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Letter from Mayor and City Manager
August 7, 2020
In our ongoing effort to bring you accurate information and advice during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had hoped to have good news. Unfortunately, the virus is spreading in Marin. The California death rate climbed above 10,000 last week. Belvedere has a handful of cases. Marin County is on the State’s “Watch List,” which put the brakes on reopening schools and businesses. The numbing statistics can be found on the Marin Health and Human Services website, and updates on reopening progress are available on the Marin Recovers website. We now know this is not a sprint, rather more like a marathon. No amount of wishful thinking will change reality; the difference between lock-down and reopening lies in our own behavior, driven by a willingness to keep ourselves safe and look after the well-being of others.
"PhotoMasks. Confused? A good rule of thumb is this: if you have to ask, wear a mask. This simple strategy for limiting the spread of infectious disease has been around for more than a century, to which this 1918 picture of San Franciscans attests.
And yet, the current confusion is understandable, because inconsistent advice is coming from federal, state and county levels. In Belvedere, if you are outside with anyone other than family, the best practice is to wear a mask. There are common sense exceptions for outdoor dining and individual exercise. Thanks to a gift from the Belvedere Community Foundation, Belvedere police are passing out free masks along with a warning, at first. But if warnings fail to achieve compliance, the next steps are citations and fines, already authorized by state and local law. The order that will be enforced can be found here.
Schools. Foremost in the minds of families is the chaotic state of school re-openings. Parents are anxious and eager to have their children return to school – in person, face-to-face. Meanwhile, teachers are concerned about their personal risk and children’s health. The challenge will be ensuring safety. No one wants another lock-down of the entire community caused by an outbreak at a local school.
In general, unless they get a waiver from the County Health Department, schools cannot reopen in-person classes until Marin has been taken off of the State’s “Watch List” by meeting specific metrics (e.g., case numbers, testing, hospital capacity, death rate). Waiver criteria are currently being developed and schools may apply for waivers starting next week. It is unlikely that Marin schools would reopen with in-person instruction before late September at best. You can read the State orders from Governor Newsom here, and additional guidance from the California Department of Public Health here. There is no time to lose. August 20 is the projected start date for distance learning at local public schools. There seems to be no concise, consistent reopening strategy. Different schools – public and private – are emailing families their separate approaches. You can get the latest news from the districts here:
Reed Union School District website
Tam District website
Marin County Office of Education website
Construction. Remember how quiet things were last March? Cascading construction projects – both public and private – always rev up in summertime, but this year the nearly 80 projects put on hold during the lock-down re-opened at once. A major retaining wall replacement is underway on Beach Road, essential for preventing mudslides during rainstorms. And then there were private projects. Our building and public works departments have been working hard to move permits and inspections along. With vacations cancelled, there was no escape from all this construction! Please invite a Beach Road neighbor to a take-out lunch, as they have been bearing the brunt of it this season.
Utility undergrounding in the Acacia/Laurel/Beach area and upper Golden Gate Avenue is nearly complete. The pandemic delayed these projects, but they are now moving full speed ahead. We hope to see poles come down in some areas within the next few weeks. Public Works, with the help of many residents, is about to begin sidewalk repairs for public safety throughout the City.
Seniors. The last census (2010) showed 31.6% of Belvedere residents were 65 or over. As many as 1 in 5 households have a senior living alone. Diana Bradley, Belvedere’s representative to the Marin Committee on Aging invites every Belvedere senior to contact her to set up a social group to meet over ZOOM for a speakers series. When conditions allow, the group may move to the Founder’s Room for regular meetings in person. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire Season. Thank you to everyone who participated in vegetation management efforts this year, including our eight weekly curbside pickups, through which nearly 300 truckloads of flammable garden debris were removed from our city. Thank you also to those who hauled tons of yard waste to Blackie’s pasture for removal on the TFPD’s chipper days on the second Saturday of each summer month. The next is tomorrow, Saturday August 8, and the full 2020 chipper day schedule is posted on the Tiburon Fire website. Meanwhile, Public Works crews are trimming our city rights-of-way and other public lands; if you know an area that needs clearing, please let the city know.
As hurricanes on the East Coast dominate national news, it is clear that other seasonal disasters do not wait for the pandemic to subside. We are actively working behind the scenes to beef up our emergency response capacity. Along with Dr. Tom Cromwell, we cleaned out the emergency medical trailer, inventoried the contents, and updated expired products. If you have had medical training (EMT, RN, MD), or are a retired medical professional and would volunteer to assist the injured in an emergency, please contact Dr. Tom Cromwell by contacting us below. Again, we urge everyone to sign up with Alert Marin by clicking here. Our Block Captain program continues to develop knowledge and networks, in a neighbor system designed to keep us all safe. But we can all learn what to do by visiting the Ready Marin website, here.
Library. Good news from the library – Belvedere’s Glenn Isaacson reported to the Belvedere-Tiburon Library Agency earlier this week that the expansion project is on schedule and on budget. Despite construction and the corona virus shutdown, our library continues to offer a wide variety of services. If you have cabin fever, check out the Library’s website.
Preparing for Power Shutoffs. We all remember last October’s ugly Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), PG&E’s effort to reduce wildfire with a total power shutoff. Since then, we have let our voice be heard. PG&E assures Marin cities that this year’s outages will be shorter and less frequent due to improvements to its local grid. At the same time, we have worked hard to equip the Belvedere Community Center to accommodate residents during shutoffs. The whole lower floor of City Hall will be open, not just the Founder’s Room. Tables will be set up six feet apart. We have upgraded the WiFi system and added charging capability. The Belvedere Community Foundation (BCF) generously donated funds for an ice machine, especially to help people who need to keep medicines chilled. Thank you, again, BCF!! In a PSPS, everyone is welcome to come the Community Center for the latest information on what’s going on.
In the meantime, be stay safe and well.
Nancy Kemnitzer, NKemnitzer@cityofbelvedere.org
Craig Middleton, CMiddleton@cityofbelvedere.org