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Redwood City council approves renters protections, including relocation assistance

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The Redwood City Council voted unanimously to pass two ordinances Monday aiming to provide protections for renters in an increasingly costly housing market, including one that requires landlords owning rental properties with more than three units to offer a minimum 1-year lease term to tenants.

A second ordinance requires landlords to provide relocation assistance to eligible displaced tenants that includes the cash equivalent of three month’s rent, the security deposit, and a 60-day subscription to a rental agency service.

Revised after city staff discussions with the California Realtors Association and San Mateo County Association of Realtors, the two ordinances passed council despite mixed reviews by dozens of community members who spoke during public comment both in favor and against.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the ordinances were implemented to respond to increasing rents both in Redwood City and on the Peninsula, according to city staff.

The minimum 1-year lease term rule applies to properties with three or more units. Landlords must offer a minimum 1-year lease term to tenants as of Jan. 1, 2019. The ordinance prohibits rent increases during that lease term, but provides leeway for a renter and landlord to agree in writing upon a term of less than one year.

The relocation assistance ordinance applies only to properties with five units. The new law requires landlords wanting to evict tenants before the 12 month lease is up to provide renter money equal to three months rent, except in cases such as when renters fail to pay rent.

Landlords also won’t have to pay relocation fees when the lease agreement ends.

Certain tenants called “special circumstance households” will receive the cash equivalent of four month’s rent rather than three in cases of displacement.

Complaints by opponents of the new rules described the ordinances as confusing, convoluted and a detrimental invasion of the relationship between landlords and renters.

Some argued they push the city closer to a rent control requiring a costly, bureaucratic rent board – a position denied by several elected officials.

“We are not going down the road of a rent control board,” Mayor Ian Bain said.

The ordinances will be revisited a year after they are enacted in order to review whether they’ve had any unintended consequences.

San Carlos City Council rejects plan to install traffic signal at Alameda de las Pulgas and Eaton Ave.

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This week, the San Carlos City Council voted against installing a traffic signal at the intersection of Alameda de las Pulgas and Eaton Avenue in San Carlos, near the Redwood City border, following opposition by local residents.

The four-way intersection in the residential area is currently slowed by stop signs, but San Carlos city officials proposed installing a traffic signal there in order to reduce congestion and backups on Alameda de las Puglas, particularly during commute hours.

Residents in the area expressed safety concerns about that plan, saying a traffic signal would encourage drivers to speed through green and yellow lights, making the roadway less safe, among other issues. About 345 people signed a petition to oppose it, with a number of them attending Monday’s City Council meeting to voice concerns.

They effectively convinced council to vote against the plan Monday.

“We’re looking for ways to improve traffic congestion,” Vice Mayor Cameron Johnson said. “That’s what we want [city staff] to do and we want them continue to do it, we all benefit from it. But they also have to make the case to the neighborhood that it’s the right thing to do, and in this case it is very clear to me that we have not succeeded to do that.”

But Johnson said the problem of congestion at the intersection still exists and will eventually need to be addressed.

“I think this intersection traffic congestion will continue to get worse over time and I think we should continue to look for ways to improve it in ways that are acceptable to the community,” he said.


Political Climate with Mark Simon: March For Our Lives is largest Courthouse Square assembly

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The largest crowd ever assembled in Redwood City’s Courthouse Square – officially estimated at 3,000 but appearing closer to 5,000 people – enthusiastically cheered Saturday as an array of determined high school and middle school students pledged to take the necessary political steps to bring about meaningful and effective gun control and gun reform legislation.

But amid articulate and impassioned speeches and the warm response of a crowd that overflowed the square and shut down Broadway, a question lingered: Will it actually happen? Can the fierce urgency of now translate into a continued effort that will survive setbacks, opposition tactics and the changing tides of time and circumstance?

The students say yes, and there are elements of how this one rally was organized and carried out, and how it occurred in concert with hundreds of rallies on the same day throughout the nation, that suggest they could be right.

In speeches and interviews, participants and organizers acknowledged that this could be a long fight. That was implicit in the repeated calls to vote out of office those who would resist meaningful gun legislation, the calls to register to vote, the assertion that this generation of students would soon be old enough to vote, to launch political campaigns and to run for office. And there was an assertion that the youngest students, middle schoolers, would be right behind them.

“I’ve always been really passionate about gun control and reform,” said Carlmont High School senior Sophie Penn, one of the Saturday rally organizers. “It’s upsetting that this opportunity is before us. I’m really glad to see all these students are really rising to the occasion.”

Carlmont High senior Sophie Penn addresses the crowd at the March For Our Lives event in Redwood City Courthouse Square on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

But less than a year from now, Penn will be in college, miles away from Redwood City and apart from the circle of friends and peers who staged Saturday’s successful rally. And within four years, so will all the other rally organizers.

“There have been a lot of historical movements that have been led by young people across this nation,” Penn said. One of her goals, she said, is to “inspire the next group coming along” of middle school and younger students, many of whom were evident in Saturday’s crowd.

Jordan Hanlon, also a Carlmont senior, said that when the demonstrations and protests die down, “I’ll still be fighting for the same cause.”

Holly Newman, one of the rally speakers, asked for a 17-second moment of silence, symbolizing the 17 students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Then she said, “The time for silence is over. We are ready to be heard and we are going to be heard. We will not stay silent and we will not back down until we succeed in making our nation a safer place.”

Will they?

Any student of national mass grassroots movements can tell you that each has struggled to sustain itself over the years, sometimes decades, it took to overcome the entrenched interests they were seeking to challenge and to change. Revolution takes time and makes people uncomfortable.

The civil rights movement, which some would argue still has far to go, was marked by dissent and disagreements between established leaders and young activists over tactics, targets and rhetoric, even as an older generation worried about incurring the wrath invited by confrontational behavior.

In the women’s movement, there were decades of dispute about the “proper” role of women in the home and the workplace, disputes still in evidence.

The antiwar movement of the Vietnam era generated mass demonstrations on a scale akin to the gun reform demonstrations. But demands to “end the war now” were also met with counter-demonstrations and an entrenched military-industrial-political establishment and the war continued for years. And the leadership of the movement was a mixed bag of idealist, sincere organizers, opportunists, and outlandish radicals who often dominated the attention of the news media.

So, why might this be different?

For openers, the students leading this effort are the best and the brightest – a generation of students taught to work on group projects and to speak publicly. The speakers at the rally, to a person, were remarkably poised, as if they had been doing this their whole lives. Certainly, it could be argued, their schooling had prepared them for this moment.

Spurred by parents and taught in classes with heightened expectations, they demonstrated a level of critical thinking and sophisticated political understanding that could not be innate but learned.

Brooke Bettinger, a 16-year-old from Los Altos High, carried a large tri-fold cardboard poster at the rally that read: “This used to be my brother’s science project but now it’s a protest sign because politicians think money from the NRA is more important than our lives.”

The antiwar movement of the ‘60s was led by a generation that had grown up with air raid drills, the Cold War and the reality that a nuclear holocaust could destroy everyone in a moment.

This generation has been going to school in the era of school shootings, campus lockdowns and a seemingly unending string of moments of silence and flags at half-staff.

“I’m part of a generation growing up knowing nothing but school shootings,” said Stefan Sujansky, a Woodside High School senior, rally co-coordinator and event emcee. “It’s far too normal. I’m sick and tired of having to watch school shooting after school shooting while politicians do nothing. … We should have a voice in how this issue ends.”

And this is a generation raised on technology and social media, armed with tools that facilitate networks of like-minded people.

One of the criticisms of social media is that it reduces our exposure to opposing points of view. But as a tool for unifying like-minded people interested in embracing a singular cause, it is unprecedented in American or world history as a means to that end.

As they prepared, the rally organizers sent out a call for speakers. Those who wanted to speak had to submit a Google form and a copy of their remarks to make sure their speech was in line with the overall message.

And everyone got the message. The words, the sentiment, the calls for action, the list of priorities were in sync with the speakers at the rally in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco and throughout the nation.

So, it could well be that this time is different – that the circumstances, the people, the means at their disposal and their facility in leading have come together at this time and this place and in a way not seen before.

Menlo-Atherton freshman Brynn Baker, standing with four of her friends in the crowd, put it this way: “Something needs to change and the adults are not going to change it. … In four years, we’ll all be eligible to vote.”

Stefan Sujansky, a Woodside High School senior, addresses the crowd at the March For Our Lives event in Redwood City Courthouse Square on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

Redwood City council votes in favor of minimum wage ordinance

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The Redwood City council voted in favor Monday of establishing a minimum hourly wage in the city.

With six of seven councilmembers voting in favor, the ordinance will establish the minimum hourly wage in Redwood City at $13.50 on Jan. 1, 2019, and will then raise the minimum wage to $15 on Jan. 1 2020. Meanwhile, the minimum wage will be adjusted based upon the Consumer Price Index, otherwise known as the cost-of-living index, every year starting in 2020.

The minimum wage will far eclipse the current federal minimum of $7.25, and outpaces California’s phased-in approach to increasing the minimum wages for all employees to $15 by 2023.

Council requested city staff explore establishing a minimum wage ordinance in June last year, then requested several months later that the city’s minimum wage reach $15 faster than the state’s.

Redwood City joins 41 local agencies nationwide and 17 in the Bay Area to establish a minimum wage ordinance. The City of San Mateo is among them, with its ordinance reaching $15 in January 2019, while Belmont’s will reach $15 in January 2020.

City staff said Redwood City’s ordinance followed a “robust outreach” campaign with the business community that involved mailing 6,100 postcards and 250 business visits citywide, among other efforts. Members on city council were among the city representatives to visit businesses in order to discuss impacts of the ordinance.

City staff found that with the increasing costs to live in Redwood City, a majority of the city’s employers already pay more than $15 per hour in order to retain talent.

One of the problems posed about the minimum wage ordinance is that by forcing wages up for the least paid employees, some businesses will have to also raise wages for employees who make more than $15. That will have an impact on the city, since the minimum wage will require it to restructure wages at a cost estimated at about $500,000. The city will pay about $30,000 for enforcement.

A second and final reading on the ordinance is scheduled for the April 9 Redwood City Council meeting, after which public outreach about the rules will begin.

Rodney Atkins coming to Redwood City

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Country music star Rodney Atkins is set to perform on May 23 at the Fox Theater at 2215 Broadway in Redwood City.

The award-winning singer who created several hit songs, including Take a Back Road, will be joined by the Brodie Stewart Band for the show scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, visit here.

Atkins grew up in Cumberland Gap, Tenn. and attended Tennessee Tech University, where he began to make a name for himself as a musician in Nashville. His career has included six nominations from the Academy of Country Music and two from the County Music Association.

Photo Courtesy of Rodney Atkins Twitter

Two people transported following two-vehicle wreck at Main/Middlefield

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Two people transported following two-vehicle wreck at Main/Middlefield

Two people were transported to a hospital following an accident Sunday at the intersection of Main Street and Middlefield Road in Redwood City.

The crash between two vehicles occurred at about 3:40 p.m. and the emergency response lasted just over an hour, according to the report.

The Redwood City Fire Department shared images from the accident’s aftermath. A cause for the crash wasn’t immediately known.

Redwood City police reported that the intersection caused traffic impacts until about 4:30 p.m.

Are you the next Mr. Redwood City?

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The third annual Mr. Redwood City competition is set to take place on April 28.

The event is hosted by Miss Redwood City/ San Mateo County and is a parody pageant that raises funds for the Miss Redwood City/ San Mateo County scholarship organization.

Mr. Redwood City will take place at the Veterans Memorial Theater at 1455 Madison Avenue from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available here.

Photo courtesy of Miss Redwood City/ San Mateo County Facebook Page

Fair Oaks Community School to close as school district grapples with decreasing enrollment

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Fair Oaks Community School to close as school district grapples with decreasing enrollment

Fair Oaks Community School is set to close after this school year due to decreasing enrollment “as Bay Area families continue to move out of the region,” the Redwood City School District announced Friday.

About 180 students and their teachers and staff at the school at 2950 Fair Oaks Ave. will transfer to one of three larger neighboring schools: Garfield Community School (3600 Middlefield Rd. in Menlo Park), Hoover Community School (701 Charter St. in Redwood City) or Taft Community School (903 10th Ave. in Redwood City).

As part of the plan, an independent charter organization that currently operates on portions of both the Hoover and Taft campuses will consolidate its operations at the Fair Oaks site, where RCSD will no longer provide services, the district said in a statement.

That transfer will allow Hoover and Taft to occupy their whole campus, the district said.

The school’s enrollment has dipped from just under 500 in the 2008-9 school year, it added.

“Families are moving out, school districts are restructuring schools on the Peninsula and throughout the Bay Area, and we are not immune to this change,” RCSD Superintendent Dr. John Baker said in a statement. “Allowing for any school with low enrollment to continue to operate means less resources and this is not something we will allow in RCSD.”

Fair Oaks families making the transition will continue to have the same services provided at the family center, along with access to after school programs at the three neighboring schools, transportation for their children for the first two years and summer school options. Incoming kindergarten families will still have the option of enrolling in the Bilingual Education program, the district said. Families who want to attend any other RCSD program or school can follow the Schools of Choice application process, the district added.

RCSD said its staff will meet with all Fair Oaks families individually to guide them in the transfer.

Fair Oaks Community School is located at 2950 Fair Oaks Ave. in Redwood City, Garfield Community School operates at 3600 Middlefield Rd. in Menlo Park, Hoover Community School’s address is 701 Charter St. in Redwood City while Taft Community School is located at 903 10th Ave. in Redwood City.

With youth football registration set to open, battle to tackle continues

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Registration for the Redwood City 49ers Football and Cheer program opens March 29.

Meanwhile, the program has more on its mind at the moment than ensuring local youth are aware about the new season.

This week, the program called for the public to sign a petition opposing proposed state legislation that would ban youth athletes from participating in organized tackle football until the 9th grade.

The legislation sponsored by California Assembly members Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) — called the “Safe Youth Football Act” — aims to protect children from brain injury by establishing a minimum age to play organized tackle football.

“This bill will follow the advice of medical professionals and allow high-contact elements from football programs only at the high school level,” according to a statement introducing the legislation last month. “This standard will prevent young athletes from sustaining long-term brain damage caused by repetitive tackling, hitting and blocking.”

In a statement, McCarty said “numerous studies have shown that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by repetitive impacts to the head sustained over a period of time and cite sub-concussive impacts as an important factor leading to brain significantly greater risk for neurological impairments and CTE later in life.”

McCarty’s statement adds that children who wait to play tackle football until high school have a better chance of “avoiding the net effects that come with CTE, including depression, memory loss and dementia,” and recommends non-contact flag football as an alternative.

The legislation is not just opposed by the Redwood City 49ers, but also by Peninsula Pop Warner, which released a statement last month calling the ‘well-intentioned” legislation “misguided.” They argue that the medical research is inconclusive, and that, that youth would be prevented from years of training and instruction in proper tackling and blocking techniques, and that youth athletes’ smaller frames than their high school counterparts results in far less hazardous collisions and impact forces.

“Peninsula Pop Warner is committed to playing the sport of youth tackle football because: (1) our parents deserve the freedom of choice regarding which sports are best for their children; (2) the sport has never been safer; (3) the medical research is inconclusive.”

Michael Wagner, commissioner of Southern California Conference Pop Warner, said most researchers have been studying a bygone era of football, a game that has “dramatically changed.”

Opponents of the legislation say no research has definitively linked long-term brain damage or CTE to participation in youth tackle football.

“The truth is that you can find research that will support just about any opinion that you want to take with respect to concussions, head safety, and CTE,” according to the Pop Warner statement.

The arguments mirror those uttered by USA Football.

“USA Football believes parents — not government officials — are best suited to discern which sports their children play,” said Scott Hallenback, CEO of USA Football.

The proposed legislation would add to AB 2127, which was signed into law in 2014 and restricts high school football programs to no more then 90 minutes of full-contact practice per day, and limits the number of full-contact practices during the season to two per week.

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