Setting the Record Straight
The City of Redwood City puts a top priority on providing accurate, up-to-date information to the community. This is true of the materials we distribute through our various means, such as news releases, email blasts, social media, and our website.
When media or others publish information that may have factual errors or information which is not entirely accurate, we strive to correct them; this page will be dedicated to doing just that. We'll provide factual information and clarifications about City procedures, practices, and activities, as well as corrections that we have requested from the media.
If you know of something that's been published about any of Redwood City's many issues and activities, please feel free to let us know by sending us an email and we'll follow up.
February 18, 2014
Dear forbes.com Editor:
I would like to take this opportunity to clarify some erroneous compensation information reported in the February 7, 2014 forbes.com opinion piece, “Hundreds of California Government Employees Are Paid Over $400,000 a Year.” Not one Redwood City employee earned more than $400,000 a year in 2012.
The article significantly overstated 2012 compensation packages for Redwood City employees. Contrary to this opinion piece, no Redwood City employee earned more than $400K. Furthermore, the correct number of employees earning more than $300K is 28, not 33 as stated in the op ed. Of the 28 employees who earned more than $300K, the majority were career police officers and fire fighters who participated in our Exit Incentive Program – which was aimed at doing exactly what the op ed author suggested is needed in California – it reduced the City’s long term compensation and pension obligations by facilitating turnover while we implemented reduced pension and benefit programs for existing employees and new hires. The Exit Incentive Program was the main driver in the higher earnings we saw in 2012 – the year the Public Policy Institute reviewed.
We understand why the author reported the inaccuracies. The data on 2012 compensation that the City initially provided to the media reported exit incentive retirement payments in two columns. When added together in the author’s calculation of total compensation, this resulted in a double counting of the exit incentive payment.
The Exit Incentive Program was part of a set of strategies, along with salary freezes and a reduced retirement benefit, negotiated with our labor groups to achieve lower, more sustainable labor costs over the long-term. Because of these strategies, the City’s budget is structurally balanced and our long-term obligations are reduced.
The article suggested that our compensation system will be the equivalent of a fiscal meltdown for the City, but now that accurate data and additional background information have been provided, we hope the readers will have the full picture as it relates to our City’s financial situation. Finally, the article also infers that elected officials aren’t aware of the compensation paid to employees. Our City Council was very involved in crafting these programs and guiding staff through the City’s budget balancing process. Furthermore, the community also had access to this information, as the discussions and decision-making took place in noticed, public meetings throughout 2010 and 2011.
Thank you for this opportunity to correct the salary information and tell the full story.
December 17, 2013
Dear Editorial Staff of the Redwood City Patch,
We are writing to you today to share accurate information in response to a December 9th blog about the Inner Harbor Plan. The blog erroneously asserted that the Downtown Precise Plan cost $250,000 and that the Inner Harbor Project has been underway for only 6 months. The City actually spent approximately $2 million on the Downtown Precise Plan and we have been working on the Inner Harbor Project for several years – since the adoption of the City’s 2010 General Plan update.
The approximate $2 million the City spent on the Downtown Precise Plan includes costs associated with planning and environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). To date, we have spent approximately $800K on the Inner Harbor Project. Significant investment is needed for large scale projects, not only to thoroughly review the environmental impacts, but to also fully realize the most beneficial land use that best serves Redwood City residents.
The Inner Harbor Project is important to our community. The planning for this project got underway with the adoption of Redwood City’s 2010 General Plan which included vision and policy for establishing a vital harbor center as well as land use guidance for marina and mixed use waterfront neighborhoods. It is our goal that careful planning and proper environmental review will help us to realize the potential of the Inner Harbor as a community as it did with Downtown. Because the Inner Harbor is close to the Bay, the environmental review is even more complex than the Downtown area. We have ongoing Inner Harbor Task Force meetings to continue to formulate what is the best use of this land, to answer the question, “how can the Inner Harbor serve the greatest community good?”
Unfortunately, not everyone considers what land use will serve the greatest community good. The blog author, Ms. Tania Sole, has a specific land use interest. Ms. Sole resides at Docktown and has a self interest in establishing a floating home community.
To find out more about the Inner Harbor Planning Process go online. http://www.redwoodcity.org/phed/planning/innerharbor/
The next Inner Harbor Task Force meeting will be 7pm on January 14, 2014 at the Seaport Conference Center, and we hope you and your readers can join us.
September 26, 2013
The City feels it necessary to “set the record straight” on comments made by a resident who, without a permit or inspection, installed a sewer connection from a boat at Dock Town to the City’s sewer line.
During the September 23, 2013 City Council meeting, Ms. Tania Sole stated to Council that the City had not provided her adequate notice before and after the City disconnected her unpermitted sewer “tap in” from her boat to the City’s sewer system. These statements are erroneous.
In response to the erroneous statements, the City would like to “set the record straight” by sharing the following two letters. These letters provide documentation of the City’s attempts over the past several months to communicate with Ms. Sole that the City would need to remove her improper and unpermitted “tap in” connection from her boat to the City’s sewer line.
July 23, 2013
An opinion piece and letter to the editor concerning the City’s purchase of a new fireboat were published recently in the Daily News. This is an important public safety issue, and so some clarification is appropriate.
The City takes extremely seriously the use of taxpayer dollars, whether at the local, state, or federal level. When we utilize grants (in this case 100% of the cost was covered by a Homeland Security grant), we make every effort to ensure that the investment is properly and wisely used – and we only pursue grants for resources or materials that we feel will have a significant positive impact on the community.
With this new fireboat, we will have the ability to better respond to water emergencies in all weather conditions; we’ll be able to use the newest technology to locate vessels in distress; and we’ll enhance our firefighting capabilities both on the shoreline and on the water. That means better, faster, and more effective protection and ability to fight fires on or near the shoreline, whether housing, businesses, or boats. This gives us the ability to attack fires from both land and water, which is of great benefit to the community.
As recent events both in Redwood City (6-alarm fire) and the greater Bay Area (SFO jet crash) have shown, it’s impossible to predict when a fire or other emergency will occur – but it’s abundantly clear that having sufficient equipment and resources to respond to such emergencies and save lives is of the utmost importance. Redwood City's new fireboat will be available for mutual aid response to emergencies in other communities on the Bay, enhancing the overall safety and disaster preparedness for the region, especially in the event of a major disaster. As the only fireboat in the southern San Francisco Bay, this will be a key element in emergency preparedness for our community and for our neighboring communities as well.
The fireboat does not require 24/7 staffing - existing fire staff will be trained to operate the boat and activate it when needed, making it an effective and efficient use of resources. This fireboat brings a new level of disaster preparedness to the region, and the ability to respond to both water and land-based emergencies, and that our community – and the rest of the region – are well-served by having this resource available and ready to respond.
June 21, 2013
Editor, Redwood City Patch:
In response to a recent Patch letter to the editor concerning the City's management of Docktown, I’d like to offer some information and clarification which will help everyone to better understand the City’s efforts.
First, it’s important to know that Redwood City is working on both short- and long-term approaches to Docktown, and to the entire Inner Harbor area (the area on the bay side of Highway 101 from Docktown to the Malibu Grand Prix Raceway, and north-east to the edge of the existing businesses in the Seaport Centre area).
As part of our short term efforts, the City (like any landlord) first needed to get an accurate, up-to-date record of the current boat slip tenants at Docktown. We also focused initial efforts on developing agreements with them to replace the previous month-to-month leases, to provide a greater level of certainty for all parties.
Over the course of the last few months, the City has had an interactive and productive dialogue with the boat slip tenants concerning the terms of the new agreements, and we continue to modify those terms - balancing the interests of both the boat slip tenants and the City. Many of the draft terms mentioned in the letter to the editor were for initial discussion, and which the City has since modified to best meet the interests of everyone involved. For example, the draft language that there is a limit of two persons per vessel has been removed.
To address immediate needs for the facilities, the City has made numerous improvements to the marina: improving security, removing abandoned vehicles, improving lighting and electrical services, repairing docks, and paving the marina entry, among other physical efforts. We also hired a marina manager to maintain the day-to-day operations, maintained boat slip tenant access, and provided a dependable source of services from the City's Public Works Division.
The City will continue to work with the boat slip tenants on certain terms and conditions of the one-year agreements with the ongoing goal of providing the safety, security and well-being of the marina, and the entire community.
Looking to the long term, the Inner Harbor area as a whole offers a unique opportunity to enhance our community, both locally to that area and for greater Redwood City, and to do so we’re embarking on a community-based “visioning” process for the Inner Harbor area, including Docktown. The end result will be the creation of an Inner Harbor Specific Plan, laying out the scope and general guidelines for what the City and the community envision for the area. Such a long-term “blueprint for the future” is important to help guide our activities there over the course of the next decades in a smart, thoughtful manner. We anticipate a Plan will be created in about a year, and Docktown boat slip tenants have an important voice in that process.
The City continues to work with the boat slip tenants in good faith and with the best intentions, has taken into consideration and implemented many of their ideas for the agreements, and is providing for improved and safer facilities. And, in the true Redwood City tradition, we have initiated a process with our community for envisioning the future of the Inner Harbor area for the benefit of all of Redwood City.
Robert B. Bell
June 11, 2013
Recently one of the tenants on a live-aboard boat at Docktown, Ms. Tania Sole, has publicly complained that her illegally-installed connection to the City’s sewer system should be allowed to remain in place. The City would like to offer some clarification of this situation.
For the vast majority of the boats at Docktown, waste disposal is via pump-out service by the City. There is only one sewer connection to the marina, and it already has four boats connected to it. It should be obvious that it is not sound policy to allow people to make connections to the City’s sewer system without proper permitting, inspection, and safeguards as performed by the City. Yet that is exactly what occurred in this case. If such a precedent were set, we would potentially see a surge of non-permitted, unregulated connections, threatening the ability of the City to ensure safe, reliable sewer service, and endangering the health of our waterways and the bay. Additionally, City-connected sewer customers pay a monthly fee for that service, a fee which is not being paid in this instance.
There are a couple of reasons that a City-connected sewer system has not previously been installed by the landowners or the former manager. First, the live-aboard tenants have been operating for decades under month-to-month leases, and this uncertainty makes it difficult to justify that level of capital investment. And second, the community has not yet engaged in the long-term “visioning” process to determine the future for the entire Inner Harbor area, which includes Docktown. The City is beginning work on that process, which will result in the Inner Harbor Precise Plan. Decisions on such significant issues as new sewer connections should be based on the public discussion and full scope of information that will inform that Plan – in other words, such decisions should wait until the long-term future of the Inner Harbor area and Docktown is determined.
In the meantime, it is neither prudent nor good public policy to allow for new “under the radar,” unpaid sewer connections to the City’s system.
For the background on the City recently assuming management of Docktown, making improvements to the safety and security of the facilities, and ensuring continued access for the live-aboard tenants, please see this news release.
March 27, 2013
At several recent City Council meetings, there have been comments made by some members of the public, concerning Redwood City’s efforts to provide for affordable housing. We want to take this opportunity to provide a more complete perspective on this critical issue.
First, it’s important to assure the community that Redwood City supports and seeks to create housing opportunities to accommodate all income levels in the community, with a variety of housing types including below market and market‐rate housing
Over the last 25 years, the City has invested over $26 million in below-market housing programs resulting in 663 rental units and 72 for-sale units – illustrating our commitment to find and activate opportunities at that level. Redwood City is also a leader in the County for numbers of Habitat for Humanity below-market units – we have 51 units, currently the most units of any city in San Mateo County.
We also work to maintain that existing below market housing in our community, through granting CBDG and HOME funds to organizations which support the needs of low and very low income households – that work includes homeless assistance activities, human services, and below market housing construction, land acquisition, rehabilitation and capital improvements. In addition, the City maintains a home improvement loan program for low and moderate income homeowners.
More recently, Redwood City had accumulated $10 million through our (now defunct) redevelopment agency, funds which were earmarked for below-market housing. When the State took action to dissolve all redevelopment agencies in California, it demanded that those funds be turned over. The City is filing a lawsuit against the State to retain those funds, and if successful we will use them as intended - to facilitate below market projects. Click here to see the news release about the City’s action on this issue.
It’s also important to point to the overall level of housing unit construction going on right now in Redwood City. In 2012, the City issued permits for nearly 800 units, most of those comprised in four large-scale projects.
Recent construction includes 40 low or very low income units and 36 moderate income units (approximately 10%), and this was after the affordable housing powers granted by redevelopment agencies was taken away from the City by the State.
All cities face significant challenges to providing for very low, low, and moderate income level housing. The elimination of redevelopment agencies, as noted, has removed the key tool that we can use to provide for the variety of housing needed. There has also been a reduction in Federal and State funding sources for below market housing.
Providing a wide range of housing opportunities is an integral part of the long term vision for Redwood City, and part of our General Plan. Without the “traditional” tools, We work to create opportunities for that wide range of additional housing through a variety of General Plan land use designations offering density which makes them most appropriate for the variety of housing that promotes below market rates; the Downtown Precise Plan; and designation of “mixed use corridor” districts (including El Camino, southern part of Broadway, sections of Veterans Blvd.).
And in all cases, the City works and negotiates with developers to obtain below market units through precise plans and development agreements, and has worked with the County, with nonprofits, and with the community college district to facilitate below market units. We will continue to work with these and with developers to provide the range of housing types, sizes, and variety that will support our community.
March 25, 2013
Last fall, a “Setting the Record Straight” item was posted here to correct inaccurate statements in a media op-ed concerning the proposed Inner Harbor Precise Plan, and its relation to Pete’s Harbor. Comments made at recent City Council meetings have prompted us to reiterate and provide additional information.
The Inner Harbor Precise Plan the City will be contemplating does not include Pete's Harbor. Rather, as a bayside property Pete’s Harbor is included in the area identified as “Inner Harbor Stakeholders,” which is an area wider than the Inner Harbor Precise Plan area.
The Stakeholder area (recently expanded per City Council direction) includes those property owners (or agencies) who have an interest in the Inner Harbor Precise Plan and who would likely want to comment on or be engaged in that process, but who may be outside the Plan area’s narrower boundaries.
See the Inner Harbor Precise Plan Study Area map, and the Stakeholder Area map.
In addition to Pete’s Harbor, the other Stakeholders that are included in the Stakeholder area but whose properties are NOT within the Precise Plan area include:
- Granite Rock
- One Marina HOA
- Lyngso Garden Materials
- Boardwalk Auto
- Marina Pointe Townhomes HOA
- Villas at Bair Island
- Seaport Industrial Association
- Seaport Business Park
- Alan Steel
- Syufy Property (former Century Theatre)
- Toyota 101
The area under consideration for the Inner Harbor Precise Plan includes areas largely owned by the City. Those include the Docktown Marina, Cemex Property and the Police Headquarters. In addition, the County Women’s Jail facility, a homeless shelter, the planned County Jail, Bair Island Aquatic Center, Malibu Grand Prix entertainment complex, and other vacant properties owned by the City are in the actual precise plan area.
March 22, 2013
The following letter to the editor was submitted to the Daily Post, to provide some additional perspective to their 3/22/13 article entitled, "Red-light camera tickets down"
We’d like to offer some perspective to your 3/22/13 article on Redwood City’s use of red light cameras at the intersection of Whipple Road and Veterans Boulevard in Redwood City.
The article said that 2010 was the system’s “best year” (most tickets issued), and that since then “things have gone downhill” (fewer tickets issued).
The purpose of the red light camera system is to reduce red light violations and improve safety, so the “best year” for red light violations is the one where the fewest tickets are issued. This year is the best year.
The decreasing number of tickets at that intersection is actually an indicator of success, in that motorists are changing their behavior. There are fewer red light tickets issued because fewer drivers are running red lights at that location. There are also fewer collisions attributed to red light violations at that intersection (12 were reported in the five years prior to installing the system; three reported in the five years since).
When the Redflex contract comes before the council in the near future, there will be discussion of the overall effectiveness of the program, the level of safety of motorists as a result, and the statistics related to use of the cameras. Revenue from the system is not a factor in whether the program is deemed a success.
Robert B. Bell
Chief of Police
December 3, 2012
Information: Guidelines on City Council Communications and Business
The City would like to offer the community some information regarding the City Council’s recently-adopted “Guidelines on City Council Communications and Business,” particularly the guidelines for public participation at Council meetings.
One of Redwood City’s adopted Core Values is Integrity, and public participation and civic engagement are absolutely fundamental to that value. To this end, the City Council encourages community involvement in their decision-making processes, and an important aspect of that is public participation during City Council meetings.
The guidelines adopted by the Council describe both the rights and the obligations of individuals who wish to speak during City Council meetings, and are intended to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to participate. In large part, these guidelines simply organize and clarify in one comprehensive document the manner in which the City Council has always conducted its meetings and provided for public comment.
One need only look at some of the very controversial items the City Council has brought to the public for lengthy discussion (recycled water and Saltworks, for example) to see that the Council welcomes, encourages, and greatly values community participation. These guidelines (and past practice) help create an environment of mutual respect during City Council meetings, and help ensure that everyone wishing to speak feels comfortable and welcomed to do so.
The guidelines also provide a clear picture of how official meetings work, and what a community member can expect, if they wish to speak. As in past practice, the Mayor has the flexibility to modify the time limitations, in order to most effectively conduct the meeting and provide for additional comment as circumstances may require.
In developing these guidelines, we found that a number of other cities have similar policies in place for their councils, for example Berkeley and Palo Alto.
It’s important that the community understand it is essential that people participate and join the discussion of critical issues before the City Council. The City Council’s past practices, and now these guidelines, help to foster that discussion and participation. We encourage community members to participate in our meetings, share their perspectives, concerns, and ideas, and work with the Council in making it comfortable for all members of the public to do the same.
October 26, 2012
On October 24, 2012, an opinion piece was posted on the Redwood City Patch website, concerning the proposed development at Pete’s Harbor. This article contained a number of inaccurate statements about the City’s work toward an “Inner Harbor Precise Plan.”
The Inner Harbor Precise Plan we are contemplating does not include Pete's Harbor. The area under consideration for this precise plan includes the Docktown Marina, the County Women’s Jail facility, a homeless shelter, the City’s Police headquarters, the planned County Jail, Bair Island Aquatic Center, and several vacant properties owned by the City (see map).
The purpose of the City Council’s initial discussion of an Inner Harbor Precise Plan, at their meeting of June 25, 2012, was to provide staff with general guidance as to the desired public process for developing the precise plan for that area. As a bayside property, Pete’s Harbor is considered a stakeholder in the process – but that property does not lie within the boundaries of the contemplated precise plan. At that meeting, it was stated that it would take at least a year to produce a precise plan. That estimate for completion, as a minimum, still stands.
The June 25, 2012 Inner Harbor Precise Plan staff report, as well as minutes and video from that City Council meeting, are available online (scroll down to the June 25 meeting and select Agenda, Minutes, or Video).
October 23, 2012
Here is City Manager Bob Bell's letter to the editor of the Daily News sent October 23, 2012, correcting some erroneous statements made in an earlier letter to the editor that day by a resident, in regards to the development proposal for Pete's Harbor.
I am correcting some erroneous statements in an October 23 letter to the editor regarding Pete’s Harbor.
2004’s Measure Q referendum asked voters if they wished to approve or overturn the Council’s re-zoning of the area including Pete’s Harbor. The voters decided to overturn the re-zoning and return the zoning to its earlier designation, where it remains to this day. The City’s role is to ensure that any development there is in compliance with that existing, voter-ratified zoning. The current development proposal for Pete’s Harbor does not request or require a change to the voter-ratified zoning.
The City is not involved in private transactions between a seller and a buyer/developer, nor does the City have a role in issues of leases, whether they are month-to-month, as is the case with the majority of them at Pete’s Harbor, or long-term leases.
The City Council and the Planning Commission are having discussions on development proposals for Pete’s Harbor (as well as all other developments) in fully-noticed, open public meetings as is required by law, and as the cornerstone of Redwood City’s commitment to transparency and community engagement.
Robert B. Bell
City Manager, Redwood City
March 14, 2012
This is a March 14, 2012 letter to the editor from Mayor Alicia Aguirre, responding to an opinion piece published in the Redwood City Daily News on March 12, 2012, by a community group called Redwood City Neighbors United. The City feels that some clarification of that article's conclusions would be beneficial.
I want to assure our community that Redwood City will have complete control over the preparation and drafting of an EIR document for the Saltworks proposal. We are in the early “scoping” period, and have not yet begun development of the EIR itself. That won’t begin until after our thorough review and evaluation of the application materials.
Since the application was submitted in 2009, the City has retained experts to assist the City in evaluating the application and its initial "project description” (the project the applicant wants evaluated). These top consultants conducted independent analyses of the project description and other information submitted by the applicant, DMB, in a lengthy, exacting, and detailed process, extensively involving City staff, City consultants, and significant community/stakeholder input and comment.
Now, it’s expected that DMB will be submitting a revised project description. The City’s extensive review / evaluation / input process will begin again, including the use of the City’s independent consultants overseen by City staff.
The technical reports being written by DMB’s consultants are for the purpose of defining and clarifying their project description. While the City's consultants will use the information provided by DMB, it will only be a starting point. The City and its consultants will conduct a great deal of independent research and analyses, and only when the new review and scoping process is complete, and the project description is finalized and ready for environmental review, will the City begin preparation of the EIR document, independently, with the City’s own consultants.
It’s a fundamental responsibility of Redwood City to analyze the project description in a transparent, impartial, detailed manner, and bring it into the public review process, including in-depth examination by the regulatory agencies involved, to identify any insufficiencies, omissions, or areas where additional work must be done.
The final content and conclusions of the EIR will be those of the City. The multiple rounds of scoping meetings and the resulting hundreds of thoughtful public comments are evidence of our commitment to the ongoing open, transparent, and independent review process of the Saltworks proposal.