2020 year in review
This year will go down in history for the pandemic that ravaged our nation and shuttered schools and businesses, for the power of the average person taking to the streets to demand equality and an end to racism and systemic oppression and for the monumental fires that served as a climate crisis wake up call to many. Locally it was a noteworthy year as well. From the moment Covid hit, I focused my attention on health and safety, serving those most impacted and getting our local economy on track. There is still significant work to be done but I’m sharing a few highlights here.
Responding to Covid-19
Early on, when our County had only a couple Covid-19 cases, I penned an op-ed with physician and Sequoia Health District Director Aaron Nayfack calling for a strong local response. A lack of clear direction from our Federal Government left State and Local Governments scrambling to build their own Covid-19 response plans.
Addressing the impacts of Covid 19 required a reshuffling of priorities and resources. Redwood City residents have been hit particularly hard by both the health and economic impacts of Covid-19. For example, Redwood City represents 45% of all tenants in the entire County who are receiving rental assistance. The Council approved the creation of a Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Fund which to date has provided over $2 million in rent relief to 975 households through the City.
Our staff have had to get creative to safely deliver other services as well: providing 32,000 meals to seniors since March, contact-free curbside book pickups and collaborating with the Redwood City School District and the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District to launch in-person learning hubs to support up to 200 children. The recovery work will no doubt extend into this decade. For now, I’m truly in awe of our staff who had to reinvent and scale so many programs to meet the needs of our residents. A heartfelt thanks to all of them for their fine work.
Raised $4.9M to save Childcare
Among the mountains of work to be done on Covid-19 relief, I focused on childcare recovery. Concerned about what losing childcare would mean for our economic recovery, I joined forces with San Mateo Councilwoman Amourence Lee, childcare advocates from Community Equity Collaborative Heather Hopkins and Dayna Chung and Christine Padilla of Build up for San Mateo County to champion the San Mateo County Covid Childcare Relief Fund. With sponsorship from Supervisors Pine and Groom we received an initial grant of $2M in CARES Act Funds from the Board of Supervisors. However, after the application process we learned the need was more than double those funds. I led the private fundraising efforts which yielded $500k in support from a broad coalition of community partners, businesses and philanthropic organizations like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The Board of Supervisors, acknowledging the importance of childcare as an infrastructure for our economy, granted an additional $2.45M in CARES Act funding. In total, the program has provided 287 child care programs with assistance across the County including 56 in Redwood City. Learn more about this effort here.
Fundraising to support our residents and businesses
My fundraising efforts didn’t stop with childcare. I approached the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to support the San Mateo County Strong Fund and match the City’s contribution for small business emergency grants. They contributed $300,000 in matching funds in March which kept more than 60 local businesses afloat. In April I partnered with the Redwood City Education Foundation on their Family Relief Fund, raising over $20,000 online to add to their $335,000 fund that provided emergency relief to district families.
CZU Fire Support
This fall at the peak of the fire season I had the opportunity to tour the CZU Fire Base Camp where members of our Redwood City Fire Department were assisting fire containment. What I saw was truly heroic and impressive work. Imagine not only fighting one of the largest fires in the history of California but also during a pandemic. More on my observations here.
Climate Action Plan
Following the 2020 fires, there’s no question that we must be aggressively addressing climate change now. For it’s part Redwood City took two important actions this year. In September we approved all electric REACH Code policy which will limit the use of gas in new developments. In October we adopted our 2030 Climate Action Plan which outlines aggressive goals for carbon reduction and introduces a new Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Program. As a member of the Environmental Initiatives Committee I worked with staff on all of these policies.
Launched largest Safe Parking Program in San Mateo County
In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic and fires, Redwood City was already facing a housing crisis and rise in homelessness. After a year of fact finding, meeting with neighbors, businesses and homeless residents, our Safe Parking committee which I served on with Councilmember Reddy and staff came to the City Council with a proposal for an RV Safe Parking program that was unanimously approved. A key issue we faced was allowing RV dwelling residents to stay in our parking lot over night but the current law made that risky for the City and not ideal for residents or RV dwellers. We worked with Assemblymember Phil Ting to have state law (AB 2553) changed to allow 24/7 parking. This will make these safe parking programs much easier for other cities across the state to launch. Our program is already showing signs of success: before there were 120 RVs on City Streets, now there are just 40. As RVs dwellers enter the safe parking lot, our team from LifeMoves works with them to find affordable long term housing.
AB992 Modernizing the Brown Act signed into law
In 2018 just after my election I approached Assemblymember Kevin Mullin with a bill idea: make it possible for local elected officials to communicate with the public online, where they are already. Kevin liked the idea and I worked with his staff on the language for the bill that would become AB992 Modernizing the Brown Act. AB 992 simply clarifies that members of a local elected body may engage on social media platforms provided they do not do so in a way that violates the Brown Act. In other words, a majority of members cannot use social media to discuss business of a specific nature among themselves or business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of that respective legislative body. It’s a simple step towards greater government accessibility and transparency. It was signed into law in September by Governor Newsom. Thank you to Assemblymember Mullin for collaborating and leading on this issue.
Like many of you, this year was a struggle for our family. The hidden gift was spending more time than ever with my immediate family. We greatly miss our extended family and especially my parents who both had significant health challenges this year but we are hopeful for many reunions in 2021.
We struggled like many of you to balance work and homeschooling, especially with a child with multiple learning differences but somehow, we made it work. We're also grateful for the ways in which we did not struggle, with housing or food insecurity like many of our neighbors.
2020 was a year for learning and relearning what it means to respond to adversity and surprises. I was honored to be chosen as Redwood CIty’s next Vice Mayor and am eager to partner with Mayor Howard to serve the needs of all residents.
Here’s to a smoother, safer, more equitable 2021.
Yours in service,