It can be a bit eerie strolling through the glittering mall at the Hillsdale Shopping Center these days.

Signs of the prolonged economic slump have been delicately masked. They are present nonetheless at the San Mateo retail giant — one of the city's most important sources of sales tax revenue.

More than a dozen shuttered outlets dot the center's gleaming, well-tended interior. One of the mall's four large anchor stores, Mervyns, remains vacant following the corporation's collapse.

Entrances to the closed former tenants are shrouded in attractive curtains. Their signage has been removed, and their display windows feature promotions for other attractions.

The illusion is helpful. Only those who perform a close inspection of the storefronts can fathom what's really up.

Larry Ivich, Hillsdale's general manager, remains upbeat.

"Our total sales are down about 3 percent," Ivich said. "We're doing relatively well, considering."

The decline in the city's sales tax take, however, may be worse than the 3 percent figure, depending on how it's calculated.

According to Hossein Golestan, San Mateo's finance director, sales taxes generated by the mall declined by just over 7 percent from 2007 to 2008, dropping from $2.7 million to $2.5 million.

As for the old Mervyns site, Ivich said, "We don't have a signed lease yet, but there is a lot of interest in it. We are hoping to have


something soon."

On balance, Hillsdale, the oldest major shopping complex in San Mateo County, appears to be holding up fairly well during a very rough patch.


The Jack London Writers Conference is set for Oct. 10 and 11 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City.

The event is presented by the San Francisco/Peninsula California Writers Club. Prices for participating in the conference range from $375 to $20 (the cost of a writing contest entry).

For more information, check out or send an e-mail to


After 31 years in Serra High School's administrative office, 25 of them as principal, Belmont's Mike Peterson has retired.

Nearly 300 people turned out to fete him last weekend at the all-boys Catholic school in San Mateo.

His quarter-century run as principal was one of the longest at a single secondary school, public or private, in San Mateo County history.

During his productive tenure, Serra's enrollment grew to an all-time high of slightly more than 1,000 students.


Great to see the late Carl Reyna honored posthumously by the city of Burlingame this week.

Reyna, an alumnus of Capuchino and Mills high schools, was a longtime supporter of prep athletics on the Peninsula.

A suburban character of sorts, he was a constant and gregarious presence in Burlingame for more than 50 years. He passed away in 1998.

Reach John Horgan at

Maze of Monkey Illusion - 2009
Optical illusion maze caused by conflicting horizontal and vertical lines.

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