By: Karen Cunningham, City of Brisbane Mayor, kcunnningham@brisbaneca.org, 415-312-2662

I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year; I am holding out hope for the peaceful transfer of power during the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States to our great Republic.
Looking forward in 2021, we must all work very hard to get everything back on solid ground; our People and our Businesses. The pandemic is raging and has taken an unfathomable toll on everyone and everything. We must all stand strong together.
As I have stated before, I will continue to work as hard as possible to keep ALL Brisbane growth and development decisions as local as we possibly can. The many proposed plans and solutions offered by the regional and State governing bodies may well-be due for self-correction, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With upwards of 50% of workers now able to work from home moving forward, this will, and has already mitigated some of the traffic congestion on our highways. As reported recently, U.S. air quality is the best that it has been in many years, plunging a whopping 10% in 2020 alone (source NYT via Rhodium Group) . And, with many people leaving the metropolitan areas for a more peaceful and rural work landscape, they are also vying for homes with some land around them and not high-rise, compact apartments. This all brings many interesting and changing possibilities to the way we shape our future growth.
I would like to reflect on the accomplishments and highlights of 2020. Kudos to our entire staff who pivoted swiftly and with great efficiency. The year in review:
The City responded to the global social movement calling an end to police brutality and racial injustice with the adoption of a Resolution affirming the City’s commitment to stand in solidarity with the Black community and condemn racism. The City again raised the Pride Flag for the entire month of June, and for the first time ever, raised the Black Lives Matter flag at City Hall, the Marina, and in the Community Park where a special, socially-distanced flag-raising ceremony was held on July 1st under the Gazebo.
The City of Brisbane received the Reach Code Award for Innovation from Sustainable San Mateo County for adoption of local green building codes that will result in safer and more comfortable buildings, increase EV charging infrastructure, and reduce carbon emissions.
The Open Space and Ecology Committee, together with Sustainability and Parks and Rec staff and South San Francisco Scavenger, hosted Brisbane’s first Recycled Arts and Crafts Contest. Nearly 30 community members submitted their projects, highlighting reuse opportunities and demonstrating that one man’s trash can truly be another person’s treasure!
The City firmly opposed the California High Speed Rail Authority’s proposal to locate a railyard in Brisbane, providing extensive comments, as did many of our citizens and other groups, and we are waiting now for those comments to be addressed in any Final EIR and planning documents for HSR.
The Baylands continues to be a major project of the City. We have worked diligently this year in safeguarding the City’s position on environmental and legal issues, including all aspects of density, cleanup/remediation, and the financial impacts of growth.
With the pandemic and pivoting to virtual meetings, it became a high priority to problem solve the nascent buzzing in the background on YouTube and Ch. 27. That issue was resolved in mid-October with Communications staff working with MCTV to test and troubleshoot the issue from the Council Chambers. That allowed for more pleasurable viewing experiences when it came time for the 2020 State of the City and Virtual Veterans’ Day Flag-Raising Ceremonies, which both took place in early November. With the November 12th Planning Commission Meeting, Communications staff again worked with MCTV to this time enhance the video aspect of meetings and events. This involved pivoting to streaming directly from Zoom, which allowed for an HD picture quality when viewing meetings and events on YouTube. Check out the difference on the City’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/brisbaneca.
Regulatory compliance included meeting CalRecycle’s requirements to educate customers on mandatory organics recycling and mandatory commercial recycling, submitting the required Green Infrastructure (GI) Plan to Regional Water Quality Control Board to demonstrate how GI will be incorporated in the City over the next several decades, beginning development of an ADA transition plan to identify access barriers and a plan to correct them, complying with San Mateo County Environmental Health’s requirement to develop a utility structure monitoring program at Sierra Point (which also included passage of a Prop 218 fee to fund this work), updating the Sewer System Management Plan (as required by State Water Resources Control Board to minimize the potential for sewage overflows), and beginning the implementation phase of the Brisbane Building Efficiency Program.
From our Parks and Recreation Department:
Brisbane’s Parks & Recreation department was one of the very first agencies in the District & State to launch their virtual recreation platform in response to the pandemic. The #smileBrisbane campaign sought to achieve much more than online class resources and activity ideas for Brisbane residents. #smileBrisbane is an initiative focused on continued service to residents intending to combat social isolation, engage the community, address food insecurity, support community health & wellness, and unify residents during this trying time. The Parks & Recreation department has received two awards from the California Parks & Recreation Society for the #smileBrisbane campaign and their solidarity poster series;
The City’s traditional Fire Hydrant Painting & Restoration event, which was moved to the Fall, allowed residents an opportunity to participate in a socially-distanced event while flexing their creativity muscles – the hydrants are absolute masterpieces in and of themselves;
With support from Samaritan House and the Brisbane Lions Club, staff have distributed over 4,000 meals to seniors, and counting;
They also successfully and safely reopened the Community Pool for lap swim and water aerobics and operate at 100% capacity every week;
The LUNAFEST film festival, which was held virtually, raised more than $24,000 and 13 young women pursuing careers in STEAM professions were awarded scholarships;
Staff distributed Halloween treat bags, organized a virtual family campout, planned a fun and socially distanced Easter Egg Hunt, and led a reimagined Festival of Lights which included a car Light Parade through town for residents to enjoy from the safety of their homes, while enjoying with treats from their North Pole Parcels if they pre-ordered (they sold out!);
The department has also offered childcare for essential workers and the broader community throughout this time with their preschool and afterschool elementary-aged “pod squad” programs.
From our Community Development Department:
Obtained a funding grant for $215,000 to assist in implementing state housing requirements;
Staff implemented an enhanced and expanded range of online customer services including planning submittals and building permit processing from the City’s new website. When most cities put website redesigns on hold, the City believed that a new website would be of great value to the community, knowing many residents would be likely flocking there for current City-related COVID information and resources. Please visit brisbaneca.org/LatestCovidNews;
Pushed forward on the implementation of life sciences projects at Sierra Point, with Healthpeak’s “The Shore” nearing completion and the Phase 3 Genesis project breaking ground
Staff continued engagement on Measure JJ/Brisbane Baylands implementation, including review of site clean-up plans;
They also reviewed the High Speed Rail project to ensure that impacts to Brisbane are identified and mitigated;
Continued administration of the City’s Affordable Housing program and adopted regulations simplifying the permitting process of accessory dwelling units;
Lastly, staff commenced work on General Plan Housing Element updates and continued negotiations with regional agencies to ensure that the City’s future housing obligations are realistic and achievable.
From our Police Department:
Completed a technology upgrade of their mobile car computers which now allows officers to write their reports in their vehicles, thus spending more time visible out in the community than in the station;
Hired and trained their newest academy recruits and brought them on board without much delay and met their Peace Officer Standard and Training (POST) end-of-year requirements despite the pandemic (using Zoom as an alternative training method);
Attended and prepared an Operation Plan in partnership with the event coordinators for a Black Lives Matter peaceful demonstration event at the Community Park to ensure safety for all attendees, which was well-attended and very peaceful;
Sent officers on Mutual Aid requests to the raging fires in Pescadero and Santa Cruz where they assisted with residential evacuations;
Participated in and led the Light Parade as part of this year’s reimagined Festival of Lights;
Collaborated with San Mateo County’s Core Service Agency, the YMCA Youth Services Bureau, as well as the local Lions Club, by donating gifts from our Toys for Tots program for this year’s Holiday Gifts/Food Distribution Program for residents that reached out for assistance during the holidays. Due to COVID this year, we could not host our Toys for Tots program as we have in years past.
From our Fire Department:
Assisted and participated in the Statewide Fire Mutual Aid by deploying strike teams to the many major wildfire incidents throughout California, where they served between 14-21-day shifts;
Continued to provided pre-hospital care advance life support paramedic lifesaving medical interventions;
Achieved an average of five minutes and forty-nine seconds total reflex time, from dispatch, turnout and travel to arrival by a single fire company for all emergency incidents;
Updated the evacuation plan for Brisbane, as well as coordinated with the county on moving forward with an online countywide electronic platform slated to be operation in 2021.
Provided the community with resources on COVID-19, fire and home safety checklists, senior citizen fall prevention, and other health information via social media and the STAR;
Continued safety inspections of land parcels through the “Vegetation Abatement and Management Program” as well as completed annual life-safety and fire code compliance inspections and plan check reviews;
Recorded “Storytime at Station 81” videos during Fire Prevention Month (October) that provided viewers with a mini tour of the engines, bay, and included a firefighter reading a fun firefighting story and providing Halloween and kitchen safety tips.
From our Public Works Department:
In regards to major Capital Improvement Projects, Public Works:
Completed the Pedestrian Safe Routes to Schools/Green Infrastructure Project with the help of grant funding from the City & County Association of Governments (C/CAG), which was a combined project that included efforts from our Complete Streets Safety Committee to provide designated walk routes for students, families, and other pedestrians to get around Central Brisbane, and implemented bio-retention basins that use native and drought-tolerant plants to help treat stormwater before it drains to the Bay as well as serve as a innovative flood prevention measure;
Made safety improvements on Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, which included modified striping plans and added rumble strips to prevent shoulder “run-offs” and median head-on accidents;
Finished the Water Main Replacement Project, Phase 2, improving fire flow and water pressure for the upper streets;
Installed a retaining wall on the 400 block of Kings, mitigating concerns for a failing slope;
Finalized designs of Utility Station Shore Power – a plan to get ready for future public safety power shutoffs that exceed the designed run times for our utility stations’ backup power;
Completed the new Brisbane Library.
In terms of major development review and oversight, Public Works staff worked with:
Healthpeak to oversee project compliance, including their design and installation of offsite improvements such as a new sewer line in Sierra point Parkway, construction of new sewage lift station #4, and various intersection improvements.
As for 3500 Genesis, it was confirmed that the project complies with requirements of the Development Agreement and Mitigation & Monitoring Reporting Plan.
Out at 501 Tunnel, staff participated in a Bi-County review of the planned major remodel at the Recology facility.
Staff also oversaw and confirmed compliance of bay mud import to that of Council’s requirements for import of this future Title 27 landfill barrier material.
So, in closing, given that 2020 was an unprecedented year at so many levels, our Staff was able to achieve an incredible amount of progress with so many accomplishments in hand. We have all done the best in almost impossible circumstances and I look forward to working with you all this year. As a collaborative manager, I always say to my staff and co-workers “I have some great ideas, but collectively, we have even better ideas”. So, please keep those ideas flowing and together, we will achieve so much more. Thank you all.