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Redwood City names new community development and transportation director

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Mark Muenzer has been appointed as Redwood City’s new community development and transportation director following the departure of Aaron Aknin in February, which prompted a national executive search.

Muenzer’s appointment begins Aug. 19. He was described by Redwood City officials as a highly experienced innovator who formerly served as community development director in Menlo Park, overseeing the city’s planning, building, housing and economic development divisions. In Menlo Park, he managed department staff in processing significant mixed-use development projects including an 8-acre Stanford University mixed-use project, and the proposed 60-acre Facebook Willow Village.

Prior to his work in Menlo Park, he served as a department head for the City of Evanston, Ill., managing planning, housing, building/inspection, and city transportation. His reorganization of the department led to record building permit revenue, improved project review processes and implementations of an inclusionary housing ordinance and transit-oriented development projects, according to a statement by Redwood City.

Muenzer also served as Evanston’s first LGBT Liaison connecting city government to the community’s LGBT residents.

“Mark has an outstanding reputation as an urban planning professional and leader,” said Melissa Stevenson Diaz, city manager of Redwood City. “Mark has broad experience with complex projects, and a creative and visionary mindset. His demonstrated ability to bring together stakeholders with diverse interests will be an asset for Redwood City.”

Muenzer said he is “thrilled” to join Redwood City.

“The City of Redwood City has a progressive reputation where it values collaboration with a diverse community,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to leading a team of professional staff to serve the community and further the City’s mission.”

Muenzer, who lives in downtown San Jose, has also held management roles in Chicago’s planning department, as well as for the City of Countryside, Ill. and as contract services manager for the Hamilton County Development Company, Inc.

He holds a Master of Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati, with a concentration in economic development planning, and a Bachelor of Arts, Political Science from Gannon University, with a concentration in business administration, according to the city of Redwood City.

Photogenic sheriff’s office thanks city for this glamour shot

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No matter how good their vehicles looked in this photo, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office’s remains humble.

Today, the sheriff’s office extended a thank you on social media to Redwood City, the Redwood City Police Department, and “anyone in the downtown area last Tuesday.”

Broadway was temporarily closed in front of the Fox Theatre for the purpose of snapping this stunning photo at the San Mateo County History Museum, the sheriff’s office said.

Judging by the positive public reactions online, the community did not lament the inconvenience. Amid hundreds of likes and dozens of positive comments on the sheriff’s office Facebook post, a representative from the San Mateo County History Museum Facebook account wrote, “Beautiful shot!,” while a representative from the account of the Office of Public Safety Communications, located across from the museum, wrote, “It was worth it!”

The sheriff’s office indicated the photo is in the running to be on the cover of a yearbook it is working on.

Photo Credit: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office


Theft, robbery at San Carlos Trader Joe’s under investigation

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A woman’s purse was stolen from her cart Tuesday as she shopped at the Trader Joe’s in San Carlos, and soon after a second victim walking in the alleyway between the store and Walgreens had her wallet forcibly stolen from her purse, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities don’t know if both incidents are connected, but are searching for suspects.

The first incident occurred between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the store at 1482 El Camino Real, when the victim left her purse in her shopping cart unattended, the sheriff’s office said.

Minutes later, a second victim walking near the store with her purse hanging on her shoulder had her wallet forcibly taken from the purse.

“Deputies are actively following-up on leads,” the sheriff’s office said. “It is unknown if the two incidents are related, however San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone to be aware of their surroundings, keep purses and bags strapped across the body and report all suspicious people and behavior to law enforcement immediately.”

Anyone with information about this crime is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau at 650-599-1536, or you may also remain anonymous by calling the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line at 1-800-547-2700.

Photo: Google Maps

Photographer arrested for sexual assaults on minors at Portola Valley rec center

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A man who worked as a swim team photographer at the Ladera Recreation Center in Portola Valley has been arrested on suspicion of committing multiple lewd acts with minors over a nearly 30 year period, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Now, the sheriff’s office is reaching out to the public to see if there are any other victims of the accused, identified as Randolph “Randy” Haldeman , a 47-year-old resident of unincorporated Menlo Park.

The sheriff’s office launched an investigation in January after receiving a report alleging multiple lewd acts that occurred over several years at the Ladera Recreation Center. During the investigation, multiple victims came forward with allegations against Haldeman. The sheriff’s office said its investigation uncovered that numerous boys between ages 8 and 13 had been victimized by Haldeman dating back 30 years, from 1987 to 2015, and that some incidents occurred at his home.

Haldeman was arrested at his home today on charges of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under age 14. He was booked into the San Mateo County jail.

“We believe there are potentially more victims out there and we encourage anyone who had any contact with Haldeman or allowed him to be around your child/children or believe anyone may have been victimized, please contact Detective Fava at 650-363-4192 / or Detective Sergeant Cang at 650-363-4008 /,” the sheriff’s office said.

County unveils aerial videos, website aimed at reducing aircraft noise

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County unveils aerial videos, website aimed at reducing aircraft noise

For pilots who want learn how to reduce their noise impact when flying in and out of airports in San Carlos and Half Moon Bay, as well as members of the general public who simply enjoy aerial views of our region, San Mateo County today unveiled several aerial videos with suggested flight paths, along with a noise abatement information website.

The narrated videos provide a bird’s eye view of flight plans designed to reduce aircraft noise in local communities. All of the videos are posted on the county’s new Airport Noise Information website, which launched today and provides other relevant information about airport noise, and data on takeoffs and landings.

“Our hope is that pilots will view the videos before they visit our airports to familiarize themselves with local knowledge and our voluntary arrival and departure routes,” Airport Manager Gretchen Kelly said in a statement. “And the videos are just beautiful. Everybody can enjoy the view of the coast near Half Moon Bay or flying over the city of San Francisco.”

The county’s Airport Division worked on the voluntary noise-abatement procedure at the direction of the Board of Supervisors. Along with the new videos and updated website, the airport has updated its printed materials and will distribute them locally and to other airports, the county said.

Tip about child pornography leads detectives to San Carlos home

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A San Carlos man was arrested Wednesday on allegations he possessed and distributed child pornography, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives with the sheriff’s office received a tip about the illegal images and traced the IP address of those images to a home in the 300 block of Laurel Street, the sheriff’s office said.

On Wednesday, detectives executed a search warrant on the home and arrested Richard Hartman, 45.

The incident appears to be isolated, but, the sheriff’s office added, “anyone with information about Hartman or any related incidents is encouraged to speak with Detective Paterson (650-363-4008 or Detective Sergeant Cang (650-363-4008”

Redwood City Library to make robot deliveries

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The Redwood City Library will soon be using robots to deliver materials to local seniors, persons with disabilities and others with disability issues that make it difficult to visit the Library.

The city received a $99,760 grant from the California State Library to help fund the pilot program, which will total $252,781, according to city documents. Starship Technologies, Inc., which has operated delivery robots in Redwood City since 2017 as part of city pilot projects, will be providing deliveries for the Library. The company is pitching in $100,000 to run the new Library program, while the Library will contribute $53,021.

In May, Redwood City Council approved renewing a pilot program for up to 24 months allowing permitted operators to offer autonomous robots for deliveries in the city.

This Spring, Mountain View Public Library implemented a pilot project using robots to collect materials customers want to return one day per week.

As state in our May report, Starship’s plans include upgraded robots and implementing a grocery delivery program in partnership with local markets and restaurants.

Caltrain rolls out plans for its future

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With Caltrain ridership expected to grow substantially in the next 20 years, the transit agency is envisioning faster, more frequent service in the coming years. One ambitious plan would run up to 12 trains per hour during peak hours, as opposed to the existing five, effectively reducing the amount of minutes passengers wait for their train to single digits.

In a live town hall aired on YouTube Monday afternoon, Caltrain laid out its vision for the next two decades.

Caltrain serves 65,000 passengers on average per day, up from 36,000 per day in 2010. Caltrain suggested plans Monday that prepares for daily capacity to increase to 180,000 riders per day by 2040.

During its nearly two-hour presentation, Caltrain staff discussed the wide-range of service changes that could be necessary to support population and job growth along the corridor.

Included in its service vision is the ongoing work to electrify the Caltrain, which the organization hopes to have complete by 2022 and which they say will improve speed and reliability along the line while reducing greenhouse gas emissions that currently come from its diesel-powered locomotives.

Caltrain presented three potential ridership scenarios during their event, and the costs and infrastructure changes required to meet each of the three:

  1. In its ‘baseline’ level, Caltrain would need to invest more than $22 billion by 2040 to meet demand, though this would lead to spotty service at many stations – including maximum waits of more than 20 minutes at some stations even during busy periods. It would feature six Caltrains per hour per direction during peak hours, dropping to three per hour in the off-peak times. This would also require additional tracks at the existing Millbrae station to expand its role as a connector to San Francisco International Airport and BART.
  2. The ‘moderate growth’ scenario would significantly cut down wait times through increased service at every station on the line, with eight trains per hour in each direction at peak times and six per hour in off-peak times – including later evenings and weekends. This proposal would require more infrastructure investments, up to $25.3 billion and significantly more track expansions – or ‘passing tracks’ – in five places along the line. That would include somewhere between Hayward Park and Hillsdale as well as in Redwood City. This moderate growth scenario is what Caltrain’s staff suggests it the best course of action and is what it will advise the Caltrain Board of Directors to adopt in coming months.
  3. A ‘high growth’ option would reduce wait times during peak times to single-digit minute waits with 12 trans per hour in each direction at peak times and six trains in off-peak hours. This significant expansion in service would require the most funding – $30 billion – and the most new ‘passing track’ expansions along the line.

Each of the scenarios envisions all-day service from San Francisco all the way to Gilroy, which currently exists only during peak hours. Among the infrastructure investments that will also be necessary are places where roads cross the rail line, which exists in a number of places along the line. Updating these crossings to improve traffic flow and safety – either by under or overpass – is already ongoing or planned in many cities along the Peninsula.

This service vision presentation also incorporates a number of other rail projects in the planning phase around the Bay Area, including a second Transbay BART tunnel, a potential return of service on the Dumbarton Rail corridor, and the arrival of High Speed Rail in the next decade.

For more information about Caltrain’s plans, visit their plan-specific website here. To get involved, sign up for updates from Caltrain, or see a calendar of future events, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Climate Magazine’s publisher provides communication services to Caltrain and SamTrans

Hillsdale Shopping Center commissions renowned rock sculptor

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World famous sculptor Ken Hiratuska has been commissioned to create his next rock masterpiece at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo.

For the past few months, Hiratsuka has been onsite working on the sculptures at the Hillsdale Shopping Center, which is currently undergoing a remodel (but remains open). The art is slated to be a central part of Hillsdale’s North Block, which is being re-envisioned as a community gathering space featuring a market, restaurant, bowling alley and theater.

Originally from Japan, Hiratsuka studied art in Tokyo, and came to the U.S. in 1982. He moved to New York and got his start carving lines and art in the Brooklyn sidewalks. Today his works, which include sculpted city sidewalks, building facades, water sculptures and gardens, can be seen in permanent public sites in over 20 countries. His unique sculptures involve carving abstract and real images into multiple stones. The caveat is that the lines he carves are continuous that never cross itself. It jumps from stone to stone, leaving at one point to be picked up on the next stone.

His art has a deeper meaning. The carved lines within the rock sculptures are intended to bring people together and inspire humans to be conscious of their commonalities, regardless of social economic, cultural and political distinctions.

The Bohannon Development Company selected Hiratsuka for the Hillsdale project to represent its vision of creating a community-centered destination in San Mateo.

Hiratsuka’s completed sculptures will be viewable in the soon to be completed North Block of Hillsdale Shopping Center. We stopped by to take a look at Hiratsuka at work and get a peak of the North Block. The North Block tenants currently include: Pinestripes Bowling Alley, Cinepolis Theater, Belcampo Market and MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Company, to name a few.

Redwood City and the County owe a lot to Horace Hawes

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

Redwood City recently decided to close three schools, only one named for a person, which was good thinking in today’s political climate when the names of public institutions can become the center of controversy in the blink of a tweet. Hawes Elementary was named for Horace Hawes, who came up virtually squeaky clean in a vetting by volunteers at the history room of the main library.

Hawes, who was born in 1813 in New York State, died in 1871. His early years in the East were marked by tough going that included virtual slavery in indentured servitude. Definitely a self-made man, he came west and became a lawyer, legislator and land rich. His name lives on in the Hawes Park baseball and soccer fields at Hudson Street and Roosevelt Avenue. Hawes Park was built in 1934 and was the center of Redwood City’s community activities until that role was taken over by Red Morton Park, dedicated in 1948. In 1955, the city turned over a large section of Hawes Park to the school district for $30,000, a switch that led to the birth of Hawes Elementary.  According to Park and Recreation records, Hawes Park’s activities at that time included softball, basketball, the Junior Olympics and archery.  In addition to its playground, the park featured non-sport activities such as marble tournaments, pet shows and Easter egg hunts. 

Hawes’ legacy is visible throughout Redwood City. It includes the right-of-way for the railroad to pass through town and land for the first large school in the city, land that was eventually the site of the 1920 fire station which morphed into today’s main library on Middlefield Road. He was also one of the organizers of Union Cemetery, but in that case his motives might not have been altruistic: He wanted to stop burials on his property.

Former Redwood City librarian Mary Spore-Alhadef has studied Hawes’ history and found “he was happiest as an educational benefactor.” His grand scheme included establishing “Mount Eagle University,” a dream that never became reality. Today the land he envisioned for the university is the location of John Gill School. Just two weeks before he died while living at his Redwood Farm, located on land that is today the campus of Sequoia High School, Hawes signed over the deed for property to support the university plan. His wife fought this dream and contested the will after his death, successfully getting a judge to find Hawes was of unsound mind when he wrote the will. She did not enjoy her victory for long. Spore-Alhadef concluded “after having expended her fortune on family and friends, she lived in somewhat reduced circumstances in San Francisco until her death in 1895.”

Not only is Redwood City indebted to Hawes, so is San Mateo County. If it weren’t for him, there might not even be a county by that name.  At one time, the land that is now known as the Peninsula was part of San Francisco, today still a city and county. Hawes, who had a law office on Montgomery Street in San Francisco, was part of the commission that laid out the streets in that city. Elected to the state Assembly in 1856, Hawes introduced the “Consolidation Act” which created the City and County of San Francisco. San Mateo County was established with the remaining land.

Splitting up the two counties was designed to clean up San Francisco politics. Note that the year 1856 is featured on the San Mateo County seal.  It is also the year of the Vigilantes, comprised of San Franciscans who armed themselves, took over San Francisco, ran out the city’s criminal elements, and gave the world a new word – vigilante. Some historians contend political and religious tensions were behind the creation of the first Committee of Vigilance. Whatever the motive, many of the “undesirables” fled south to newly formed San Mateo County where the first elections were rife with fraud. That, however, is another story.

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

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