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The San Bruno Fire: A Textbook Example of How Mutual Aid Works..

September 16, 2010 Living in San Carlos No Comments

A Coordinated, Rapid Response.

The tragic fire in San Bruno last week served as a perfect example of how an incident of this magnitude can quickly overwhelm the emergency resources of a small community such as San Bruno, or any other city on the Peninsula for that matter.   In anticipation large-scale emergencies, the fire departments of every city in San Mateo County work very closely with Cal-Fire and the Office of Emergency Services to develop and hone a rapid mutual aid response to assist the community in need.   You’ve seen it in action in the past few years, as strike teams from San Mateo County have been mobilized on very short notice to help battle wildfires in Southern California and other parts of the state.  It’s an amazing logistical “machine” that is the byproduct of countless hours of planning, and tons of practice.

This past week, it was San Mateo County’s hour of need.  And the response was very impressive.

Immediate Assistance.

It became evident right away to first-responders of this incident that a massive mutual aid response would be needed.   Below is an excerpt from an email that Douglas Fry, Fire Chief for the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, submitted to the San Carlos City Council.  It’s an amazing account of how quickly the team was able to mobilize critical resources in a time of dire need (reprinted with permission from the San Carlos City Council.)

‘Last night at 6:15 pm a 30” high pressure gas line exploded in the hills of San Bruno between San Bruno Avenue and Sneath Lane just east of Highway 35.  As you have all seen was a spectacular fire that burned for several hours.  I arrived at about 6:45 pm to assist with the command functions at the scene.  Some 38 houses were destroyed and 7-10 significantly damaged and several at this time are in a varying state of damage.  This was a 6 alarm event plus 7 Strike Teams (5 apparatus each) were sent to the scene – some 40 engines,  5 trucks and over 20 Chief Officers  were at the scene of this fire until approximately 8:00 this morning when we rotated crews.  We were at draw down for apparatus for several hours last night and several agencies including ours up staffed additional equipment to help the system.    At this time there are several injuries 12 at this time 4 of which were firefighters at the scene and they were transported to local hospitals for treatment.  Currently there are 4 fatalities with more expected.  Some 55 residents self transported themselves to area hospitals for treatment – at least one victim was air lifted to the local burn center for treatment – burns over 80% of her body.

We received two strike teams of engines from Alameda County (10 engines and 2 Battalion Chiefs)

We received one task force of equipment from San Francisco Fire (mixture of 4 engines and 1 truck) plus the foam unit from SFO.

We received four strike teams and one hand crew from Cal Fire in addition to  air support as well until dark. (20 engines and 40 personnel for the hand crew)

We received two OES CAL EMA Strike Teams from the Bay area as well (10 more engines and Strike Team Leaders.

Over the years we have sent lots of equipment out of San Mateo County to assist other jurisdictions – this time we were the recipient.  What a great system we have; to move that type of equipment in such a short amount of time.

In addition the department moved Truck 13 to Station 21 in San Mateo and they ran several calls from San Bruno to San Carlos in the move and cover plan.

BC Gaffney and Captain Way responded to Tanforan Shopping center to set up a staging area for the apparatus to respond to.  They were at that location from 8:00 pm last night until noon today.  Haz Mat 13 is at the scene monitoring the air to insure safety for the crews at the scene.  This event will be going on for several days and I anticipate as the weather warms up – call volume will increase.

I will be heading back up to the scene to assist with the Fire Mutual Aid aspect of the event.  As of this writing details are still sketchy, but I will tell you that San Mateo County has a fire response system that is second to none.

Douglas Fry
Fire Chief
Belmont-San Carlos Fire Dept.’

We Are in Good Hands.

Two things that I take from that amazing account of this tragedy.  First, in spite of all of the distractions that come with the budget discussions and talk of dissolution of the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, Chief Fry is extremely dedicated to this organization and is very proud of his whole team and the response that his team provided, as he should be.

Second, it’s very comforting to know that this type of response exists in our area.   In the unfortunate event that San Carlos should ever have to deal with a tragedy of this magnitude, it’s nice to know that help will be on the way… and fast.
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San Carlos School District 2010 API Scores.

San Carlos School District Shines…

Once again, the San Carlos School District showed why it has made San Carlos the destination of choice for families with school-aged children.  The district came through with stellar API scores in the latest round of testing.  Some interesting fluctuations in the Brittan Acres scores, and a huge up-tick for Heather Elementary. But regardless of these scores, you absolutely can’t go wrong with any of the schools in San Carlos.   Anyone who has been through the program at any San Carlos school will tell you that there’s so much more to the whole experience that’s not captured by a test score.

Here are the latest scores, and the comparison to last year:

API Met Growth Target
2010 Growth 2009 Base 2009-10 Growth Target 2009-10 Growth School-
wide
All Subgroups Both Schoolwide
and Subgroups








SAN CARLOS ELEMENTARY 899 896 D 3
Elementary Schools
Arundel Elementary 922 917 A 5 Yes Yes Yes
Brittan Acres Elementary 870 907 A -37 Yes Yes Yes
Heather Elementary 921 861 A 60 Yes Yes Yes
San Carlos Charter Learning Center 907 898 A 9 Yes Yes Yes
White Oaks Elementary 932 913 A 19 Yes Yes Yes
Middle Schools
Central Middle 874 872 A 2 Yes Yes Yes
Tierra Linda Middle 919 917 A 2 Yes Yes Yes

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What If San Carlos Merged With Another City?

September 13, 2010 Living in San Carlos 5 Comments

I bet that got your attention…  But as far-fetched as the idea might sound, it has been in the back of my mind ever since the wheels were set in motion to outsource our police, fire, and park services.    After all, what would happen if the cost savings we hope to achieve, and so desperately need, aren’t sufficient over the long haul?    Where else could our city leaders look to cut costs if they were faced with a prolonged stagnant or declining economy?

The answer is a bit of an eye opener.

Purge, or Merge?

I enjoy reading Bruce Balshone’s Peninsula Examiner blog.  He has a pretty sharp perspective on political topics that involve our communities — his take is usually very interesting, and he certainly seems to do his homework on the topics he covers.  In his latest post titled “Peninsula Cities Need to Merge“, he outlines the fiscal challenges that San Carlos and other Peninsula communities face, and the difficult decisions that some have already had to make just to stay afloat.

When the San Carlos City Council first tabled the controversial idea of outsourcing, their mantra was that “San Carlos would not be the only one to go down this path – just the first.”  As it turns out, they were right.   As Balshone succinctly outlines in his post, communities up and down the Peninsula are now seriously discussing merging or outsourcing critical public safety organizations as they struggle to close gaping budgets, or in some cases, simply stay solvent.

But Balshone takes this concept one step further:  Should some Peninsula cities merge entirely?

What Will San Carlos Be In 10 Years?

The inner workings of San Carlos public safety will look very different at this time next year when the Belmont-San Carlos Fire JPA officially dissolves.  In fact, I think in about 10 years the entire area will be served by a unified, county-wide fire department (think: “San Mateo County Fire“)  Heck, we’re not too far from that now.  Another possible path is that Cal-Fire will be managing a much more significant percentage of Peninsula cities. But I digress…

Looking at a much bigger picture,  Balshone postulates that some cities may be better off if they merge entirely with another community – not just police or fire.   Some cities may not have a choice.   But what about San Carlos?  What would happen if the boundary between us and Belmont or Redwood City were to disappear?   Would we be better off?   Would the economies of scale outweigh the loss of identity?   What would the end result look like?

Feel free to answer those far-fetched and hypothetical questions in the comment section below.  But in the mean-time, it sounds like it’s time for another poll:

Would San Carlos be better off if it merged with a neighboring community?

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What are your thoughts?
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City of San Carlos to Settle With Citizen Group Over Artificial Turf?

Wow… I literally did a double-take yesterday when I got my daily email update from the City of San Carlos (by the way, if you aren’t subscribed to the City’s eNotify update service, you should definitely do so.  It’s a great service.)  Yesterday’s email with the agenda for the 9/13 City Council meeting had the following bullet item:

Authorize City Manager to sign a settlement agreement with Save San Carlos Parks related to the Lower Highlands Field Renovation – Synthetic Turf Project (Item # 7j)

I thought I misread it at first, but according to Michelle Durand’s article in today’s Journal, it looks as if the City of San Carlos and the citizen group Save San Carlos Parks may be close to reaching a settlement that will resolve their long-standing dispute over the conversion of Highlands Park to an all-weather surface.

Costly Settlement

Much of the settlement seems to focus on traffic mitigation around Highlands Park, since the recent Superior Court ruling found no fault with the actual installation of the turf.  But aside from the cost of traffic modifications, the terms of the proposed settlement call for  the City to pay for the legals fees incurred by the citizen’s group — which is nearly $85,000.  And this is in addition to covering the cost of their own legal representation.

This a big ouch for a city that’s already nearly broke.   But if the settlement comes to pass, it should remove the final hurdle to complete what was started over a decade ago.
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Mark Your Calendars: San Carlos 2010 City-Wide Garage Sale..

Weekend of October 2-3.

Once again this year, San Carlos Together is organizing and hosting the San Carlos Annual City-Wide Garage Sale.  This year, the event will take place on the weekend of October 2-3, so you have plenty of advance notice to start digging through all of those neglected treasures in the deep recesses of your garage.    Look at the bright side — now you have something to do over the upcoming Labor Day Weekend!

In order to have your address included on the list that will be circulated to all of the treasure hunters, you must sign up for the City-Wide Garage Sale on the San Carlos Together website.  You can access the sign-up page by clicking here.
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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San Carlos Council Set to Approve Police Outsourcing Contract with San Mateo County.

Special Thursday Meeting.

The City Council of San Carlos will hold a special meeting this coming Thursday September 2,  in which they are expected to approve the contract which will outsource the law enforcement responsibility for San Carlos to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.   Once this vote is approved, it will officially mark the end of the San Carlos Police Department as stand-alone law enforcement unit — a status it has held since 1925.   According to this article in the Daily Journal, the transition of responsibility to the Sheriff’s Department could take place as soon as this coming October once the necessary contracts are approved this week.

This week’s special meeting will commence at 6:00 PM in the City Council Chambers, and like all other Council meetings, citizens will have the opportunity to voice their opinions.  And while Mayor Royce says he “still hopes to hear from the public” about this issue, one has to wonder why…

This one is a done deal, folks.
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Recology Prepares to Take Over Garbage Collection Duties in San Carlos.

New Collection Bins to be Delivered.

Almost is if on cue after Allied Waste’s public relations gaffe last week, Recology San Mateo County announced today that they begin delivering new garbage and recycle collection bins to residents throughout San Mateo County, starting with the City of San Mateo this week.   If you weren’t aware, Recology will take over they garbage and recycle collection contract from Allied Waste for all of San Mateo County starting on January 1, 2011.  Today’s announcement is the most visible sign of the upcoming transition.

What’s in Store For San Carlos.

There will be some positive changes for San Carlos residents when Recology takes over the helm next year.  First, Recology will be issuing brand-new, wheeled garbage containers to each household.  This will make it much easier to get trash to the curb each week if you have one of the old-style cans.  Second, they will allow residents to combine ALL hard recycled material (glass, cans, paper) into a single, wheeled container.  No more sorting!  There will be a third bin for compost and food scraps, just as before.

Here’s a very informative update that was released by Recology today regarding the transition over to their system, and most important, what to do with your old recycle and garbage bins:

San Mateo, CA – August 30, 2010 – This morning marks the beginning of Recology San Mateo County’s phased delivery of 276,000 new Recycle, Compost and Garbage carts to residents of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority (SBWMA) service area (i.e., Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, Unincorporated San Mateo County and the West Bay Sanitary District) with deliveries first starting in the City of San Mateo. A total of 92,000 homes, or an average of 1,200 homes per day, will receive the new wheeled carts over the next three and half months. The delivery schedule is as follows:

San Mateo: Aug. 30-Sept. 21
Redwood City: Sept. 22-Oct. 12
San Carlos: Oct. 13-Oct. 22
Menlo Park: Oct. 25-Nov. 2
Belmont: Nov. 11-Nov. 17
Foster City: Nov. 18-Nov. 24
Burlingame: Nov. 25-Dec. 1
East Palo Alto: Dec. 2-Dec. 7
Hillsborough: Dec. 8-Dec. 10
Atherton: Dec. 13-Dec. 15
West Bay Sanitary District: Dec. 16-Dec. 18
*Unincorporated San Mateo County residents will receive their carts based on the cart delivery schedule for the neighboring city.

The new carts will be delivered the day before a resident’s regular plant material collection service day.

As of January 1, 2011, Recology San Mateo County (formerly Norcal Waste Systems of San Mateo County), will provide recycling, compost and garbage franchised collection services to all Residential, Multi-Family and Commercial customers within the 12 Member Agencies of the SBWMA. Allied Waste of San Mateo County’s franchised collection agreements with the 12 Member Agencies expire December 31, 2010.

Residents will receive three new, wheeled carts: A new black Garbage cart in the size of their choosing, (20, 32, 64 or 96 gallon), 64-gallon single-stream blue Recycle cart and 96-gallon green Compost cart, with the exception of Hillsborough, whose residents will continue to use their current green Yard Trimmings carts.
In June, most residents living in single-family homes were mailed a Garbage Cart selection brochure that included their current garbage service level and assigned Garbage Cart size, along with the option of changing their assigned size by July 9th. Responses were only needed if a different size cart was wanted other than the one assigned.
>>> Click Here to Read the Full Post

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San Carlos Garbage Pickup Delayed by Allied Waste Strike

Got Garbage?

If Wednesday or Thursday is your normal garbage pickup day in San Carlos, don’t be surprised when you get home from work today to find the garbage that has been stewing in your garbage can during the heat wave is still there.  A labor dispute between 12 clerical workers and Allied Waste management has resulted in picket lines at both the Ox Mountain facility in Half Moon Bay and the San Carlos Transfer Station.    The result?  Drivers aren’t crossing the picket line, and YOUR garbage is still sitting in your front yard.

Thanks, Local 350…

According to this article in the Half Moon Bay Review, the strike was organized by Robert Morales, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 350 — the union that represents local Allied Waste Employees.   The strike is expected to last 48 hours, meaning you’ll be lucky if they get to it by Friday.   The reason for the strike?  Here’s the kicker, straight from the paper:

Morales said his union has been working with Ox Mountain to get equal pay for the dozens of women in the clerical units and to negotiate their pension contracts. But there has been a stalemate so far, says Morales, because the company is “negotiating in bad faith.”

Pension contracts for clerical workers?   That’s why your garbage is rotting in your front yard in 100-degree heat.   Sorry for my lack of compassion, but most people I know don’t have the luxury of ANY pension, and are simply thankful to have a job.    We call that a “recession”, Bob.

So, if you’re thrilled with the stench in your front yard today (and likely tomorrow), give Robert Morales a call up at good ‘ol Local 350 – he can be reached at 650-757-7290.  I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.

Unions and pensions…enough, already.

UPDATE:  A revised pick-up schedule was just released by the City of San Carlos:  Garbage Schedule
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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Hey San Carlos, What Do You Think?

Which are your favorite sushi restaurants in San Carlos? (You can vote for 2)

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