league. There are eight female umpires in the younger divisions, and Carlos talked Paige Blackwell, a left-handed senior pitcher at Woodside, into tutoring one of his young lefties.   

The league requires all volunteers to take an online course in ethics and conduct, and  there is a female chaperone assigned to all practice sessions. Criminal background checks are required by both the softball and baseball leagues.

While the girls are just as intense and competitive as the boys, their approach to the game is a bit more light-hearted, evidenced by the whimsical names they choose for their teams. This year, they include the Ruby Rockstars, the Mermaids, the Doodle Bugs and the Daffodils. Samantha Carlos said the best (or worst) from her playing days was the Evil Blueberry Pop-Tarts. “We shortened it to Evil Blueberries.”

Codes of conduct for both leagues contain lessons for adults as well as players. Parents and guardians must promise to “place the emotional and physical well being of my child ahead of my personal desire to win” and to “remember the game is for our youth – not adults.” Players must also sign a code of good sportsmanship.

“As intense as parents can get, very few need to be ejected from the stands,” Bobadilla said. “When young umpires are working, we have umpire advocates in the stands – a parent or board member to remind if necessary that these are kids learning to play, and that we’re all one big community, so the player you are yelling at might be your son’s teammate next year.” The young umps, usually players in the upper divisions, get $25 a game (“their first paid job for some”) and valuable leadership training, sometimes “arbitrating between two coaches twice your size.”

Umpire pay (higher for certificated adults), field rent paid to the city, uniforms and equipment are the major expenses for both leagues. Little League parents pay registration fees of $170 for younger players and $190 for older kids. The comparable softball league figures are $150 and $250. The Little League has 55 community businesses sponsoring teams at $400, $500 and $600 levels. The softball league’s 14 sponsors pay $300 per team (up to four for a Grand Slam), this year totaling $6,300.  Donations and fundraisers such as softball’s Hit-A-Thon and Little League Day at the Giants’ AT&T Park add to the pot. Volunteers do the coaching, coordinating and other league duties. Budget totals this year are $220,000 for Little League and $57,000 for Girls Softball.

Some of that Little League money goes for equipment and upkeep of the Eric Byrnes batting cage, built at the same time as the Red Morton makeover. One of the sponsors  was the former Major Leaguer from Woodside for whom it is named. It contains two pitching machines for use by the older players, batting tees and pitching mounds. The next project the city and Little League are contemplating is some shade for the fans, who now bake in the bleachers.

A tricky problem for both leagues is the coordination of field-sharing, with dozens of Little League and softball teams trying to fit games, two a week, and practices into 22 fields – 11 at schools, nine in city parks and two at Pacific Shores at the east end of Seaport Boulevard.  Newby, the recreation department’s field master, says cooperation between all users, youth and adult, make the job doable and even pleasant.

“Twice a year we bring all the sport league presidents and field coordinators together and discuss each field in detail,” Newby said. “Communication is the key, and all groups have a great working relationship.” At a state parks and recreation conference last month, nobody believed him. “One city representative said, ‘If I did that they might start really fighting.’”

The problem of field use coordination was one factor in the 2012 merger of three Redwood City Little League programs –Redwood City National, Redwood City American and Highlanders – into one. “That and competition for the same sponsors,” said Bobadilla. “The merger has made us one big community and killed the us-and-them mindset. Red Morton is the crown jewel, and now everybody gets to play there.”

Carlos said the girls’ league was formed in 2006, under the leadership of Steve Chandler, when parents got tired of driving to San Carlos, then the closest city with a girls softball league.

The experience in both the baseball and softball programs begins with kids as young as four years old hitting the ball off a tee and leads to the road to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., and opportunities to play in high school and college, where the federal Title IX equal opportunity legislation opened the door for girls in 1972. Redwood City will host the 14-team District 52 tournament for 10-12-year-olds beginning June 22, and the softball league will feed 90-95 percent of the players at Sequoia and Woodside.

The numbers may be down, but the attraction is still there for the hundreds of players and adult volunteers active on Redwood City diamonds.

Newby finds it “extremely rewarding” to work with the youth sports groups every day. “From league presidents down to individual coaches, everyone is supportive of each other,” he said. “I see it every day walking through the park in the afternoon. I’ve seen players from many years ago now coaching their kids. At my son’s Opening Day Tee-Ball ceremony this year, his first, it felt special to finally be a part of it as a parent.”

 This article was first published in the May issue of Climate Magazine. 

Several incidents interrupt Tuesday afternoon commute

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Several Redwood City incidents interrupt afternoon commute Tuesday

Redwood City first responders responded to a number of emergencies that impacted the afternoon commute on Tuesday, including the crash on Highway 101 depicted in a photo shared by the city’s Fire Department.

That crash injured one person on southbound 101 north of Marsh Road just before 5:30 p.m., causing delays while emergency crews responded to the scene.

A few hours earlier, at 3:45 p.m., a vehicle fire on El Camino Real near Lincoln caused road closures. The fire extended to a fence and damaged the paint on an auto body shop, fire officials told Bay City News service. No one was injured and the roads were reopened.

Soon after that fire, at about 4:50 p.m., Redwood City police announced the temporary closure of Jefferson Avenue between Cirrus Court and Botany Court due to emergency repair work on downed power lines.

And then at , Redwood City fire personnel responded to a vehicle versus pedestrian accident at Brittan Avenue and Laurel Street in San Carlos. Further details about that accident were not immediately available.

Seniors invited to Courthouse Square Friday

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Seniors on the Square set for Courthouse Square on Friday

A strong gathering of seniors are expected — and welcome — at Courthouse Square in Redwood City on Friday.

That’s when Seniors on the Square takes place from 10 am to noon.

In addition to enjoying the sun  — the weather is forecast for a pleasant 72 degrees on Friday — Seniors on the Square is an excellent chance to see what’s happening in Redwood City and around the county that’s interesting or useful to San Mateo County seniors.

That includes a look ahead at summer events downtown in Redwood City, activities sponsored by the City Parks & Recreation, information on what the San Mateo County Health System has to offer seniors and more – plus a generally festive atmosphere and of course (since the weather says summer, even if the calendar doesn’t yet), cool refreshments.

And don’t forget sunscreen (those Health Service people will probably ask you about that).

Political Climate with Mark Simon: 40-percent voter turnout in all-mail county election

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More than 70,000 ballots from last week’s statewide primary remain to be counted, according to San Mateo County elections chief Mark Church, and that means the race for county Superintendent of Schools remains very much up in the air.

But the real news might be the total number of ballots cast in the election. When everything is tallied, more than 156,000 voters will have turned in their ballots, an astonishing 40 percent voter turnout.

Among the state’s urban counties, only San Francisco, with a mayor’s race topping the ballot and a former mayor running for governor, had a higher turnout.

In San Mateo County, the schools race was the only truly contested countywide race. The race for governor, U.S. senator and the statewide offices had their share of intrigue, but all things considered, it was a low-key campaign season – certainly absent the kind of drama that draws large numbers of voters.

Statewide, voter turnout was 26 percent, according to a report posted yesterday by the California Secretary of State’s office, although there could be as many as 2 million uncounted ballots statewide.

That means the county’s experiment in all-mail balloting was a phenomenal success in drawing voters to the polls in an otherwise lackluster campaign season.

The large number of unprocessed ballots means ongoing suspense for Gary Waddell and Nancy Magee, the two candidates for county schools chief. As of last Thursday, Waddell was ahead by 501 votes, more than the tally on election night, but still too close to call.

It could be several more days before we know how this race turns out.

A Belmont-Redwood Shores School District parcel tax needed two-thirds to pass and it stands at 64.95, about 1.5 percent behind. There might still be enough votes outstanding to pass this measure, but the votes would have to break substantially for the yes side.

GEE FORCE: Redwood City incumbent Jeff Gee officially kicked off his campaign for re-election Sunday at an afternoon gathering of more than 50 friends and supporters at Angelica’s on Main Street.

The benefits of incumbency can be numerous, even in a race where the incumbent is the target, and one of those benefits was prominently on display at Gee’s launch – a lineup of leading local elected officials from throughout the county, reflecting Gee’s two-term tenure on the council and his service to two of the more prominent countywide bodies, the SamTrans and Caltrain boards of directors.

Among those at the event: outgoing Councilman John Seybert, who emceed the event, Redwood City Councilwoman Alicia Aguirre and former Councilman Jeff Ira, San Mateo Mayor Rick Bonilla and Councilwoman Diane Papan, San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos, Atherton Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, Millbrae Mayor Gina Papan and South San Francisco Mayor Pradeep Gupta.

There also was a strong showing of colleagues from the transportation boards, including Burlingame Councilwoman Emily Beach, who serves on the county Transportation Authority, SamTrans and Caltrain board member and Belmont Councilman Charles Stone and SamTrans board members Rose Guilbault and Josh Powell.

Also on hand: Stacey Wagner, head of community relations for Kaiser Permanente, and Veronica Escamez, founder of the Redwood City nonprofit Casa Circulo Cultural, who spoke in support of Gee, declaring him an “honorary Latino” for all his activities on behalf of that community.

In his own remarks, Gee said he will continue to pursue his goal to “protect the quality of life for residents, ensure a strong economy for our local businesses and support financially responsible decisions that prioritize city services and public safety departments to keep our city a great, safe place to call home.”

He said the city has worked hard to provide more housing options for seniors, young families, veterans and low-income residents and he promised to look at “new innovations,” including removing “barriers to small-unit condominium development.”

He listed a series of specific priorities for the next four years: start construction on the Habitat for Humanity housing project downtown and find a fifth site, “protect our residential neighborhoods from ‘monster homes’” by proposing new floor/area ratio standards, facilitate more housing for seniors, complete construction of the Bayfront Canal, identify funding for the Highway 101/84 interchange project, complete electrification of Caltrain and execute a private/public partnership for the revival of the Dumbarton rail corridor.

He said he will continue to be forward-thinking in his service on the council and “whether it be autonomous vehicles, innovative living arrangements, high speed trains, a new bridge across the bay or things we cannot even imagine right now … we owe it to ourselves to see what may be right around the corner and to try to figure out how it may affect the quality of life in our city.”

Contact Mark Simon at

Redwood City Library offering free drop-in computer assistance

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Redwood City Library offering free drop-in computer assistance

Ever feel frustrated by your phone?  Let down by your laptop?  Confused by your Kindle?

Well, if you’ve got an electronic device – and you know you’d get more out of it, if you knew more about how to use it – Redwood City Public Library can help.

Not by looking up the answers, but by hooking up you – with experts who can show you how to search the Internet, send emails, write documents in Word, download and read a book – if you’ve got questions, they’ve got answers.

There’s no charge – all you need to bring is your device (your smart phone, your laptop, your eReader) and your questions.

There is a drop-in session (so no need to call ahead) every Wednesday, 10 am to noon, in the “Small Conference Room,” of the Main Library, 1044 Middlefield Road.  (The exception this summer is next month, because the Fourth of July is a Wednesday, and the library will be closed.)

If you are a more of a planner, you can make an appointment.  Call Gene Suarez at 650-780-7098.

And if you are more of an internet person, you can get all the information here.

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