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Neighbors oppose plan to relocate Whipple crosswalk

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Neighbors opposed to plan to relocate Whipple crosswalk

A proposal to relocate a crosswalk on Whipple Avenue in Redwood City has upset several neighbors.

Based upon a 2017 road analysis, city staff determined that the crosswalk at Woodstock Place should be relocated to Iris Street to increase pedestrian safety. A design of the new enhanced crosswalk at Iris St. was completed early this year and advertised for construction in July 2018.

Problem is, residents living on Whipple said they only heard about the project when the city sent a letter less than two weeks ago.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, the project contract was scheduled to be awarded. Following complaints from multiple neighbors, however, no decision was made in order to allow for further public outreach.

The problem of high traffic volume and speeding on Whipple Avenue dates back several years. In 2010, neighbors fought to get additional crosswalks installed on Whipple. In 2011, two were installed on Woodstock and on Nevada Street along with other safety enhancements such as additional signage. Since then, neighbors say, there have been no major accidents or injuries in the area, and the crosswalk has been useful for students traveling to schools.

When it came time in 2015 to conduct a paving project on Whipple, public outreach led to renewed interest in safety enhancements on Whipple, according to the city. Some short-term enhancements were installed when the paving project was done in 2016. At the same time, according to city staff, consultants were hired to evaluate safety enhancements. An ensuing study looked at four locations in the area for potential enhanced crosswalks and decided having one at Iris Street rather than Woodstock was optimal.

About a half-dozen neighbors who came to Monday’s City Council meeting to oppose the plan disagree with that finding. Further complicating matters, in 2016 the city approved a permit allowing a homeowner to relocate his driveway, which now runs into the Woostock crosswalk, a probable code violation.

Photo: City of Redwood City

Views on the council race from two who stayed out

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It is often the case that the issues addressed in a political campaign disappear as soon as the ballots are counted and the subsequent term in office is spent dealing with matters that never came up.

What may be most critical, then, it could be argued, are the inherent qualities of the people elected – who they are on the most fundamental level, how they make decisions, how they learn about new issues, how they interact with others to win support and whether they can embrace new ideas and look beyond the positions they took in the campaign.

Good political leaders bring to office a determination to achieve the specific agenda they set during the campaign.

Great political leaders grow beyond their initial understanding of the job and expand their own knowledge and agendas to address not only current problems, but future needs.

This sensibility of how to lead and how to anticipate what comes next is very much on the minds of two incumbent members of the Redwood City Council who have opted to bow out of the process after nine years – Jeff Gee and John Seybert.

They certainly understand the current problems – costly and insufficient housing, congestion and traffic, development and a municipal fiscal crisis.

But their concern is what comes next and how can the city gain control over a future that is likely to be full of unexpected issues and unintended consequences.
So, when the two outgoing incumbents met with Climate over coffee in San Carlos to discuss the current campaign and the state of the city they love, their focus was not on the current roster of seven candidates seeking three seats on the City Council.

They were focused on the voters, offering advice for how they should be thinking about the election as they begin to decide who will lead the city into the next decade and beyond.

The best thing voters can do, according to Gee and Seybert, is to vote for those candidates who can look beyond the moment, who have a vision for what Redwood City should be like 25 years from now.

And look, they say, for those who can build coalitions among council colleagues, who can best work with a diverse group of local and regional leaders to address issues that are not on anyone’s agenda yet and who can reach beyond a momentary disagreement to sustain civility in local politics.

“Redwood City has always been known as a council that is looking ahead,” Gee said. “What is their vision for the city, not today, but 10, 20, 30 years from now?”

“What will it take to balance the budget in the next downturn, which will come?” said Seybert. “What tough decisions are you prepared to make?”

As an example of unintended consequences, they cite the decisions – or non-decisions — of prior councils that have contributed to today’s costly housing crisis.

“Decisions that were made in the mid-1990s are why we don’t have enough housing today,” Seybert said. “No one was building any housing.”

In 2009, said Gee, the city was the number one developer of housing, demonstrating how different the atmosphere was then, and how decisions made then could have alleviated today’s housing crisis.

Gee and Seybert were elected together in 2009 – campaigned together and have remained close friends and council allies. Each chose separately not to seek a third term on the council, Gee some weeks after he actually kicked off his campaign.

The result is a wide-open race for three council seats among a field of seven candidates with uncommonly extensive and wide-ranging experience: Incumbent Vice Mayor Diane Howard, businessman Ernie Schmidt, community organizer Diana Reddy, businesswoman/mother Giselle Hale, small business owner Christina Umhofer, university community relations representative Jason Galisatus and certified public accountant Rick Hunter.

For both Gee and Seybert, a difficult decision was influenced by a political atmosphere dominated by tweets and Facebook posts, accusations and suspicions, hints and allegations.

“The personal attacks, the drive-bys, having to put cameras on the outside of your house – it’s not worth it,” Gee said.

Even as he announced his candidacy, hanging over his campaign was a still-unresolved complaint against Gee filed anonymously with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging he had failed to recuse himself from voting on some Stanford-related projects in Redwood City that were awarded to his employer, Swinerton. The complaint alleged Gee was financially benefiting from the projects. Gee has steadfastly asserted that he behaved appropriately and that the allegations are untrue.
Nonetheless, questions of his integrity frequently were raised on local Facebook pages and sweeping assertions were made, most of them offered without a factual foundation.

For Gee, it meant a campaign with this issue ever-present and with a cadre of local residents who would have been determined to make him the central focus of the campaign.

Gee said he opted not to run because of increased responsibilities at his job, a leadership position at Swinerton that requires extensive overseas travel.

While he insists he did not shrink from the fight he was facing, it was clear that he was expecting an entirely unpleasant experience.

“Not just this race, but politics in general has been a very toxic environment,” said Seybert. “The cost of leadership is a lot higher now. It got beyond what I was willing to pay. Most people won’t run because most people can’t stomach it.”

Both of them remain alarmed at the way accusers hide behind social media.

“Some people who attack you in social media, when they see you in person, they act like it never happened,” said Seybert. He called it “digital cowardice.”

The ability to succeed in such an environment will require council members with a willingness to withstand the slings and arrows that come with the job, and look beyond the momentary passions of a particular issue.

“Leadership isn’t a popularity contest, but an election is,” said Gee. “There will be decisions a councilmember has to make that are not popular decisions.”

“What tough decisions are you prepared to make?” said Seybert. “I look for people who will make the decisions, whether they agree with me or not. … I don’t like some of the effects of the rapid growth that has occurred. They make me uncomfortable. But I’m not doing this to be comfortable today. You don’t save for college when your kids are 2 because it’s comfortable.”

Gee and Seybert have endorsed Hale and Galisatus. Seybert also has endorsed Howard. Gee said no one else has asked for his endorsement.
“I endorsed people who have what it takes to make these hard decisions,” Seybert said.

Gee urged voters to look among the candidates for those “with the ability to learn and represent the young and the demographics who are not represented. … What do they envision Redwood City to be in 20 or 30 years? What happens when autonomous vehicles hit the road.”

He called it being able to “look around the corner” to see what might be coming.

Ultimately, Seybert and Gee said, there are some essential qualities a council member must possess.

Gee called them basic skills: Leadership, values, guiding principles, vision, working well with others, knowledge and the ability to learn, a breadth of capabilities.
He said voters should be looking for council members who have relevant work experience in day-to-day finance, in borrowing and financing, in asset management, in recruiting and retaining good staff.

Gee and Seybert said that to be effective, a council member must be able to do certain things.

Can the person win over a majority of the council – can he or she get four votes? That implies an ability to work with others and, ultimately, to compromise for the greater good.

Will the candidate represent Redwood City effectively on the many critical regional boards and commissions, winning the respect of colleagues and serving as a useful advocate for the city’s interests?

Gee currently chairs the SamTrans Board of Directors and represents San Mateo County on the Caltrain Board of Directors, positions he obtained by a vote of his peers at every city council in the county.

These regional bodies make decisions that are critical for the region and, therefore, for Redwood City. A council member cannot assume that the issues facing Redwood City are unique and isolated, they said.

“The drawbridge doesn’t work,” Gee said. “We have to work together.”

And will the council member look beyond a council chamber full of angry residents to see the bigger issues that could face the city in the future?

“Can unpopular decisions be made and lead the city?” Gee asked.

“Can they do their homework?” Gee asked. “Will they come to meetings prepared? Do they believe in being a diverse and welcoming city? If so, what have they done? What nonprofits do they support and participate in? What and where and how regularly do they volunteer? Will they represent all parts of Redwood City or just a portion?”

“It’s not about who shows up the city council meetings,” Seybert said, describing the meetings as the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to council duties.

“Paying attention to social media is like running to the front of a crowd and yelling, ‘Follow me,’” Seybert said.

Redwood City police to host National Prescription Drug Take Back event

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Redwood City police to host National Prescription Drug Take Back event

In honor of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, the Redwood City Police Department is holding a prescription drug take back event this Saturday, Oct. 27.

The event is set to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Redwood City Police Substation at 2223 Broadway.

Such events are safe, convenient and responsible ways to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs.

Parents question school district about proposed cuts

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School-by-school breakdown of reorganization proposals

By Bill Shilstone

An audience of anxious and sometimes angry parents filled the McKinley Institute of Technology auditorium Monday night to hear Redwood City School District Supt. John Baker explain how they can be heard before the board adopts a reorganization plan Nov. 28.

Alternatives that include closing and merging some of the district’s 16 schools have been prepared by an advisory committee to meet a $10 million budget shortfall created by steadily declining enrollment.

Parents Monday night expressed frustration that the meeting format did not allow them to share the microphone with Baker, that there has not been enough time for their input, and that the individual proposals do not include cost-saving figures.

Baker said the figures would be made available and invited email or telephone feedback to him or board members between now and Nov. 28. He has read 235 emails so far, he said.

Monday’s feedback was in the form of comments written on post-it notes – orange for con and green for pro – pasted to poster boards mounted in the hallways, one for each proposal. “Yes. No-Brainer” for closing the district office and moving it to a school site. “Families are going to leave regardless of what you do. Create equity and use this opportunity to … create an equitable school district.” Most were written in Spanish, reflecting the district’s 70 percent Hispanic enrollment.

Monday’s feedback was in the form of comments written on post-it notes – orange for con and green for pro – pasted to poster boards mounted in the hallways, one for each proposal. (Photo: Janet McGovern)

“We’re going to come out of this better than we came in,” Baker said. “This is an opportunity to rethink how we educate our students. No matter what the decision, many will not be happy, but we are going to make it work, and your input is essential.” He then spelled out how the input will happen.

The link to the proposals is here.

The public has three more chances to weigh in at community forums, then will be able to look at and respond to Baker’s semi-final and final recommendations to the board, which will be posted with board agendas the Fridays before the Nov. 14 and Nov. 28 meetings.

The next forum is Thursday at 6 p.m. at Taft School, 903 10th Ave., Redwood City. The final two will be Thursday, Nov. 1, the first at 8:30 a.m. at Hoover Community School, 701 Charter St., and the second at 6 p.m. at Kennedy Middle School, 2521 Goodwin Ave.

The Nov. 14 regular board meeting will be a public hearing and board discussion on Baker’s recommendations. Baker then will make a final recommendation for board action Nov. 28.

“We’re going to have to find a bigger venue,” he said, looking out at the overflow audience. Police had to clear the aisles, moving people onto the stage, before Baker could continue.

Trustee Dennis McBride responded to shouting audience members by apologizing for the “less than ideal process” but said the board could not have proceeded differently and that there still is enough time for feedback.

Still time left to donate handmade items to Chase the Chill Redwood City

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Community members still have time to donate handmade items, primarily scarves but also hats, socks, gloves and more, to the fun Chase the Chill program in Redwood City.

In its third year, the charitable program collects the handmade items through the end of October. Then, in mid-to-late November, the items are hung at multiple locations around Redwood City for people in need to find and keep. The items will feature tags that read, in both English and Spanish, “I belong to no one, take me if you like me or if you need me.”

In its first year, about 400 scarves were hung up around town. Last year, that went up to 600. Organizer Jodi Paley aims to increase that number again this year.

Those wishing to donate handmade items are encouraged to drop them off at the bins at Veterans Memorial Senior Center (VMSC) on Madison. the Community Activities Building (CAB) on Roosevelt,  the Main Library, City Hall, Redwood Shores Library and Fair Oaks Community Center on Middlefield Road.

Also coming up: a Chase the Chill tagging party is set to be held at the CAB on Nov. 7. At the event, volunteers are needed to help administer the tags with the aforementioned messaging onto the donated items. The party starts at 6 p.m., and pizza will be provided.

For Chase the Chill updates, see its Facebook page here.

A Trick-or-Treat journey from licorice – to truffles?

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Gail Waldo and her Black Lick Rich Licorice (say that fast 10 times) might sound familiar to you: We featured her in our August issue’s Microclimate. We also said, “Next stop: Halloween,” and guess what, Halloween is around the corner. So as we enter the year’s “sugariest” holiday season (sorry, Easter) we want to take a deeper dive into Waldo’s licorice world; to get her thoughts on everything from why she makes such a polarizing candy to the sweet recipe she thinks everyone should be making this Halloween season (Spoiler alert: it’s not licorice).

Up until this past year, Waldo, didn’t even like black licorice. As a child, she’d abandon the black twists and beans of her trick-or-treat haul, leaving the discards for “Pop,” her father, who loved the stuff. It wasn’t until Waldo mastered her own recipe of old-fashioned, cut-plug black licorice that her taste buds turned a corner. One bite of Waldo’s candy and it makes sense. Hers is a gateway licorice. Cut into little logs not unlike elongated Tootsie Rolls, they’re rich but with a buttery, caramel flavor and texture that will convert even the ardent anise hater.

So how did Waldo come to make a candy she didn’t even like, and then commit an entire year to tweaking and perfecting the recipe? That is a blend of chance, nostalgia, and a tendency for things that are “weird.”

“I like that it [black licorice] is weird, it’s different. No one knows they can make it at home,” Waldo said. In fact, she wasn’t even looking to make black licorice when she stumbled upon the fateful link that caught her eye. It was in the sidebar while she was searching for Oreo truffles, and when she saw it, it made her think of Pop, then a mere 100 years old. She decided to give it a try. When she didn’t like the results, she set her mind to fixing it.

Meeting Waldo, it makes sense she would make an old-fashioned, “who-knew-you-could-do-it-at-home?” candy. From the outside, she is quirky and artsy; a typesetting graphic designer with blunt cut bangs and a licorice-filled zipper pouch she jokingly calls her “humidor.” She’s by no means a retro caricature, but there is an air of time traveler to her. Maybe it simply comes down to her penchant for old-timey candy — in addition to making black licorice, she used to make for Pop another vintage treat, a spicy, rootbeer-like candy called horehound. Or maybe it’s because she’s only two generations removed from the Civil War: Her grandfather was born before — yes, before — the war began. But somehow, it all comes together — her family, her creativity, her love of sweets — and it does so in a way that makes perfect sense that she would be the woman to bring to new heights a candy that only operations like Haribo and Twizzlers dare to make.

Waldo and her business partner, Ken Seydel, just started selling their caramelly rolls of black licorice this summer. Father’s Day was their first appearance at the Redwood City Farmer’s Market, an unintentional but poignant nod to Pop, who never got to try the final product. Shortly after their debut they were invited to sell at Williams-Sonoma in Palo Alto, as a part of the store’s local artisans’ program. It’s safe to say the future for Waldo and her second career as a candymaker may be black, but it is anything but dark.


Chocolate Oreo Truffles*

Adapted from

This is the recipe that started it all, the recipe Waldo was looking for when she first spotted the link for homemade black licorice. These truffles are so rich and chocolatey, it’s hard to believe that they’re made with Oreos. They’re also incredibly easy to prepare, making this a kid-friendly recipe for little goblin helpers and the perfect homemade Halloween treat!

Makes 40-50 truffles, depending on the size


1 package (1 pound, 2 oz) Oreo cookies

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature

2 (8oz) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips (or Wilton candy melts)

Optional toppings: chopped Oreos, chopped nuts, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, colored sugar/sprinkles, Heath Bar Crunch bits, etc.)


1. Line two large cookie sheets with wax or parchment paper.

2. Remove the cream filling from Oreos (this step isn’t necessary, but Waldo says it helps!).

3. In a food processor, crush the Oreos cookies into fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, you can also crush them by putting them in a zip lock bag and crushing them with a rolling pin.

4. Add the cream cheese (and the cookie cream filling, if you separated it) to the food processor (or bowl if you’re doing everything by hand) and thoroughly mix until you have a creamy dough. Make sure there are no white traces of cream cheese.

5. Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-size balls, about ¾-inch diameter. If the dough gets too soft, pop it in the fridge to chill slightly.

6. Place the dough balls on the lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 45-60 minutes.

a. The dough balls can be stored in the freezer for up to one week before being dipped in chocolate.

7. Now it’s time to melt the chocolate! You have a couple of options here:

a. If you’re using candy melts, follow the melting instructions on the package.

b. If you’re using chocolate chips, you can use a double-boiler or the microwave.

i. Double-boiler: Place a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the water is not touching the bowl. Add the chocolate to the glass bowl, stirring it until smooth and melted. Be careful to make sure the steam from the water doesn’t get into the chocolate. This will cause the chocolate to “seize,” which is what it’s called when chocolate gets grainy. Also, be careful not to overheat the chocolate. This will take the chocolate out of “temper,” which is what gives chocolate that nice snap when you break it.

ii. Microwave: Add the chocolate chips to a microwave-safe bowl. Set the microwave to either “defrost” or 10% power. Microwave for one minute, and then check and stir. If the chocolate needs to melt a little bit more, pop it back in, but only for 10-20 second intervals, stirring and checking the chocolate after each one. Again, you don’t want to over melt because you’ll take the chocolate out of temper.

8. Once the chocolate is melted, using a small fork, skewer or chopstick, lower each ball of dough, one at a time, into the melted chocolate. Once the ball is covered in chocolate, carefully lift it out of the bowl, allowing any excess chocolate to drip off (you can gently tap the fork on the rim of the bowl to help this process).

9. Place the Oreo Truffle Ball onto the wax paper. If you’re adding any additional chopped toppings, sprinkle now, before the chocolate hardens (except the cocoa powder or powdered sugar. If you’re sprinkling either of those on, wait until the chocolate has hardened, otherwise it will melt into the warm chocolate). If you’re adding any candy melt decoration (say, a drizzle of another color of candy melt) wait until the chocolate shell has hardened.

10. Once hardened, store finished Oreo Truffle Balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Keep the truffles refrigerated or frozen prior to serving.

*Hoping for her black licorice recipe? Nice try — It took a year for Waldo to perfect it, she’s not sharing those secrets anytime soon!

San Mateo County first responders pull horse from ditch

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San Mateo County first responders pull horse from ditch

A horse that ended up stuck in a ditch at San Macdonald Park near La Honda can thank the muscle of patience of San Mateo County first responders.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office released photos today from the recent incident involving the horse, named Cody, and his owner Chris Smith. The horse ended up in a “very awkward predicament” while riding in Sam Macdonald Park.

“…We found ourselves stuck in a deep ditch, unable to climb out,” Smith told the sheriff’s office. “With help from La Honda Fire, San Mateo County Rangers, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, and CalFire, Cody was safely returned to solid ground.”

Smith naturally expressed gratitude to all who helped in the effort.

“We are so thankful for the team effort made to help this wonderful animal and his family,” the sheriff’s office said.

LGBTQ+ History Month

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October is LGBTQ+ History Month, are you familiar with our local LGBTQ+ organizations?

The San Mateo County Pride Center was the first ever LGBTQ+ community center in San Mateo County. Whether seeking behavioral health services or gathering in solidarity with others to share stories, build relationships, learn, grow, and heal together, LGBTQ+ individuals and communities throughout the Peninsula have a space to call their own.

Outlet, in Redwood City, empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth and builds safe and accepting communities through support, education and advocacy. It is a youth centered organization which services support the emotional, physical, and social development of youth as whole individuals.

In support and awareness of LGBTQ+ History Month, Redwood City Public libraries created a history-rich reading list, check it out here, if you’re interested!

Redwood City’s home-based beermakers pouring tasty suds

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Redwood City’s home-based beermakers pouring tasty suds

Derek Wolfgram has two passions – books and beer. Redwood City’s head librarian – currently serving as the city’s interim human-resources director – has been cooking up homebrewed suds for nearly two decades.

It comes as little surprise that he has learned much about beer from books – most notably, “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing,” by Charlie Papazian. But it would be a mistake to cast Wolfgram as just a beer-making bookworm. A lot of the homebrewing world revolves around clubs of amateur brewers, and he enjoys the social aspect as much as his research into how to craft the perfect Belgian blonde ale.

Wolfgram, named “Mr. Sesquicentennial” in Redwood City’s recent 150th-anniversary celebration, belongs to the Silicon Valley Sudzers, one of the area’s larger homebrew organizations. He also writes a monthly newspaper column about beer for the Los Altos Town Crier. Beyond making the rounds with his beer-making friends, he says he enjoys brewing as a creative endeavor.

“Some people might be good at painting or drawing or other arts,” the 47-year-old Wolfgram says. “I guess brewing is the art that I express myself through. I enjoy the process. …The recipe-development aspect is kind of a fun combination of art and science. You get to be creative in how you put ingredients together, but there also needs to be some understanding of how things interact with each other, and what temperature you need to do things at in order to get the right chemical reactions to end up with the final product that you want.”

People who knew Wolfgram in college might be surprised by his hobby. As a student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, he was perhaps history’s only undergraduate who didn’t like beer.

“My friends all drank cheap American lagers, which didn’t taste good to me,” he explains. “Somewhere along the way, somebody introduced me to Pete’s Wicked Ale, which was a brown ale but was like nothing I’d ever quite tasted before. That sort of got me interested in beer.”

By then, Wolfgram had graduated and was living in Cleveland, where he discovered a bar that served German and English beers. From then on, he enjoyed drinking and learning about beer, but never thought about making it until Christmas of 2000. That was when his wife, Robin, got him a simple home-brew kit.

Wolfgram started making beer on his own, with ever-improving results. He learned the joys of brewing with others when in 2006 he moved across the country to become director of the library for Butte County, at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley. He and his wife didn’t have children and didn’t attend church, which Wolfgram describes as the main avenues for meeting people in the area. Instead, they discovered the Chico Home Brew Club.

“I just found all of these really welcoming, interesting people that knew a lot about beer and were interested in sharing what they knew,” Wolfgram recalls. “That sort of became part of the hub of our social life in Butte County. So when we moved to the Bay Area in 2009, one of the first things I did was look for where the homebrew clubs were.”

Living in San Jose, he quickly joined the Sudzers and has been active with the organization ever since. Historically, he says, homebrewing has been fairly male-dominated, but he describes the Sudzers as “a pretty diverse group … there are a lot of women who are really interested in homebrewing now.”

Often, Wolfgram says, brewing in Silicon Valley attracts engineers, who enjoy the hobby’s chemistry and potential for acquiring (or even building) new gadgets.

“They get into putting together the perfect system,” Wolfgram observes. One homemade device he’s seen is a temperature probe that sends a Wi-Fi signal to a cell phone, “so while you’re at work, you can keep track of how your fermentation is going on in your beer.”

Jack Stephens of Redwood City is among the engineers who enjoy homebrewing. A software designer and tester, Stephens got into beermaking in his twenties when he moved into a large group house in Los Altos Hills during the early 1990s. Stephens and a friend were seeking a communal life, and it turned out to be luxurious – with beer attached.

“It had four acres, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool and an apple orchard,” Stephens says. “The back property line was David Packard’s apricot orchards. It was a palace. One of the guys was a homebrewer, having been turned onto it by a friend of his. He got me into the hobby, and we ended up building a crazed apparatus out of 19-inch computer-equipment racks and gravity-fed, Rube-Goldberg-looking contraptions and whatnot. At that same time, because we had a four-acre place and we were renting and we were 20, we threw some bell-ringer Halloween parties. We and 400 of our closest friends, that kind of thing.”

Eventually the housemates went their own ways, but the Halloween parties continued, becoming known as the “Brew-ha-ha.” This year will mark the 25th such event, although it will be smaller (with around 100 to 150 revelers) than the originals. They’re invitation-only, but Stephens welcomes new people who have a sincere interest in beer. (To try to snag an invite, email Stephens at

Right now, Stephens says, he has six different brews fermenting in his garage. As for the hobby in general, he says, it contains four essential components.

“It’s fun, it’s as challenging as you want to make it, and it’s a social activity if you want it to be,” he says. “It’s often a lot of fun just to hang around with your brew buddies and see what you can do with a new recipe. And it’s also just the appropriate amount of quirky and arcane. Every normal activity has a specialized word, and there are weird and wonderful bits of gear. You could do it with a bucket with some holes in it, but it’s more fun to call it a mash tun.”

Getting started, Wolfgram and Stephens agree, takes little investment and only slightly more skill. Simple home-brew kits start at around $100, and a passing grade in high-school chemistry isn’t required. At the same time, prospective hobbyists should be warned that, like an old set of golf clubs, a homebrew starter kit may soon leave one yearning to invest more … and more … and more.

“It’s like any hobby,” says Jim Fortes, a retired information-technology manager from Pacific Gas and Electric and a longtime member of the Hetch Hetchy Hop Heads, a Redwood City homebrew club. “If you just kind of start out and say, ‘Okay, I’ll just play with it once in a while,’ it’s not so bad. But if you’re a guy like me, who likes to do his own stuff, you start getting involved and you start spending thousands of dollars.”

Fortes estimates he brews between 150 and 200 gallons of beer each year. His favorite: A pale ale that he describes as “a Sierra Nevada clone.”

The notion of homebrew clubs might conjure visions of rowdy, beer-guzzling folks whose behavior might reflect the name of another local outfit, Menlo Park-based Bitches and Studs Brew Club. In fact, Fortes says, homebrewers are a relatively sedate crowd more interested in sampling than swilling.

“It’s really a family kind of a deal,” Fortes says, “in that you can get together and have a good time and talk about, ‘Hey, how did you make this?’ For the most part, with homebrewing, I haven’t met anybody that I wouldn’t want to have a beer with.”

Wolfgram, who moved to Redwood City in 2016 after accepting the librarian job, has even taken beermaking off the bookshelves. His presentations on homebrewing at various libraries have attracted serious hobbyists and the simply curious. Despite his longtime interest in beer, however, he has no ambition to open his own microbrewery.

“There’s an old joke,” he says. “How do end up with a million dollars with a brewery? Start with 10 million.”

Even if he sees little commercial potential, Wolfgram still considers homebrewing a terrific hobby.

“I find it relaxing,” he says. “And there’s the social component of sharing it with not only other homebrewers, but just with friends and family. And then, of course, any hobby where the end result is that you have some great beer at home – that’s a pretty good outcome.”

Engine 12 relocated for construction Oct. 15-29

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Beginning on Oct. 15 and running through Oct. 29, Engine 12 has been relocated to a Woodside Fire Station located nearby at 4091 Jefferson Avenue due to unanticipated construction scheduled at Redwood City Fire Station 12.

The relocation will not impact public safety services. The closest active Fire Stations to Station 12 during the temporary relocation will be stations located at 4091 Jefferson Avenue and 2190 Jefferson Avenue in Redwood City.

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