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SAL members spruce up Fair Oaks Elementary and home of seniors

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Fair Oaks Elementary and home of elderly sisters receive sprucing thanks to SAL

The home of two elderly North Fair Oaks sisters, as well as the campus at Fair Oaks Elementary School, recently received a much-needed sprucing, thanks to efforts by volunteers and sheriff’s office representatives.

Teams from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Activities League cleaned up around the sisters’ home, hauling off debris and painting their fence. Meanwhile, Fair Oaks Elementary got some love and attention, including graffiti removal.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office shared the experience on social media.

“These community outreach events not only make the neighborhood more beautiful, it also provides an opportunity for the residents to talk with deputies about any concerns they might have and allows the deputies to get to know the residents of the neighborhood better,” the sheriff’s office stated.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Activities League, or SAL, was founded in North Fair Oaks in 1997 to provide services and resources for local youth and to strengthen the bond between youth, the community and sheriff’s deputies. SAL offers athletics, tutoring, arts and many other programs to county youth. The program was expanded in 2009 to 12 county sites serving about 3,500 youth per year. Today, the program serves over 11,000 youth per year in programs, presentations and special events. For more information about SAL, visit www.sheriffsactivitiesleague.com.

500 attend latest forum on proposed school cuts

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Five hundred Redwood City School District parents and staff filled the Gary Beban Gymnasium at Kennedy Middle School on Thursday night to hear a whittled-down list of proposals for reorganizing the shrinking district and to plead for the retention of their schools.

Supt. John Baker said his preliminary recommendation to the board of trustees calls for the closing of four schools next year. Adelante and its bilingual Spanish/English program would merge with Selby Lane; Orion, a parent participation magnet school, would move to John Gill; Hawes students would go to Clifford, Gill or Roosevelt; North Star Academy, a magnet school for accelerated learning, would move to Taft. Closing the four saves almost $3 million, he said.

By Dec. 15, the district needs to come up with a plan to show the San Mateo County Office of Education where some $6 million in cuts will be made over the next two years.

The elementary district has lost 1,500 students over the past six years to charter schools, families being priced out of the Bay Area and other factors. State funding is, in part, tied to head count and the Redwood City district is further handicapped compared to neighboring districts by the way property taxes are allocated.

Baker said he will meet again Monday with the advisory council that came up with 25 reorganization proposals and post his semi-final recommendations on the district web site next Friday, Nov. 9.  The Nov. 14 regular board meeting, to be held at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City at 7 p.m., will be a public hearing and board discussion of the recommendations. Baker then will make a final recommendation for board action at their Nov. 28 meeting, to be held at Sequoia High School’s Carrington Hall.

The board decided to open Thursday’s the forum to audience questions after feedback at two previous meetings was limited to sticky note comments pasted on posters describing each of the original 25 proposals.

A parade of students, parents and staff members chiefly from Adelante, Selby Lane, North Star and Hawes, filed to the microphone to address the board after Baker explained his latest thinking. The four-hour meeting was orderly but at times passionate, with some parents and students in tears. A girl of about 6 told the board, “I like my school Selby Lane. And I like my teacher. That’s all I want to say.”

Most of the Selby Lane concerns were about losing their community and the middle school they have worked so hard to build. The school would become K-5 under the preliminary plan.

An Adelante contingent spoke against leaving a popular district school of choice and the successful and tight-knit community they see.

North Star parents objected to losing their centrally located school, saying the trek to the outskirts of the city would be a hardship.

One of Baker’s requirements, he said, is that solutions should promote racially and socioeconomically balanced schools and not further segregate students. The 16-school district has a wide east side-west side disparity in ethnic population, with most minority students (78 percent of district enrollment) living east of El Camino Real. The district’s magnet schools draw many minority students to west side campuses.

Other factors Baker considered in his proposals: save money or generate new revenue; enable progress toward innovation and excellence; not cause loss of students.

Baker presented district enrollment figures that show most schools far below capacity: Taft capacity 1,080, enrollment 331; Clifford 1,110 vs. 558. Schools under 400 enrollment, considered minimum, are Taft, Fair Oaks, Henry Ford, John Gill, Hawes and Orion.

He said that he will recommend moving district headquarters to McKinley Institute of Technology in 2020 and renting the current Bradford Street building.

DA declines to charge 4 Redwood City cops in connection with suspect’s death

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Redwood City police arrest kidnapping suspect

Four Redwood City officers involved in a struggle with a mentally ill man who died after the interaction on Aug. 13 will not face charges in connection with the incident, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe announced Friday.

The DA’s office completed an independent investigation into the death of 55-year-old Ramzi Saad, who became unresponsive following a struggle with officers during which he was shot with a Taser multiple times outside his home at 523 Laynard Drive in Redwood City.

An autopsy conducted Aug. 16 concluded Saad died “as a result of cardiac arrest occurring during physical exertion, physical restraint and tasering,” prosecutors said.

“The use of force by the four officers which contributed to the death of Mr. Saad was justifiable pursuant to California Penal Code section 196,” an investigation by DA Inspector Rick Decker and other investigators concluded.

Saad, who prosecutors say has a history of mental health problems, had assaulted his elderly mother outside the Laynard Drive residence when police were called to the scene by a neighbor about 7:30 p.m. Neighbors weren’t able to restrain Saad, who would subsequently attack the first arriving officer.

In a letter to Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland, Wagstaffe provided new details about the case. Saad lived with his mother at the 523 Lanyard Drive home and suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. His mother told investigators her son was in a “bad mood” all day, was acting strangely and had apparently not taken his medication and was refusing to do so, which led to increasingly erratic behavior.

About 7 p.m. that night, Saad grabbed his medication bottles, walked out of the house and down the street to his neighbors’ house and told them, “My mother is dead and they’re killing us.” The neighbor knew about Saad’s health problems, so he tried to calm Saad down and walked him back to his home. Saad continued to be agitated, shouting and speaking incoherently. Eventually his mother emerged from the house. Saad pushed his mother, causing her to fall to the ground and strike her head, prosecutors said. The neighbor called 911. Another neighbor who tried to assist the mother was reportedly punched twice by Saad.

In total, four Redwood City police officers responded to the scene: Oscar Poveda, Daniel Di Bona, Brian Simmons and Matthew Cydzik. Officer Proveda was the first to arrive. When he exited his car, people yelled Saad had pushed his mother, who was still on the ground. The officer asked if Saad had mental health issues, which was confirmed by a male in the crowd, prosecutors said. Officer Poveda employed the Crisis Intervention Training, trying to calm Saad down by lowering his tone and asking him to sit on the curb. Saad began to calm down and said he wanted to go to the hospital. The officer assured Saad he would take him to the hospital, prosecutors said.

Saad then showed a “sudden” demeanor change and told Officer Poveda, “You wanna pull out your gun and shoot me, don’t you?” prosecutors said.

Officer Poveda tried to assure Saad that he didn’t want to hurt him, according to prosecutors, but Saad became agitated, insisting the officer wanted to kill him. The officer drew his Taser, concealing it behind his back. The officer requested medical assistance, but communicated with his supervisor that he did not yet need emergency response from additional officers.

“Without warning, Ramzi Saad suddenly arose and punched at Officer Poveda, who backed away,” prosecutors said.

Officer Poveda then shot Saad with the Taser. Saad fell to the ground on his stomach. The officer instructed Saad to put his hands behind his back, but he refused to follow orders, prosecutors said. The officer activated his Taser again. After the second shot, Saad “grabbed a piece of fruit from a nearby tree and threw it at the officer,” prosecutors said.

Officer Poveda than reloaded his Taser with a second cartridge, continuing to order Saad to comply with his orders to no avail. He deployed the Taser again, and it’s unclear if it worked. Saad rolled on his side and grabbed a brick. Officer Poveda attempted to shoot him with the Taser again, but dropped the device when it shocked him. He tried to pick it up again, but the device shocked him again, so he “knew he was going to have to physically subdue Mr. Saad,” prosecutors said.

A struggle ensued during which Officer Poveda managed to handcuff Saad behind his back. Just as that happened, other officers arrived and took over.

Officer Poveda described Saad as “one of the strongest guys” he’s ever dealt with, prosecutors said.

The other officers pinned a reluctant Saad to the ground: Officer Di Bona tried to control a flailing Saad by using his body weight to pin him. He eventually crossed Saad’s ankles and bent his legs at the knee and pushed his feet and lower legs toward his buttocks to restrain him. Officer Cydzki put his knee between Saad’s shoulder blades for further restrain, but not using his whole body weight, prosecutors said. Meanwhile, Officer Simmons centered himself on Saad’s mid-body, controlling his handcuffed arms.

“Finally, Mr. Saad seemed to stop fighting and the officers relieved some of the pressure on him,” prosecutors said.

They confirmed he was still breathing, but moments later Saad became unresponsive. Paramedics were summoned, and they were unable to revive him despite the use of lifesaving measures, prosecutors said.

Neighbors generally confirmed the police’s reporting of the incidents, prosecutors said.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: County could see historic voter turnout

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A huge number of ballots already have been turned into San Mateo County elections offices, signaling what could be an historic voter turnout when all the ballots are counted from next Tuesday’s general election.

As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 93,470 voters had voted – 92,190 by mail and 1,280 in person at one of the polling places throughout the county, according to county elections chief Mark Church.

The tally of returned ballots, posted with a week to go before the close of the polls, nearly equals the 97,447 ballots cast in total in the last equivalent election, the 2014 gubernatorial ballot.

This comes as no surprise, of course.

The national, statewide and local issues at stake in this election have created an uncommonly high interest in the 2018 campaign year. A national fervor has been matched by a passionate interest in local city council races, more than a dozen of which are on this ballot since the Peninsula moved its elections to coincide with even-year statewide elections.

“I’ve never seen an electorate as energized as they are right now. It’s no longer just about the national dialogue,” said Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, a prime mover behind the vote-by-mail legislation. “I have not seen in my political life a non-presidential election generate this kind of energy.”

And that’s the other factor that makes it likely the turnout in San Mateo County will be at near-record levels.

In June, when the vote-by-mail experiment first was implemented, more than 172,000 votes were cast, a turnout of 44.3 percent. The equivalent election in June 2014 had a turnout of 22.5 percent.

IT’S MONEY THAT MATTERS: As Randy Newman so eloquently put it.

The most common question this late in the campaign is about who might win. In the hotly contested race for three seats on the Redwood City Council, it’s hard to say and no one really knows.

But if we follow the money, it appears development and real estate interests seem to think the race for the third-place seat has come down to university relations representative Jason Galisatus or community advocate Diana Reddy.

We reported recently on the amount of money spent by the California Apartment Association targeting Reddy, a long-time advocate of broad rent control laws that would extend to apartments and homes. It’s not just a position, as far as the CAA is concerned, it’s a battle line, which is why the money they’ve spent has resulted in five anti-Reddy mail pieces, including two co-funded by the National Association of Realtors.

On the other side of the coin, real estate and development interests have weighed in heavily on behalf of Galisatus, helping him raise more than $71,000. It’s an astonishing achievement for a first-time candidate whose background includes serving community organizations such as the Downtown Business Association, but no formal office.

Of the $37,000 Galisatus raised through October 20 more than $12,000, nearly one-third, came from real estate interests, including $5,000 from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee.

This has prompted claims on social media that he is pro-development and is ready to give in to developers in future Redwood City proposals. He says he’s just demonstrated to these interests that he’s capable.

But it is more likely that these same interests simply find Galisatus a more reasonable option – someone they can work with – as opposed to Reddy, whose election they would regard as a disaster. She is the only advocate in the race, or quite likely on the City Council, for rent control and other positions they regard as anti-growth.

By the way, Vice Mayor Diane Howard also received $1,000 from the CAA and $2,500 from the California Association of Realtors.

It should be noted that the anti-Reddy mail pieces are the only overtly negative campaign mailings in this election. None of the candidates has uttered a negative word about the other in the many candidates’ forum or in the mail.

The only other exception is a local Facebook page, Redwood City Residents Say What, which has lined up aggressively behind Reddy and, to a lesser degree, business owner Christina Umhofer and where their approach to criticism of Galisatus and businesswoman Giselle Hale has been frequently harsh and more than occasionally personal.

OTHER KINDS OF MONEY: Money traces a fascinating path in the Redwood City election.

Aside from real estate and development interests, the dominant campaign donors in this race have been individuals, the most notable being Julie Pardini, a property owner and the creator and moderator of the Say What page.

She has contributed more than $14,000 to four candidates, the bulk of it to Reddy, who has received $7,540 from Pardini.

Add in Reddy’s own direct contributions to her campaign – a $5,000 loan and another $5,600 in nonmonetary contributions – and more than one-third of the $50,000 in the campaign has come from two individuals.

Pardini has given $2,999 to Umhofer, $1,500 to accountant Rick Hunter and $1,000 to businessman Ernie Schmidt.

Of the nearly $40,000 Umhofer has raised, more than 30 percent has come from two sources – the funds from Pardini and Umhofer’s own loan of more than $9,200 to the campaign, which she has since repaid or forgiven, according to her October 20 campaign report.

This is significant in that such individual donations, it could be argued, are less transparent than a “special interest” donation. We can clearly discern the interests of the real estate industry.

It is harder to precisely what interests an individual donor may have, other than what they say they are.

And there is the post-election issue of what a newly elected council member might have to do in order to pay off an outstanding campaign debt.

OTHER DONORS OF NOTE: Labor has weighed in on the race: Howard received $250 from the San Francisco Laborers Union; Galisatus has received $350 from the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators, $150 from the SF Laborers, and $500 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and $1,000 from the Redwood City Firefighters Association; Hale received $1,000 from the RWC Firefighters and another $1,000 from the San Mateo County Firefighters Association; $500 from the IBEW and $1,000 from the Plumbers Union.

MEASURE RR: Development and real estate interests also have contributed heavily to the Yes on RR campaign in Redwood City, the general sales tax measure to meet city budget shortfalls. Developer Sares Regis has donated $2,000, the owner of 601 Marshall Street has donated $1,000, Harbor View Property owner Jay Paul has donated $10,000, and apartment and office developer Greystar Development has donated $5,000.

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

— The story has been updated to include that Christina Umhofer has repaid or forgiven the loans to her campaign.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.

Another gun buyback event set for Redwood City

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The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office announced today an anonymous gun buyback event has been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 15, in Redwood City.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  at 1402 Maple St. and is being supported by San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos G. Bolanos, Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland, Belmont Police Chief Daniel J. DeSmidt, and the group, Citizens for a San Mateo County Gun Buyback.

No questions will be asked, and up to $100 cash will be offered for a handgun, shotgun or rifle and up to $200 for an assault rifle.

This will be the latest gun buyback initiated by the Citizens for a San Mateo County Gun Buyback, which worked to solicit funding for the events from multiple city and town governments in the county. Their most recent event back in May, also at 1402 Maple St. in Redwood City, led to the collection of 427 guns, including a fully automatic submachine gun, an Intratec Tec 9, and a Colt AR-15 that was converted to fully automatic.

Since then, the group has studied anonymous surveys to improve the buyback events, according to the sheriff’s office.

“The continuation of the Gun Buyback program and the increase in the interest and support, demonstrates great collaborations and triumphs for this community,” Sheriff Bolanos said in a statement.

Chief Mulholland added, “The Gun Buyback program provides an opportunity for positive dialog surrounding safe weapon possession and empowers responsible gun owners to unify behind a worthwhile program that provides a safe environment to surrender unwanted weapons, without question, for destruction.”

County supes approve plan to improve North Fair Oaks mobile home park

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County approves plan to improve mobile home park in North Fair Oaks

A San Mateo County plan to improve habitability and safety in a 51-space mobile home park in North Fair Oaks is being billed as a win for affordable housing.

An inspection of the Redwood Trailer Village at 555 Baron Ave. — where about 200 people, half of them children, call home — revealed many of the aging units need to be replaced and are unsafe, according to county officials.

Amid a housing crisis, county officials from several departments, including the Department of Housing, want to prevent displacement of the low-income residents and maintain the site as affordable housing. And so for the past two years, county staff and officials developed a loan program to assist certain park residents with demolishing and replacing their units.

On Oct. 23, the County’s Board of Supervisors approved allocating $6.5 million toward the program to replace the units deemed “extremely unsafe, overcrowded, and dilapidated.” About 45 loans with a fixed interest rate of one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) for a term of up to 30 years are expected to be issued by the County.  The generous loans will allow borrowers to pay them off early without penalty.

The program is an attempt to “improve habitability, maintain affordability and prevent displacement,” said Kenneth Cole, director of the San Mateo County Department of Housing.

Nearly 70-percent of the $6.5 million will be used for loans and thus repaid to the county. A portion of the remaining 30-percent of the 6.5 million will be spent to relocate residents during construction. County officials aim to do much of the work in phases, and ideally mostly during the summer so as not to disturb the school year for children living at Redwood Trailer Village.

Borrowers will be required to live in the unit full-time, with subleasing prohibited. If they wanted to sell their unit, they would need county approval and to pay off their loan in full.

Museum exhibit teaches about our immigrant past

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More than 3,000 people jammed Courthouse Square June 30, a local demonstration of nationwide protests about the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policies and the controversial separation of detained parents and their children. It was in some ways an ironic location for the rally because, just steps away, inside the San Mateo County History Museum, the history of immigration in the county – often just as controversial in its own time – is told in comprehensive and informative detail.

The “Land of Opportunity: The Immigrant Experience in San Mateo County” takes up an entire gallery on the second floor of the downtown Redwood City museum, housed in the courthouse built in 1910.

Museum officials saw no uptick in attendance on the day the protest. This lack of interest was surprising. After all, the exhibit reminds us that we are all descendants of immigrants and that, in a day of so-called identity politics, we have more in common with each other than we realize.

The gallery features segments that spotlight just about every ethnic group that helped write the history of San Mateo County: the Irish, Italians, Japanese, Portuguese, Mexicans, and Filipinos. There is more to come, according to Carmen Blair, the Deputy Director of the San Mateo County Historical Association. The gallery is undergoing renovations to show a different type of migration, an internal one.

“We will be adding the story of Americans who have migrated to the county,” she said. Before the Gold Rush, when California was part of Mexico, American settlers who came to the area considered themselves immigrants. Another addition will be the African-American Great Migration of the 20th century.

“The people who came during the Great Migration experienced many of the same challenges as immigrants did,” Blair said. “By adding these stories, we hope to enhance visitors’ understanding of the people who have made San Mateo County their home and the contributions they have made to the culture of the area.”

Sheila Braufman was the curator when “Land of Opportunity” opened in 2006. She said the gallery pays tribute to immigrants by “telling of the challenges, hopes and successes they endured when coming to this new land. Whether they arrived in the 19th century or yesterday, we come face-to-face with their common experience.”

The “common experience” is stressed throughout the gallery. The kiosk of each immigrant group displays clothing, entertainment, traditions and foods, all of which may give different cultural expression to those basic elements of life. Take dress, for an example of the variety of the styles of clothing. There’s an elegant Japanese kimono, a Chinese silk dress, an Irish step dancer’s costume, a Portuguese Minho dress complete with shawl, and an exquisitely embroidered Mexican fiesta dress from Michoacán. Although San Mateo County was relatively welcoming to newcomers, immigrants still faced varying degrees of discrimination. A cartoon from The Wasp, an 1881 magazine, depicts a sailboat jammed with immigrants plowing through rough seas. The caption reads “Uncle Sam’s Boat in Danger.” Uncle Sam is at the helm of the overcrowded and nearly swamped boat in which immigrants from Asia and Europe huddle together. (The abbreviation “WASP” has, since the 1960s, conveyed a meaning that the editors of the turn-of-the century magazine probably couldn’t have anticipated.)

The story of the Japanese-American internment during World War II is well-known, and the gallery notes that painful experience. What might be news to a lot of people is the removal of some Italians, although on a much smaller scale. In the display, Leo Giorgetti recounts his family’s plight during the war.

Giorgetti’s mother was an Italian citizen although she lived in Half Moon Bay since 1918. She had to leave the family home because it was situated west of Highway One, bordering the Pacific, a prohibited zone. She couldn’t travel five miles from her residence and had to obey a strict curfew.

“It was shameful and embarrassing,” Giorgetti said.

What is clearly the common denominator, however, is the work ethic of all groups. The immigrants who began arriving in the mid-19th century provided most of the labor in San Mateo County. Many of those who worked hard at unskilled jobs would one day become owners of thriving businesses in the land of opportunity.

This article first appeared in the September issue of Climate Magazine

The Gorilla Foundation rallying against gorilla’s zoo move

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Redwood City-based nonprofit The Gorilla Foundation is prepared for a legal fight to prevent an elderly Sliverback Gorilla named Ndume from being forcibly moved to the Cincinnati Zoo after 27 years living in the foundation’s Woodside sanctuary.

Ndume lived alongside world famous Koko, the gorilla known for having learned sign language, until Koko died this past June. That event has led officials from The Association of Zoos and the Cincinnati Zoo to suspect Ndume has been living alone and requires socialization.

The Gorilla Foundation, however, says it is actively seeking gorilla companions for Ndume and says he should continue to enjoy the companionship of his longtime human caregivers. Ndume’s proposed transport to Ohio will mean he’ll go back on public display and will most likely be forced to live there in isolation from other gorillas, the foundation adds.

Ndume endured “extremely poor conditions” prior to moving to the Woodside Sanctuary in 1991, when he stayed at the Brookfield Zoo and then later the Cincinnati Zoo. At the Gorilla Foundation, Ndume’s “long-standing zoo-related emotional and physical health problems cleared up,” the foundation said.

Ndume, still mourning the loss of Koko, also faces serious health risks from the stress of moving to a new environment, the foundation said.

“The Foundation now intends to present the facts to the Court and trusts that the law will protect Ndume, even though the Cincinnati Zoo will not,” the foundation said in a statement.

24th Annual Preschool Preview Night set for Nov. 14

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Local parents and guardians wanting information about preschools in our area are encouraged to attend the 24th Annual Preschool and Child Care Information Fair on Wednesday, Nov. 14 in Redwood City.

The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Community Activities Building, 1400 Roosevelt Ave.

Attendees will be able to view displays and talk to representatives from many early and education programs in Mid-Peninsula, from Belmont to Palo Alto. Along with general information, they can ask questions about accreditation, licensing, in-home care and more.

At 5:30 p.m., the Child Care Coordinating Council will deliver a short presentation on “Choosing Quality Preschool & Child Care.”

The fair is co-sponsored by Redwood City Parents Club and Redwood City Parks, Recreation and Community Services. For more information, contact rwcparentsclub@gmail.com or call (650) 780-7311.

 

Construction at Middlefield/Woodside intersection begins

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The installation of a new traffic signal system and roadway striping at Middlefield and Woodside roads has begun.

The city is asking drivers to use caution at night with night work planned through Saturday on the Middlefield Road/Woodside Road Intersection Improvement project. Overnight delays should be expected, with traffic stopped or diverted, during installation of new signal poles.

“The traffic signals and lane patterns will change on Middlefield Road – please use caution through the area,” according to the city, adding warning signs will be posted.

The intersection will be reconstructed to include pedestrian facilities such as sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and roadway lighting, the city said. For more information about the project, click here.

Photo: What the roadway will look like after the improvements/City of Redwood City

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