Mark Simon

Often, this space features thoughts — muddled though they may be — on the changing status quo of the Peninsula, our evolving social and economic dynamics and the fear among some that these changes mean a loss of something fundamental about our communities.

If you want to see this debate in stark relief, look no further than the two ballot measures in San Mateo. Measure Y, placed on the ballot by citizen initiative, seeks to extend for another 10 years the 30-year-old law that limits nearly all buildings to 55 feet, essentially five stories. Measure R, put on the ballot by unanimous vote of the City Council, would amend the law to allow substantially greater height in areas adjacent to the city’s three Caltrain station.

This law has been on books so long that it’s old enough to settle down, get married, have kids and buy a house. In another 10 years, it will be divorced and forced to move back in with its parents, who own a nice Eichler they bought in 1985.

And that is the point. There is widespread acceptance of this basic fact: The inability of cities to build enough housing, fast enough, is driving up the cost of housing. That, in turn, is driving away young people and a diverse workforce. As much as we might want to preserve certain elements that define life on the Peninsula — single-family homes, a lawn in front and a barbecue in the back — do we hold onto such notions and turn the region into a wealthy enclave?

More than any other local measure, the vote in San Mateo will be a clear indication whether this and other cities are ready to move on to a different future, or whether there is still enough political clout among key residents to defer and delay the changes that seem inevitable and inexorable.

Certainly, the City Council has put its own credibility on the line, and the political analyst in me says they are confident that, even if R fails and Y passes, there will be minimal consequences in the 2022 election. 

Thirty years is 100 lifetimes in politics, and some insiders say the influence and sheer numbers of height limit supporters has diminished over that time — they have enough to get the measure on the ballot, but not enough to put it over.

Meanwhile, in the ballot arguments on these measures, the backers of the current height limit have dismissed the opposition as tools of developers, a favorite phrase for no-growth, residential advocates. The implication is that entire council is in the pocket of builders. That seems, shall we say, overly broad.

Elsewhere in the campaign, a lot of attention is focused on the Bohannon Company as a leading financial backer of the effort to raise the height limit. Bohannon owns property at the Hillsdale Caltrain station, and the Hillsdale Shopping Center. So, of course, the company would benefit from being able to build higher buildings on its property. I’d be surprised if the Bohannon Company didn’t act in its own interest. I guess the question is why people see this as insidious. The Bohannon family members have been good citizens, frequently engaged in good local works. And San Mateo is not a company town, dominated by one entity.

THIS MAKES ME NUTS: The San Francisco Chronicle recently published its list of the top 88 restaurants in the Bay Area, and it appears that down here in the hinterlands, we can’t cook either.

Of the 88 restaurants, only three are in San Mateo County: Chibag in Daly City, Dad’s Launderette in Half Moon Bay and Sushi Yoshizumi in San Mateo. And we can add Zareen’s in Palo Alto, which is kind of an honorary San Mateo County city.

I’m happy for all of them, but the Chron ought to stop calling it a Bay Area list. Of the other 84 restaurants, 51 are in San Francisco. I know it’s a great place to eat, but it’s not the only place. There must be more than three restaurants in the county that are among the Bay Area’s best.

OH ME, OH MATH: An item here last week miscalculated how much was spent on slate mailings by Lisa Petrides, running for the San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees. The correct amount is $15,444. … A couple of local newspapers are incorrectly ceding the election to Petrides, saying she is the only candidate or that she is the presumptive winner. Her opponent, Eugene Whitlock, has announced his withdrawal, but he’s still on the ballot, if gets more votes, he wins. And he has yet to take down his campaign signs.


Mark Simon is a veteran journalist, whose career included 15 years as an executive at SamTrans and Caltrain. He can be reached at



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(17) comments


Regarding the Chronicackle’s restaurant reviews, I concur. For a while I had a successful program to attract European entrepreneurs to San Mateo County. Invariably they all wanted to look at offices in SF, primarily because of the reputation of culture and food. But I would insist we spend time in downtown Redwood City. I took them to some of our higher end restaurants for that initial meeting. Every time they were stunned at the quality of the food and even more surprised at the quality of the wine lists. Happy to say I batted .500 in convincing them to focus on the county not SF


Honestly doing this stuff via the ballot box is the wrong path. The entire initiative process, state-wide and locally, is broken -- if you have deep enough pockets, you can put anything on the ballot you want, and then blast out an ad campaign to buy yourself a law (as Uber is on track to demonstrate, with their awful Prop 22, which will basically roll back AB5 for them, but not for new competitors trying to enter the field -- AB5 has flaws that need legislative fixes, but the proposition makes things much worse than they were before the law was passed).

Measure R is _far_ better than Measure Y, and I hope it gets more votes, but the best result would be for both to fail so that the regular General Plan process can proceed, with full opportunity for input from both citizens and experts.

Alexander Melendrez


Christopher Conway

Here is another individual who has been in politics for too many years telling citizens of San Mateo that they are wrong for believing what they believe. Mr. Simon needs to realize that no one with half a brain listens to people like him because they do not have our best interest in mind when they rattle off their criticisms of us. Why doesn't Mr. Simon just go up to his publicly funded gym at CSM that he loves so much and leave the voting to those of us who live in San Mateo. This letter is just another example on why citizens in San Mateo should vote yes on Y and no on R, take back control of our city from people who have been slanted by special interests and who do not care about you or your city. Take it back from those currently occupying city hall. Show people like Mr. Simon that we have the power and we plan to use that power on November 3rd.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

I pity grown men who can’t apologize when they’re wrong. I’m not referring to Donald Trump.

Mark Simon, columnist for the SMDJ, appears to be afflicted by this malady.

Recently, the Journal published my letter to the editor entitled “Black Lives Matter.” I questioned an initiative at Cañada College to combat anti-racist/anti-Blackness “in classrooms, on campus, and in the community” to fight “oppression.”

While acknowledging the importance of addressing the Black Lives Matter movement, I questioned whether the initiative would help students on campus. Given Cañada’s large achievement gap between Blacks and Asians or Whites (about 20%) and few Blacks enrolled at the college (3%), would the initiative improve learning?

After publication, to my shock, Mr. Simon admonished me in writing that the piece “did not appear in the Daily Journal, despite its appearance." Forget about the incoherence of this statement; it was categorically false.

Criticism of content is one thing; an untruth about publication is another. In essence, Mr. Simon was challenging its authenticity and credibility. As a writer about higher education, my professional currency is the accuracy of my analysis and legitimacy of my word.

I’ve written to Mr. Simon three times requesting that he acknowledge his error and apologize, as he told an untruth and created a falsehood in the mind of the audience. He was silent. Perhaps, like Trump, he is supremely confident in his omnipotence.

Some people can’t admit when they’re wrong. As a character flaw, it’s dangerous when they have a platform to influence the public, whether it’s the President or a journalist. Then again, like Trump, perhaps only his loyal base is listening.


Michael B. Reiner, PhD, is a higher education consultant and educational researcher. Previously, he was a professor of psychology and college administrator at City University of New York (CUNY), Miami Dade College, the Riverside Community College District, and the San Mateo County Community College District.  LinkedIn:

Mark Simon

I gotta tell you, when if it's my base of loyal readers you're talking about, it seems to be you. Certainly, you comment more than anyone else, by a factor of five.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Was that an apology for the falsehood as described above (as a journalist with integrity)? Somehow, I don't see it. But, you did tell a truth here - I may be your most loyal reader, as I am always amazed by what you write given your journalist philosophy: “I see things. I hear things. I write them down. I put them here.” Trying to help the public understand that data and evidence rarely agrees with your "opinion" has become an avocation. You are my muse!

John Baker

Gotta love the hubris of putting his bio after each comment, as if this was an academic journal rather than a Daily one.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Dear Mr. Baker, you may not agree, but I think context is everything. I believe it's important to know a bit about someone's background to better understand their perspective. Some people comment anonymously; while I understand the fear of retaliation, I don't know how to judge such opinions (maybe it's the author's friend or enemy?). Having someone's name, such as yours attached to the comment, indicates a willingness to be accountable, and I admire that. As for me, when commenting on issues related to my profession, higher education, my comments include my background so that readers have a better sense where I'm coming from and where to find me. You might call that hubris; I call it honest communication.

Christopher Conway

Mark, we read you because you are in our newspaper the SMDJ. We comment on you because you are so out of touch with the every day citizen that lives and votes in San Mateo that we use your words against you. Keep up the writing, we will keep up the criticism. Win for you and win for us. Isn't the 1st Amendment awesome.

Terence Y

As long as we’re making requests, I’ll throw this out there… I’d request that Mr. Reiner acknowledge his error and apologize for promoting the Charlottesville hoax a few weeks back. Mr. Reiner told an untruth and created a falsehood in the mind of the audience in an attempt to further his false narrative.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Dear Mr. Y, Mr. Baker is correct that this isn't an academic journal. But, you need to at least provide the quotation that you believe was untrue and/or reference the date and name of the article, otherwise your audience has no bloody idea what you are talking about. Should you be able to document the falsehood I created, I will be the first to apologize. And, of course, if you will tell me your name and address, rather than hide behind a pseudonym, I'll write you a note. ;)

Terence Y

Mr. Reiner - one of your comments on September 18, 2020 in response to, “A New Year wake-up call” included, “… Trump’s unwillingness to condemn Neo-Nazis at Charlottesville.” That bloody lie has been debunked, even by left-leaning media organizations. I'm fine with using my name to post. Maybe I'm mistaken, but it appears you have a negative opinion of people using pseudonyms. Maybe it's a privacy issue or maybe they're Democrats who are joining the right side and they don't want to deal with narrow minded folks on the left or the idiocy of the cancel culture. To me, their opinions are just as valid. And a note isn’t necessary, just an acknowledgement of error to my address - this thread. [smile]

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Dear Mr. Y, I accepted your challenge below and did some research on the "Charlottesville Hoax." Here are the references I found meaningful. The first is the actual text of Trump's comments and the second is an analysis:

Ad Watch: What Donald Trump said about Charlottesville, PolitiFact, Miriam Valverde

September 10, 2020 (

The “Charlottesville Hoax” Hoax: Trump's supporters are trying to gaslight you. Again.


So, I don't agree with you that my comment was false. Trump did not condemn Neo-Nazis right after Charlottesville with his original comment; he did so days later after pressure and criticism from Democrats and Republicans and all people of good faith.

And, of course, he reinforced his "UNWILLINGNESS to condemn Neo-Nazis" (my quote) during the first Presidential debate.

Finally, you are correct that I give more credence to comments from people who are willing to put their name on the line. For all I know, you are just a Russian bot.

Apology not forthcoming.

Terence Y

Mr. Reiner - even though you’re choosing left leaning Politifact and Never Trumper founded, The Bulwark, as your cited articles, if you read the article in Politifact, you’ll read that Trump said, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides." You’re saying that because your great President Trump did not specifically name “Neo-Nazi’s” then your statement was not false? Even though “many sides” includes Neo-Nazi’s, including other hate groups? In that same article, you’ll read that Trump clarified in later days after he ascertained the facts, which is quite admirable in not jumping to conclusions.

Conclusion - an apology should still be forthcoming as you’re attempting to mislead readers to push your narrative when you know your technicality can be easily misconstrued. I could apply the same tactic to BLM, where if you’re not black, then your life doesn’t matter. We seem to get many folks trying to tell us this isn’t true, even though the B in BLM is pretty specific.

Just a thought, and I’m no fan of Mr. Simon but maybe he can use your same tactic and say he cited “the Daily Journal” and not “The Daily Journal” so an apology is not forthcoming.

As for your Russian bots, are you telling me Russian bots, or any bots, now have the capability of writing individual comments and can reply to other posts? Do you think anyone would sic a Russian bot, or any bot, to waste time writing individual comments and responding to posts? And for a small town newspaper like the SMDJ (no offense, SMDJ)? You do realize those same Russian bot-makers could easily manufacture contact information. Maybe another apology is in store for thinking people using pseudonyms to be Russian bots. Just kidding on that one, you're entitled to your opinion.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Ah, Mr. Y. Another example of twisting the narrative to make your point. "Maybe another apology is in store for thinking people using pseudonyms to be Russian bots."

I did not say that. I do believe that those using pseudonyms hide behind a "fake name" which allows them to say things irresponsibly given their anonymity. In fact, I think they lack courage.

What I did say to you was, "For all I know, you are just a Russian bot."

For that comment I do apologize. Clearly, you can write sentences in response to my comments. I've enjoyed our dialogue, but as we see, perspective is everything and I doubt ours will ever meet.

Terence Y

Actually Mr. Reiner, it’s more of an example where I’m informing people of the complete narrative by untwisting the cherry-picked narrative you’re using to create a falsehood in the mind of the audience. I am, and I’m hoping other readers are, getting an idea of how much your profession and higher education account for when you attempt a so-called “honest” communication. And you are incorrect. I agree with your perspective that the Anti-Racist Taskforce is a misguided effort. I also agree that helping students learn, achieve, and graduate are important, but not to combat racism or to promote socialist justice.

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