San Mateo’s North Central Goal Directed Action Team
The North Central Neighborhood of San Mateo is a multicultural, lower-income, diverse, high-density community with a multitude of problems. The North Central Goal Directed Action Team represents a unique approach to solving safety and community preservation issues in the neighborhood through the use of interdepartmental work teams. The team acknowledges that specific issues cannot be effectively addressed without consideration of the whole neighborhood and everyone with a stake in the outcome.
The Team consists of staff from Neighborhood Improvement and Housing; Code Enforcement; the Police Department; Parks and Recreation; Planning; Building Safety; Public Works; Fire; Library; a Community Improvement Coordinator; and a representative from the resident-based Home Association of North Central San Mateo. They develop programs and projects addressing five goals: Property preservation; safety; image; neighborhood empowerment; and youth development. Specific approaches include a block-by-block strategy focused on maintenance and law enforcement needs; working with the neighbors to develop esthetic and planning design concepts that enhance the area; and community outreach to residents and organizations concerning quality of life issues. This program is a model of sustainability by showing how communities can come together to plan and implement solutions for the well being of everyone by taking into account all the various elements of an area and incorporating them into long-term problem solving.
Paul Gardner and Whole House Building Supply
Paul Gardner has contributed greatly to the City of East Palo Alto through his involvement with the East Palo Alto Historical and Agricultural Society; the Weeks Street Community Garden, and EPA CAN DO. All his work, both local and regional, has been infused with the values of ecological sustainability.
In 1991, Paul – a general contractor and an avid environmentalist – became distressed at the tremendous amount of building materials being hauled to the dump by contractors from each construction project, so he began to salvage and offer for sale materials and fixtures that would otherwise go to the landfill. He also began circulating a advocate to Bay Area builders noting the date and location of house demolitions, and advertising salvaged items for sale and for free. Thus began a new business – Whole House Building Supply – which now includes a customer base of over 5,000 throughout the Bay Area. Paul recently began storing salvaged items at a warehouse in East Palo Alto and has hired local residents to run the warehouse and help remove items from homes slated for demolition. What began as Paul’s individual commitment to recycling and sustainability, has flourished into a business which has transformed a wasteful industry practice into an opportunity for education and a demonstration of the principles of sustainability.
New Start Furniture Fund
Phil Van Poetsch founded New Start Furniture Fund to pick up, store, and make available donated furniture to qualified families in need. The Fund is based on the idea that basic furniture such as a chair to sit on or a bed to sleep in are unattainable luxuries for some individuals in the community while others have an excess of such items. New Start picks up donations from the more fortunate members of the community and makes them available to the less fortunate.
New Start is a community supported, non-profit organization that works closely with other non-profits and social service agencies such as Peninsula Habitat for Humanity and Families in Transition. It also assists battered women and helps formerly homeless people rebuild their lives. All recipients must first qualify by fulfilling their commitment to the referring agency and meet or exceed rigid criteria prior to referral. Upon qualifying, recipients are invited to go “shopping” at the Fund’s Menlo Park warehouse, where they are treated with dignity and given a choice of furniture selections to completely furnish their homes. They even have the option of receiving expert design assistance. The New Start Furniture Fund fulfills a need in our community by recycling usable furniture to those who are ready to help themselves.
San Mateo County Office of Education’s Outdoor Education Program
The Outdoor Education Program provides a week-long residential environmental education curriculum and a unique social and personal learning experience for over 5,000 fifth and sixth grade students and their teachers each year at Jones Gulch in La Honda. It has been in existence for 32 years, and in that time, has educated over 130,000 students.
The goal of the program is to develop students’ knowledge about the environment, appreciation of nature, and the importance of their involvement as citizens in an increasingly interdependent world. Learning is active and involving through first hand experience. An integral part of the program is the Sustainable Living Center where students get hands-on lessons in organic gardening, composting and greenhouse activities. Students also participate in a nature lab with animals. In a great example of student mentoring, every year 500 high school students accompany the fifth and sixth graders on all activities and live with them in the cabins.
San Mateo County’s Outdoor Education Program is an excellent example of what sustainable living is all about and an excellent approach to teaching sustainable principles.
David Schooley is known as “Mr. San Bruno Mountain” His efforts span 30 years to preserve San Bruno Mountain with its unique ecosystem and rare and endangered species. He has consistently sustained this activity in multiple arenas: as a participant in political debate over development of the mountain; as a poet, writer, and historian; as a tireless educator of the young and old about the natural wonders to be encountered on the hundreds of hikes he leads; and as a hands-on worker to restore the native habitat of the mountain and to eradicate invasive species. He was a founding member of the Committee to Save San Bruno Mountain and is still a leader in San Bruno Mountain Watch. He has authored numerous articles and pamphlets demonstrating careful research and thorough knowledge, and has worked closely with the Native Americans of the area to protect significant cultural and archeological sites.
David Schooley has demonstrated sustainable thinking through his long-term and ecologically oriented commitment toward saving a precious island of open space in the middle of dense human habitation for the continued enjoyment of future generations.
BFI, this year’s honorable mention, started the first and largest residential recycling and yard waste collection program in the county and is actively encouraging businesses to increase their recycling efforts. BFI is a major corporate sponsor of activities in virtually every city of the county, ranging from health care to education to public parks to countless projects that improve our quality of life. But, besides issuing much appreciated financial support, BFI is a leader in deploying its managers and employees to work in many community efforts ranging from Christmas in April to the American Heart Association. Through its recycling and community support efforts, BFI is a vital component of the overall sustainability of San Mateo County.
Committee for Green Foothills
Another honorable mention, the Committee for Green Foothills has worked for nearly forty years to protect and preserve the farms, wildlands, and coastal lands of San Mateo County through education, planning, and legislative advocacy. They have been effective in limiting development along the San Mateo Coast by helping to pass the Coastal Initiative, the Coastal Act of 1976, and the San Mateo County Local Coastal Plan. They also made it possible for thousands of people every year to enjoy the redwoods in Pescadero Creek County ParkÃ‘an area that would have been drowned had a dam been built that was proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1960s. The Committee for Green Foothills contributes to the overall sustainability of the County by holding to the long-range view, and by empowering community members to protect open space and farmland through sensible land use planning.
The Human Investment Project
The Human Investment Project (HIP) provides affordable alternatives to the high cost of housing on the Peninsula. The Homesharing Program links people who have housing to share with those seeking housing. The Self-Sufficiency Program provides single parents with subsidized rent and utilities while they live in a HIP-owned or managed property, enroll in an education or job-training program, and obtain employment with an adequate income to support their families. The Housing Opportunity Program provides time-limited rental scholarships and support services to low-income families transitioning from welfare to employment. The Home Equity Conversion Program helps seniors turn their home value into spendable cash so they can remain independent in their homes.
HIP is an innovative and effective non-profit organization that sees the clear connections between safe and affordable housing and the overall quality of life in San Mateo County.