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City preps for presidential visit
May 21, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff
Mr. Smith may have gone to Washington but President Barack Obama is coming to Redwood City.

"People have asked, Why Redwood City? and I say, Why not?” said Mayor Alicia Aguirre who said she is excited, proud and absolutely planning to attend his campaign fundraiser at the Fox Theatre Wednesday night.

But the president doesn’t travel in a bubble and Redwood City has spent the last weeks in the frenzy of preparation for road closures, potential traffic jams, business shutdowns and — above all else — security. As of Friday afternoon, city officials and downtown business owners were still waiting for final marching orders from the Secret Service.

The core downtown area around the theater on Broadway is expected to be barricaded between 3 p.m. and as late as 10 p.m. The barricade will likely include all streets within the area bordered by Marshall and Winslow streets, Jefferson Avenue and Middlefield Road.

Businesses are being told they may have to close up shop by early afternoon May 23 although those details might not be solidified until today.

Directly across from the theater, the county history museum plans to close an hour early but all of its planned tours will be over by 3 p.m. anyway, said Mitch Postel, president of the historical association.

Down the street at Young’s Ice Cream and Candy Bar, Carlos Lopez said he’s pretty neutral on the visit. He would love to stay open that day, particularly with all the extra people expected, but understands the excitement about any president coming to town. His shop carries Obama’s favorite truffles which are typically ordered from a Menlo Park carrier, Lopez said.

"I want to tell him, come and get your truffles while you’re here,” Lopez said.

Lopez thinks his wife, Cathy Oyster, plans to completely close down the non-retail Fitzpatrick Building owned by her father next door.

The Redwood City Downtown Business Group didn’t return a call for comment but member Alpio Barbara is pretty thrilled. Barbara, president of Redwood General Tire Service, concedes his business is far enough down Broadway that he won’t be shut down early. However, he thinks even those who are affected can’t overlook the honor of a presidential visit.

"It is a disruption and some employees won’t get paid but how often does the president come to Redwood City? No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it gives you goose bumps,” he said.

Obama may not be the first president to come to town. Some reports say Herbert Hoover popped in the 1930s. Obama is also not the only presidential contender to swing through. Republican hopeful Mitt Romney is holding a pricey fundraiser in Hillsborough the following week and private campaign functions on the Peninsula are fairly common.

But the Fox Theatre event is different in that tickets are available to the public, Aguirre said.

"Those are unreachable to the normal person. This event is open and it puts Redwood City on the map, too. With everything we’ve been trying to work on and do in Redwood City, this affirms it as a destination,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said the city has tried hard to make sure residents and businesses aren’t caught by surprise.

"This is all a lot of sacrifice on our part and their part,” said city spokesman Malcolm Smith referencing both the city and its businesses.

Although the Secret Service is the lead agency in presidential protection, Redwood City police will handle traffic and parking issues and possibly any protests that may arise. There’s been some online chatter about possible protests but Smith said the police department hasn’t learned anything definitive.

And if they show up, Lopez said he doesn’t mind.

"Protesters like ice cream, too,” he said.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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