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Redwood City’s ‘State of the City’ set for May 14

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This year’s theme is ‘People: Our Community’s Greatest Asset.’ The State of the City promotes the city’s accomplishments, its community stories and its goals for the coming year.

The event is free and open to the public and will also be televised. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. The event will take place at Redwood City City Hall, 1017 Middlefield Road.

For more information, visit here.

Ex-Comcast technician from Redwood City allegedly stole from customers

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Ex-Comcast technician from Redwood City arrested on suspicion of stealing from customers

San Mateo County Sheriff’s detectives arrested a former Comcast technician last week on suspicion of stealing jewelry from three different customer’s homes, according to the sheriff’s office.

Christian Ivan Arias-Monroy, 31, of Redwood City, was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, elder abuse and petty theft in connections with thefts that occurred in homes in Daly City and Half Moon Bay in September 2016 and August 2017.

He was booked into the San Mateo County Jail Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff’s deputies are now trying to find out if other Comcast customers were victimized by Arias-Monroy in the past few years.

Please contact Det. Chaghouri at 650-363-4060 of gchagouri@smcgov.org.

Gun buyback event coming to Redwood City; up to $200 for an assault rifle

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Redwood City to hold gun buyback event; up to $200 for an assault rifle

An anonymous, large-scale gun buyback event is set to be held in Redwood City on Saturday, May 5.

The event, hosted by San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos G. Bolanos, Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland, and Congresswoman Jackie Speier, will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1402 Maple St.

“Any individual can surrender firearms with no questions asked, and receive up to $100 cash for a hand gun, shotgun or rifle, and up to $200 cash for an assault rifle,” organizers said, adding that funds are limited.

See this Facebook invite for more information.

The gun buyback was initiated by the Citizens for a San Mateo County Gun Buyback, which wanted to bring another large-scale buyback to the county that hasn’t happened since 2013. The group has solicited funding from the buyback from several city and town governments in the county, including a $50,000 contribution from San Carlos, and $10,000 from Woodside and Portola, which each committed to provide an addition $5,000 in matching funds if kids in their communities raised funds. Others contributing were Redwood City, Belmont, Burlingame, Half Moon Bay, Millbrae and San Mateo.

 “The Redwood City Police Department appreciates the opportunity to partner in this gun buyback event with the group Citizens for a San Mateo County Gun Buyback, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and other participating municipal agencies,” Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland said. “This event provides an excellent opportunity to increase community safety by collecting unwanted firearms and ensuring their safe disposal rather than risk them falling into the wrong hands.”

Redwood City considering tax measures for the November ballot

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Apply now for Chevron’s Dr. William F. King college scholarship

Redwood City voters might see new tax measures on the November ballot.

Public outreach is set to be conducted by the city on proposals for a quarter-cent sales tax increase and a transit occupancy tax increase. The revenue proposals are aimed at stemming projected future budget deficits, according to City Manager Melissa Diaz.

A five-year budget forecast shows the city headed to a nearly $1 million deficit in fiscal year 2019-20 that could grow to nearly $3.7 million in 2021-22 and to $5.7 million in 2022-23. The projected shortfalls are due to rising expenses and declining revenue sources including the statewide problem of growing public pension costs, as well as decreasing sales tax revenue, city officials said.

The city must also prepare for the possibility that the local economy might contract in the coming years, the city said.

In response, the city has identified $6 million in annual cost reductions that will be phased in over the next two fiscal years. The city also aims to identify $6 million in annual revenue increases. Last year, City Council approved $2 million in annual development fee increases. Currently, the city is looking to voters to address the remaining $4 million.

“If we do not have new revenues…we will very quickly have operating deficits,” Diaz told council.

A poll conducted by EMC Research from March 5 through March 13 surveyed 434 likely voters and found sufficient support for a sales tax measure.

Businesses and residents will soon hear more about the proposed tax measures with a public outreach campaign moving forward. City Council is expected to vote on whether to place the measures on the ballot at its July 23 meeting.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Splitting California into 3 states divisive in several ways

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Political Climate with Mark Simon: Splitting California into 3 states divisive in several ways

If splitting California into six states was a loopy idea, is splitting it into three states half-loopy?

Splitting up California is the brainchild of Tim Draper, a third-generation venture capitalist who apparently thinks smaller is better, although I suspect that is not the lesson he is teaching the budding entrepreneurs enrolled at San Mateo-based Draper University of Heroes, which puts on a nice street fair.

He has plenty of money, having invested early in Skype. Being smart at one thing appears to make him feel smart about many other things, although, it must be said, there is quite a long history in California of business executives failing miserably at politics, it being a little more difficult than it looks.

Anyway, he is willing to spend some of that money on his pet projects. In 2000, he spent more than $23 million on Proposition 38, a measure that would have allowed the state to spend $4,000 per pupil enrolled at private and religious schools. It also restricted the state from applying academic standards to these private schools. By the way, his dad also spent $2 million on the measure. It’s nice to see a family stick together. The measure failed.

In 2014, he spent $5 million trying to get a measure on the statewide ballot to divide California into six states, but roughly half the signatures he collected were invalid and the measure never was put before the voters.

Now, he’s back with what might be called a half-measure: dividing California into three states.  It would be easy to call it silly, but it makes sense to take it seriously.

Not the proposal – it is silly. Draper’s measure, if it qualifies for the ballot, will lose, but it can still do a lot of damage. The debate it will touch off has the potential to be seriously harmful and divisive at a time when our politics are badly divided.

What we need are our leaders – in government, politics and business – to look for ways to bring us together around common values and concerns.

The proposal was dismissed for just these reasons by Paul Saffo, who was the keynote speaker Saturday at the Redwood City-San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce’s 49th Progress Seminar, the annual gathering of San Mateo County leaders, who meet in Monterey to discuss the leading issues affecting the county and, oddly enough, seek consensus solutions. Saffo is a renowned futurist from Stanford, an engaging and thoughtful thinker about society, change and the dynamics that impact human behavior.

Saffo called Draper “the clown prince of Silicon Valley” and an example of “folks who get too rich too fast and decide to make everyone else unhappy.”

The three-states measure is “extraordinarily dangerous” because it undermines “our most valuable resource: our social cohesion,” Saffo said.

There are a wide number of interests around the country and the world “who love to see California get into a fight with ourselves,” he said.

There are parts of the state – largely the more rural eastern and far northern counties — where splitting off from California long has been advocated and signs calling for the creating of the State of Jefferson are becoming more prominent. The Draper proposal will only fuel that sentiment and embolden those who want their differences to become codified, rather than resolved.

California works in many ways, and it works best when we listen to one another, “not by insulting people,” Saffo said. “The stakes are really high.”

Saffo asked the audience members to show their support for a unified California by the simple act of putting on their cars a sticker depicting the Bear Flag Republic state flag.

Draper’s principal argument is that government is too large to be effective and that people are leaving California because it doesn’t work anymore.

In reality, the only problem Draper has with government is that he can’t get it to do what he wants, whether it’s put in place a draconian voucher system that would enrich private schools at the expense of public education or eliminate financial regulations and restrictions aimed to protect the American economy from abuse.

Yes, Draper spent $23 million on that failed voucher measure in 2000, and he spent $5 million in 2014 in an unsuccessful effort to put his first split-California measure on the ballot. Maybe he spent that much this time, too.

What we do know is this: He is likely to have more impact on improving California by spending his money on resolving the problems that face the state. Imagine what a local housing nonprofit might do if it had $28 million to spend. It might enable some folks to stick around.

Contact Mark Simon at mark@climaterwc.com

When Main Street Was Literally Redwood City’s Main Street

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By Jim Cifford

Movie lovers in Redwood City have plenty of choices at the Century 21 Theater, which lures them with multiscreen offerings. Decades ago, the cinema “menu” was pretty well limited to what was shown a block away on a single screen at the Fox, which today features live productions. Both theaters are on busy Broadway, but there was a time when all the action was on adjacent Main Street.

The Alhambra Theater opened on Main in 1896 with stage shows upstairs, a debut that came shortly before motion pictures revolutionized the entertainment industry. The building designed by noted architect A. Page Brown, whose resume included the Ferry Building in San Francisco, was billed as the finest entertainment site between San Francisco and San Jose. On the street level below the stage was a popular restaurant and bar where the patrons included Western legend Wyatt Earp could meet and eat. Today a photo of Earp standing at the bar and gazing into the camera adorns the wall at Martin’s West, a popular dining spot that occupies the same space where the famed lawman tossed back a few while his actress wife performed in plays upstairs.

The first movie house in Redwood City was the Bell Theater, which opened in 1910 a few doors down from the Alhambra, according to researchers at the Redwood City Library’s history room. Newspaper clippings of the time said the Bell was little more than “a corrugated building with a stucco front.” The advertisements for the opening promised “continuous performance. Latest Eastern and European novelties. Moving pictures and illustrated songs.”

In 1914 the Bell was bought by a dynamo of an entrepreneur named Ellis J. Arkush, whose name would become linked to most entertainment offerings on the Peninsula. Arkush remodeled the Bell by adding a lobby and bringing in 150 chairs. A year later the Bell was showing films that starred such luminaries as Theda Bara, known as “the most beautiful wicked face in the world.”

The Bell wasn’t enough for Arkush. In a few years he joined forces with West Coast Theaters to form a new corporation called West Coast Peninsula Theaters that embraced movies houses in Burlingame, San Mateo, Palo Alto and Redwood City. The Redwood City showplace was the Sequoia on Broadway, just a block or so from today’s Fox and Century 21.

Both the Alhambra and the Bell were located in what would be today’s Main Street Historic District, which takes in several pioneer buildings, among them the Sequoia Hotel on the corner of Main and Broadway and a brick building at 726 Main that was the Diller-Chamberlain Store when it opened in 1859. Still standing, it is San Mateo County’s oldest commercial building.

The Masonic Order bought the Alhambra building in 1921 and used the upper part for meetings. The bottom was leased out for retail stores. At one time there were so many antique stores on Main Street the area was dubbed “antique row.” In 2001 a fire gutted the upstairs but the building was saved and today serves as office space.  Recently, The Acclaim Companies announced plans to add nearly 80,000 more square feet of office space in the 800 block of Main Street.  The company hopes to revitalize a street it called “the birthplace of Redwood City.”

The numbering system for buildings on Main Street can get tricky because the original address numbers changed over the years. For instance, the Alhambra address today is 831-835 Main, but the 1912 City Directory lists it at 235 Main. The 1916 directory shows the Bell at 263-265 Main, the location of today’s Angelica’s Restaurant, which boasts dinner theatre – but no movies.

 

Spring Sips: Three Ways to Rosé

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Growing up, “rosé” was a bad word in my house. My dad loathed the stuff, calling it “the bastardization of wine.” In fairness, he developed his bias honestly. Like so many Californians in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he had fallen for the misconception that rosé is white and red wine mixed together. Rosé’s bad reputation wasn’t all based on ill-informed rumors. I recently sat down with French winemaker Julien Fayard and he told me, “Even ten years ago, “quality” and “rosé” really didn’t go together in the same sentence.”

Thankfully, the times have changed and rosé is no longer shunned. That’s not to say that all are created equally. Like any wine, there is a decent amount of swill masquerading as the real-deal. To sidestep the pink-hued landmines, follow these two simple steps.

  1. Choose wisely. Pick a rosé that is made by an actual Frenchman, or at the very least, an ardent Francophile who was trained in France. Even in France, rosé is considered a “fun wine” – but it should still be made with grace and intention. I have yet to find a decent “table” rosé, so gauge your price point expectations accordingly.

This is a good time to address the current trend of canned wines. I did my fair share of research on canned rosés for this column; my verdict is simple: Don’t do it. I won’t name names, but I cannot in good conscience recommend any of the ones I tried.

  1. Drink wisely. By this, I mean drink like the French. Rosé in France is sipped in the warmth of spring and summer. It’s a light, carefree wine meant for light, carefree moments. Pair it with a fresh tuna nicoise salad, or enjoy it as a pre-dinner, al fresco sip in the sun.

Still need a little direction? Here are my top three, in alphabetical order, because simply put, I could never rank these beauties.

Azur Rosé 2016 ($32): Frenchmen Julien Fayard makes this aromatic rosé under his Azur label, at his winery, Covert Estate in Coombsville (Napa’s newest appellation). He uses the traditional method known as “direct press,” which means instead of using leftover grapes, he grows and harvests Syrah fruit specifically for this wine. The light salmon hue is a byproduct of his deliberate process – the grape skins are left on for a mere hour, imparting a light tint that alludes to the fresh, bright flavors.

Tasting notes: “Delicate bouquet of white flowers with seductive peach accents. Fresh and focused, the sophisticated palate offers elegant layers of raspberry, strawberry and watermelon. An alluring mineral finish completes this purely harmonious wine.” – winestreet.com

Ehlers Estate Sylvian Rosé 2017 ($36): Described as a classic, old-world rosé, Francophile winemaker Kevin Morrissey had to convince Sylvian LeDuc, his French boss and owner of Ehlers Estate, that this was a wine worth making. Kevin retold the moment to me: “She said to me, you know Kevin, rosé is not a serious wine, and Ehlers is very serious.” Kevin’s reply? “Well if it’s the best, then it’s serious, right?” One sip and she was convinced.

Tasting notes: “Aromas of watermelon, raspberry and cotton candy mingle with orange sorbet and fresh red cherries. Sparkling acidity, low alcohol.” – ehlersestate.com

Viver 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($19): Like many French winemakers in Napa Valley, Stephane Vivier fell in love with the American girl and the California sun, but missed a taste of home. For him, home tastes like Pinot Noir—even more specifically—Rosé of Pinot Noir. “I grew up with Rosé of Pinot Noir in Burgundy. I would come home and sit outside with my parents. My mom would bring in things from the garden, and my dad wine from the cellar. We would talk about the day, and most everyday have a bottle of rosé.”

Tasting notes: “The floral result offers notes of citrus fruit and plum, and a fine, harmonious nose. Red fruit brings an almost flinty power to the palate, while the structure is fresh and sophisticated with concentration at its core.” – vivierwines.com

À votre santé!

Entertainment Galore, But… How can downtown Redwood City become a shopper’s paradise?

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By Scott Dailey

Two years ago, the City of Redwood City asked 476 residents where they shopped. Guess how many patronized stores downtown. How about 200? Too high? Maybe 100? Try 15.

That’s right.  In a downtown district that one local merchant describes as “hopping,” with crowded restaurants, bars and coffee shops, a huge cinema complex, a well-attended regional theater, new high-rise apartments, a major employer such as Box and a central gathering place that attracts thousands of people for summer concerts and other events, just 3 percent of the survey’s respondents said they shopped there.

It might sound surprising – but the reasons turn out to be pretty simple.  In comparison with downtown Burlingame or Laurel Street in San Carlos, for example, there’s just a handful of stores.  And instead of being clustered in a single location, those shops are sprinkled throughout the area.  That makes it difficult for customers to stroll, compare goods and window-shop.  In addition, regional malls such as Hillsdale and Stanford soak up potential shoppers, as do nearby downtown districts that offer major retailers including Apple, The Gap and up-and-coming chains such as Lululemon.

Then there’s competition from other retail zones in Redwood City, principally along El Camino Real, Woodside Road and Veterans Boulevard.  There, reported rents for retail storefronts run approximately 30 percent cheaper than downtown, attracting business people and their customers to such locations as Woodside Plaza, Kohl’s Center and other open-air malls.

Indeed, even with the relative lack of shopping downtown – that is, principally along Broadway and nearby thoroughfares from El Camino to Veterans Boulevard and Brewster Avenue to Maple Street – retail business in general appears healthy in Redwood City.  Because of the way business categories are grouped together, sales tax revenues represent an imprecise measure of retail shopping; that said, the city government received nearly $19.5 million in sales tax revenues in 2017.  Of that, around 30%, or nearly $5.9 million, came from general retail sales (as opposed, for example, to business-to-business sales, car sales and sales in construction and other sectors).  In turn, that translates to roughly $590 million in business for the city’s retail shops, restaurants and other such establishments (cities receive one percent of gross sales as their share of California’s basic 8.5 percent sales tax).  According to city economic data, the largest geographic contributor to Redwood City’s sales tax revenues was Redwood Shores, which generated $2.3 million.  Downtown was second, with more than $1.3 million.

Catherine Ralston, the city’s economic development manager, reports that even with the downtown district’s higher rents, the retail vacancy rate there is just 2.5 percent.  (“Retail” in this sense refers to everything from shops to restaurants, nightclubs, dance studios and hair salons.)  Although she counts herself among those who wish for more shopping downtown, she cautions it may not happen soon.

“In downtown, rents are very high,” she observes, quoting average monthly rates of $4 to $5 per square foot for retail space.  “Restaurants are able to support those rents, but not necessarily retail.  You have to sell a lot of items to keep that rent up on a regular basis, versus a restaurant or a bar, where you get a lot higher customer turnover and sales happening.”

How much does a retailer need to sell in order to justify a given rent?  Michael Berne, principal of Berkeley-based retail planning and real-estate firm MJB Consulting, says sales need to be approximately 10 times the rent.  Throw in additional overhead such as insurance, utilities and other expenses, and the multiplier grows to perhaps 12.  At a monthly rent of $4.50 per square foot, that comes to minimum monthly sales of $54 per square foot.  If business owners can afford those rates, Berne says, they can consider a class-A mall where their stores can cluster with others of their ilk.

“Rent is a very big factor,” confirms Scott Dewar, whose consultancy, Site Perfect Solutions, helps businesses select locations.  “It’s huge in terms of people making their decisions.”

Even more than rents, however, the lack of clustering may be affecting downtown Redwood City’s shopping prospects.

“When there are large clusters, more retailers want to be there and the clusters get even larger,” says Berne, who gave a presentation about retail business to the Redwood City Council last August.  “So you see these concentrations, whether it’s at Stanford Shopping Center or Valley Fair (in San Jose) or Burlingame Avenue or Union Square or Fillmore Street (in San Francisco).

“Downtown Redwood City right now doesn’t have an existing cluster to play off of, at least with stores selling goods,” Berne continues.  “If it had 15 clothing stores, for instance, that would be one thing, because the sixteenth would want to be there.  They’d want to be able to take advantage of all the people who were coming there to shop.  But since it doesn’t have 15, it’s not as much of a shopping destination as retailers aren’t as eager to be there, and you’re fighting something of an uphill battle.”

Ralston agrees with the clustering concept, but says, “The other piece is, I don’t have vacancies right now to put a cluster of retail stores in.  It’s one here and one there.  Ultimately, we can get to that goal.  But it’s going to take a really long time.”

Berne says building a successful retail shopping district is an evolutionary process that has stages in which retailers start to arrive, prosper and attract others.  Those phases, Berne says, include drawing first not major retailers such as Apple and The Gap, but “maybe boutiques or small, local chainlets, so that you’re starting to build that cluster.  And if boutiques and small local chainlets start to perform and do really well, larger chains will start to take notice.  And then you’ll get interest from the early adopting chains, and then, over time, you could become another Burlingame Avenue.”

Burlingame Avenue.  That’s what people often say when they’re asked how they want downtown Redwood City to look.  So how did downtown Burlingame become what it is today – a thriving retail district with more than 500 businesses, from mom-and-pop stores to major chains such as Apple, J. Crew, Pottery Barn and others?

Cleese Relihan, Burlingame’s economic development specialist, points to numerous elements, including steady foot traffic, a large streetscape project completed in 2014, the presence of supporting professionals such as attorneys, business advisors and accountants, the city government’s relationships with present and potential business owners, and, not least, a variety of store sizes.

“There’s a lot of flexibility on Burlingame Avenue for larger and smaller spaces,” Relihan says.  “That’s come up in a lot of discussions I’ve had with brand names.”

With its retail vacancy at just 2.5 percent, downtown Redwood may lack that type of available space.  And what Relihan doesn’t mention is the concentration of wealth in Burlingame and especially neighboring Hillsborough, which has no commercial district of its own.  Redwood City, on the other hand, is more economically diverse.  That said, it’s not poor, either, and Atherton sits just next door.  But downtown Redwood City does face significant competition on the Peninsula from other places that attract retailers who decide rationally about where to set up shop.

Dewar, the location expert, says those decisions tend to focus on several factors.  Included are the service area, demographics and their fit for a particular business (Neiman-Marcus and Target are looking for different customers), the presence of competition, and the site itself – especially how easy it is to get to and who else is around to help drive business.

“I think one of the differences between a downtown location and a (shopping center) is the draw potential,” Dewar says.  “You also have potentially a different proximate customer base.  Downtown, you might have more businesses with people from offices and such.  Is that appropriate (for a given business) – is that who you’re looking for?”

In a sense, Redwood City’s recent strategy for developing its downtown has been the opposite of the famous line from “Field of Dreams” – “If you build it, they will come.”  Instead, by seeking residents in large apartment complexes and employees at organizations such as Box and the coming headquarters of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, it’s been more like, “If people come, retailers will follow.”  So far, that’s worked especially for restaurants, which are indeed clustered along Broadway and Theatre Way, and whose patrons jam sidewalk dining areas even in winter.  Restaurants, in fact, benefit from two shifts – the lunch bunch from downtown offices and the dinner trade from nearby residents.  They also profit, Dewar says, from variety, because people often want to try something different.

Volker Staudt sees the service-versus-shops issue from both angles.  Along with his wife, Mary Ann, he owns Gourmet Haus Staudt on Broadway – a combination German restaurant and grocery-and-gift store.  With more people coming – and living – downtown, both businesses are flourishing.

“It’s no longer Deadwood, it’s Redwood,” Staudt says.  ”For a person owning a business on Broadway, everything’s been pretty positive, in my opinion.”

That said, Staudt adds, “I wish there were more retail.  But I get why there is no more retail.  It’s tough to be in the retail business, with Amazon and everything else going on, and the cost per square foot to operate in this environment.”

Cost per square foot – in other words, rent.  In interviews with merchants, the “R” word kept coming up.  Steve Goetz, who recently moved his family’s decades-old Goetz Brothers sporting-goods store from Broadway to the industrial east side of San Carlos, cited concerns that “we were going to be priced out” among the many factors that led to relocating his business.  (The others included a need for more space, more parking and freeway access for a regional customer base.)  Even so, he says, “Both communities have been really good to us.  We hated to leave Redwood City.”

Retailer Stephanie Kolkka also relocated her business, Brick Monkey2, to Theatre Way after the building on Broadway where she operated the original Brick Monkey store was sold in January 2017 and the rent increased dramatically.  Brick Monkey2 specializes in clothing and jewelry, and stays open late to catch the crowds coming out of adjacent restaurants and the Cinemark movie multiplex.

Although she felt forced to move, she says when it comes to rents, “I get it.  I understand that if I owned a building down there, I’d want to get the maximum out of it.”

And even with the relatively high retail rents downtown compared with other parts of the city, building owners are not necessarily maximizing their investments.  Ralston, the city’s economic development manager, says rents even for non-premium office space downtown are topping $8 per square foot, as opposed to the $4-to-$5 range for retail.  To promote retail business and prevent downtown from converting strictly to office space, the city has zoned the first floors of buildings on Broadway and Main Street as retail-only.

Even that move arouses suspicions among retailers who are skeptical of downtown landlords.  One merchant said he thought building owners would keep first-floor rents artificially high, and then, failing to rent to retail businesses, would ask the city to permit ground-floor offices again.

To that, Ralston says, “There may be a few landlords who may try that.  I think at the city, at this point, we’re seeing that there is enough interest in those spaces.  So we’re not going to quickly jump and let office uses go back in on the ground floor.

Ralston says, in fact, that the city government is seeing so much interest from potential downtown businesses that it’s currently not recruiting additional retail establishments to locate there.  At the same time, she’s aware of the desire for more retailers, and the city is now forming a retail task force to create a vision for retailing in Redwood City.  The group is expected to begin meeting this month, and should report its findings to the Council by year-end.

Rather than seek certain business types, Ralston says, “It’s really great to let that kind of naturally happen, because those are businesses that are ready to be a business downtown.  They can support those higher rents, they’ve done their market studies, they know that this is the place that they want to be.  And so those often times are your more successful businesses (rather than those that the city might try to bring in) that may not be ready for this market.”

Ralston says Internet-based sales may be part of the reason why brick-and-mortar retail stores aren’t at the top of the list of businesses looking at Redwood City, although she also says shop owners are adjusting to the challenge posed by e-commerce.  For example, Jim Hornibrook of outdoor-gear supplier Redwood Trading Post notes that his business is developing a website that will lead customers into the store after they find what they want online.

Another necessity – as vital as adjusting to the Internet – is parking.  Ralph Garcia, the owner of Ralph’s Vacuum and Sewing Center on Main Street, notes its importance for retailers, especially those who serve customers from around the Bay Area, as he does.  Garcia’s business includes a parking lot, but, he says, “I feel for the other folks who don’t have parking, or whose customers may have difficulty finding parking or may have to pay for it.”

Ralston says gripes about a perceived lack of parking downtown – a common grievance of shoppers and business people alike – disappeared after the city installed electronic signs showing the number of spaces available at garages.

“Several years ago, people would have said there’s no parking downtown,” she says.  “Within a week of those signs going up, we stopped hearing complaints that there was no parking.”

That notwithstanding, shoppers still may not be able to park on the same block as the store they’re visiting.  That, Berne says, offers an advantage to shopping centers, whose parking lots can more easily cater to what he terms the “in-and-out” shopper.  Downtown shopping districts, on the other hand, are built more for the strolling shopper who may want to accomplish many things in one trip.

That’s the sort of customer who drops into Holly Hill, an upscale women’s clothing and jewelry store on Laurel Street in downtown San Carlos.  The shop sits on the same block as a card store, a kitchenware shop, a pet-supply-and-grooming outfit, a shoe-repair shop, a dry cleaner, a jeweler, a barber shop, several restaurants and a bank.

“I think what really works for this town, at least just from how we see customers, is that people here have many errands they run when they’re downtown,” says owner Holly Hill.  “They go to the dog-food place, they get their shoes repaired, their husband gets a haircut.  They stop at Hallmark and buy a card.  They pick up their coffee.  So it’s a real walkable, errand-running downtown.  We fit right into that, and we’re a regular stop-off for many, many women who live here and around here.”

Hill says the multitasking nature of the downtown San Carlos shopper results in a high volume of foot traffic, and Laurel Street’s popular restaurants lead to what she calls “nose prints on the windows” from passers-by in the evenings.  Her prescription for downtown Redwood City, where her sister and store manager Shelley Hill resides, is for three or four stores to go in simultaneously – to which Shelley Hill asks, almost rhetorically, “And where would that be?”

One location that will offer approximately 12,000 square feet of retail space is the new headquarters of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, currently going up on the corner of Broadway and Jefferson Avenue.  (The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a philanthropic organization started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.  It will occupy the building’s more than 100,000 square feet of office space.)  Scott Smithers, managing partner of the building’s developer, Lane Partners of Menlo Park, told the San Francisco Business Times in July that he had received “a ton of interest” from retailers.

Another prospective location sits on Main Street, between Ralph’s Vacuum and Sewing Center and Angelicas Bistro.  Dubbed “851 Main Street,” the proposed four-story development would offer nearly 79,000 square feet of office space and close to 7,000 square feet for retail and parking for 246 vehicles.

More retail space – even if filled by competitors – would be a welcome sight to Elizabeth Strumpell, owner of downtown linen and gift store Pomegranate Seeds.

“We would love more competition, we would love more people here, we would love just to have more retailers on the street,” Strumpell says.

Like Kolkka, a member of the coming retail task force who describes herself as “way-pro-Redwood City,” Strumpell is high on the community.  She wishes the city government would do more to attract retail stores because, she says, “Redwood City’s a great spot.  I really like the town.  I like the people.  I like the feel.  I think (the city government) has done a really nice job of balancing the residential and the office space component of things.  I think it’s a nice, growing community, and kind of the heart of the Silicon Valley.”

When it comes to the importance of a vibrant downtown, Ralston gets it.

“The downtown is really the heart of the community,” she says.  “I like to refer to it as the living room of the community.  It’s the spot where the community can come together and gather for special events and occasions and fun things to do.  And so when you have a lively downtown, it becomes that part of your home … a great, thriving downtown increases property values, and it becomes a quality-of-life piece for the entire community.”

As Staudt says, there’s no doubt the downtown district has traded “Deadwood” for “Redwood.”  The new residents and employees have helped turn the area into a throbbing hub of dining and entertainment.  To turn “Field of Dreams” on its head, the people have come.  Now the question remains:  Will the retail shops follow?

Authorities seek to identify other possible victims of accused Redwood City rapist

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Authorities seek to identify other possible victims of accused Redwood City rapist

Authorities are encouraging possible additional victims of an accused Redwood City rapist to come forward.

Juan Ramirez Ruiz, 25, of Redwood City was arrested Wednesday in connection with a woman’s report in April 2017 that he raped her inside her apartment, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Following a year-long investigation, Ruiz was arrested on suspicion of forcible rape and oral copulation, the sheriff’s office said.

“Based on the ongoing investigation and information gathered, it is believed that there could be additional victims,” the sheriff’s office said.

The Sheriff’s Office is encouraging anyone “who has similar reports Ruiz, or any unsolved sexual assaults with his description,” to contact Det. Sgt. Cang at (650) 363-4881 or jcang@smcgov.org or contact Det. Sgt. Berberian at 650-363-4051 or sberberian@smcgov.org.

SamTrans riders will soon be able to purchase their bus fare from their smartphones

in Community/Featured/Headline by

SamTrans customers will soon be able to purchase their bus fare and plan their trips from their smart phone devices after the SamTrans board of directors approved a $478,000, two-year contract for a mobile app on Wednesday.

Seattle-based Bytemark, Inc. was contracted to launch the SamTrans Mobility App Solution, which is expected to go live on Sept. 1, according to the transit agency.

The app will offer One-way and Day Pass tickets for adults, youth and eligible discount (senior, disabled and Medicare cardholders) riders, and will also provide real-time arrival/departure information for SamTrans and other transit systems.

“The Mobility App will run on iOS and Android operating systems and will accept major credit and debit cards, the transit agency said.

Shortly after the September launch, the Mobility App will also allow for the purchase of parking tickets for the Colma/BART parking lot.

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