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Science building air investigated

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
October 6, 2006

SAN MATEO — The College of San Mateo’s brand-new science building has had its ventilation system re-tuned, its interiors washed and its air filtered following a complaint filed by six faculty members who said they developed respiratory problems after moving into the building in July.

Experts upgraded the software controlling the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system three weeks ago and crews completed an industrial cleaning of the building Thursday, according to facilities director Diane Martinez. Cleaners filtered the building of particulate matter after investigators found dust composed of cellulose in two classrooms, according to Bob Kuykendall of the Denali Group.

“We collected some surface samples, and the preliminary report says the materials are … like paper fibers,” Kuykendall said. “We’re going to take some additional samples from the ceiling tile — we think this is where it came from.”

Cellulose is not harmful to humans, and the fibers were too large to cause respiratory problems, according to Kuykendall.

Both the HVAC recalibration and the industrial cleaning were prompted by faculty requests, according to Barbara Christensen, spokeswoman for the San Mateo County Community College District.

“Some of the issues at CSM appear to be related to the HVAC system in the new building,” Christensen said. “We are doing an industrial cleaning of the building because faculty believe that it had not been cleaned properly.”

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still wrapping up its investigation of the building, according to associate industrial hygienist Paul Guiriba.

“We have tested the air quality, and now we’re waiting for it to come back from the laboratory to see what we have,” Guiriba said. He could not estimate when the report would be complete.

OSHA is also performing a separate investigation at Skyline College, where three faculty members working in the same building said they developed tumors, according Christensen. Representatives with that investigation could not be reached for comment Thursday.

CSM’s $28.3 million, 58,000-square-foot science building, which opened to students in late August, was paid for by the $207 million Measure C construction bond. It replaced the college’s original science headquarters, built in the 1960s.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

October 6, 2006 at 9:08 PM

City to continue citing day laborers

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
October 2, 2006

SAN MATEO — City officials are reviewing an enforcement strategy that has seen some tickets against day laborers dismissed by juries, but police say the stings have been effective and will continue for now.

Some laborers have successfully fought their tickets after an undercover police officer impersonated a potential employer, according to defense attorney Tanya O’Malley. In one such case, pursued by laborer Ramirez Lopez Sofonias, the ticket was dismissed Aug. 29 by a jury that found such practices constituted entrapment. The city attorney’s office dismissed the ticket of another worker cited in the same sting, according to City Attorney Shawn Mason.

San Mateo’s parking ordinance makes it a crime to park a vehicle in the middle of the street. Many employers who stop to pick up day laborers do not pull over. In order to discourage loitering, police have issued citations and fines since 2003 to laborers who pick up work in this fashion, according to San Mateo Police Department Capt. Mike Callaghy.

“I think they’re all entrapment,” O’Malley said. “I think [the city] knows a lot of these individuals aren’t going to take them to trial — laborers just want to pay the fine, but it’s important to fight it.”

In three other cases, two workers did not want to proceed to a jury trial like Sofonias did, and a third did not turn up for his court date, according to O’Malley.

San Mateo does not plan to appeal those decisions, according to Mason, who said his office continues to examine the claims of other laborers fighting their citations. The city is also re-examining its enforcement strategy.

“We are discussing and meeting to determine if the appropriate enforcement strategy is going forward,” Mason said.

Meanwhile, city police say the sting program is working well to keep laborers off the streets and out of danger, according to Callagy.

“These are clear-cut violations,” Callagy said. “We were seeing people running out into the street to try and get a job, and without our presence, there would probably be a lot more people on the street and a lot more people running into traffic trying to get jobs.”

San Mateo and Samaritan House launched a day-labor center in 2003 shortly before police stepped up enforcement among laborers on the streets. That center currently sees 100 to 200 laborers per day, according to Kitty Lopez, executive director of Samaritan House.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

October 2, 2006 at 10:15 PM

Groups seize 200 animals from pet store

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
August 29, 2006

The doors remained open at Laurelwood Pets on Tuesday, but there weren’t any pets, after the Peninsula Humane Society and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized 200 animals that were allegedly being kept in unclean and unhealthy conditions.

The animals seized Friday, mostly fish, birds, rodents and rabbits, were allegedly found living in soiled cages, eating from food dishes containing feces and living in fish tanks without enough water, according to PHS/SPCA lead investigator Debi DeNardi. This isn’t the first charge for co-owner Mohammed Olfat, who served 14 days in jail after pleading guilty in March to charges that he mistreated and sold sick cats and dogs.

Olfat, who would not comment on the situation Tuesday, could now face up to 90 days in jail for the latest charges, DeNardi said. His wife, Farzaneh Bique, recently assumed ownership of the pet store and was also cited during Friday’s raid.

Pet owners began calling the PHS/SPCA about Laurelwood Pets in 2003.

“They’d buy a cat and [soon after], it’s dead. He was selling these sick dogs and cats, and people were spending thousands of dollars treating them,” DeNardi said. Olfat was placed on probation and told he could only sell small animals, not dogs or cats.

Employees at neighboring businesses in the Laurelwood Shopping Center, such as Town & Country Cleaners, Jamba Juice and a liquor store, said they were not aware of any wrongdoing at the pet store, but never shopped there. Georgette Sarles, president of the Laurelwood Homeowners Association, said she avoids the store.

“He’s kind of abusive, even to customers,” Sarles said. “He’s not too well-liked.”

The PHS/SPCA, which also provides animal control services for the county under contract, has performed a number of recent animal seizures, including 50 goats at a Portola Valley farm on Saturday, 11 farm animals from Triple Springs Ranch in Half Moon Bay on July 27 and 80 rabbits from a South San Francisco home in June, according to DeNardi.

Those raids are part of a recent return to investigations of animal cruelty, according to PHS/SPCA Director Ken White.

“Before I got here [my predecessor] ordered the organization to move away from cruelty investigations because there was a financial conflict with the county,” White said. “That seemed so amazingly wrong.”

The program is now funded entirely through donations.

Statewide, there is increased interest in the well-being of animals housed in pet stores. This week, the state Senate considered a bill that would create stricter rules about how rodents and other small creatures should be cared for by store employees.

Laurelwood Pets’ animals are doing well, and should be available for adoption in 14 days, according to DeNardi. A court hearing for Olfat and Bique will be set through the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

August 29, 2006 at 10:26 PM

Memorial to mark anniversary of family’s grisly murder-suicide

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
August 16, 2006

One year after his close friend Tessa Richards’ murder, one thing still confuses 13-year-old Matthew Girouard: why her father killed her.

To this day, he longs to see her at school, misses her frequent jokes and wishes she were still rollerblading around the neighborhood.

“She was a good person,” Matthew said.

Friday marks the anniversary of the day that Anthony James Richards, 53, telephoned the San Mateo Police Department to report the murders of his daughters, Tessa, 13, Alexa, 17, and his wife, Nicole Marie Richards, 54, before turning a gun on himself. Tonight, friends and family will gather in memory of the Richards family’s lives.

“I wake up and they’re on my minds every day,” said Matthew’s mother, Carrie Girouard, a longtime friend and neighbor of the Richards clan. “It’s still so confusing — nobody will ever know why anybody would do that.”

After smothering his daughters, bludgeoning his wife and stacking their bodies in a backyard freezer behind their Maxine Avenue home, Anthony Richards wrote a note explaining that mounting financial pressures led him to kill his family, according to San Mateo police Capt. Mike Callagy, who led the investigation into their deaths. The event deeply shook neighbors, many of whom knew the Richards clan through church, youth sports and community groups like the Police Activities League.

“This was the ultimate tragic situation — a horrendous byproduct of domestic violence,” Callagy said. “The seemingly perfect family that seemed together on the outside was ripped apart on the inside.”

Their deaths have sent ripples through the community as friends and acquaintances struggled to make sense of the incident and move forward.

Officials at Bayside Middle School created a memorial garden in honor of Tessa, who would have entered eighth grade there this year. The Police Activities League collects donations in her memory that are used to help kids pursue her favorite sports — judo and deep-sea fishing, according to San Mateo police Sgt. Tim Sullivan.

Meanwhile, Alexa Richards’ MySpace page has turned into a virtual memorial, where friends continue to leave comments for the popular teen and swim-team member.

“It hurts alot, but I just try to remember all the good times,” one wrote.

Neighbors have also learned a hard lesson about isolation.

“It’s brought our little neighborhood closer. We’re always checking up on each other now,” Girouard said.

The Richards family memorial takes place tonight at 6:30 p.m. at 361 Belmont Ave. in Redwood City.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

August 16, 2006 at 10:23 PM

Posted in Crime, San Mateo

New low-income apartments planned near Caltrain station

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
August 16, 2006

A plan to build 60 affordable apartments next to the Hillsdale Caltrain station demonstrates just how difficult it can be to create living space for low-income workers on the Peninsula.

San Mateo will loan $5.3 million to the Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition to purchase land at 2901 and 2905 South El Camino Real, the current home of a Goodyear tire shop next to the rail corridor and across from the Hillsdale Shopping Center.

The San Mateo City Council on Monday unanimously approved the loan, which Mid-Peninsula Housing will use to purchase the one-acre site while it raises more money to demolish existing buildings and design and build a mixed-use site with ground-floor retail and up to 64 apartments for families, according to Mid-Peninsula Housing President Fran Wagstaff.

“That’s what it costs for one acre,” Wagstaff said. “That’s why it’s so hard to build anything.”

It is also rare for landowners along El Camino Real — one of the few regions zoned for multifamily housing — to sell their properties. When they do, agencies like Mid-Peninsula Housing often compete with condominium developers for parcels, and the buyer with the most money frequently wins, according to Wagstaff.

In 1999, the Association of Bay Area Governments recommended that the city of San Mateo create 2,437 new affordable units by 2006, including residences for low-income renters and buyers. By 2006, San Mateo had built 1,276.

“Even at the greatest theoretical densities, this project will be maybe 60 units,” said Robert Muehlbauer, San Mateo’s neighborhood improvement and housing manager. “When you compare that with the hundreds that are needed, it’s a struggle; where does the money come from?”

San Mateo’s loan was cobbled together from redevelopment agency funds plus federal and state grants for very low-income rentals. When the El Camino project is built, all of its apartments will be guaranteed to rent at below-market rates for 55 years, according to Vice Mayor Jack Matthews.

Despite the difficulty in creating such projects, the site is seen as ideal for work force housing, since it is located where the Hillsdale Caltrain station will be moved as a part of the Bay Meadows Phase II Redevelopment, according to Bay Meadows Land Company spokesman Adam Alberti.

The new multimodal station will have four tracks and pathways for easy pedestrian and bicycle access.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

August 16, 2006 at 10:13 PM

Posted in Housing, San Mateo, Transit

Brew Fest to bubble up for first time at Expo Center

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Beth Winegarner
San Francisco Examiner
June 4, 2006

It’s frosty. It’s bubbly. And it’s coming to the Peninsula.

The San Mateo County Expo Center will host its first-ever event devoted to beer, the Bay Area Brew Fest, this weekend. One of a handful of such events around the Bay Area, the festival will tickle the taste buds of thirsty brew-hounds looking for another way to enjoy beers made locally and around the world.

More than 60 breweries have signed on to participate, including San Francisco’s Speakeasy and Beach Chalet, local favorites such as New Belgium and Rogue, and Peninsula and coastal brewpubs, including Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, Santa Cruz’s Seabright and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, according to Geoff Hinds, fairs and festivals manager for the Expo Center.

Founded six years ago, the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company has made a name for itself by going to events like the Bay Area Brew Fest, according to marketing manager Wayne Meyer.

“Anytime we can reach out to the local marketplace and get them to taste our beverages, it’s good,” Meyer said. Doing that is especially important while Devil’s Slide is closed for repairs, he said, because it raises awareness for one of the brewery’s personal campaigns: the Devil’s Slide tunnel. The brewery created two beers in honor of the Devil’s Slide project: Tunnel Vision, which has since sold out, and CalTrans Brown. “It moves slowly,” Meyer explained.

The brewing company will bring a handful of its beers to the festival, including the crowd-pleasing Maverick’s amber ale.

In addition to the brews, the event will offer barbecue and other food, a NASCAR race simulator and live music. And yes, patrons will be allowed to drive the cars after they’ve been tippling.

“We would prefer they simulate driving rather than actually drive,” Hinds said. “It’s a way for them to race their friends and figure out how reduced their reaction times are.”

Local music acts It’s a Whale, Ride the Blinds, Diamond Late and INQ will perform throughout the day — and probably do their fair share of tasting, according to INQ drummer and San Francisco resident Cole Berggren.

“I plan on visiting the Anderson Valley booth and asking them why they discontinued their hefeweizen,” Berggren said. “I cut my teeth on that beer.”

The Bay Area Brew Fest takes place Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at the San Mateo County Event Center, 2495 Delaware St., San Mateo. The entrance fee — $20 in advance, $25 at the door — includes a tasting glass and 15 tasting tickets, although more can be purchased separately. For more information, call (650) 574-3247.

This story originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

June 4, 2006 at 6:46 AM

Drug plan deadline looms for the eligible

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Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
May 15, 2006

To say that San Mateo resident Martha Greenough helped her father, Larry Wenrick, save nearly $8,000 a year by switching him to Medicare’s new prescription-drug plan would be telling only part of the story.

With tonight’s deadline for thedrug plan — known as Part D — looming, Greenough sat down at her computer and attempted to navigate Medicare’s Web site, something her 78-year-old father couldn’t do. But the process was confusing, even for Greenough, a bookkeeper. So she called consultant Esther Koch for help.

“I thought if you had all your information and you could list all your drugs, it would help you,” Greenough said. “But not at first.”

Koch, who has trained dozens of companies and other groups in the Part-D process since the enrollment period opened January 1, admits the new plan is complex. It’s designed primarily to help citizens with little or no prescription drug coverage, and offers a dizzying array of drug plans, pharmacies and eligibility requirements.

Signing up starts with knowing what plan you currently have — something many seniors don’t know, Koch said. About 25 million of those eligible for Part D already have coverage, meaning they don’t need to — and shouldn’t — switch to the Medicare drug plan.

“There are some pitfalls if you do it by mistake,” Koch said. Some confused enrollees have been kicked off their current health care plans when they signed up for the new prescription-drug plan.

Likewise, low-income Medicare beneficiaries who already receive drug benefits find that if they switch to Part D, they wind up paying more for the drugs they need, according to David Lipschutz, staff attorney with California Health Advocates.

Part D’s complexities have led to misinformation. He cited a recent study that found one-third of those calling the Medicare information hot line received faulty instructions.

As it stands, those who don’t sign up by midnight tonight will not have another opportunity to enroll before November. When they do, they will be charged a penalty of roughly 32 cents for each month they weren’t enrolled, Koch said.

As of May 7, 800,000 eligible Californians had not yet signed up, according to Medicare spokesman Jack Cheevers.

Despite the complex enrollment process, many people will benefit from Part D, Lipschutz acknowledged. “There’s no question it’s helped some people. And there’s no question it’s harmed some people.”

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

May 15, 2006 at 1:47 AM

Residents take anti-gang efforts into their own hands

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Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
December 22, 2005

In the summer of 2004, residents of San Mateo’s North Amphlett Boulevard got fed up with being overrun by gangs.

They called a meeting, invited neighbors and the police and talked openly about what they’d seen and heard in their neighborhood. Then they went back to their homes and got to work, pruning grass and bushes, lowering fences, painting houses, picking up litter and painting over gang-related graffiti.

This year, due in part to those efforts, the crime rate on that stretch of North Amphlett dropped 77 percent, according to Alejando Vilchez, a mediator with the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center who helped residents and the police find ways to work together.

“It wasn’t just the police who could do the job. It really needed a community-based approach,” Vilchez said.

He helped arrange monthly meetings so residents could get to know each other and learn how to defend their homes from the violence and vandalism that comes with heightened gang activity. Police officers met with neighbors and told them where to trim bushes and add lighting for better visibility and safer streets.

“I wouldn’t say everything is perfect now, but it’s a complete turnaround from where that block was a year ago,” Vilchez said.

After three gang-related homicides struck the Redwood City area this summer, residents in several of that city’s neighborhoods followed in North Amphlett’s footsteps. In September they met with fellow neighbors, told police their fears, and asked for some serious backup.

Within weeks, the Redwood City Council voted to give $200,000 to the Redwood City Police Department to fund more police patrols for affected areas. Meanwhile, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors set aside more than $1 million for a countywide gang task force.

The Stambaugh-Heller and Palm Park neighborhoods became the focus of Redwood City’s fall cleanup effort. Residents met several more times to regroup and discuss what more they could accomplish. As they came forward regarding local gang activities, hundreds of gang members were arrested.

“For me, the dialogue has helped in bringing an awareness about gangs,” said Maria Diaz Vivian, head of the Stambaugh-Heller Neighborhood Association. “I want to say kudos and thank you to the officials for showing that if you bring something to them, they will get off their butts and do something.”

At the same time, residents have been getting to know each other, and some have put a considerable amount of their own money into a high-tech surveillance system that allows them to keep a close eye on gang activity, according to Diaz Vivian.

Having the technology is making some locals, who otherwise feared retaliation, come forward and report gang-related doings in their neighborhoods. “Some people are so frightened they don’t want to tell,” Diaz Vivian said.

The Stambaugh-Heller Neighborhood Association is the first to create a brochure teaching residents about after-school programs and activities for kids to keep them from being targets for gang recruitment. Those pamphlets also offer safety tips for locals hoping to stay out of harm’s way.

Next year, she will help create a similar countywide brochure and others for the Fair Oaks and Palm Park neighborhoods.

Vilchez and the PCRC continue to educate Peninsula residents about the signs of gang activity, from tagging to minor crimes, that emerge before serious violence erupts. He also offers ongoing workshops at local schools, particularly for Latino students.

“There is an opportunity for people to learn,” he said.

This article originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily News.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 22, 2005 at 9:49 PM

Rival gangs compete for territory, recruits

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Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
December 20, 2005

Peninsula residents may not realize it, but they’re living in the middle of two turf wars: one for their streets and another for their kids.

Hundreds of local young men and women claim fealty to two rival gangs, one with deep roots in the Bay Area — and the other seeking to move in. This year alone, tensions between those gangs, the Nortenos (Northerners) and the Surenos (Southerners), led to at least 15 homicides on the Peninsula and dozens of assaults, shootings and carckings.

Just before the violence erupted this summer, residents in many neighborhoods noted a spike in gang-related graffiti, as members “tagged” cars, walls and street signs with their individual marks: N, 14 or XIV for the Nortenos, M, 13 or VIII for the Surenos. Gang members wear these marks as well, getting their hands and bodies tattooed with numerals or dots — three or four on one hand, and one on the other, according to Redwood City Police acting Sgt. Mark Pollio, head of that city’s street-crimes team.

In both cases, the tags are a sign that a gang is staking its claim.

“It appears there are more Surenos moving into town and there’s an ongoing conflict between them and the Nortenos,” Pollio said. “Redwood City has been mostly a Norteno town.”

Violent summer
In East Palo Alto, 13 homicides had been committed by suspected gang members by the Labor Day weekend, prompting curfews for all residents under the age of 18. Three were killed in gang-related incidents in Redwood City this summer, including Victor Barajas, a 16-year-old who was killed in a retaliatory attack on Heller Street Aug. 22.

“This is essentially a low-crime area,” said San Mateo County Sheriff Don Horsley. “We don’t compare to San Francisco, but we have seen a significant, for us, increase.”

This fall, local police departments began to teach residents how to identify gangs, partly to quell fears about their activities, and partly to help parents detect signs that their children might be interested in joining.

A sudden interest in wearing nothing but red clothing suggests an association with Nortenos, blue with Surenos. For this reason, many local schools banned both colors on school grounds in the fall.

But it takes more than colors and numbers to create gang allegiance, according to police. The California penal code describes a gang as having an ongoing association of at least three members who have a common name or sign, and who engage in criminal activity. That activity ranges from drug sales and burglary to kidnapping and homicide.

Tremendous allure
People join gangs for good reasons, according to Redwood City Det. Dan Smith. Larger gangs are structured and organized, providing discipline, protection, support and friendship to youth who may feel they don’t have other options.

“Immigrant children come into our schools and have a tough time keeping up,” Horsley said. “When they fall behind, they feel there’s nothing for them. The gang is something that makes them feel important and empowered and that has tremendous allure.”

That allure doesn’t just affect youths in poor neighborhoods — there are members in Portola Valley, according to Horsley. But it does seem to be reaching younger and younger children.

“Kids are being recruited earlier, at our middle schools, both boys and girls,” according to San Mateo County probation officer Tim Gatto.

And they have an array of gangs to choose from, primarily based on territory. In Redwood City alone nearly a dozen subfactions vie for members, including the Norteno-based Little Mexico Gang, Rolison Road Gang and North Side Locas, and the Sureno-based Heller Street Boys and Carnales Locos Surenos. The Tongan Crips are also aligned with the Surenos, according to Pollio.

San Mateo offers other neighborhood-based gangs, including West Side 18th Street, West Side Tonga and the Shoreview Eastside Crips, according to Fred Haney, supervisor for the San Mateo Police Department’s neighborhood response team.

Unlike in Redwood City and East Palo Alto, gang tensions declined in San Mateo in 2005, Haney said. That city’s violence was contained to a pair of non-fatal drive-by shootings and an assault on North Amphlett, long a hotbed of gang activity in San Mateo.

“We have been fortunate,” Haney said.

San Mateo saw a spike in gang activity in the early to mid 1990s, declining in the latter part of the decade as older members left gang life and established families. Violence surged again in 2003 and 2004, but didn’t reach the levels of a decade ago, Haney said.

He attributed the decline to a truce between the city’s two major gangs, West Side Mateo and West Side 18th Street. “It’s been very effective.”

Summer spikes
Gang strife rises and falls from year to year, but also from season to season. It often spikes in the summer months, then declines as younger members return to school or full-time work, according to Haney.

This year, law-enforcement efforts put more anti-gang officers on the streets, and the county task force arrested 190 known active gang members for new offenses or parole violations, along with 44 mid- to high-level drug dealers, according to Horsley.

“We have seen a noticeable decrease,” he said. “Crime dropped 40 to 60 percent.”

Those suppession efforts will continue through the winter, according to Horsley. As existing gang members are removed from the streets, new recruits are popping up all the time, owing to their appeal as well as the way gang life is portrayed in popular music, videos and films.

“I’m not going to blame music for everything, but if you look at MTV, it glamorizes gang life,” Horsley said.

This article originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily News.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 20, 2005 at 9:53 PM

Will downtown revival leave cyclists in the dust?

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Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
July 13, 2005

As Redwood City moves ahead with plans that will draw thousands to the city, some bicyclists are wondering where those plans leave them.

This week, the City Council adopted a plan to re-stripe Jefferson Avenue between Middlefield Road and Marshall Street to make it safer for drivers and pedestrians, but some have said the plan ignores — or even endangers — bicyclists.

Proposed curb bulb-outs, which narrow the roadway and make it safer for pedestrians to cross, force bicyclists to swerve into traffic, resident David Minche said. Adding angled parking on the east side of Jefferson means cars will now be backing into traffic.

Although some have suggested that the city add a bike lane while Jefferson is being reconfigured, traffic engineer Rich Haygood insisted that won’t be necessary.

“Bicycles will be able to travel at a safe speed along with the traffic,” he said.

“I feel safer cycling in a bike lane — even on a four-lane road,” said resident Billy James.

At a June forum held by the Friends of Redwood City, traffic discussions lingered on the city’s bikeability. Many residents spoke in favor of adding more bike lanes and widening existing bike lanes.

Some pointed out that the Jefferson Avenue underpass connecting Sequoia Station and El Camino Real to the new retail-cinema complex doesn’t offer a bike route, making it difficult for residents to cycle to the movies.

However, a current map of suggested bike paths recommends Jefferson between El Camino Real and Alameda de las Pulgas.

“In reality, that’s terrifying,” said Kathy Schrenk, a member of the Redwood City Bicycle Coalition, an ad-hoc residents group consulting with the city on future general-plan amendments.

Although Redwood City does have some designated bike routes along Alameda de las Pulgas, Hopkins Avenue and Arguello Street, it suffers because those lanes aren’t connected to each other, Schrenk said.

“Things are pretty disjointed, especially if you want to get north or south on El Camino, which for some people can be pretty intimidating,” Schrenk said.

In addition to connecting the city’s bike routes, Schrenk said bicyclists need to come up with their own map of recommended routes.

Schrenk and others have been meeting regularly with city planner Gary Bonte to direct amendments to the city’s general plan, which is currently under review.

“We are trying to get more people out of their cars,” Bonte said.

Bonte and coalition members are working on ways to link Redwood City’s bike paths with each other, with routes in other cities and with the Bay Trail.

Eventually, the plan is to build a north-south commuter bikeway from San Francisco to San Jose that would connect with most of the Peninsula cities’ downtown areas, Bonte said.

Creating safe bike routes means striping the streets, erecting signs and making sure streets are in good repair. Potholes and grates that don’t pose a problem for cars are obstacles for cyclists.

It also means making tricky intersections, such as the one at Woodside and Middlefield roads, safer for bicyclists, and using traffic-calming measures to slow drivers down, Bonte said.

In Palo Alto, city officials have established a series of bicycle boulevards, striped city streets to make way for cyclists and even adapted bike-friendly signaling.

But those kinds of programs cost money, Bonte cautioned.

“We want to encourage more nonmotorized transportation. The question is, How do we get there?” Bonte said.

This article originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily News.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 13, 2005 at 8:56 PM