Rick Bonilla Appointed to San Mateo City Council
San Mateo’s new City Council member, Rick Bonilla, was sworn in January 26 by City Clerk Patrice Olds. Photo by Bob Stine.
The San Mateo City Council voted unanimously to appoint retired carpenter and Carpenters Union business representative Rick Bonilla to the City Council January 26. Bonilla had served on the city’s Planning Commission since 2012, after six years on the Public Works Commission. Bonilla fills a vacancy on the council created when council member Robert Ross retired in early January citing health conditions.
Bonilla was one of six candidates for the position. Mayor Maureen Freschet said, “I think we had very wonderful, qualified candidates who brought unique experiences. But I think what the council was looking for was someone we felt could step in seamlessly and take on the big job, because we have a lot of issues facing San Mateo. I think Rick just had that extra bit of experience and knowledge that he could hit the ground running.”
In a presentation to the Council before his appointment, Bonilla said, “The learning curve with me would be very short. I have a deep understanding of the important issues this city and our region face today, like transportation, housing and sustainability.” Bonilla said his priorities as a councilmember would include promoting transit-oriented development and affordable housing, maintaining a balanced budget, and improving the downtown area. Bonilla said he wants to “foster a robust economy that represents all workers, protects all neighborhoods and provides a magnificent place for residents of all incomes.”
Bonilla started taking a strong interest in San Mateo civic activities in the mid 1990s. He studied the local issues, read many administrative reports and attended numerous City Council and Planning Commission meetings. The City Council appointed Bonilla to the Bay Meadows Phase II Citizens Advisory Committee that studied the former race track site as well as the rail transportation corridor for three years. In 2004, the Committee made recommendations to the Planning Commission and City Council for approval of the final development program. “I urged and fought for an all union agreement for the construction,” Bonilla said. “The entire community is now benefiting as a result of that work.”
During his term on the Public Works Commission, the Public Works Department became more proactive—developing the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plans, which led to the current Sustainable Streets Plan. Bonilla said the Plan is “an extremely forward thinking program to bring the City of San Mateo into the 21st century with a healthy, safe and enjoyable built and natural environment.”
As a Planning Commissioner, Rick worked on continuing the development of the Bay Meadows project, moving towards construction of the Hines project, and approval of the Station Park Green Development. The Commission also made recommendations for Council action on a Climate Action Plan, Sustainable Streets Plan, Housing Element, Bridgepointe Ice Rink, Hillsdale/101 Bike and Pedestrian Bridge, and the 7-11 Project.
Bonilla said public sector workers should be respected and that the work done by the public works department affects everyone. “I learned that when government is done well by the people, we can have a great quality of life,” he said. Bonilla said the City Council is looking for ways to help improve the downtown area and expand opportunities for businesses while preserving the city’s neighborhoods.
The San Mateo County Central Labor Council voted in January to endorse Bonilla’s appointment and wrote to the San Mateo City Council. Executive Secretary-Treasurer Shelley Kessler said that over the course of the 20 years she has known him, “I have relied on Rick to provide leadership in everything from advice on construction to charity work, from political outreach to member education and community engagement.”
Kessler noted that Bonilla had advanced his leadership skill set by participating in the San Mateo City and County Citizen’s Service Academy and the San Mateo County leadership program. “While these programs served to enhance his leadership in his work duties, he found ways to translate those skills into our community structures as well,” she said. “Above that, Rick Bonilla is an exceptionally positive human being. He is someone who takes on obligations with optimism and cheerfulness. To have a person representing San Mateo who is not only competent but pleasant would be a treasure. I have found him to be a calm, capable, responsible decision maker.”
Rick Bonilla, 61, was born in San Francisco and grew up in San Bruno attending local public schools. He joined Carpenters Local 1408 in Redwood City in 1978 and became a member of Carpenters Local 217 when the county Locals were merged. He began working as a union rep in 1998, transferring to Local 22 in 2008 and retiring in 2011. He and his wife Suzanne bought their current home in Hayward Park near Central Park and downtown in 1991. “It has been a truly wonderful place to live while enjoying the great lifestyle of San Mateo,” he said.
Bonilla will need to run in the November election for the remaining two years of Ross’s term, which expires in 2017.
San Mateo City Council member David Lim congratulates Rick Bonilla on his appointment to the City Council January 26. Photo by Bob Stine.
- Paul Burton