Controversial changes to San Carlos holiday lights tradition


Loading Video…

This browser does not support the Video element.

Controversial change to a holiday tradition

KTVU’s Brooks Jarosz reports.

Some neighbors in San Carlos are upset with city officials over safety and traffic changes meant to improve an annual two-block holiday lights display.

Large, orange barricades, portable toilets and trash cans were put curbside near Dave Newman’s home along Eucalyptus Avenue, blocking the view of his elaborate designs and causing congestion.

“You don’t put a porta potty at the entrance of a football stadium, so you don’t put a porta potty at the entrances of the houses with the most lights,” Newman said. “It’s just common sense.”

His street is overwhelmed in December by cars, strollers, and pedestrians who visit from across the Bay Area to see homes, rooftops and yards decked out with lights and over-the-top Christmas displays.

But this year, the City of San Carlos spent more than $110,000 to address record complaints surrounding traffic issues, trash and the need for restrooms, hand washing stations and other safety measures.

More than a dozen security guards have been hired to monitor foot and vehicle traffic. Additionally, barricades have been put up to prevent cars from blocking or parking on parts of the street.

“This is what the community asked us for,” Mayor Sara McDowell said. “We heard the concerns time and again about traffic and safety measures and trash cans and restrooms being needed.”

Despite city leaders saying several community members have supported the new efforts, other neighbors claim they don’t see the need.

“It’s just a complete waste of money for nothing,” resident Jack Lehman said. “It’s just making a big problem about something that isn’t a problem.”

The decorating has been an annual tradition for many who have lived there for decades.

Last year, crowds were a concern with a surge in COVID-19. Other complaints to the city including pedestrian safety, trash, and emergency access, which ultimately led to community meetings with city council in May and June.

McDowell said the measures were a direct result of the neighborhood concerns and challenges.

But Newman, who admits he’s a little obsessed with lights and Christmas displays, said he wanted to send city leaders a message that putting the barricades, restrooms and trash cans in front of his home is unfair and unsafe.

“I just thought what did I do to deserve this?” Newman said. “I won’t light up next year. I won’t do it. This is my last year.”

He publicly displayed several signs blasting city leaders for the changes and said in a letter that the toilets and barricades forces visitors to walk into traffic.

However,  to Newman’s surprise on Christmas Eve, the portable toilets, some of the barricades and trash cans were removed.

“They all disappeared,” he said. “I don’t know what happened.”

The mayor was unaware of how or why they were taken away, but did say in the new year, city leaders would analyze what was done this year and make improvements.

“We’re certainly open to hearing from the community,” McDowell said.

Already, another $110,000 was approved for security guards, restrooms and traffic control next year.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU

Source link