Category archive

Featured - page 5

Former Assemblyman Gene Mullin Dies at Age 83

in Community/Featured by

Former Assemblyman Gene Mullin passed away Monday, April 5 his son, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, announced.

After a three year battle with cancer, he passed away at his home in South San Francisco surrounded by his family. “His legacy on civic engagement lives on through the lives of his legions of students, as well as his children and grandchildren,” Kevin Mullin said. “He was our proverbial North Star and we’ll never be the same without him.”

Mullin was a was a lifelong Bay Area resident. In addition to his career in public service, Mullin was a civics teacher at South San Francisco High School and awarded San Mateo County “Teacher of the Year” in 1991.

He went on to serve on as a South San Francisco City Councilmember and Mayor. Mullin served six years in the State Assembly member proudly representing San Mateo County, leaving office in 2008.

The South San Francisco City Council issued a statement and placed a black wreath at City Hall in honor of Mullin, “he was a hardworking public servant who gave so much of himself, time, and heart to this community – specifically his devotion to the youth in South San Francisco and his role in getting them involved in government.”

“His enthusiasm for representing his City and then representing our County were inspiring. In South San Francisco, a city he loved, we were fortunate to count him as our own.”

Congresswoman Jackie Speier reflected on the news of Mullin’s passing and said in a tweet, “Gene Mullin was a man whose generous heart was always overflowing, whose ethics were those of a theologian and whose mind was like Sherlock Holmes, always probing, always asking tough questions about what is in the public’s best interest.”

Mullin’s funeral services and burial will be private.

Sequoia Union High School District welcomes back first students

in Community/Featured/Headline by

With two months to go until the end of school year, the Sequoia Union High School District today welcomed back the first students who chose to return for “in-person” teaching.

About 3,500 students district-wide opted to go back to their campuses, and they had to sign on to protocols about behaviors such as mask-wearing, bathroom use, socializing in the hallways and so on that were unheard of before schools were closed in March last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The students are returning in groups, the first attending April 5 and 6 and the second on April 8 and 9. The following week, two more groups will attend classes Monday and Tuesday and then Thursday and Friday, bringing no more than 25 percent of students to campus at one time both weeks.

The week of April 19, the four groups would combine to two, for up to 50 percent capacity at one time, on the same four weekdays.

About 800 of Sequoia High School’s 2,000 students have indicated that they are coming back, says Principal Sean Priest, whose staff reached out and connected with almost all families.

“We didn’t want the message to get lost on anybody,” he says. “We wanted to make sure they knew they had this choice. … One way or the other, they did give us this preference.”

There are about 9,500 students in the district plus another 1,500 in charter schools, according to Board of Trustees President Alan Sarver. Asked why the majority of students opted not to return, Sarver lists fear of infection, a need some families have for high schoolers to help out with child care or contribute to household income, and concern that the in-person “hybrid operations are not a complete return to school as it used to be. There’s a lot of wondering, ‘Is it really worth it?’”

A fair number of kids are doing quite well with distance learning, Saver adds. “They do great in a Zoom environment and it just seems a lot more attractive to be lounging in your bedroom in your pajamas. … It’s a mixture of a huge range of individual reasons for what works for you and doesn’t work for you. And I think the one-third opt-in (in the Sequoia district) is pretty representative of what we’ve seen around California as California really tries to get going again.”

Sequoia High sophomore Oscar Ponce was among those standing in line this morning waiting to be checked in. Going back to school, he says, “is pretty good. A little bizarre not having been for a year.” Ponce wanted to be back in order to see most of his teachers and particularly wanted in-person instruction for classes like chemistry and physical education. He also wanted to see how school will operate in case things aren’t back to normal in the fall.

The district is getting significant pushback from leaders of the community group Reopen Sequoia Union High School District, who sent an email March 23 asking for a meeting. Noting a judge’s recent ruling in a San Diego case, the group wants to discuss the district’s legal obligation to reopen for in-person instruction for upper grades.

In their email, the Reopen SUHSD leadership raises issues from the court case about the justification behind the spacing of desks six feet apart and requirements to keep discrete groups bunched together to minimize the spread of infection. The California Department of Public Health updated guidelines March 20 to only three feet between student chairs.

Paige Winikoff, a Menlo Atherton parent, says she and other parents can’t understand with recent court rulings and expanded vaccinations why the district isn’t allowing kids to go back more days per week. The group is also concerned that that the current “asynchronous day”— Wednesdays when students work on assignments on their own—will continue into the fall.

Winikoff says her son is “just grinding away at a computer screen all day” when he needs to be engaged with his teachers and fellow students. “We don’t understand why, with all the barriers being removed—the vaccine, the physical distancing and all the court cases that we’re closely following with great interest—why are they continuing hybrid education and the asynchronous days into the fall?”

Sarver responds that the difference between three feet and six feet hasn’t been a determining factor in how many students who have opted in can be in a classroom. Though the school board hasn’t met with the Reopen Sequoia group, their input is being received and heard, he says.

During the past year, staff members have said they particularly like the opportunity they’ve had on Wednesdays for “greater collaboration” and would like to be able to continue this in the fall. Sarver notes that there are many times when students are out of class—for testing, assembles, rallies, special events and so forth. If there were a way to build a schedule that would allow for that while giving students the same hours of instruction in the classroom, time could be carved out for faculty to work together as they have done on asynchronous days.

The logistics might not be simple, he agrees, but that’s why public education “is not quick and nimble.” A change would also have to be negotiated with staff and unions.

Sarver says that while district staff is planning for a full return to normal, they must also plan for the unexpected.

“We want to have our students on campus in classrooms fulltime from Day One of the 2021-22 school year in August,” he says. “We are actively planning to operate in that mode. We are also actively contingency planning for a continuation of the pandemic at some level.” Hopefully, with vaccinations becoming available for young people, things will look a lot different by August, Sarver adds.

To prepare students for their return to Sequoia, school principal Priest and other staff put together an online video. The kids were told to park only in the James Avenue lot and then report to the entrance of school to check in and get stickers to wear. They’re not allowed to use lockers, aren’t supposed to stop in hallways to socialize and can only go to the restroom when “absolutely necessary.”

Lunches will be provided free but are to be eaten outside. The kids can’t sit in their cars between classes or use water fountains, since they’re not touchless.

“We’re all in this together,” Priest says on the video. “… We’re going to do the best we can.”

Some teachers at a late March board meeting also voiced unhappiness because very few applications were granted for special accommodations because of family and health care problems or other extenuating circumstances. They complained that the district wasn’t showing flexibility and concern for teachers or acting in good faith.

Sarver says there were no “blanket denials” but those who were turned down were referred to their high schools so administrators could continue to negotiate with the teachers, all the way through spring break. That said, Sarver adds, exceptions could only be granted in cases where “it is absolutely impossible for you to come in and do your job in the classroom, not if there are good reasons why it might be better for you to be continuing to work from home.”

Photos taken by Jim Kirkland.

The other epidemic

in Community/Featured/Headline by

There’s an epidemic right now, and it’s not Covid. Virtually all humans experience it at some point. It is found the world over; in every country, class, age and demographic. Its stories echo through literature and history; it ranges from vague emptiness to crippling despair. It may be chronic or fleeting, but either way, it can wreak havoc on human health.

Loneliness is the existential human condition. But what is it exactly? Who is at risk, and what is its cure? Do society, culture, technology, and now—a killer virus—combine to make it inescapable?

Most psychologists describe loneliness as negative emotions associated with perceived social isolation. The word “perceived” is important: One person’s sad isolation is another person’s blessed peace. How many human connections does it take to create a rich, satisfying life? The introvert will answer that differently from the extrovert. So will the widow, the newly divorced man, the high school student who has a lot of friends but still feels alone, and the senior citizen who has been shut in since March.

Alone but Not Lonely

Covid’s cancellation of just about all in-person contact not just in San Mateo County but throughout the state has exacerbated loneliness. For some. Many introverts (who constitute about a third of the population) find the pandemic a huge relief. With in-person socializing off limits, the pressure to perform is reduced. Covid has “de-stigmatized loneliness,” says Dr. Jeremy Nobel of the Harvard School of Medicine and founder of the Foundation for Art & Healing. “In a sense,” he said in a November interview with Next Avenue, an online affiliate of PBS, “We’re all lonely because we’re facing a common enemy.”

Relief is not everybody’s reaction.

“Being with other people is oxygen for extroverts,” says Joe Gutierez, an associate at One Life Counseling Center in San Carlos. “Their energy comes from being with others. Right now, if they do that, they risk getting a deadly disease.” Depression and anxiety have increased by 20 to 25 percent among his clientele, estimates Gutierez, who trained in marriage and family therapy and substance abuse counseling. Admissions for drug and alcohol treatment are 10 to 15 percent higher than pre-pandemic. “De-tox centers are full. Psychiatric emergency clinics are full. It’s really bad, and the holidays—already a hard time for many people, made it worse.”

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

The isolating effects of the pandemic fall more heavily on some groups than others. “Loneliness has increased in our youth,” says Kae Papula, program director for Outlet, an LGTBQ+ youth program of Adolescent Counseling Services in Redwood City. “They miss engaging with their peers in person, they have virtual fatigue, and they find it harder to develop new friendships online.” Support they usually get from school-based GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) are largely missing now. The problem is especially acute, says Papula, “if their families are not affirming.”

But there’s another effect in play right now, she believes: The socio-political climate in the country. “If you hear ‘Your identity isn’t valid; your existence isn’t valid; you don’t deserve to be protected,’ it is isolating,” she says.

“We are seeing a lot of depression, anxiety, suicidality,” says Papula. The trend is national. In a recent survey by the Trevor Project (a national crisis/suicide intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth), 86 percent of respondents said that recent political events have negatively affected their well-being.

American Culture a Factor

Stories abound about Covid’s links to loneliness. But national research suggests a more nuanced picture. Several 2020 studies, including one by Florida State’s College of Medicine, show that Americans were not reporting significantly higher levels of loneliness compared to the pre-Covid time. What research does say: Americans were lonely to start with, and culture itself may be to blame.

Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz, authors of the 2009 book “The Lonely American,” see Americans as worshiping at the twin altars of busyness and self-determinism.

“People in our society drift away from social connections because of both a push and a pull,” they wrote. “The push is the frenetic, overscheduled, hyper-networked intensity of modern life. The pull is the American pantheon of the self-reliant heroes who stand apart from the crowd.”

In the past 60 years, the number of Americans living in one-person households rose from seven to 25 percent. Americans are not as likely to live in multi-generational households as in other countries. In the Cigna U.S Loneliness Index published last year, 61 percent of adults in the U.S. reported that they “sometimes” or “always” feel lonely.

Certain life events are likely to kick-start loneliness, at least temporarily. The death of a spouse. A divorce. The last child leaving home. Moving to a new community. But loneliness ebbs and flows with the seasons of life, according to social scientists, and in fairly predictable ways. Data from the UCLA Loneliness Scale, among others, reveals the patterns.

Youth is a time to seek out one’s identity; make choices about friends, partners, and careers. Interacting with a lot of people makes sense for this kind of experimentation, so young people may feel a need for many relationships—and suffer if they perceive their number is too low.

Quality Friendships

Once established with families and careers, middle-aged people often winnow the quantity of their friendships and focus more on quality. They build deeper connections with fewer people, often around interests that dominate that time of their lives— the young mothers group; the golf club; professional organizations.

Loneliness often becomes prevalent in older people, as they suffer declines in health and mobility, and friends die. Covid has been devastating for this group.

“Before the pandemic, we were doing 25 lunches a week,” says Bruce Utecht, who directs the senior lunch program as one offering of Redwood City’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. “Now, it’s 400 per day.” In normal times, the program offers clubs, classes, and social events, in addition to the food service. These are a lifeline for local seniors.

Today, it’s mostly virtual, except for the lunches. “Now, it’s curbside pickup or drop off at their homes,” says Utecht, whose staff and volunteers managed the herculean ramp-up. Parks & Rec redeployed staff and volunteers from all over to pull it off; from March through early January, they had delivered 63,000 lunches. “We take a lot of pride in what we’ve been able to do,” says Utecht, “getting our seniors what they need.” Staff tries to make meal service fun, with costumes, holiday celebrations, take-home games, favors, exercise guides—-all within pandemic protocols.

Making time to talk with seniors is one of the biggest challenges. “Sometimes, we are the only human contact they will have all day,” he says. “We try to visit—when they drive up, on their front porch at the drop off, on the phone. Some of them just need to talk.”

The digital divide is a huge problem, Utecht adds. “We have a lot of people who don’t have a computer or a cell phone. We use Zoom some, but there is a huge amount of services they don’t receive.” Right now, city staff is trying to figure out how to help seniors with tax season—usually a big demand. After that? “Maybe vaccine delivery,” he muses.

Technology: Blessing or Curse?

In 2021, technology irrefutably fuels human interaction. Online dating (there are roughly 2,500 such sites in America) has eclipsed other methods for meeting romantic partners. Seventy-seven percent of Americans have some kind of social media account. Websites like Meetup, EventBrite and Groupspaces connect millions of people every year, often around common interests, and usually for in-person interactions. Today’s Gen Z-ers (born 1997-2015) are the first generation to grow up fully wired and fully mobile. They are voracious consumers of social media and online gaming.

Is all this connectedness a panacea for loneliness?

Sherry Turkle doesn’t think so. An MIT sociologist and clinical psychologist, Turkle has published extensively on technology and human interaction. “We are tempted to run away from the people we are with to the pleasures of our phones,” she writes in her book “Alone Together; Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other.”

Turkle writes, “It might be a text or a game. It might be an Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter feed. … We content ourselves with a text or an e-mail when a conversation would better convey our meaning. … We settle for less empathy, less attention, less care from other human beings.” She points to research that documents a 40 percent drop in the markers of empathy among college students over the past 30 years. “Since most of that decline occurred in the last decade of the work, it makes sense to link the empathy gap to the presence of digital communications.”

Others insist technology is a blessing, especially when used to enhance existing relationships or forge new ones that are meaningful.

Meeting Up Online

Erin Dahl of Pacifica joined her first Meetup group almost 10 years ago. A school district data support specialist, Dahl was clear about her motivation. “These groups are not for desperately lonely people who have no lives,” she says. “I did it to supplement the great life I already have.” She loved the experience, and when she moved to the coastal city a few years ago, she started her own Meetup group—this one for women over 50.

“Our group is about making friends,” Dahl says, “not just attending events. I wanted women who were at a certain stage in life—looking ahead at a next chapter, after careers, after kids.” The group now has about 70-80 members, who hike, have dinner, see movies, and go on outings throughout the Bay Area (or did, pre-Covid). Friendships have formed; the members see each other outside the events.

Right now, the group “is a lifeline for some of our members,” says Dahl, “especially those who don’t work.” Except for socially distant walks, the programs have gone virtual.

Gutierez, of One Life Counseling Center, thinks now is a time for parents to “lighten up on restricting screen time for their kids.” He believes technology can deliver connections they desperately need for mental well-being and normal development. He also sees a difference between “one-way” media like Facebook and Instagram, and interactive media, like Discord (a live chat platform).

He lauds games like Minecraft, “where it’s less about the game and more about the social interaction. They often stop playing just to chat. I would tell parents to be careful about taking that away. There’s already a big sense of loss among kids who have sacrificed the prom, graduation, and other milestones. They are losing the freedom to become themselves.”

Combatting Loneliness

Mental health professionals say it’s difficult to tease apart loneliness from depression and anxiety, and harder still to disrupt the cycle. But there are strategies that work. “Activation therapy” is one Gutierez uses. “Get outside,” he says. “Walk around the block. Do push-ups; something active, outside your room. Isolating is the worst thing you can do.”

Groups like Dahl’s are helpful for getting through isolating times, even if they are largely virtual. “We cannot wait to get back together,” she says. In the meantime, members continue to build connections with online offerings. (Meetup is just one platform for creating social connection; visit for more information.)

Another recommendation: If virtual is the only game in town, don’t let perfection get in the way of good. “Zoom and Discord are essential right now,” says Papula of Outlet. “Our numbers are down because our clients have virtual fatigue. But those who do participate get a lot out of it.” She believes her organization will move forward with a hybrid of virtual and in-person options that will serve them well in the future.

Many mental health professionals—themselves at risk for stress while serving the lonely—find solace in an unexpected place: the strength with which their clients face adversity. “I am in awe of our youth,” says Papula, “their brilliance; their resilience; how discerning they are. They are wise beyond their years because they’ve had to be. Things will be different in the future and they have great ideas about that. It’s our job to listen to them.”

Living by Example

Utecht echoes this admiration for the older people he serves. “They really are the greatest generation. They are a shining example for volunteering, for helping. They don’t talk it about it much. But they are doers. They are frugal. They are stoic.”

Commenting on the toughness of the times, one man Utecht spoke to shrugged and offered the observation: “I saw the flag raised at Iwo Jima. I went through two World Wars.”

Difficult as the pandemic has been, now is the time to create new traditions, Gutierez contends. “Call an old friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Schedule Zoom sessions with family. Get in the car and drive down the coast. Host a virtual happy hour. Create a book club. Learn the ukulele. Make a list of 10 things you’ve always wanted to try. Look at this time as a gift.”

His advice to those fortunate enough not to be feeling the loneliness blues?

“Be on the lookout for people who seem isolated, anxious, depressed,” Gutierez says. “Watch for the signs. If you have not heard from someone in a while, give them a call. Check in. We should all be helping each other through this.”

Redwood City man was king of the pulps

in Community/Featured by

Many people think of a movie when they hear the term “pulp fiction,” but there was an era when those words meant fiction magazines printed on cheap pulp paper, a vanished publishing world in which a Redwood City man was a key player.

The 1994 Quentin Tarantino film by that name starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson drew its title from the magazines, many of them featuring violent crime and lurid, seedy characters and a good deal of sex. There was more than that, however. The so-called “rags” also were loaded with tales of adventure, the Old West, and science fiction.

Edgar Hoffman Price, who died in Redwood City in 1988, sold more than 500 stories to the pulps. His byline appeared in a broad range of widely popular fiction with a strong appeal to male readers, including Argosy, Black Mask, Dime Detective, Terror Tales, Speed Detective and Spicy Mystery Stories. He was, however, most readily identified as a writer for Weird Tales. Price’s stories even appeared in translation in Scandinavia and were pirated in Latin America. His work is still available for sale on the Internet, including mega packs of 14 stories.

Price was in good company in the ranks of fellow pulp authors, including Agatha Christie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Dashiell Hammett. According to The Pulp Magazine Project study group, pulps were “one of the Twentieth Century’s most influential print culture forms,” a nearly 100-year period from the 1880s to the mid-1970s. A good example was Blue Book, which lasted from 1905 to 1975 and is said to have reached a readership of over 200,000. The 1947 movie comedy “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” captured the colorful world of pulp magazine publication with tongue-in-cheek lines akin to “You killed him on page 30 and he comes back on page 50.” (A personal aside: This writer remembers, as an eighth grader, sitting in the living room reading Blue Book’s Tales of the Foreign Legion, while my father and uncles avidly consumed pulp fiction Westerns.)

Price’s life reads like pulp fiction. Born in Fowler, California, in 1898, he became a professional soldier, graduating from West Point and going on to serve in Mexico, the Philippines and in World War I. Science-fiction author Jack Williamson called Price “a real soldier of fortune.” He was a fencer, boxer, a student of the Orient as well as a student of Arab language. Price’s memoirs include “Trooper of the 15th Horse” and “The Book of the Dead.”

According to blogger Joshua Buhs, in the 1950s Price saw the handwriting on the wall (sounds like a line from a pulp fiction story) and knew his market was ending. He took a job with San Mateo County as a microfilm technician, a position he held long enough to receive a pension. He still did occasional writing and died sitting at his typewriter, Buhs told Climate.

Interviewed by the Redwood City Tribune in the 1960s, Price blamed conformity and regimentation for the death of the pulps. “Used to be each magazine had distinctive style and flavor – a personality of its own,” he told reporter Gail Granzow. “Then one editor began taking over five or six magazines, and they soon all looked alike. It was like a Ford assembly line. Then, too, reading habits changed. People began to buy more and more inexpensive paperbacks.”

Price, who started writing for pulp magazines in 1932, estimated that about 95 percent of his writing was fiction, but he also “wrote some historical novels. When I say novels, I mean six-part serials for the pulps.” During his 20-year full-time writing career, he wrote science-fiction, whodunnits and adventure. Stories, getting fresh ideas simply by reading the daily newspaper.

“I’d read over the world events – about a spy or some other story of international intrigue,” he explained before saying something he probably would regret today: “Then I’d create a hero, always Anglo-Saxon Protestant.”

Menlo Park filmmaker focuses on plight of pregnant homeless women

in Community/Featured/Headline by

About five years ago, Laura Ferro chanced to be watching the television news and saw a segment about a pregnant homeless woman in San Francisco, who was facing the prospect of giving birth at a bus stop. The woman’s desperate circumstance troubled Ferro, a filmmaker living comfortably in Menlo Park – who happened at the time to be expecting a child too. “I didn’t have a connection to the homeless community until that point,” she says. That unlikely moment was the inspiration for a documentary which Ferro has been working on for the past three years, “Pregnant on the Streets” in the San Francisco Bay Area. The expectant mothers, who are almost invisible on the fringes in an area brimming with wealth, are shown as they experience the difficulties of life on the street, either navigating social service agencies or lost in a fog of mental health issues and drugs, Ferro says.

A native of Argentina who came to the U.S. eight years ago, Ferro connected with Tony Gapastione, founder of the filmmaking nonprofit called Bravemaker, and told him about her project. He put her in touch with Pastor Dave Shearin and his wife Shawn of Street Life Ministries, a Redwood City-based organization with an extensive meal and outreach program to the homeless community. Shawn Shearin provided the entrée to Ferro to go to homeless camps and find pregnant women willing to tell their stories. At an earlier period in her life, Shawn had been homeless and pregnant too (in Seattle), but was able to get into a shelter and turned her life around. Through the Street Life ministry, Shawn already had a relationship with most of the women she introduced Ferro to, “and I was able to explain what we were doing and they were very open to it.”

The documentary, a color film which will be 30 to 40 minutes long, follows three homeless women over three years, from the time when they were pregnant until after their babies were born. One of the women was determined to stop using drugs for the sake of her child, Ferro says. She accepted help that has enabled her to get a job and today is providing for her son. Another woman, unfortunately, is back on the street and had to surrender her child. Ferro says the women she interviewed appreciated the opportunity to be heard and that anyone would think their stories are important.

About 60 percent of the documentary has been completed, and Ferro plans to do more interviews with experts on homelessness including doctors and social services providers. She has established a GoFundMe account at to raise the estimated $66,000 needed for completion and is also seeking other individual and organizational supporters. Bravemaker, which is a 501(c)( 3) organization, is the fiscal sponsor to receive donations. Ferro does videos for corporate clients—to get an idea about her work, visit—but “Pregnant on the Streets” is her first documentary. After it’s completed, she plans to submit it to film festivals and, once Covid-19 allows, to screen the film for local audiences. She hopes people who see her video will be encouraged to reach out and build relationships with homeless people rather than just walk on by. “Many people,” she says, “don’t want to look. Through the documentary, we have a tool to show that there are women like us that have the same values. They want to do what’s best for the child and fight for them.”

Thirty-plus years ago Roy Klebe was making a sales call at Muir Woods for his company, Hike America, and bought a redwood burl to put in water at home. Very few take-home burls will actually take root and become a tree, but “this one rooted,” Klebe says, “and the rest is history.” Today the little burl is all grown up, towering 100 feet in the backyard of his home at 321 West Oakwood Blvd. in Redwood City. With the Christmas holidays approaching in this year of turmoil, Klebe decided it would be a good time to top his improbable survivor with a lighted star. A friend who is licensed to climb trees attached the PVC pipe creation to the top of the tree, and the white lights came on in early November. “It’s five feet wide and it does look pretty cool, even if I do say so myself,” Klebe, 69, says. “It’s one of the things I’ve been talking about the last 10 years, and the way the world’s going, there’s no guarantees there’s any tomorrow,” he says with a laugh, “so you’d better do it now.” His goal was to give people a lift when they see the star atop his tree, and that’s exactly what’s been happening. “When everyone’s kind of melancholy, it just puts a smile on people’s faces.”

Restaurant owners who have retooled for takeout and then created outdoor dining spaces have certainly been battle-tested this year. So extra points for bravery seem in order for Zareen Khan, who in mid-October opened a restaurant on Broadway in downtown Redwood City. “Zareen’s,” as it is called, features Pakistani and Indian cuisine and is the third restaurant the Saratoga resident has launched (the others are in Mountain View, in 2014, and in Palo Alto in 2016.)

Khan and her family hail from Karachi, Bombay and Punjab. All the women in her family are “amazing cooks,” she says, and she learned how to cook growing up. She came to the United States 28 years ago and got into the food business after 12 years in corporate America. Khan says she’d been looking for a location for a third restaurant for two years, from Santa Clara to San Mateo, before finding a spot at 2039 Broadway. “I just like the downtown,” she says. “It’s very high energy.”

At least it was before the Covid restrictions arrived, and Kahn admits that taking the plunge to open was stressful. “But it took me so long to find a place in Redwood City that I didn’t want to let go of this opportunity,” she says. “I think long-term it will be fine … just kind of lie low for the next six months and hope we can survive the pandemic,” she adds laughing. Zareen’s is a bright space with high ceilings, and eventually she hopes people can come to hear independent artists, such as at open-mike evenings; see films or gather socially. The menu features gourmet kababs, samosas, curries and more—and a delicious Chai tea. Kahn says part of her mission with her restaurants is to generate funds to support nonprofits in keeping with her values, such as for civil rights, women’s empowerment and education. When customers come in and have a great time, she adds, “you’re not just serving just food here. You’re in the business of making somebody’s day better. They come here. Maybe they’ve had a bad day and they have a good time. Then it’s mission accomplished for us.”

The year of the Covid has imposed an open-ended pause on the events that made downtown Redwood City such a dynamic place, among them the annual Hometown Holidays festivities always held early in December. The event brought scores of families downtown for activities like arts and crafts, music, a chance to see Santa, a tree-lighting and a parade. The Downtown Business Group has come up with an alternative to give back to the community and it will be a parade of decorated cars on Saturday, Dec. 19 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. They’ll drive up to Courthouse Square where the kids can see Santa and get a bag of candy, donated by Grocery Outlet, according to DBG Executive Director Regina Van Brunt. The Chan Zuckerberg Foundation is sponsoring the music. Vehicles are to be decorated at home, and participants must sign up in advance since there’s a limit on how many will be allowed. “We’re lucky that we even get to do this. No one can stay on Courthouse Square to watch it,” Van Brunt says. “Everybody has to move along. We’re not letting large crowds congregate because of the virus.” For information, go to the website under hometownholidaysonparade.

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

San Mateo County funds additional ICU beds at Sequoia Hospital

in Community/Featured by
San Mateo County declares end of state of emergency due to COVID-19

San Mateo County has partnered with Dignity Health and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare to increase local intensive care unit (ICU) capacity by up to 10 beds amid a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The agreement, made possible thanks to a $4.5 million investment by the County, provides AMI licensed medical professionals to staff the additional ICU beds in Dignity Health’s Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City for at least 30 days.

“The increased surge capacity will serve not only San Mateo County but the Bay Area region as a whole,” the County said, adding the arrangement “is aimed at preventing those needing ICU-level care from not being able to get it due to the staffing constraints at hospitals across the Bay Area.”

The first 5-bed unit is expected to be staffed within a week, with the second 5-bed unit available by the following week. San Mateo County’s Medical Health Operational Area Coordinator program will facilitate the placement of patients into these supplemental ICU beds, the County said.

“When ICU capacity drops below 15 percent, every staffed ICU bed counts, especially for each individual who needs care,” said Travis Kusman, Emergency Medical Services director for San Mateo County, who also serves as the Regional Disaster Medical Health Coordinator.

Since the start of the pandemic, local healthcare providers like Sequoia Hospital have been collaborating with one another and with public health agencies to determine how best to respond to the crisis. That collaboration is needed now more than ever, with COVID-19 cases surging and with the Bay Area’s collective ICU capacity falling to 13.7 percent, per state data.

“We’re fortunate to be able to connect resources to key partners to support our local community and our neighbors during this crisis,” said County Manager Mike Callagy.

Where “Cutting Edge” is About the Knives

in Community/Featured/Headline by

Harry’s Hofbrau an enduring comfort food haven for generations.

Talk turkey at Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City and the conversation inevitably turns to numbers. Sixty-six years ago, Harry’s carved its first turkey sandwiches. In normal times, Hofbrau chefs roast 18 to 22 turkeys weighing 26 to 30 pounds every single day, seven days a week, 364 days a year. For Thanksgiving this year, Harry’s presold 150 turkey dinners with all the fixins’ for packing home to Grandma’s. In a pre-Covid year, the Hofbrau pushed out close to 2,000 meals on Thanksgiving Day for diners who chose to do their turkey self-stuffing inside the festively decorated eatery rather than at home.

As this unusually challenging year winds down, employees from Hofbrau pastry chefs to carvers will be just as diligent dishing up something that Silicon Valley people – in theory – should disdain: “the usual.” Yet through generations, Harry’s has outlasted fads, fashions and competitors by figuring out what customers like—and sticking with a tamper-resistant formula based on serving quality, affordable food in plentiful portions and a welcoming atmosphere.

“I’m not saying it’s 100 percent stagnant because it’s not,” Bob Paul, whose “director” title at the Hofbrau includes “protein procurement” and other tasks. “We do make changes. But you have to make changes very carefully because when you’ve been around since 1954, people anticipate that they’re going to come and get something they’re used to and they like.”

Daily Specials

That means Beer Braised Brisket for dinner on Mondays, Chicken Pot Pie on Tuesdays, Weinerschnitzel on Sundays, two kinds of soup daily and a choice of seven breads for a bulked-up carvery sandwich. That also means for dessert, customers can select among the nine-apple pie, the towering chocolate cake – or even rice custard and Jell-o. Ambiance? As regularty as the seasons change outdoors, Harry’s décor molts from New Year’s Day to Valentine’s, all the way to Christmas.

Both Paul and Operations Manager Mike O’Brien say it’s the customers who decide what’s on the menu—and they speak up when something goes missing. Adapting for fewer customers because of the Covid, for example, O’Brien briefly removed Manhattan clam chowder to reduce waste. He put it back on the menu when people complained. About 10 years ago when various factors significantly drove up the price of Miner’s Bones, Paul recalls, management decided it was better to take the specialty off the menu. “Well the outcry was so high, we put them back at the price it had to be for cost of the item, which is about $4 or $5 more,” Paul says, “and they didn’t say a word.”

Redwood City residents Julia O’Leary and Sandra Riedy, who were settled into a padded booth for lunch on a day in November, are long-time customers and don’t come to Harry’s for the nouvelle in cuisine. Their meal portions were so ample that both of the retired Redwood City School District employees took home leftovers for dinner. “I like it because I can have whatever I want,” says O’Leary. “I can just get something small, or like today, I was starving so I had dinner at lunchtime.” Riedy was having turkey enchiladas for the first time and has never had a Hofbrau meal she didn’t like. “No,” she says with a laugh, “because we wouldn’t order it.”

San Francisco-Style Hofbrau

Change, in fact, has taken place at Harry’s Hofbrau but it’s been so gradual as to be easily forgotten. The restaurant’s founder and namesake was Harry Kramer, a native Austrian who got into the restaurant business in San Francisco in the 1940s, where restaurants like Lefty O’Doul’s and Tommy’s Joynt gave the German “hofbrau” a different spin. Kramer and Tommy Harris were original leaders in the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, according to Paul.

Kramer migrated down the Peninsula before opening his first Harry’s Hofbrau at 1700 El Camino Real, where Roosevelt Liquor & Grocery is today. He outgrew that space and 10 years later moved two blocks south, in 1964. Son Larry Kramer, who had worked in the restaurant in high school and college, bought the restaurant from his dad, who retired in San Diego, in 1969. Larry Kramer did a major remodel and expansion in 1988, and subsequently added six more “Harry’s” in the Bay Area.

He’s down to two Hofbraus (the other is in San Leandro) and splits his time between Redwood City and a Southern California office, where he is involved in real estate, restaurants and other business.

“But Redwood City’s home,” says Kramer, who has lived in that city his entire life. Working in his upstairs office, he can see friends coming into the restaurant on a television, so he’s up and down the stairs many times a day to greet them. “We just try and retain and keep a status quo that I think is so important today,” Kramer says. “Most places are so impersonal … I want to maintain that feeling that it’s a warm, friendly place to go to and you’re always going to see someone you know there. It’s not going to be something that’s just a place to get a meal and get the hell out.”

In the Kitchen

Like all restaurants, Harry’s Hofbrau has had to adapt to changing rules because of Covid, expanding takeout service and outdoor dining when indoor dining isn’t allowed.

Hours before the first lunchtime customers queue up and start to steer a brown plastic tray along the serving line, the morning shift has already been at work: Preparing 12-gallon pots of soup, steaming potatoes, trimming beef, baking bread, and dropping globs of cranberry sauce into scores of tiny plastic cups. O’Brien toured a visitor through the kitchen, where convection ovens were roasting four or five beef roasts and six whole turkeys for lunch. The next cook would be coming in at 2 p.m. and make an assessment for dinner.

“All our salads are made fresh,” O’Brien adds. “The food is fresh cut daily. There are no canned products. Everything is done for that day.” A walk-in refrigerator holds the jumbo quantities Harry’s requires: whole turkeys, two to a box; gallons of salad dressing; a garbage can-sized container filled with bread for stuffing. “Come Thanksgiving,” O’Brien says, “I’ll have five of these ready to go.”

Out of the same kitchen, Harry’s operates its catering business, which took a hit as a result of the Covid, when demand for weddings, parties and corporate events evaporated. O’Brien was busy nonetheless last month gearing up to deliver turkey, potatoes and gravy for industrial and commercial accounts. Prime rib roasts are popular with families who want to take them home to serve at home at Christmastime, O’Brien says. It’s sold by the pound and comes with au jus and horseradish.

A Cost Advantage

Meanwhile, another part of the Hofbrau operation is housed in a nondescript building several blocks away which serves both the Redwood City and San Leandro restaurants as a storage and production facility. The space affords Harry’s price advantages that come with purchasing in bulk or by the pallet, Paul says, where smaller restaurants don’t have space to store large quantities.

Upstairs, bakers turn out the cakes, pies, cookies, bread and other baked goods that are distributed to the two restaurants. Baking for both restaurants takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays, and cake assembly and decorating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Downstairs, beef briskets are injected with a special brine, vacuum packed, cured and turned into corned beef for the other big holiday on the Hofbrau calendar. “During St. Paddy’s week, we will go through about 4,000 pounds,” Paul says.

His association with Harry’s Hofbrau goes back to the 1970s, when he worked for a meat supplier and Harry’s was a customer. After he retired, Larry Kramer asked him to come on board to help with procurement. But in a family restaurant, Paul says, “everybody wears a lot of different hats.” Kramer, for example, is hard-pressed to remember having Thanksgiving at home. Instead, Harry’s owner himself is doing whatever it takes, from saying “hello” to washing dishes and bussing tables. “One hundred percent,” he says. “I’m on the floor just like everyone else.”

Family Focus

O’Brien went all through school with Larry Kramer’s two sons, and started with Harry’s Hofbrau as a bartender at the Mountain View restaurant. He worked at other Hofbraus and currently oversees operations at Redwood City and San Leandro.

Redwood City’s features 28 varieties of beer of all styles and O’Brien does the buying. Craft beers have become a huge part of the business, according to Kramer, and brought in a clientele that is “not the old guard I grew up with in Redwood City and Atherton in the ‘50s and ‘60s.” That said, families dine in the next room, so raucous conversation coming out of the bar is discouraged. “You want to be a family-style restaurant,” O’Brien says, “you don’t need the wrong words coming out of the mouth and kids running around.”

Likewise, there’s an employee dress code calling for minimal jewelry, no visible rings or studs on other body parts, mustaches neatly trimmed and beards grown only on vacation or time off. Hair color must be “a natural shade” and body markings can’t be visible. “It’s just the policy of what we ask,” Kramer says. “No one portrays their own personal identity. They all sign up for it before they go to work.”

The Comfort Tradition

With the Hofbrau’s longevity, it’s not hard to find customers who were introduced to Harry’s brand of comfort food by their parents and then raised their kids to become customers. Or to find non-Peninsulans like Warren Hanson, a Pleasanton resident who sells construction equipment and regularly eats at Harry’s when he’s doing calls.

“I enjoy their turkey sandwiches and their pea salad,” Hanson says, pausing over lunch. “You can’t get pea salad everywhere … My mother used to make this.” When he tells customers, “’I’ll meet you at Harry’s,’ they know exactly where I’m going to be. A lot of my deals have been made here. I’ve sold a lot of machines because of Harry’s.”

In fact, Hanson eats at one or the other Harry’s locations three or four times a month. “I come here because the food’s wonderful, always consistent,” he says. “The guy that carves the turkey, he sees me and he knows exactly what I want.”

San Mateo County first responders raising funds with new cookbook

in Community/Featured by

Cook for a cause this holiday season. The union representing firefighters and paramedics in San Mateo County has released a new cookbook and plans to use proceeds from its sales to fund behavioral health services for local first responders.

Transport Medic Ruby Siero-Tanti led and directed the creation of the cookbook, called Code 7 Recipes For The Soul, Cooking with First Responders.

The compilation of recipes was submitted by firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers in San Mateo County. Recipes are divided into sections including breakfast, bread, appetizers, marinades, sauces, salads, side dishes, main dishes and desserts.

The book is available via Amazon, publisher Xlibris and can also be purchased directly from San Mateo County Firefighters IAFF Local 2400. The soft-cover is $32.99 and the hard cover is $40.99.

The idea for the cookbook came from the union’s Peer Support Group, a team of firefighters, transport paramedics and dispatchers working to provide stress management and behavioral health information to local first responders. Members of the Peer Support Group are not counselors but receive training in the basics of peer counseling and behavioral health issues such as suicide, post-trauma and substance abuse. They regularly visit stations to ensure first responders can access their support services.

Great Plates Delivered extended through Dec. 8

in Community/Featured/Headline by

San Mateo County’s program that pays local eateries to serve meals to older citizens during the pandemic has been extended another month, through Dec. 8, county officials said.

In the last six months, the program has served more than 850,000 meals to over 3,000 residents and involved over 65 local restaurants. The program provides three meals a day, six days a week, to older adults unable to obtain or make their own meals.

“Since its inception, the program has injected over $19 million into the local economy with 93 percent of the County’s cost being reimbursed by the state and federal governments, Deputy County Manager Peggy Jensen said. “Thanks to the quick action and visionary response of our Board of Supervisors in April, we’ve provided critically-needed business to local restaurants, preserved nearly 900 jobs and avoided numerous restaurant closures.”

Program recipient Matt Slavik said Great Plates Delivered “has been nothing short of a godsend for me.”

“For a senior who lives alone and is supposed to shelter at home except for medical appointments, having these meals delivered is nothing short of a huge and wonderful benefit,” Slavik  said.

Older adults are eligible to join the program if they are aged 65 or older, or if they are 60-64 and are in a high-risk category. Applicants must be unable to obtain or make their own meals and must either live alone or with another older adult who fits the eligibility criteria. To participate, older adults living alone must earn less than $74,940, and couples participating in the program must earn less than $101,460. Older adults already receiving state or federal food assistance are not eligible for this program.

To learn more or apply, older adults and their families are encouraged to call the San Mateo County Health’s Aging and Adult Services division at 1-800-675-8437 or visit here.

Photo by Buenosia Carol from Pexels

Redwood City to join Wreaths Across America

in Community/Featured/Headline by

President Lincoln proclaimed in the Gettysburg Address that the world would not “long remember” his words about our nation’s bloodiest war. Maybe some places have forgotten, but not Redwood City where the Civil War is immortalized at Union Cemetery.

The cemetery will soon become part of a coast-to-coast drive called Wreaths Across America, a campaign by volunteers dedicated to honoring deceased veterans by placing wreaths on their graves. In a brief ceremony Dec. 19, wreaths will adorn the approximately 55 graves at Union Cemetery’s Grand Army of the Republic plot that is guarded by a statue of a Union Army solider at parade rest, a familiar sight to motorists driving by on Woodside Road.

Making Redwood City a link in the 2,100 locations that belong to Wreaths Across America resulted from a joint effort by the Gaspar de Portola chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Historic Union Cemetery Association.

The first wreath-placing took place in 1992 when the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, found itself with extra wreaths at the end of the holiday season. These were placed at Arlington National Cemetery, in one of its oldest sections, which had fewer and fewer visitors each year.

This story was originally published in the May edition of Climate Magazine. To view the magazine online, click here.

The annual ceremony at Arlington continued quietly until 2005 when a photo of snow-covered headstones adorned with wreaths circulated on the Internet, suddenly drawing national attention. The Worcester Wreath Company was inundated with requests to help continue what was becoming a unique holiday tradition. The company returned the unsolicited money to donors, leading to the establishment of the nonprofit Wreaths Across America.

Sponsor a Wreath

Climate readers who wish to honor a family member or friends on Dec.19 can attend the ceremony at Union Cemetery but they can also volunteer. People can even sponsor one or more green wreaths, which feature a red bow and cost $15 each. To do so, go to Organizers of the Redwood City observance hope there will be enough donated wreaths for all 55 graves.

The ceremony will be a subdued one, necessitated by Covid-19 social distancing and masks. Too bad. In normal times the event would have provided a great opportunity to recall Lincoln’s stirring words dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg. Among other things, the President’s words, emblazoned on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., noted “the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.” In words that could, or should, resound today, Lincoln called on living Americans to dedicate themselves to making sure that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

None of the men buried in Redwood City’s Union Cemetery plot died in the Civil War, but they certainly fought in it. For example, George Filkins fought at Missionary Ridge, Nashville, and Stone River. William Frisbie of the Wisconsin volunteers was a veteran of several famous battles, including York River, Suffolk and James River. Men who fought in units from several states are buried in the cemetery, including New York, Missouri, Ohio, Maryland and Illinois.

They Died for Union

The words on the statue erected in 1889 read: “To the memory of California’s patriotic dead who served during the War of the Union.” Near the base is an inscription which says “mustered out,” a military term meaning discharged or separated from service.

By 1887 there were six veterans’ graves to decorate with flowers. This led the Grand Army of the Republic’s veterans’ organization to buy the land for the plot. Decorating the graves became an annual event. In 1927 hundreds of people attended ceremonies that included bands and a parade in which four Civil War vets “rode in machines” and “occupied seats on the platform” at the cemetery, newspapers reported.

The last headstone was erected in 1984 to mark the grave of James Henry Baxter who fought at Gettysburg, where he was wounded in the neck with a sword. Baxter died in Redwood City in 1936 at the age of 92. He was buried at the foot of the statue of the Union soldier. His grave was unmarked until relatives put up the stone.

1 3 4 5 6 7 146
Go to Top