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Redwood City Starbucks manager forced from store in DV incident

in Crime/Featured/Headline by

More details have been released about the Nov. 1 kidnapping arrest at a business on El Camino Real initially reported by the Redwood City Police Department.

San Mateo County prosecutors say Santos Estrada Jr., 36, of Redwood City, went to the Starbucks at 1900 El Camino Real about 9:15 a.m., grabbed his estranged wife, who is the store’s manager, from behind and forcibly pulled her out of the store.

Outside, Estrada grabbed her cellphone to keep her from calling police, then threatened to kill her in a stream of curses despite her pleading with him to stop, prosecutors said.

“He dragged her 50 feet to his car which was running and threw her in the passenger seat,” prosecutors said.

As Estrada circled the car to get into the driver’s seat, the victim grabbed the key from the ignition, then ran back into the store. Co-workers who witnessed the incident called 911, but Estrada had fled on foot before police arrived. About two hours later, he was arrested at his Redwood City home, where he “was seeking help from his family to be transported out of the Bay Area,” prosecutors said.

At the time, Estrada was on probation for domestic violence. He and the victim have been married 13 years with two children but were separated. She had filed for divorce, and also had a restraining order against him, prosecutors said.

Estrada remains in custody on $500,000 bail. He was set to appear in court today to enter a plea and set a preliminary hearing date.

Latest elections results, San Mateo County

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Giselle Hale, Diane Howard and Rick Hunter remained the top vote-getters for the three open seats on Redwood City Council following the latest release of election results on Tuesday, with all three widening their leads in the race since results were last unveiled on Friday.

But one full week after Election Day, many more votes remain to be counted in this all-mail voting pilot in San Mateo County.

As of today’s release of results, a total of 144,100 votes had been counted out of 271,704 that were cast in San Mateo County, according to figures posted by county Elections officials reporting on the total number of ballots received as of the Friday deadline. That means roughly 47 percent of the votes cast countywide have yet to be tallied.

The significant number of yet-uncounted ballots has left several races still undecided.

That includes the race for three seats on the Redwood City Council, where Hale, Howard and Hunter find themselves in a stronger position in the latest count. Hale is the top vote-getter at 5,937 votes, 165 votes ahead of Howard, who is 486 votes ahead of Hunter. But the number of votes separating Hunter and the fourth-place candidate, Diana Reddy, is only 134 votes.

On social media, the Hunter campaign took note of how close the election is and advised supporters to stay tuned for the next release of results, scheduled for the end of the week.

Fifth place finisher Christina Umhofer, 705 votes out of third place, also offered similar advice to her supporters on social media.

Sixth- and seventh-place finishers, Jason Galisatus and Ernie Schmidt, respectively, issued statements last week acknowledging that they were going to fall short of winning one of the three seats.

What hasn’t gained much ground in the latest results is Measure W, the half-cent sales tax increase to fund transit and transportation projects. The measure inched up slightly from 65.6 precent to 65.83 percent since the last release of voting tallies. The measure requires two-thirds approval to pass.

The release date for the next round of results will take place Friday, Nov. 16. To view the county’s Nov. 6 election results, click here.

San Mateo County History Museum writes new page in Redwood City history

in A&E/Featured/Headline/Uncategorized by
San Mateo County Historical Association requests community stories related to COVID-19 pandemic

By Janet McGovern and Brian Douglas

The history of San Mateo County government in Redwood City has been a bit of a love/hate relationship. The jails, the bail bondsmen, the halfway houses, people complained, arrived courtesy of county government. Sure enough, so did scores of county workers to eat in Redwood City restaurants and shop at stores. On the other hand, when they went home at night, the sidewalks rolled up. But that’s history, really.

Anyone who’s arrived during the last 10 years would have to consult history to learn about “Deadwood City” and the time before the seat of county government emerged as the Peninsula’s entertainment and culture butterfly. And irony of ironies, the Cinderella transformation owes very much to a partnership among county government, the city and its redevelopment agency to repurpose the landmark San Mateo County Courthouse for a history museum fronting on a central plaza.

“I like to think of us as being at Ground Zero for that,” said Mitch Postel, the president of the San Mateo County Historical Association, which runs the museum that occupies the former courthouse. “When we moved in in 1998, it was pretty lazy around here.” He took a walk on a recent Thursday night and was stunned by how crowded downtown was. “We really did play a part to help downtown Redwood City to be as vibrant as it is now…

“In 2019, we will have been open to the public exactly 20 years,” he continues. The history museum was “a very willing and able partner, never questioned the mission and were right there in the corner when the city needed us.”

Built in 1910, after the 1906 earthquake devastated the latest prior courthouse, the spectacular domed edifice faces the Fox Theatre on Broadway, architectural and cultural bookends in a still unfolding story of change, rooted in history.

What to compare the courthouse with? Not much survived after 1906, certainly not major public buildings. There are some splendid private residences, including the Filoli Estate in Woodside and Ralston Hall in Belmont. South San Francisco has a beautiful, though smaller city hall, and San Francisco’s is impressive too but on a much larger scale.

“I can’t think of anything other than the City Hall of San Francisco that can compare,” says Ken Rolandelli, who has long been active in historic preservation in Redwood City. “For a community such as ours to have something that looks like this does is quite a source of pride.” People come from all over to attend concerts on Courthouse Square, he adds, and “Redwood City is really a happening place because of it.”

What a difference a few decades make. Not that long ago, visitors to the old courthouse came to pay traffic tickets and property tax bills or to arm wrestle in Small Claims Court. Today, they’re drawn by concerts, art shows and festivals outdoors and indoors to the museum’s exhibits, research archives, lectures, school tours, Victorian teas, as well as a gift shop that offers discounts during certain events. Museum space is also rented for weddings, receptions, dinners and other private parties. (San Mateo County owns the courthouse, as well as two other offsite historic locations that the historical association operates, Sanchez Adobe in Pacifica and the Woodside Store.)

Almost 40,000 people visited the museum and archives last year, and the other sites and outreach pushes the total to nearly 60,000. Thousands of school kids from all over the tour the museum.

The Day of the Dead celebration held every year on the first Sunday in November brings out more people to the museum than any other event in the year. Now in its eighth year, the “Día de las Muertos” celebration has grown from 500 to more than 3,700 celebrants who toured the old courthouse last year, according to Carmen Blair, the museum’s deputy director. The event is cosponsored with Casa Círculo Cultural, and with the Redwood City Library and the Parks & Art Foundation.

This year’s celebration will be on Nov. 4 and will begin with a procession down Broadway to Courthouse Square, where food purveyors and vendor booths will be set up. Music and dancing add to the festivities as well as a chalk mural. Then from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the courthouse will be open for children to do crafts in the rotunda while other visitors can see a display of altars in the ceremonial Courtroom A; the altars will remain on display for the following week.

Former Redwood City Mayor Barbara Pierce has just completed a term as chairwoman of the historical association board. The city, she notes, has a large population of families from Mexico and the event “really helps to bring a whole new set of people to the museum and to downtown who might not otherwise.” The high-quality celebration “really honors their tradition,” Pierce says, adding that last year, 2,000 people came through the museum in two hours.

Originally affiliated with what was then called San Mateo Junior College, the historical association got its start in 1935 and created a local history “museum room” in 1941. It moved around within the downtown San Mateo campus until a 6,000-square-foot space was created in 1959 in the new College of San Mateo campus overlooking the city.

By the late 1990s, meanwhile, use of the historic courthouse for trials was winding down. In 1939, a space called “the Fiscal Building” had been added to the front of the building for an expanded office workforce and the stately columns were torn down. An addition to the rear of the structure on Marshall Street was built in 1941. But with the post-World War II growth of county government, more office space was needed and the eight-story Hall of Justice was built in 1963, followed through the years by additional county buildings and a new campus on Tower Road in San Mateo.

In 1998, the museum moved to the old courthouse in Redwood City. That was the good news. The bad news was that the annex buildings were still occupied by county office workers, which meant that the entrance to the museum was not through the front door facing Broadway, but through a side door on Hamilton Street.

The needs of the museum and the renaissance of downtown converged to create what led to the restoration of the historic courthouse, a revitalized museum and a great public plaza. However, making those pieces come together took a lot of heavy lifting by dedicated people.

Rolandelli was part of a committee that was formed to restore the courthouse to its original splendor and create a public plaza that would replace a lawn and simple pathway. The task was daunting enough: relocate the county employees along with removing the three-story Fiscal Building without damaging the historic courthouse structure. Then faithfully reproduce the original columns, façade and wide stairway from photo archives and create a plaza that was contemporary yet would complement the classic courthouse architecture.

Fundraising for the restoration project had its own challenges, especially after the stock market bubble burst, but between funds from redevelopment, foundations and passing the hat, the finances worked. An unforeseen problem originated in Sacramento, where the head of the state architect’s office was an enthusiast for works that President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration had created. That presented an obstacle to dismantling the Fiscal Building.

As a compromise, the committee agreed to save a fresco in the front lobby that had an historic Art Deco image. Rolandelli and other committee members agree that for Redwood City and San Mateo County, that was a battle well worth winning. In 2005, work began to demolish the Fiscal Building, restore the original courthouse façade and construct the plaza. The following year, the city celebrated the opening of Courthouse Square.

That’s not to say the Fiscal Building didn’t have its good points or its fans. Rolandelli recalls that Jean Cloud, another pioneer in historic preservation efforts, “didn’t want to see it come down.” The WPA structure “was actually quite nice. It’s just unfortunate that they stuck it in front of the courthouse. … The overriding factor was that (the removal in 2005) was going to uncover the historic gem behind it.”

Not only did the demolition open the entrance to the courthouse, it allowed for the creation of Courthouse Square, where events take place almost year-round ranging from concerts to a salsa festival and from an Oktoberfest to corporate events. On most Tuesday evenings, the Redwood City Improvement Association lights up the courthouse exterior with a changing 3D light show.

Working in collaboration, city and county governments invested about $20 million in restoring the landmark courthouse for the museum, including seismic repairs and upgrades to the structure and to the stunning stained-glass domes in the atrium and in Courtroom A. The county continues to maintain the structure and currently has crews working to restore the deteriorating sandstone exterior walls. The museum gets an annual $200,000 subvention from the county, which also provides electricity, gas and water services.

Museum officials take justifiable pride in the fact that it has been accredited since 1972 by the American Alliance of Museums. Accreditors go “measure everything about you,” Postel says, from financial reports, governance, standards of exhibitions, care of the collections, compliance with rules for nonprofits and more.

“It’s not easy to get accredited,” he adds. “There are about 40,000 museums in America and only about 1,000 are actually accredited. It’s so rigorous that a lot of museums don’t go through it.” During the transition from CSM to downtown, it wasn’t easy, he recalls with a laugh. “It was a horrible time to be reaccredited. We were still cleaning up all the dirt from construction. We moved in too soon. One of the things you have to do if you are a museum is you have to be really clean.” But accreditors knew “we were really trying,” he says.

A 2011 report by the AAM’s visiting accrediting committee offered high praise for the historical association for maintaining “a commitment to high standards during a period of unprecedented growth and change for the organization.” A reviewer was struck by “the spirit and drive of the staff” and board members seemed actively engaged, focused on the future and results-oriented. One of the “inspiring” highlights for the visitors was meeting leaders of the active and committed volunteers, including docents and people who raise funds at a used bookstore.

The reviewers also took note of the fact that the majority of the budget comes from private contributions and earned income, and comparatively little from public funds, a validation of the level of commitment from the board and support from the community. Of the total 2018-19 $1,588,500 budget, about $550,000 comes from the annual campaign and corporate and foundation support and another $200,000 from the annual San Mateo County History Makers dinner.

Where some small museums “get a bit too bogged down in the minutiae of little stuff,” Postel says, “I think we do a better job than most history museums in putting our story in context of the larger themes of Western and American history.” In planning the exhibit space, care was taken to show the county as a microcosm in a larger narrative – the story of native Californians, the impact of the missions, immigration and so on – as well as what in San Mateo County history is unique.

Caltrain, for example, operates on a rail corridor that dates back to 1863-64 and was the first commuter railroad west of the Mississippi. The first bit of highway constructed for the automobile was built between San Bruno and Burlingame, according to Postel. Then, of course, there’s the story of Silicon Valley and the entrepreneurs who pioneered in electronics, biotechnology, internet and other leading-edge endeavors.

Many displays include interactive aids to provide more depth as well as hands-on involvement. Young visitors to the Journey to Work gallery are encouraged to ride in a stagecoach, weigh gold, send a telegram and drive a streetcar. Nearly every gallery includes tangible material to recreate an historic experience. Visitors can experience what it took to pack a person’s worldly possessions in a shipping trunk. Or choose to interconnect stones just as workers had done to build the Crystal Springs Dam.

The county’s shipping legacy is celebrated in the Charles Parsons’ Ships of the World exhibit where remarkable ship models he made are displayed. (A fun fact: The San Carlos was the first ship to sail into San Francisco Bay.) The gallery also presents murals and artifacts of some of the great sailing ships that wrecked on the county’s rugged coast along with the original Fresnel lens from the Montara Lighthouse that later helped sailors avoid disaster. The museum also celebrates Redwood City’s legacy as San Francisco Bay’s deep-water port, the port’s importance to the city’s growth and its continued contribution to commerce.

From the beginning, immigration has played a major role in the county’s development and that dynamic is celebrated in the Land of Opportunity exhibit where people from all parts of the world have made the Peninsula one of the most culturally rich in the nation. Colorful costumes of early settlers present a striking display.

Silicon Valley technology has been a dominant economic force in the county and the History Makers exhibit takes a tour through recent history and showcases the entrepreneurs and other business people who made a major impact. On one of the exhibit’s walls, a static mural timeline of entrepreneurs will soon be replaced with two large flat screens to bring contemporary, dynamic life to that space.

One of the newest exhibits celebrates the county’s fame in the surfing community. No, not just web surfing, but riding the giant waves at Mavericks Beach, just north of Half Moon Bay. Visitors start by stepping on a surfboard near a big window overlooking the plaza and Fox Theatre. From this perch, it’s possible to imagine that this 40-foot perspective is what Mavericks surfers experience when they begin their amazing descent. Then one can take a few steps into a high-tech surfing interactive display, mount a surfboard and choose a wave to ride.

A large video screen interacts with foot manipulations on the board to negotiate down a selection of waves, safely make it through a passage with rocks on either side and dismount. The virtual experience lets visitors test surfing skills without getting wet.

Courtroom A is a destination for museum visitors as well as a popular space for special events. Like the domed rotunda, this large courtroom was restored to its 1910 origins. Superior Court Judge George Buck, whose portrait hangs on the wall, presided there until 1932. In fact, cases were heard in the historic courtroom until 1998.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe’s roots are deeply connected to downtown Redwood City and its courts. His father had considered going to work for a big law firm in San Francisco but a judge in the historic courthouse urged him to practice law in San Mateo County. He did — for five decades. Steve began his career at the DA’s office in 1975 when it was located in the old courthouse and he was sworn in as district attorney in Courtroom A.

The famous courtroom is still used for ceremonial events such as swearing in new judges. During most regular museum hours, visitors can sit at the bench, named in honor of retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who worked in the county’s district attorney’s office after graduating from Stanford Law School in the early 1950s.
“The museum has grown over the years just like Redwood City has grown,” Pierce says, “and it just keeps getting better and better. And there are wonderful plans for the future.”

Lathrop House, one of the Peninsula’s oldest mansions, built in 1863 by Benjamin Lathrop, San Mateo County’s first clerk, will be carefully moved to the back of the courthouse where Hamilton and Marshall streets intersect. The house currently sits on land on Hamilton Street opposite the Hall of Justice, where the county has plans for constructing offices and a plaza. The historic house was last moved in 1905 from Broadway, where the Fox Theatre now sits. Back then, the movers placed logs under the structure and pulled the big house with horses.

Redwood City resident Dee Eva, a member of the historical association board who has been involved with the plans for the relocated Lathrop House, says a company which specializes in historic properties will be handling the transportation job.

“It’s a clear shot,” she says. “They will pick it up, move it forward onto the street, then they are going to pull it down the street in the same orientation a couple hundred feet across Marshall Street and then just back it up and put it on the lot.” The interior furnishings have been removed and stored in containers for the moving date, which has slipped several times. A new foundation and utility work still need to be done before Lathrop House can move to its new home behind the museum.

Rolandelli had had his doubts about how moving the house might affect its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. But at a meeting in May in Palo Alto, the state Historic Resources Commission said the status would be unimpaired, which took care of that concern.

Eva, who has been advocating for a Redwood City history museum for several years, says two interior walls will be taken down to create space for a gallery where city memorabilia and artifacts can be exhibited. Realtor John Shroyer, who has a collection of bottles and ephemera, will provide the first display. She and Pierce say the move should prove beneficial because Lathrop House will be open more often because of the connection with the museum.

“I think it’s the crown jewel of Redwood City historic properties,” Eva says. The house will be illuminated in such a way that it will look dramatic and “really shine.”

According to Eva and Historical Association President Postel, plans are also in the works for a new carriage house to showcase the 30 mostly Brewster era (1810 to 1905) carriages that have been stored in the museum’s 5,000-square-foot warehouse. The carriages that came to the museum once belonged to Lurline Matson Roth, who owned the Filoli Estate. Plans call for a two-story structure next to Lathrop House at the corner of Marshall Street and Middlefield Road. The proposed design would create an open-air rooftop space that could be used for gatherings such as small weddings, parties and corporate events. Postel says many private collectors own carriages and vehicles that could be displayed too.

More immediately, there are plans to have a natural history gallery and redo the immigrants and entrepreneurs galleries, he adds. After 34 years on the job, Postel says his enthusiasm is undiminished. “I am having so much fun,” he says. “It’s great to work here, just with a terrific staff and the volunteers have always been the best group of volunteers.”

Ready to make some more history.

Redwood City nets $100,000 grant for traffic safety patrols

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Date/Time: 03/10/2019 0433 hours Suspect: Scott Thompson (In-custody) Location: 2380 El Camino Real On Sunday, March 10th, 2019, Redwood City Police Officers responded to the Capri Motel, room #220, on a report of subject who called “911” to report she was "hurt really bad." Officers responded to the scene, and located the victim, who was bleeding profusely from the head. The victim told officers she had been assaulted by Scott, and he fled the scene. Officers located the suspect walking northbound El Camino Real. The suspect was identified as Scott Thompson, 36 years old. Thompson was subsequently arrested for attempted murder and booked into the San Mateo County Jail. The victim was transported to Stanford Hospital for non-life threatening injuries. Anyone that may have additional information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Redwood City Police Department at 650-780-7100 or the Redwood City Police Department’s Tip Line at 650-780-7107. This message approved by A/LT Casey Donovan

A $100,000 state grant will mean more DUI saturation patrols in Redwood City, along with additional patrolling of intersections where pedestrian and bicyclists are most often involved in collisions.

The Redwood City Police Department announced today it has received the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) grant to implement a year-long enforcement and public awareness program. The grant is part of an ongoing collaborative relationship between Redwood City police and OTS, and a “key component in our efforts to improve traffic safety in our community,” Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland said.

In 2019, the grant will help fund checks for seat belt and child safety seat compliance, patrols targeting speeding, red light and stop sign infractions and traffic safety education programs for youth and community members, among others.

A guide to surviving pumpkin spice season

in Featured/Food/Headline by

If pumpkin is king this time of year, then pumpkin pie spice is the dark overlord. I say this as someone who actually likes the sweet, warm marriage of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It’s soothing, cozy, and delicious. But let’s be real: it’s everywhere. Thanks to Starbucks, what was once a McCormick spice blend bought once a year now spices up an entire season. If it can be baked, drunk or sniffed, it comes in pumpkin spice.

But what if you don’t love pumpkin spice, or what if you just need a break, a little variety? Pumpkins, after all, don’t have to be limited to sweet pies and nostalgia-inducing lattes. They can be bright with zests of ginger and lemon, have a little kick with cayenne. And did you know that pumpkins can also be paired with cheese? Think feta, Gruyere, and Parmesan. But maybe you just need to go full detox on pumpkin and pumpkin spice. Don’t despair, there is hope for you, too.

If you can relate, I have two recipes for you. The first is a new favorite of mine, a vegan pumpkin soup. Don’t write this one off because it’s vegan: It’s creamy (yes, even without dairy), savory, and perfectly filling. Sure, it incorporates pumpkin and some cinnamon and nutmeg, but since it forgoes the heavy hand of cloves and allspice, you can rest assured this is not a pumpkin spice soup. You can play around with this recipe too, adding the aforementioned pumpkin-friendly ingredients — ginger, cayenne — you know the drill. Sprinkle it with some cheese, or better yet, serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches. What’s important here is it will fill your house with a delicious aroma that doesn’t evoke a sense of bonfire by Yankee candle.

The second is for the true anti-pumpkin-ites: butterscotch pudding. A classic, but overlooked flavor, this recipe is without even a sprinkle of cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg, making it as far from an overplayed fall dessert as you can get without bringing a kumquat soufflé to the party. (Note: I actually don’t know if that exists, but I can promise you if it does, save it for later). This pudding has the sweetness of caramel but since it’s made with brown sugar instead of white, there is an extra, molasses-y layer of complexity. And while it might be tempting to rip open a box and mix with milk, this recipe is so easy, it’d be a shame to take that shortcut. The little extra effort to make it from scratch will be rewarded with a dessert that is richer, creamier and more decadent than anything that started as a powder. This is a great choice for all the desserts, from Halloween to New Year’s.

Simple Pumpkin Soup
Time: 15 minutes prep, 1 hour cooking Serves: 4

• One 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree
• 2 diced medium shallots (yield ¼ cup)
• 3 minced garlic cloves (yield 1 1/2 Tbsp)
• 2 cups vegetable broth (DIY or store-bought)
• 1 cup light coconut milk (or substitute other non-dairy milk with varied results)
• 2 Tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar (or honey if not vegan)
• 1/4 tsp each sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg

1. Dice the shallots and the garlic (use a garlic press if you have one).
2. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat add 1 Tbsp olive oil and then add the shallot and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes,
or until slightly browned and translucent. Turn down heat if cooking too quickly.
3. Add remaining ingredients, including the pumpkin, and bring to a simmer.
4. Transfer soup mixture to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree the soup. If using a blender, place a towel over the top of the
lid before mixing to avoid any accidents. Pour mixture back into pot.
5. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes and taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Adapted from

Butterscotch Pudding
Time: 20 min prep time; 3+ hours chilling time Serves: 4

• ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
• teaspoon fine sea salt
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 ½ cups whole milk
• 2 large egg yolks
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium heatproof bowl and set aside. You’ll be pouring your hot pudding through the
sieve to make for an extra-smooth pudding.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine dark-brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream,
and egg yolks; add to saucepan and whisk to combine.
2. Whisking constantly, cook over medium-high until mixture thickens and is bubbling, 8 to 12 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low
and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Don’t overdo it here, but do not skip that last minute as it will help cook off any cornstarch flavor.
3. Remove pan from heat and pour mixture through sieve into bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla until combined.
4. Press plastic wrap directly against surface of pudding to prevent skin from forming and refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 3 days).
To serve, whisk until smooth and divide among four small bowls.
Adapted from

Redwood City firefighters report Camp Fire pet rescue

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Redwood City firefighters' Camp Fire pet rescue

News about the deadly Camp Fire’s destruction have been utterly devastating. Twenty-nine people have died, three firefighters have been injured and over 6,700 homes and businesses have been destroyed so far in the massive, fast-moving Butte County wildfire, CalFire officials reported today. The deceased were recovered in or near Paradise, a town of about 26,000 that is almost completely destroyed. As of this morning, the fire had grown to 113,000 acres and was 25-percent contained.

Amid the mounting tragedy and the grim search for additional victims, Redwood City firefighters on Sunday shared hopeful images of a rescue. Firefighters joined a San Mateo Strike Team 2276A last week to assist at the Camp Fire. During their work against the fire, they came across seven dogs and a litter of cats without food at an evacuated home.

“We teamed up with this type 3 crew from Cal Pines, collected the kittens and fed them all…happy pets,” the Fire Department Tweeted.

The department also shared a brief video clip of the U.S. and California flags still raised above the city of Paradise on Veterans Day on Sunday.

Unfortunately, these are but small wins in a wildfire that has caused deep losses.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the families that have lost so much,” San Mateo County Firefighters Local 2400 posted on social media, adding, “We are proud of all the men and women of San Mateo County that have responded to the devastation and hope and pray from their safe and speedy recovery.”

To find out how you can help, visit this useful report from the Sacramento Bee.

Photo courtesy of the Redwood City Fire Department

Olympic swimmer to hold clinic in Redwood City

in Featured/Headline/Sports by
Olympic swimmer to hold swim clinic in Redwood City

Olympic gold medalist Nick Thoman is set to lead a swim camp in Redwood City for children ages 9 to 13.

The two-day, four-session swim camp will take place Jan. 5-6 at Bay Club Redwood Shores, 200 Redwood Shores Parkway, according to Fitter & Faster, which is holding the clinic.

The Cincinnati-born Thoman held the world record in the 100-meter backstroke from 2009 to 2015 and won several medals in the 2012 Olympics in London, including a silver in the 100-meter backstroke and gold for his participation in the 4×100 meter medley relay.

“He will be in the water teaching four sessions, each with a distinct curriculum,” organizers said.

To view prices for the clinic and to register, click here.

San Mateo County manager’s retirement brings on a next round in leadership

in Community/Education/Featured by

By Don Shoecraft

History tells of a 1930s-era San Francisco administrator, “The Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang,” whose first word to subordinates and supplicants was “No,” usually followed by profanity. At the other side of the divide are administrators who say only “Yes.”

These extremes produce disasters, the first when public services collapse and the second when the public purse runs dry.

For nearly three decades San Mateo County has lived in a golden mean on that spectrum, where authority and responsibility waft the corridors of the county government center as a vaporous atmospheric, where “Maybe not, but what if we…” seems to have replaced the ineluctable “No.”

John Maltbie has been the wizard conjuring the spiritual substance of San Mateo County government for 25 of the last 28 years, by any measure a success, a smashing success considering that the average tenure of a California county manager is four years.

Most telling is that he retired in 2008 only to have the board of supervisors ask him to please come back three years later — no reflection on Dave Boesch, his successor, who resigned.

This month Maltbie says it’s really over. He’s retiring for good since his wife, Greta Helm, also is retiring from her job as Senior Advisor for Business Development and Innovation at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority; the retirement home they bought at Serrano in El Dorado Hills is completely remodeled; and he’s selling the family home in San Jose, which, as he is wont to note, is a block-and-a-half from the house he grew up in.

Not so coincidentally, both houses are on golf courses, but more on golf later.

It is not fair to say Maltbie tapped his successor, Michael Callagy, first because he was not involved in the recruitment of his replacement; second, the board of supervisors, which did make the selection, includes no puppets of the county manager; and third that would grossly undervalue the gifts of Michael Callagy, which are startling.
Here’s how it happened.

Years ago the county court system recruited a new Chief Probation Officer. The selection committee narrowed a field to two finalists: John T. Keene, Jr., then deputy chief of the Alameda County Probation Department, and Callagy, assistant chief of the San Mateo Police Department.

The committee asked Maltbie to interview them both, see what he thought and make a recommendation. Both had “unique characteristics that would be advantageous to the court,” Maltbie said. “And I told them whichever one you don’t hire, I’m going to hire.”

Keene got the probation job. Maltbie hired Callagy as his deputy.

On his hiring five years ago, first as an assistant and then deputy on the retirement of Mary Macmillan, he and two other deputy county managers became de facto candidates to succeed Maltbie, but if there was a “tapping” of Callagy to be The One, it dates to then and has become a steady drumroll.

He is a third-generation Californian — named for his San Francisco-born grandfather — who grew up in the St. Francis Heights in Daly City. His father, Pat, and mother, Dolores, were active in community affairs, fought for causes, helped out at the church festival and politicked for council candidates. The family name became known in county political circles.

Mike Callagy’s father moved his bookkeeping business to Belmont; the family, intending to move, enrolled him at Serra High School in San Mateo to aid the transition. It was a sacrifice financially he hasn’t forgotten, nor has he forgotten the long school days commuting from Daly City to San Mateo and back on SamTrans buses, a jitney and BART.

Callagy had a career goal: “Believe it or not it was to be a district attorney prosecutor.” He figured a good start would be to learn the law from the ground up by becoming a cop. He got the first job he applied for — with the San Mateo Police Department — and then earned his bachelor’s at Notre Dame de Namur University.

His prized assignment at the PD was undercover narcotics, which he “absolutely loved” because of the lives Callagy believes he was able to influence, particularly during the crack cocaine epidemic. “People have come back and told me I really helped them.”

Meanwhile, Callagy enrolled at Santa Clara University to earn his law degree, working a midnight shift in San Mateo, catching five hours’ sleep and making the run to college in Santa Clara.

After passing the bar exam, he practiced law on his days off from the police department. Then he went back to Notre Dame for a master’s degree in public administration and was commencement speaker at his own graduation.

He became the go-to guy in the department to work with District Attorney Jim Fox. It wasn’t exactly district attorney prosecutor, but it was close. Callagy had met his goal.
He headed a year-long local-federal investigation dubbed “Operation Bad Neighbor” and broke up an extensive human trafficking ring, worked restraining orders, domestic violence cases and ones that gave him the greatest gratification, homicide cases where he litigated for victims who could not speak for themselves. He committed himself pro bono, on his days off, and still get works up thinking about those cases.

“I cherish that time,” said Callagy.“Many colleagues became friends, like (former prosecutor and current District Attorney) Steve Wagstaffe. If he were still prosecuting cases, I could be deputy police chief helping him.

“But 30 years went by.”

During which time he notched a singular qualification — a master’s degree in Homeland Defense and Security from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, known locally as “Spy School.”

And during which time Callagy matriculated from the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, a 10-week course of professional study for U.S. and international law enforcement managers who demonstrate leadership ability.

In every instance he describes himself as lucky to have been able to participate and glad to have had the opportunity to draw from the experiences of qualified and capable people.

Important people took notice of Callagy.

Adrienne Tissier, a former county supervisor, dates their acquaintance to her time as a Daly City City Council member. He was a prime mover in the Mid-Peninsula Boys and Girls Club’s drive to build a clubhouse and community center in Redwood City. The two groups met to see if Mid-Pen was interested in expanding to the Bayshore neighborhood. Callagy impressed Tissier.

She also interviewed candidates for the Chief Probation Officer’s job and sat in on Callagy’s. “I knew him, but I hadn’t worked with him,” Tissier said. “He just interviewed beautifully. I said, ‘Whoa, we’ve got to hang onto this guy.’ He’s just extremely sharp.”

Carole Groom, a supervisor who did have a vote to hire Callagy, knew his mother. They both served on what was then called the Easter Seals Society board and another fundraising nonprofit called the Crippled Children’s Auxiliary, “a terrible name but at the time that’s the group that raised all the money.”

Having served on the San Mateo City Council, Groom also shared history with Callagy in his role as assistant police chief. Her assessment: a quick study, a people person, honest, with a sense of purpose, confident in his skills, which are diverse and well-documented. “You always knew he was going places,” Groom said.

As the incoming county manager, Callagy will inherit the building. Even better, he seems to respect the architect.

John Maltbie has worked in the same first-floor county manager’s office bullpen in the oldest building in County Center in downtown Redwood City, a place pretty much as it was 25 years ago.

When Maltbie took the job he gave every department head a book entitled “A Great Place to Work.” Last month he and Callagy helped a department put together a performance preview whose strategy was “A Great Place to Work.”

“Over the years it’s resonated,” Maltbie said. “…We’ve always seen the employees as the real resource of county government. They’re on the front lines day-in and day-out, making things happen, serving the public, and we need to invest in those folks.”

During his tenure, Maltbie has managed some strange reporting relationships. He’s had two elected heads of departments formerly answerable to him elected to the board of supervisors, making him answerable to them (former Sheriff Don Horsley and former Clerk-Assessor-Recorder Warren Slocum). And the reverse: Former supervisors Tom Huening and Mark Church became elected county officials (respectively Controller and Clerk-Recorder-Assessor).

Maltbie has been chief administrator to board members who moved on to higher office: former Assemblyman Rich Gordon, current state Senator Jerry Hill and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. It’s a heady list of officeholders who have had and continue to exert strong influence on county government.

He also leaves a powerful legacy in public administration on a more personal level.

Son Jeff Maltbie is San Carlos City Manager. Daughter Jayme Ackemann, formerly communications manager for SamTrans and CalTrain, is corporate communications manager for San Jose Water. Jeff’s spouse, Shawnna Maltbie, is interim city manager of the City of Daly City.

John Maltbie says his children had their own talents and they found their own way, but both argue differently. As a child Jayme occasionally went to work with him, counted paper clips, went to lunch, to meetings and spent an afternoon in the office, “way before Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” she said.

“That was my inspiration, spending days at work and seeing women in the workplace doing incredible things. Dad always lifted up and affirmed women around him and he certainly did that for me as a kid. He may not be everyone’s hero, but he was mine.”

Jeff had two favorite TV shows growing up, the Electric Company and the Milpitas City Council meeting cablecast. His dad was Milpitas City Manager and he could see him on TV before going to bed. “Dad’s behavior had everything to do with it,” Jeff says of his career choice.

Turns out even the Maltbie children knew Callagy back when. Jeff calls him “very Kennedyesque in his thinking, a good guy.”

Lots of people say the same thing about his father.

“He was fair,” Congresswoman Eshoo said, “a good listener and, very important, he has a good sense of humor. At the core of him he has a deep regard for government and what it can do.”

And that core is golf.

His father, Archie “Lin” Maltbie, was a lifelong golfer and member at San Jose Country Club which, as it turns out, is where that family home was located and where the “block-and-a-half-away” home John has lived in for 30 years is also located.

The Maltbies, were — Archie died last June at age 90, having shot his age more than 45 times — and are, brothers John and Roger, fine golfers. For John it’s an avocation, for Roger a vocation as a former PGA Pro Tour champion who today is a television golf commentator.

The golf course is also where John Maltbie learned a critical life lesson at a young age.

“I had a great teacher, my first teacher,” he said, “a guy named Eddie Duino, the head pro at San Jose Country Club. “He was of a generation that knew, grew up with and played against Hogan, Snead, those guys.

“One day I was out playing and I had moved a ball or something and I didn’t count the stroke. He called me in after the game and said ‘that was a penalty you should have called on yourself.’

“He said ‘Golf is just like life. If you cheat at golf you’ll cheat at anything, because you’re cheating yourself.’

“I think that’s true,” Maltbie said. “There’s a lot of aspects of golf that are like life.”

Mike Callagy, it should be pointed out, also plays golf.

This article appeared in the October edition of Climate Magazine.

Photo: Mike Callagy on bottom left, John Maltbie on right.

Redwood City School District superintendent’s proposed cuts revealed

in Education/Featured/Headline by
School-by-school breakdown of reorganization proposals

By Bill Shilstone

A new round of layoffs and plans for converting Taft Community School on 10th Avenue to a model campus with a new name, new vision and new program have been added to Supt. John Baker’s proposals for reorganization of the Redwood City Elementary School District.

A public hearing on the proposals will be held Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Fox Theatre in downtown Redwood City. The district’s five trustees will act on them Nov. 28 at Sequoia High School’s Carrington Hall.

Baker’s recommendations, detailed on the meeting agenda posted on the district web site, include the closing of Fair Oaks, Hawes and Orion, the closing of Taft for two years while it is remodeled, and the merging of the Adelante and Selby Lane bilingual programs at Selby Lane, with Adelante closing.

The closings save $3.6 million of the $4 million the district must cut next year to begin dealing with a $10 million budget shortfall caused by declining enrollment fueled by the drain of three charter schools and by families escaping the high cost of Peninsula living.

The layoffs will complete the $4 million cut for next year, Baker said in his written presentation to the board. He noted that the district has made $13 million in cuts since 2008 as enrollment has dived, down by 1,700 students since 2011 to its current level of about 7,600. Cuts included 120 teachers, resulting in larger class sizes, and 20 percent of district office staff, he said.

The recommendations all take into account the marked underpopulation of nearly all the district’s 16 schools. The numbers, compiled early in the fall, may have changed slightly, Baker said.


Kennedy (6-8)     1,680 706                      

Hoover (K-8)        1,470 681                     

Selby Lane (K-8)   1,290 740                    

Clifford (K-8)         1,110 558                    

Roosevelt (K-8)     1,110 581                      

Taft (K-5)                1,080 331                

Garfield (K-8)         1,020 570                    

Roy Cloud (K-8)         990 718                 

Fair Oaks (K-5)           960 221              

Henry Ford (K-5)        780 377                 

McKinley IT (6-8)        720 408                

John Gill (K-5)              660 288           

North Star (3-8)           630 536             

Hawes (K-5)                  570 301           

Adelante (K-5)              550 464             

Orion (K-5)                    270 211          

Total                          14,890 7,691           

Here is how Baker’s proposals would affect each school:

Taft: Closes for two years, then reopens in 2021 with an “innovative, academically rigorous program serving a culturally and socioeconomically diverse population.” In the interim, students to go nearby Garfield or Hoover.

Orion: Moves to John Gill, sharing the site with the Mandarin/English immersion program.

John Gill: Current students have first priority to stay as part of the Orion parent participation choice option.

Adelante: School closes and its students move to Selby Lane to join 250 bilingual program students there.

Selby Lane: 460 students not in the bilingual program move to other schools.

Fair Oaks: School closes and students move to nearby Garfield or Hoover.

Hawes: School closes and students move to Roosevelt.

Roosevelt: Absorbs students from Hawes and John Gill.

Garfield and Hoover: Absorb Fair Oaks and Taft students.

Kennedy: Absorbs middle school students from Selby Lane.

Clifford, Roy Cloud, McKinley Institute of Technology, North Star Academy and Henry Ford: Not affected.

All current and incoming students at closing or merging schools will have priority in the district’s Schools of Choice program.

No determination has been made on what will happen to the closed-school properties.

The district office will close and move to a vacated school sometime in 2020, Baker said, saving $1.6 million a year. Other projects for the near future are a review of the K-8 vs. K-5/6-8 configuration and a study of the role of North Star Academy, the district’s accelerated-learning choice.

The proposals are designed in part to take advantage of the most popular choice programs, including Roosevelt’s project-based learning, by giving them room to expand and possibly attract more students. Baker said he is looking into the possibility of providing transportation to the schools of choice.

From Italy to Redwood City with Strings Attached: The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra

in A&E/Featured by

By Jane Lodato
Photos by Erin Ashford

From behind the double doors of an annex to the Veterans Memorial Senior Center comes the disembodied whiff of music that can’t be – but it is – right out of “The Godfather.” Or is it back to Sorrento that this river of lush and romantic sound carries off someone who’s only gone out to walk the dog — and come within earshot of the Aurora Mandolin Orchestra?

Every Wednesday evening, musicians from as far away as Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley gather to rehearse — strumming and plucking and picking the strings of instruments shaped like long-necked wooden spoons. The mandolin sometimes is also described as being shaped like “a teardrop,” which makes a lot of sense given that mandolin music is so moving. The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra’s 30 members – both professional and amateur musicians — play mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion.

The orchestra is a bit of a hidden treasure in the city where it landed in 1970 under the leadership of the Gino Pellegrini, the late husband of the current director, Josephine. The Aurora orchestra was originally founded in North Beach in the 1930s, at a time when there were only a handful of small mandolin clubs around the country. In 1939, the Aurora played at the Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island.

Things in the mandolin world are going stronger than ever today. There are 40 registered mandolin orchestras in the United States, and the number grows each year; this local old-world classic orchestra has managed not only to survive but to thrive. The Redwood City-based Aurora is the largest and remains the oldest group of its kind in Northern California.

The mandolin has a distinct, high, sweet, blissfully romantic sound which is produced by playing tremolo with a plectrum (pick). The pick is much like the bow on the violin. It is soothing, somehow comforting, even therapeutic.

“Many who listen to us play comment that they feel as though the music transcends them to faraway places,” says Josephine Pellegrini, affectionately known as Jo, who is the joyful, inspired conductor, artistic director, and consummate leader of everything Aurora.

“It is a delicate sound,” adds Bob Rizzetto one of the ensemble’s dedicated musicians, who is a welder by day. Rizzetto alternates between playing his flatback mandocello and roundback mandolin, occasionally treating the audience to a spontaneous serenade while the orchestra warms up. The enchanting sound is one that is never forgotten. “If you are exposed to it, it will take,” adds Rizzetto.

Matt Vuksinich, a busy ER doctor, grew up in Redwood City playing the mandolin. Vuksinich has played with Aurora for 15 years. Why? “I get rejuvenated and have a lot of fun.” But for him, it is more than this. “In a way it is a tribute to the great players who have taught me and since died. They were famous to us,” Vuksinich adds with obvious affection. The Aurora keeps alive the heritage and tradition of the Italian masters who settled in North Beach: Gino Pellegrini, Lorenzo and Frank Andrini, Matteo Casserino, Rudy Cipolla and others.

Several of the orchestra’s regular “gigs” are out-of-town, but the group performs at least once a year at the Veterans Memorial Senior Center, including for a Valentine’s Day dance.

The Aurora is invited back every Labor Day weekend to play at the Belmont Greek Festival, and in September presented a crowd-pleasing “round the world” repertoire that ranged from Neapolitan favorites like “Arrivederci Roma” to Astor Piazzola tangos, augmented by star arias from two opera singers. Another popular annual performance is at the San Francisco Library in the Koret Center, which often sells out, taking place this year on Dec. 1.

How an orchestra built around an instrument that evolved from the lute family in Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries managed to get transplanted to Redwood City – and to have lasted so long — is a story in itself. Fittingly, it involves romance – and the passing of batons. It was a love story that launched this charming, skilled, old-world mandolin orchestra.

Jo Pellegrini, who has boundless energy, is about to celebrate her 80th birthday. She was raised in New York by immigrant parents. Music was a big part of her daily life – with family and friends joyously gathered nightly to play and sing.

Growing up, it was “music, always music,” she explains.

Widowed at 37, she was left with three children in college. To support them, she worked in a music studio on Long Island, teaching piano. Her boss was a consummate mandolin composer and aficionado.

When he passed away, Jo was asked to receive a plaque on his behalf at music convention. It was here that she met the charming Gino Pellegrini, whose presence could not be ignored.

A recent widower, he lived in San Carlos. And though Jo was in New York, Gino decided then and there that he needed to know her. A visit promptly followed. An accomplished pianist, Jo shared her talent and her cornucopia of musical instruments, prompting her future husband to declare “You are the gal for me.” Thus began his seven-year cross-country pursuit.

However, she was solely focused on getting her kids through college. Love letters began to arrive. They were written in Italian, and Jo’s mother translated. “Who is this guy? How old is he?” mom wanted to know.

“I have no clue. But he is incredible,” Jo replied.

Seeing that she owned a mandolin, Gino taught her to play over the phone, endlessly giving her pointers. He had honed his own mandolin skills by playing with all the Italian greats who, like him, had immigrated to North Beach.

Her kids encouraged her. “Mom, this guy is amazing. Go for it,” they said. For the woman who would become Mrs. Pellegrini, in the end, it was “the music that attracted me so much. We’d just sit in the kitchen and play duets.”

They married in 1994.

Jo Pellegrini joined the Aurora Mandolin Orchestra, which her husband led. “He was a virtuoso as far as I was concerned,” she says. When he died in 1990, the orchestra members implored her to step in.

Jo Pellegrini reluctantly agreed, never having led an orchestra. When asked if she was nervous, she laughs. “I was shaking. I shook. I couldn’t even talk. I don’t write anything down I don’t know what I am going to say.

“All these fellows were in the original Aurora – all men, mostly Italian. Years ago, women were not allowed to play. Their wives did not want women in Aurora.”
“I like to play music that is appealing to the public,” says Pellegrini, whose idol is André Rieu, leader of the famed Johann Strauss Orchestra. “I like to see the audience reaction. I think about how to make it fun. Will I play it like the music says to, where we are supposed to repeat? No, that is boring.”

The San Carlos resident makes it even more fun by engaging her audience. “This song is about romance,” she tells them. “It is about the kiss. Who doesn’t like romance? Who doesn’t like the kiss?” She smiles and adds, “But don’t get any ideas.”

Under her leadership, utilizing her creativity and ingenuity, Pellegrini has expanded the thriving Aurora’s diverse repertoire into unusual musical terrain for a mandolin orchestra. The Aurora is renowned for delighting all ages with its choices – from classics like “Begin the Beguine,” “Return to Sorrento” and “Zorba the Greek” to show tunes, folk music, opera arias and, of course, traditional mandolin music from the past. Pellegrini brings in talented guest musicians and dancers, in addition to opera singers.

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra welcomes people of any age and any level to come, at no cost, to their weekly, rehearsals on Wednesday evenings in the Sequoia Room annex at the senior center in Redwood City. “Our rehearsals are fun and the people we have are much like family,” adds the beloved matriarch, who is known to bring her biscotti and other homemade delights to share.

Says Pellegrini: “My goal is to continue to perform, educate, persevere and perpetuate this unique musical art form. … I’m grateful and proud that my husband’s musical legacy prevails through the support and commitment to me by all the members of Aurora. Gino would be proud!”

Indeed, he should be.

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