San Mateo County District 4 Supervisor Warren Slocum began a second term as president of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Jan. 7), and he is looking forward to handling a slate of issues countywide and in his district in 2020.
On the radar screen for District 4 – which includes Redwood City, East Palo Alto, part of Menlo Park east of El Camino Real and the unincorporated community of North Fair Oaks – are the Middlefield Road Improvement Program and a community plan for North Fair Oaks.
Slocum, 71, also wants to continue to prioritize veteran care and efforts to reduce homelessness countywide this year.
After four years of planning, the $12 million Middlefield Road project will begin at the end of summer. It will include undergrounding of power poles and reducing the road from four lanes to three between Pacific Avenue and Fifth Avenue in Redwood City and North Fair Oaks.
"We took public input on the project for the area based on what people have told us they wanted to see," Slocum said in a phone interview. "They wanted safer crossings and safer streets that are more walkable."
The work should give local merchants more customers and better foot traffic, he noted.
"Part of the process was getting community input for a year and getting approval from PG&E for the undergrounding," Slocum said.
The project will include parallel parking spots, bike lanes and wider sidewalks that will allow for benches, landscaping, trash receptacles, street art and other amenities, giving a distressed area a more inviting look.
The county has been working on the North Fair Oaks Community Plan since 2012. One aspect of the plan calls for a transportation hub that would include buses, light rail and a biking center with storage lockers.
The hub could be next to the Fair Oaks Health Clinic on Middlefield, adjacent to the Caltrain tracks, Slocum said.
"The county is steam-cleaning the sidewalks and getting the area a little more shopper-friendly," he said. "We're trying to make it a destination shopping area as opposed to four lanes and cut-through traffic."
The plan establishes goals for the development of North Fair Oaks for the next 25 to 30 years, incorporating programs, regulations and strategies to plan the future of the community, according to the county Building and Planning Department.
Along with Bay Area communities in general, the county will continue to focus on
the homelessness issue, Slocum said.
Recreational vehicles are becoming more prevalent on city streets and are not limited to El Camino Real anymore, he noted.
"Also, in certain parts, it's affecting retail, with customers sometimes afraid of seeing the RVs in front of businesses," Slocum said.
The board is weighing proposals for safe RV parking lots and seeking ways to build more affordable housing and reduce the lopsided jobs-to-housing ratio, he said.
Veterans, mental health services
Slocum also wants to provide better service to the 29,000 former members of the military now living in the county.
Mental health services, especially for young people, are also a priority that is being challenged by a $57 million budget gap in the county health department, he said.
The county, along with cities and towns statewide, is also trying to cope with new state rules requiring it to create more affordable housing and, in the same vein, trying to find ways to attract and retain qualified workers who are moving away because of the high cost of housing.
"The county is going to play a bigger role in trying to build a regional consensus on these issues," Slocum said.
Prior to being elected to the board in 2012, Slocum was San Mateo County assessor, chief elections officer, clerk and recorder. He also served as Board of Supervisors president in 2016.
“I have always been a generalist manager and was very passionate about public service,” he said. “I came from a family of entrepreneurs and wanted public service to be my life's work."
Slocum said he is looking forward to reprising his role as board president, which includes leading board meetings, having a hand in the overall agenda, representing the county at different events, and delivering the State of the County address.
Being board president "adds to the workload, but it is really rewarding to be able to serve," he said.