Liesje Nicolas, HCA President 

President's Message

Liesje Nicolas, HCA President


March 2020

Vote YES to Continue Our Enhanced Fire and Sheriff Services!

We are all acutely aware that the beautiful Highlands greenbelt surrounding our homes is vulnerable to high fire risk. Indispensable protections for our communities are at the center of a great service agreement through our CSA1 Special parcel tax for Enhanced Fire and Sheriff services. If we ever lost, or let expire, this CSA1 tax and agreement, we may never receive the enhanced level of services we currently enjoy.

We are relieved to announce that there will be a mail in ballot in June for continuation of our Enhanced Fire and Sheriff services through our County Service Area One (CSA1) Special Parcel tax. The County accidently omitted our Special Parcel tax from the March presidential ballot. We now have County confirmation that a resolution will be on the March 24th Board of Supervisors’ agenda and there will be a mail in ballot in June. Heartfelt thank you to our HCA Board and CSA1 leaders for their support on behalf of our communities.

Service Level Today:

CSA1 pays for a 24/7 fire engine located at station #17, located on Paul Scannell Road, with a gate to enter directly onto Lexington Ave. CalFire staffs the engine with a minimum of three firefighters, one of which is a paramedic. CSA1 also pays for patrol service by a Deputy Sheriff, 7 days a week, 18 hours a day.


Highlands is part of the very unique district of County Service Area 1 (CSA1). In 1957 CSA1 was established to provide Enhanced fire service for the Highlands and other neighborhoods in the unincorporated area, including Baywood Park, Baywood Plaza, San Mateo Oaks, and Hillside Gardens. When the district was created, a share of the CSA1 resident’s property taxes was dedicated to paying for Enhanced fire service which was provided by CalFire. In 1966, extra patrols by the County Sheriff were requested by the community and paid through the CSA1 property tax allocation. Highlands neighborhood has fought long and hard to maintain our service levels. The reason we still have fire station #17 and engine is because neighbors have fought to keep it. We taxed ourselves to provide added high level services.

The current assessment of $65 a year, per house, for these enhanced services has been consistently renewed by the voters every four or five years. To continue this important agreement of enhanced services for our area, 2/3 of voters must vote yes to continue the assessment. CalFire and Sheriff are supportive of our enhanced services. CSA1 leaders unanimously support this assessment.

Vote Yes! Your yes vote supports fire safety for all of our homes, quick access neighborhood emergency medical technician services, and security for our neighborhood. If you want more info about this please email  or call 650-773-7805.


2015 June President's Message

Independence Day in the Highlands will be here soon! I can’t wait to hear the sirens of the CalFire

engine and the Sheriff patrol cars to start up the 4th of July Parade. My heart swells with pride to watch

the Highlands parade!  I hope all the kids get the experience to march in the parade and have their

neighbors cheer them on. I'm so grateful for all the people who join the HCA and take the time to put in

so much hard work to make the celebrations come together. The 4th of July celebration is funded by

Highlands Community Association membership dues and donations as well as our wonderful local

business sponsors.  For 58 years the celebration has been run by volunteers.  This year is no different.

We have Rick Priola to lead the celebrations.  He and his amazing committee have been working since

January to create this patriotic event for our residents.      What began as a way to keep our families

safely off the roads during the holiday, is now such a treasured Highlands tradition that maintains the

wonderful small- town feel of our community. Recently as I left my family to go to a planning meeting

for the celebrations, I looked at my young boys, Jaak, 4-, and Luuk, 8-years-old, and I thought “why do

we do this?”  But I know why.  I do it each year, to recreate some of the best moments of my life with

my family. I love lying on our blanket on the cool grass snuggled with my sons, my husband, and my

parents to watch the fireworks.      I’ve watched the fireworks like this with my parents and Highlands’

neighbors for 46 years, and now I am so blessed to have my husband and our sons to share the

experience with.  It is a wonderful feeling lying under the stars, surrounded by our dear Highlands

community.  I love to hear the symphony of neighbors’.Ohs and Aahs to the bright firework explosions. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one to tear up with gratitude for all the volunteers who make it possible for our

community to put this celebration together.     

    The 4th of July celebration is organized by the HCA. It is not a free public event.  Please bring a guest, but

kindly do not post an open invitation on Social Media. 

We have limited space to watch the fireworks, and want to maintain this event for the residents to

enjoy. So as the first firework explodes this year, kicking off the celebration, please join me in gratitude

for our families, great neighbors, and the independence we enjoy here in the Highlands, USA!  See page

10 of this lowdown for the list of our generous group of early 4th of July sponsors.  You can find

information about sponsorship levels  on page 7. 

           When we prepare for celebrations, we often think of old friends and neighbors who won’t be here

to join in. We were sad to learn of the death of Arnie Bookspun, a longtime Highlander who passed

away recently,  and we send our condolences to his family.     I look forward to seeing you at the HCA

meetings. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at


2015 May President's Message

One of my favorite things about the Highlands is how your neighbors become a part of your family. Before you know it, years have flown by and you and your neighbors have celebrated  holidays and daily life together.       This caring for neighbors is one of   the many reasons the 4th of July celebrations have continued on. The 4th of July is one of the wonderful traditions of the Highlands that was started as a way to keep our neighborhood families safe and sound and off the roads during the holiday weekend.  The closeness of Highlands neighbors makes it so hard when we have to say farewell to long-time neighbors, such as the Carhart and the Stratford-Collins families. We wish them the best and know they will always be a part of the Highlands fabric. Come back for the 4th of July!       Update on Construction on Bunker Hill – Lately, there have been incidents reported to the County, of the developer closing off the downhill lane of traffic on Bunker Hill during rush hour. This is an unsafe traffic condition as well as a violation of the builder’s permit. Please watch out driving up the hill, as at times, there has only been one flagman at the top of the hill, and no flagman at the bottom to let drivers know that oncoming traffic is coming head on into their lane. The developer’s permit prohibits the closure of the road during rush hour, including the school drop-off and pick-up times. Please call the CHP non-emergency number,707-551-4100, to report unsafe conditions such as this or 911 if there’s an emergency.     Ascension Heights/Water Tank Hill Project – You may be wondering what is happening with the Ascension Heights/Water Tank Hill project?  The estimate from the Planning Commission office is that the next Planning Commission public meeting will be scheduled for sometime in the summer.  The Water Tank Hill website is      Join the HCA- The 4th of July is getting closer and it’s always a major project of the HCA year.. When you join the HCA, you support the celebration and contribute to the community. Our dues are $30 a year. You can give a check to your Area Rep, pay your membership dues online on our website,, or mail a check payable to the HCA to HCA, 205 De Anza Boulevard, #49, San Mateo, CA 94402.  Donations to the 4th of July with your dues are also very welcome.          I look forward to seeing you at the HCA meetings. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at:


2015 April President's Message

The warmest of birthday wishes to Highland’s resident Ned Broyles!! Happy 100 years!! The HCA was so honored to have Ned as the Grand Marshal of the Highlands’ Independence Day Parade last year. Ned has been an inspirational Highlander since he moved his family here in 1964. He and his wife Marion raised three exceptional sons all while Ned served our country.  Ned has volunteered in the HCA, and even ran the 4th of July festivities.  Our volunteers really make the Highlands such an amazing neighborhood!

This month, Highlands Elementary school teachers and staff hosted a volunteer appreciation breakfast for the parent volunteers at school.  Valerie Margolin and I joined in to thank the 120 Art in Action parent volunteers also.  Parents at school teach art enrichment lessons in the classrooms using an art  program curriculum that we license from Art in Action of Menlo Park. It is a very popular program with the kids and the parent volunteers too. A big thank you to the Highlands residents, Sherrie Friedman, Lynn Porcedda, Colleen Sullivan, Ellen Howard, Sounae Cho, and Tiffany Belzer,  who previously coordinated the program.

Coming soon…A Highland’s tradition for 58 years, the annual 4th of July celebration is fast approaching.  Highlands’ Independence Day events are entirely organized and managed by Highlands families.  The celebrations are sponsored by the HCA, and only made possible by your donations.  No county or city government contributes to these events. You can volunteer by calling Rick Priola at 650- 574-8313 or signing up on our website.  under the 4th of July tab.

While on the website….you can also pay your membership dues to the HCA, if you haven’t done it already.  Or make checks payable to the HCA and mail them to:  HCA, 205 De Anza Boulevard, #49, San Mateo, CA 94402. Soon, the HCA 4th of July Sponsors form will be available online for anyone wishing to sponsor the celebrations with a donation of $100, $200, $300 or $500. You can choose for your name to be prominently displayed on the sponsorship wall at the midway on the 4th as well as having your name  listed in the sponsorship article in the Lowdown. If you’ve already donated and wish to be listed as a sponsor, please contact me.

From now through the middle of May, please consider setting out your garbage bins for pick up only when they are completely full. Please read the article that explains how it may help stabilize our Recology  garbage rates.

I look forward to seeing you at the HCA meetings. If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at: or 650-773-7805.

Liesje Nicolas


March 2015 President's Message

I recently introduced myself as from the Highlands, to Senator Jerry Hill and he commented on what a slice of heaven we have up in the Highlands! Isn’t that the truth! I think the same thing, when I walk my son home from Highlands Elementary school, the same school that I attended.  We have a slice of heaven here, to watch the fog roll over the hills or splash with joy in the Rec pool with our kids.  I said the same when I enjoyed honey from my neighbor’s Highlands bees.  His local honey is mind blowing goodness, especially when drizzled on peanut butter.  We have amazing neighbors here in the Highlands. The smartest, kindest and most generous folks you’ll ever meet. I hope you’ll take the time to get to know your neighbors and also to get involved in the neighborhood activites. We are still looking for a Chairperson for the 4th of July carnival games, and someone to fundraise for the 4th events.  Contact me (650-773-7805) or Rick Priola for details, tel: 650-888-8713.

Ascension Heights/Water Tank Hill: Please see the Baywood Park HOA’s update from the Feb 25th Planning Commission meeting. I expressed concern about the compromised air quality for our 600 young kids at Highlands Elementary school, who must be outside for 2 hours of their school day. The Environmental report cites projected air quality to be 470% above the 24hour standard. Also the overcrowding we already are experiencing in our school district. Planning commissioners also echoed these concerns for our residents.

 Slowing down:  In February, a car sped down Bunker Hill Drive and crashed onto the sidewalk at the bottom of the hill before the church.  Let’s keep talking to each other and our families about slowing down in our neighborhood and keeping our neighbors safe on our sidewalks and streets.

Condolences: We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Highlands resident, Shirley Heiman, the mother of our 4th of July Fireworks coordinator, Bruce Heiman. Although she had long since moved away from the Highlands, she said that she kept the Highlands and the friends she made here close to her heart.  Our sympathy and condolences also go to the family and friends of long time resident, Jean Fellows.


2015 February Presidents' Message

A Brighter Future

Should we go to LED bulbs in our streetlights? The County DPWs has installed a sample LED light bulb in the streetlights at the crosswalk in front of the Rec (1824 Lexington). This sample LED bulb is for our community to decide if we want to change to LED bulbs in our streetlamps. This option came out of conversations with the County regarding comments from residents and Sheriff’s Department that our crosswalks were very dark.  According to DPWs, in addition to being energy efficient there are many other benefits for converting to LED streetlights, they include:

  • ·         A reduction in energy costs
  • LED streetlights contain no mercury, unlike the existing sodium vapor streetlights
  • LED streetlights last three to five times longer than the traditional sodium vapor streetlights
  • Require less maintenance 
  • Improved night visibility and color recognition
  • Lower environmental footprint

According to DPW’s representative Mark Chow, all costs associated are paid by the lighting District funds and there is no additional assessment anticipated to implement the LED conversion. I welcome feedback on the sample bulb. We’ll discuss it at the HCA meeting on February 24th, or email me your comments.

Water Tank Hill/ Ascension Heights Development

Thank you for coming out to the planning commission meeting on January 28th. The land proposed to be developed is the hillside in CSA1 at the corner of Ascension Drive and Bel Aire Road. It is important that our community attends the next planning commission meeting to hear  the community’s remaining testimony and the planning commission’s vote about the future of the project. You can find updates at


2015 January President's Message

Happy 2015 Highlands!  I’m starting 2015, honored to be your President of the HCA. I’m born and raised in the Highlands on Monticello Road and lucky to currently live on Lexington with my husband and 2 young sons.  I’ve been VP of the HCA for 4 yrs now, as well as membership chair before that. I am Co-Coordinator with Val Margolin, of the Art in Action program at Highlands Elementary, working  with 108 volunteers that teach art in every single classroom, to provide art enrichment for our children.

 I want to thank last years’ President, Rick Priola for all of his work to improve our wonderful GEM of a neighborhood.  The HCA will carry forward Highlands’ traditions of the Independence Day Celebrations,  publishing The Lowdown, and welcoming new neighbors.  This year, among other tasks, we continue working to:

-Protect the availability of Highlands Elementary School to all residents moving into the Highlands,

-Preserve the green open space surrounding the Highlands,

-Preserve our high level of Sheriff and Cal Fire services, including emergency medical services,

-Support clean streets without resorting to our residents ticketed for parking near their homes for street sweeping,

-Work for safe positioning and placement of the new PG&E gas line.

It takes lots of wonderful volunteers in the HCA to continue our goals for the future of Highlands, and I thank you all in advance for your energy and efforts. Next month watch for the Membership Flyer in the Lowdown to pay your 2015 membership. You can also pay online at:   

I recently watched 2 fluffy tailed coyotes prancing with joy in the field behind Lexington.  We are surrounded by beauty in the hills, canyons and fields encircling the Highlands. But more than that, the Highlands is filled with lovely caring people. I was overwhelmed with the generosity from neighbors during the recent rainstorm. Also a big thank to our Cal Fire crew that came in a jiffy to help with the storm! How can you thank a neighbor for coming out in the rain to reach into the chilly murky water in a pit to show you how to restart your sump pump? We are blessed to have many long time neighbors who can share with us the history and nature of the land that we are living on. I also want to welcome new families to our vibrant neighborhood. You picked the best!

Our Baywood neighbors in CSA-1 helped us when we needed assistance with the Chamberlain project,  and now they need our help to attend a meeting with the County to speak out for responsible building for Water Tank Hill. Jan 28 at 7pm, Hillsdale High School Main Theater 3115 Del Monte Street, San Mateo, CA 94403.  This is their website for details:

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