Utility rates, development and creating a better downtown are key issues to those running for the two open seats on the San Bruno City Council.
The four seeking office — Councilmen Rico Medina and Ken Ibarra and challengers Andrew Mason and Marty Medina — spoke with the Daily Journal for endorsement interviews this week. Improving the relationship between the council and the San Bruno Elementary School District Board of Trustees was also of concern for the candidates.
The candidates believe there are opportunities for adding more businesses to the city. Candidates agreed that the city’s aging infrastructure does pose a challenge for further developing the city, as San Bruno soon turns 100 years old.
Bringing in biotechnology companies and other technology-oriented companies is the key to growth in San Bruno, Mason said. He also noted that, with the aging infrastructure, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve to fix things before there are lawsuits.
“There is limited land mass, but we need to be forward thinking and embrace technologies,” Mason said.
The city is moving in the right direction, Ibarra and Rico Medina agreed. Ibarra said the plans made in the last 17 years have made San Bruno inviting to businesses.
“I’m very proud of what we’re doing,” he Ibarra said. “There are now 6,000 workers in the Bayhill area.”
A select-service hotel has great potential for coming into the city, Rico Medina said. The city’s Transit Corridors Plan will address some of the concerns.
The plan aims to create higher density development in the area surrounding the future San Bruno Avenue Caltrain station, emphasizing a mix of residential and commercial uses that will promote walkability, transit use and economic development.
The city has tried to make positive changes for business, but endured two mini recessions, Marty Medina said. He believes the transit plan is promising.
“There’s a lot of potential in the Bayhill area,” he said. “We are caught between an airport, freeway and cemetery and our downtown is struggling.”
It makes sense fiscally to redo the sidewalks and curbs of the downtown if a full revamp is going to be done, Mason said.
How do the candidates envision downtown looking in the next five to 10 years?
It’s going to be better, Ibarra said. He foresees more foot traffic and usage by residents and works. The Caltrain grade separation project and new station will help, he said.
“We need to market downtown,” he said. “We’ve been spoiled by being able to go to the mall and are left without destination shopping downtown.”
Once the grade separation with the new Caltrain station is complete, the city can go forward with its transit plan, Rico Medina said. Aesthetics need to be improved, he added.
The lighting is poor and there needs to be a streetscape project in downtown, Marty Medina said.
School board relationship
The candidates agreed that there has been some disharmony between the school board and the City Council.
Meeting with the board quarterly is important to Rico Medina, he said. He does have concerns about the facility use agreement between the city and school board moving forward, he said.
The bad relationship is attributed to the fact that the school board itself doesn’t get along, Ibarra said.
“It’s more than just a perception that we don’t get along,” Ibarra said. “The worst came with the school closure talks. The problem has been that they say it’s their business and we should stay out of it.
Still, Ibarra said the future is bright. There are two sitting trustees who know from where the council is coming and at least one other candidate running who does as well, Ibarra added.
The relationship has always been confusing, Marty Medina said.
“It’s a bunch of nonsense really,” he said. “I’m hoping to forge a brand-new relationship.”
A liaison is needed between the board and council, Mason said.
“It needs to be someone who’s got guts,” Mason said. “There’s a fiscal problem and they need to talk about that elephant in the room.”
With a recent increase in sewer and water rates, Mason, Rico Medina and Marty Medina, all opposed the change.
Rico Medina cast one of the votes against the hike on the council’s 3-2 vote.
“In my world, this is too much for residents,” he said.
Partnering with the utility companies could bring efficiencies, Mason said. He would like to make it more fiscally conservative for residents.
The city needs someone with construction experience to review plans if the city plans to raise rates, Marty Medina said.
“If we’ve been raising rates since 1997, we’ll be doing this until 2030,” he said. “What’s going to happen if we allow the momentum to continue? We need to quit doing things the old way.”
On the other hand, Ibarra said the decision to increase the rates came as a result of a lot of studies. The money was also necessary for repairs to an aging system, he said.
“No one likes to see 3-2 decisions,” Ibarra said. “We pride ourselves on consensus. We could have held off on the vote or informed the city better.”
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