County offers ear to North Fair Oaks residents 

Gang crime and public safety top the worry lists of many North Fair Oaks residents, despite efforts by law-enforcement agencies to keep criminal activity at bay.

Now, county planners are stepping in to see what they can do, starting with a series of public meetings in February and March, according to county planner Matt Seubert.

While dialogue with county officials has brought more attention from law enforcement, many in the community of the unincorporated neighborhood think more can be done.

Improvements such as additional lighting or neighborhood beautification may help to curb violence and inspire neighborhood pride, said Laura Caplan, member of the North Fair Oaks Council.

Crime is also a worry at Fair Oaks Community School, where gang members sometimes congregate after dark and occasionally leave graffiti, according to Principal Lynne Griffiths.

"Parents are worrying about the safety of their kids on campus and getting to and from school. It seems that safety issues are getting better, but we do have an ongoing concern," Griffiths said.

Crime isn’t the only topic on locals’ minds. Many are interested in improving the appearance of the area. For example, the neighborhood has no county-maintained parks; neighbors raised their own money to improve and maintain two parks on San Francisco Public Utilities Commission land. They are trying to gain approval to beautify another weedy spot at the corner of Bay Road and 18th Avenue, Caplan said.

Board of Supervisors President Rose Jacobs Gibson helped establish the county day worker center after business owners raised concerns about workers loitering on streets looking for work, but other business concerns have led to thorny debate.

"We talk about parking, and whether you change from parallel to diagonal parking, and whether Middlefield (Road) should be two lanes," Caplan said.

County planners are also looking at ways to help the many low-income residents and recent immigrants who call the unincorporated neighborhood — bounded by Redwood City, Menlo Park and Atherton — home, Seubert said.

"We want to listen and work with them to determine what are their needs, priorities and opportunities for change so that we can make it a better neighborhood," he said.

Depending on what they hear, county officials will respond with changes, whether it’s an update to local planning guidelines, or a response from the public works department, law enforcement or parks and recreation plans, Seubert added.

The county will hold three bilingual workshops on Feb. 26, March 12 and March 26 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the San Mateo County Human Services Center, 2500 Middlefield Road.

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Beth Winegarner

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