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Assumption Opens New Playground
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times • 09-06-18
It took God seven days to make the world, but it took 10 years to re-do the parking lot, playground and landscaping at Assumption Church and its school.
But then God knows how to cut through the red tape.
No matter how many years it took, it was still quite a feat to get the job done, and it’s made a big improvement to the look of Assumption. To recognize the job, Assumption held a celebration after the noon Mass on Sunday, Aug. 26.
The parking lot doubles as a playground when school is in session, and a small part of the lot was turned into grass.
“Kids had to dodge the potholes when they were playing,” said Robert Caruso, a parishioner who helped manage the project.
They paved the lot, built new fences, planted trees, added more landscaping with drought-resistant plants, and installed LED lights.
At the outdoor ceremony, Father Leonard Marujo thanked the church members who worked on the project. He then asked the congregation to turn around toward the playground and raise a hand to bless the new facility.
The project was finished just in the nick of time. They squeezed the work into the summer recess, with no time left to spare.
“We started on the Monday after school stopped,” said Matt Loesch, one of the volunteers who helped manage the project. “And we finished at noon on the day school started at 2 p.m.”
The funding came from school tuition, church funds and fundraisers, said school board president Paul Carney who was in charge of the financial part of the project.
Though volunteers organized the work, the job was done by professional companies, pointed out Caruso, who is a project manager by profession.
Caruso got down to the brass tacks. This wasn’t just a patch-up of the pavement, they completely removed the blacktop.
“This paving job was monumental – it was dug down to the soil, started from scratch,” Caruso said.
Another thing Caruso wanted to point out was that he’s managed projects in a lot of cities and that the City of San Leandro was easy to work with.
The whole idea started 10 years ago when Angele Sweet drew the sketches, said parishioner Faye Clements.
Over the years, church members heard enough about the plans, so it’s finally good that now everybody can see the results, Caruso said.
“It took us a long time,” said Caruso, adding with a chuckle, “I think people were getting tired of hearing us talk about it.”
CAPTION: Guillermo Elenas looks on as Jayden Pruitt and Javier Perez go up for the ball on the new outdoor playground at Assumption School just after the church held a ceremony to mark the completion of the project.
Candidate Gets Involved: Runs For Five Offices
Nick Harvey got no response from politicos, so he’s running
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 09-06-18
When Nicholas Harvey moved to the Fairview area two years ago, he saw room for improvement – speeding cars, overgrown weeds, and several blocks without sidewalks.
Harvey started attending meetings and speaking to representatives on the Fairview Municipal Advisory Council, the county Public Works department, the school district, and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors – but he said they just weren’t listening.
So Harvey decided to do something about it. He’s running for five separate offices in this November’s general election.
“Every time I’ve spoken about these issues, they’ve fallen on deaf ears,” said Harvey. “I’ve just become very fed up. No one wants to do anything, so I will.”
Harvey is running for East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) Ward 7 seat, the Eden Health District Board of Directors, the Fairview Fire Protection District Board, the Hayward School Board, and AC Transit Board Ward 4.
Harvey admits that he’d most like to take the AC Transit spot, as he questions opponent incumbent Mark Williams’ financial honesty. Williams did not file campaign finance reports between 2012 and 2016 and was fined $60,000 earlier this year by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
Harvey says the transit system is just plain badly run, with AC Transit’s per ride operation costs roughly twice that of the Muni in San Francisco. And he would know - Harvey is reliant on public transportation, taking buses, trains, and his bike everywhere.
“I’ve never owned a car, but I do own a house,” said Harvey, who has a degree in chemistry and now runs his own real estate consulting business.
But Harvey says he would be content to win any – or all – of the five races.
“If I win all five, I’ll serve all five,” said Harvey. “When I filed (to become a candidate) it was my intention to serve, so I will. I have the breadth of knowledge to serve on all five.”
Incumbent Mellon Complains That Challenger Makes
Election Cost More
EBMUD Ward 7 incumbent Frank Mellon has been openly critical of Harvey casting a wide net when it comes to the election.
Mellon has been on the utility board for 24 years and has often run unopposed for reelection. He last faced an opponent 8 years ago.
But Mellon says’s it’s not the fact that he’ll have to campaign that he’s worried about, its the cost of Harvey’s gambit.
Elections costs the county (and therefore the taxpayer) hundreds of thousands of dollars and the cost is based on of the number of voters. If a race is uncontested, if doesn’t appear on the ballot and so doesn’t cost taxpayers money.
Mellon said that Harvey’s five-race election was superfluous.
“I couldn’t care less if someone is running against me; my concern is waste,” said Mellon. “Am I really running against someone who stands for something or just a guy that wants some sort of Guinness record? I’ve worked really hard for our rate payers and I have a record of that.”
But Harvey said if that’s Mellon’s concern why is the cost being pinned on Harvey’s candidacy and not Mellon’s?
“How is the cost to the county from me running and not him?” asked Harvey.
Harvey says he does have a platform. His scientific background will help him grasp the work of the utility and that he intends to reform the tiered rate paying system to help lower-income residents. He also wants to focus on water conservation efforts.
In August, Mellon went to Harvey’s home and dropped off a load EBMUD staff reports and other documents.
“I dropped off the documents to show him what kind of work he’d have to do,” said Mellon. “Apparently, he took umbrage with that.”
Harvey called Mellon’s action “unprofessional” and added that he would like people to look at him as a serious, well-rounded candidate for each of the offices, not just a novelty.
“Before people criticize me, I’d say they should reach out and get to know me,” said Harvey.
CAPTION: Nick Harvey moved to Fairview and saw a need for improvement.
Only One Candidate For SLZ School Board
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 09-06-18
There are not enough candidates for the San Lorenzo School Board to get the race on the ballot for the November election.
Additionally, San Lorenzo’s superintendent announced he’s leaving the district less than two months into the school year for a job outside the education field.
Originally, the San Lorenzo School Board race was going to be a “pick-two” election with the top two vote getters earning a spot as board trustees.
But only one person filed to run – teacher and 2012 Arroyo High grad Samuel Medina. The other incumbent, Janet Zamudio, did not run for reelection. Zamudio didn’t respond to a request for comment.
So with only one candidate, Medina automatically gets a spot on the school board and the race won’t even appear on the ballot.
To fill the second spot, the school board will have to appoint a new member sometime after the election.
The San Lorenzo School District last had to appoint a new member in April of 2017, when trustee Helen Randall stepped down mid-term due to her health and the death of her long-time partner. Her replacement was Medina, 23, who was unanimously appointed by his fellow members to take over Randall’s term.
Dr. Fred Brill, the district’s superintendent, said he didn’t think it was a lack of interest in local education that has led to a dearth of candidates, but a frustration with the state of education in general.
The lack of candidates is not just in San Lorenzo. In all of San Leandro’s school board races the candidates are running unopposed, guaranteed victory.
As for Brill, he announced that he is resigning as superintendent of the district as of Oct. 8, saying he’s leaving for a job with a non-profit. Brill came to the district in 2014 and did not want to elaborate on his decision to leave.
“I would say that I think it is interesting that you are seeing a short tenure for superintendents, a lack of interest from candidates and that is certainly a trend in California and I think probably beyond,” said Brill. “There are a lot of difficult decisions being faced in education. For example, last year the board had to identify $5.2 million in cuts. That’s hard.”
Closed session discussions to find Brill’s replacement were scheduled for this week’s school board meeting.
CAPTION: Samuel Medina is the only candidate running for two openings on the San Lorenzo School Board.
City Council Extends Airbnb Moratorium
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 09-06-18
The City Council unanimously approved an urgency ordinance on Tuesday night to extend a moratorium on non-hosted short-term home rentals such as Airbnbs.
The ban has now been extended for ten more months, bringing the total length to one year.
In the spring, dozens of North Area residents complained to the City Council that out-of-town owners were effectively operating hotels out of homes, sometimes hosting up to 16 people in single-family homes at rates up to nearly $2,000 per night.
The speakers complained about the revolving door of guests and said that the Airbnbs were detrimental in creating a neighborhood since new people were coming in every day and potential buyers were also being priced out by investors who own multiple rental properties where they do not live.
The temporary moratorium went in effect just before the City Council’s August break and was extended this week when the council came back into session.
The ban does not apply to short-term rentals that are hosted, meaning owners can still rent out a room in a home if they’re also living at the property.
Now the City Council has until the end of next July to re-write the municipal code, which was originally drafted before these type of short-term rentals were popularized.
The ban appears to have been successful so far – San Leandro rentals have been removed from the Airbnb site.
City code enforcement officers are monitoring short-term rental sites, but most enforcement is complaint-based, according to Andrew Mogensen, the city’s planning manager.
During the month of August, the city received six complaints of active short-term rentals. Of those cases, one was found not to have been a non-hosted rental and one was a non-hosted rental whose owner agreed to desist in renting the property after a notice of a violation. The four remaining cases are still under investigation by the city.
The process for penalizing violators is a long one: if an owner is found to be in violation, they’ll receive a courtesy notice.
If the violation keeps happening, they get another notice 14 days later, then a $150 fine 14 days after that, and the fine doubles every two weeks after that. Only two and a half months after the initial notice could they be served with a judicial order to abate, according to Mogensen.
The next step in creating the new ordinance will be a meeting in the Karp Room at the San Leandro Main Library on Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. to get feedback from the public and also present a survey.
After that meeting, a City Council follow-up is expected in late November or early December, with the goal of having a finalized ordinance shortly after the beginning of the new year.
CAPTION: The Airbnb website has taken down listings for this San Leandro house and others since a moratorium was passed by the City Council at the urging of North Area home owners.
Tax Bill Lands on Church Door
County says church renting out hall as business; pastor says church fund-raisers don’t make it a business
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times • 08-30-18
A San Lorenzo Baptist Church says the county is trying to take away its tax-exempt status and shut it down to build housing or shops that produce more tax revenue.
Rev. Michael Wilson of Cornerstone Fellowship on Lewelling Boulevard says the county has been harassing him and threatening to take away the church’s tax-exemption. He said he believes that his church has been targeted with inspections by the county’s health and building departments as part of a county plan to force out the church.
“What Alameda County is doing is illegal. Under our Constitution we are allowed to worship freely and at a place of our choice, especially one that has been a place of worship for seven decades,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he now has two tax bills, totaling $17,000 on his desk. And the county has threatened to sue the church if the bills aren’t paid.
But Wilson maintains a church should be tax exempt. Besides that, the church only has 21 members and could never afford to pay that price anyway. Wilson says that Cornerstone, founded in 1946, is an older congregation and in the last few years a lot of its older members have passed away.
“We would have to declare bankruptcy, go out of business and sell the land and I think that’s what they want,” Wilson said.
The church hall is rented out four to six times a year for Quinceaneras by two Catholic churches in the area that don’t have a hall, and for weddings, Wilson said. He says the county told him that makes it a business, so it’s taxable.
In addition, the church has had a few, small pot luck dinners. But Wilson said lots of churches have things like that and they aren’t hit with tax bills.
But Alameda County says the church has been renting out space for events, which negates at least some percentage of the church’s tax-exempt status.
“In short, a church is 100 percent exempt if it’s used as a church 100 percent of the time,” said Brian Hitomi at the Alameda County tax assessor’s office.
“We’ve found that he rents rooms out commercially,” Hitomi said. “Once you begin using some of the property for non-exempt purposes, then that portion being used is no longer exempt.”
Hitomi said that the county has been in touch with Wilson about the use of the property, and is still in the process of determining the percentage of the exemption.
“If you rent the property out, then it’s quite possible that you would lose an exemption for that area of use,” Hitomi said.
So it’s the county’s position that the church would pay a fraction of the tax bill it received. How much of the property is exempt depends on the percentage of exemption.
But to determine the percentage of exemption, Hitomi said the county needs more information from Wilson.
“We’ve talked to him and asked for further verification of his rent of these properties,” Hitomi said. “We’ve asked for written documentation as to the nature of commercial use and we have yet to receive it. We just need that for us to make our determination. They say they don’t have them.”
But Wilson says other churches have functions that raise money, in some cases a lot more.
“They had a big pot luck at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland for $1,500 a plate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the county didn’t do anything,” Wilson said. “We’re small. So it’s no equal application under the law.”
Wilson says the county is wrong, the church isn’t a business. These events are just church fundraisers, like all churches have.
Around six years ago, Wilson said the county told him that if the events are not the sole income of the church, it’s all right. But this year he says the county told him the rules had changed.
“Now they said they can retroactively go back 10 years,” Wilson said.
Wilson says he’s gone to many county planning meetings and gotten an idea of what the county wants. He believes they want to put in housing or upscale shopping, attracting higher income residents to boost tax revenue.
“We’re a test case,” Wilson says. “If they succeed here, they’ll go after other places, Goodwill and places that pay no property tax.”
CAPTION: Rev. Michael Wilson, working on the lighting last week at Cornerstone Fellowship Baptist Church in San Lorenzo, says the county is illegally trying to make the church pay taxes.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Pot to Wreak Havoc on Roads, Say Experts
Whether a driver is stoned on cannabis is
hard to nail down, unlike the test for alcohol
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 08-30-18
Recreational marijuana use has been legal in California since the first of the year and the effects are being seen out on the roads.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) estimates that the Bay Area will experience a 70 percent increase in pot DUI arrests in 2018 over the previous year when recreation use wasn’t yet legal.
The CHP hosted a special marijuana traffic safety summit Monday at the county’s Office of Emergency Services in Dublin, in conjunction with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Speakers included Golden Gate CHP Chief Ernie Sanchez, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and Lori Ajax, the chief of the state Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Complicating matters, there is no breathalyzer equivalent to measure marijuana intoxication like there is for drivers suspected of being drunk. And there’s no “legal limit” on marijuana intoxication like the .08 blood alcohol threshold.
For now, officers must use their observation skills during field sobriety tests and find probable cause for an arrest. At the station, an officer with specific training as a “drug recognition expert” can request a blood test which can determine levels of THC present.
An oral swab and breath test are in the research stages, according to Dr. Philip Drum, a pharmacist and one of the speakers at the summit.
Drum says driving after ingesting marijuana is also complicated by the fact marijuana potency isn’t regulated by the FDA and mitigating factors contribute to how long it stays in the body, so it’s difficult to determine how long to wait after consuming pot before being safe to drive.
A lot is still unknown about marijuana DUIs, Drum said. There are joints with the potency of a Bud Light and edibles that are as a strong as Everclear. He said that dispensaries label their products, but consumers don’t always follow the “serving size” and may be getting higher than they realize.
Drum said that because the pot growing industry is getting so lucrative and becoming more mainstream, the number of pot-related crashes will only rise.
Drum offered a few humorous pieces of trivia, like the fact that in airports in states where it is legal, pot shops are advertising in the bins where you put your shoes to go through the security screening. And someone is apparently manufacturing pot laced tampons, and fancy restaurants put on multi-course gourmet dinners with marijuana-infused ingredients.
“Hopefully everyone takes a cab or an Uber to those dinners,” said Drum. “But I’d love to see law enforcement parked outside.”
But Drum wasn’t all jokes and he didn’t pretend to be objective during his talk to an audience of over 100 people, mostly law enfacement. Drum’s sister was killed by a driver who was high on cannabis in Seattle shortly after Washington state legalized adult use.
“My sister was older than me, but I’ve now lived longer than she has,” said Drum. “Driving is a choice, not a right, and nobody’s high is worth a life.”
CAPTION: A sign reminds drivers that stoned driving can get you a DUI just as it can with alcohol.
Orchard Supply Closing Shop
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 08-30-18
The Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) at 300 Floresta Boulevard will be closing its doors by the end of the year, along with all 99 stores in the chain.
The move will cost 4,300 jobs nationwide, 3,900 of which are in California.
The announcement that OSH stores are closing came suddenly last week when they were closed for one day last Tuesday to inform employees that the stores would be going out of business. When stores reopened on Wednesday morning, the “everything must go” signs were up.
And when they say everything must go, they mean it. A sign at the San Leandro store told customers to make an offer on the store’s shelves and other furnishings.
The San Leandro OSH on Floresta opened in April 2013, moving from a location on Lewelling Boulevard in San Lorenzo. The chain was opening up new locations locally as recently as 2017, when a store opened in Pleasanton.
“It’s a shame because it’s a good store and I usually get my plants here,” said shopper Helen Vo while picking up a fern Tuesday afternoon at the San Leandro OSH. “I don’t like going to the bigger stores because you always spend too much time there.”
The decision to close was made by parent company Lowe’s, which bought OSH in 2013, shortly after OSH filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Lowe’s said that some of the OSH locations may be turned into smaller Lowe’s stores and that former OSH employees would be giving priority hiring at Lowe’s stores.
OSH was founded in 1931 in San Jose when 30 farmers, mostly prune growers, were facing hard times and bought their farm supplies as a cooperative. Each farmer chipped in $30 to get the equipment they needed. The chain is mostly California-based, but there are locations in Florida and Oregon.
Now, the 87-year-old retailer will go the way of Toys R Us, Radio Shack, and other brick-and-mortar stores that have shuttered entirely.
There’s no set date for the San Leandro store’s closing, but this week it seemed as busy as ever as customers were eager to take advantage of the up to 70 percent off, going-out-of-business sales.
“I’m getting lightbulbs,” said Bill Souza who was stopping by before dinner at Elio’s. “I don’t need them yet, but I’ll need them eventually.”
CAPTION: The Orchard Supply Hardware on Floresta Boulevard will close by the end of the year.
Whatever Happened to SL’s Pot Shops?
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 08-30-18
Three years after the first medical cannabis dispensary was given a permit to operate by the San Leandro City Council, none of the three permitted shops have opened yet.
The pot dispensaries were given a permit with a sense of urgency. Speakers at meetings urged the City Council to issue the permits, some with tears in their eyes, because the drug would relieve the pain of people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
All three who have been issued licenses - Harborside, the Davis Street Wellness Center, and Blum - have their marijuana retailers permits and conditional use permits in place with the city, according to Eric Engelbart, San Leandro’s deputy city manager.
Engelbart says that Harborside and Blum will likely open in the fall and Davis Street before the end of the year.
So why the delay?
The first clinic to receive a city dispensary permit was Harborside back in September of 2015. Last summer, Harborside said they would open up before Christmas 2017.
Construction delays were a hindrance in opening Harborside’s dispensary at 1965 Marina Boulevard, according to Harborside government relations manager Conrad Gregory.
Gregory said that after the Ghost Ship fire, Harborside wanted their sprinkler system to be completely redone.
“And that’s not cheap and it really slowed us down,” said Gregory. “We hired a contractor for the fire suppression work and we’re in the process of getting the design of the system approved by the city.”
Gregory said that he couldn’t give an exact date as to when Harborside will open its doors in San Leandro, but does believe it will be before the end of the year.
Since the medical marijuana permits were issued, recreational marijuana use for adults has been made legal in the state, so you don’t need a medical reason to buy pot. San Leandro would have to pass a separate city ordinance to allow the sale of recreational pot in the city.
Asked if Harborside is dragging its feet until San Leandro allows adult sales so they can make more money, Conrad says no.
“We are going to open regardless of recreational use,” said Gregory. “I don’t anticipate that they’ll have adult use on the books any time soon, but I do hope the city moves in that direction.”
The second dispensary to receive a permit from the city was the Davis Street Wellness Center back in July 2016.
The Wellness Center has had a series of delays, including a debate about whether their location - right next to the Davis Street Family Resource Center on Teagarden Street – was appropriate for a cannabis dispensary.
Davis Street also had to get an extension on their conditional use permit and partner agency Davis Street Family Resource Center had to pay back a $325,000 loan to the city before they could begin construction.
Wellness Center CEO John Oram could not be reached for comment on when the dispensary will open.
At a May City Council meeting, former mayor Stephen Cassidy said that the hope is that the dispensary will open in the “fourth-quarter” of this year. He also expressed his desire that the city allow adult recreational use.
Cassidy works as an attorney for Bloom, a cannabis consulting firm affiliated with the Davis Street Wellness Center.
“You’re going to put San Leandro dispensaries at a competitive disadvantage if you don't allow adult use,” said Cassidy.
Blum was the last dispensary to receive a permit in October 2016, but according to the city, it appears they will be the first to open.
At the beginning of 2018, they estimated they would be open last April. But Mikel Alvarez, Blum’s director of retail operations, says that he anticipates the shop at 1911 Fairway Drive will now be open for business in October.
“We’re in the middle of a power upgrade to the whole building and we’ve got some beautification to do on the outside, but we are almost done with construction,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez said that Blum has already put out ads for employees and will soon be hosting a job fair.
The three permitted cannabis shops may not be doing business in San Leandro yet, but that doesn’t mean no one is involved in the pot business in town. In March of last year, police discovered a marijuana growing business operating out of a warehouse at 660 Marina Boulevard.
The operator, Daniel Fineman of a company called Justice Grown, did not have a permit to grow pot in San Leandro, but was able to provide documentation proving he as growing the pot for medical sale legally under state law.
After police consulted with the district attorney's office, Fineman was not charged with any criminal offense and the city treated the incident as civil matter of code violation.
As for the permitted dispensaries, Mayor Pauline Cutter said that she’s disappointed that none of the dispensaries have been able to open in the years since the permits were issued, but says that she’s pleased that progress has been made.
“It’s so curious that we issued those permits and nothing happened,” said Cutter. “Right now, I’m happy that hammers are being swung at all three properties. It seems like now it’s just a matter of getting these places finished.”
Pot stands to be a cash crop both for the dispensary operators and the city, as the city is estimated to make up to $500,000 annually in tax from the three clinics once they open, more if and when recreational use is allowed.
As for a possible ordinance to allow adult recreational use, Cutter says it’s something that’s on the council’s minds.
“We are going to have to take a look at that,” said Cutter. “I plan to get in touch with the (dispensary owners) and see what they think. We will have to see what's best for San Leandro.”
Cutter said that before any ordinance is voted on, there will be a series of meetings to gather community comments.
Last Ride of the Summer
San Leandro Times • 08-23-18
On August 14 some of the Cub Scouts from San Lorenzo Pack 635 had a final outing before school started.
They met at the Hayward Shoreline parking lot at the west end of Grant Avenue and bicycled north along the paved walking trails to Monarch Bay golf facility in San Leandro.
The management of Monarch Bay very kindly lets those developmentally challenged people served by Arc of Alameda County use the driving range and practice putting green of their Marina course each Tuesday. They are helped by the volunteer Ambassadors of Monarch Bay.
Last Tuesday the Cub Scouts who had bicycled there got to use the upper deck of the driving range. Management loaned them junior-sized golf clubs and plenty of balls to hit.
They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Across the street is Manor Park where they ate their lunches and then bicycled south to their original starting point.
CAPTION: Cub Scout Pack 635 took a bike ride along the Bay Trail, the last outing of the summer before the start of school.
PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN BAKER
Long-Awaited Fix Coming to East 14th Street
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 08-23-18
At least a small portion of pothole-plagued East 14th Street may be patched up by CalTrans in the next couple of months.
But the City of San Leandro is also moving forward with a plan to take over maintenance of the street from the state, saying the rough road needs to be fixed sooner.
East 14th Street is San Leandro’s main drag, but is maintained by CalTrans because it is a state highway, State Route 185. The street is in such poor shape that the city is considering asking CalTrans to relinquish ownership of the road so the city can do repairs itself.
At the next meeting of the city’s Facilities and Transportation Committee – scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 4 p.m. at City Hall – they will discuss the next step in the relinquishment process, according to Eric Engelbart, San Leandro’s deputy city manager.
“The City Council and city staff share in the public concerns regarding the pavement condition of East 14th Street,” said Engelbart.
CalTrans has bundled the East 14th Street repairs with other regional projects, so progress doesn't happen quickly. The idea behind the relinquishment would be that the city could apply for state funding directly and cut out the wait.
Engelbart added that the most recent news that the city has received from CalTrans is that a half-mile portion of the street from Bayfair mall to Hesperian Boulevard will be repaved within the next few months.
Engelbart says that CalTrans has received permission from the California Transportation Commission to use state gas tax funding to repave East 14th from the southern end of San Leandro all the way to Davis Street, but such a project would not happen for several years.
If City Takes On the
Maintenance of East 14th, Repairs Could Be Costly
If CalTrans does agree to relinquish the road to the city, not only would San Leandro have to find money for the repairs, the city would also likely become permanently responsible for future maintenance costs. Engelbart said the condition of the road and other considerations would be made in determining a price for the street.
According to CalTrans, the annual average preventative maintenance cost per lane mile is $106,000, while major rehabilitation work is around $800,000 per lane mile. (So a 2-lane street would be double that amount per mile.)
But in addition to getting the road in better shape, a relinquishment would mean that San Leandro would also have local control over the road right-of-way for any future projects and would be able to connect East 14th Street traffic signals, streetlights, and other infrastructure into the city’s traffic control system.
CalTrans has already relinquished a 2.4 mile portion of East 14th Street in the unincorporated area to the county for $10 million and the state trend seems to be going towards relinquishing local roads.
CalTrans has made a proposal to the Alameda County Transportation Commission that said they would be open to relinquishing roads which primarily support local travel as they would be “best managed by local agencies.”
CalTrans has identified over 30 miles of roads with the potential for relinquishment in Alameda County and 72 percent of the proposed roads are said to be in “distressed” condition.
CAPTION: The pavement is rough along East 14th Street with potholes that are worse than what’s seen here at East 14th and Hesperian Boulevard.
PHOTO BY AMY SYLVESTRI
School Board Candidates All Shoo-Ins
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 08-23-18
The election is still a couple of months away, but we already know that James Aguilar will be on the San Leandro School Board as the Trustee for Area 6.
Aguilar’s name won’t appear on the ballot since he’s the sole candidate in Area 6, so he’s guaranteed victory.
Aguilar, 18, just voted in his first election earlier this year in the June primary, but he does have some political experience under his belt, having previously served as the student board member of the San Lorenzo School Board last year.
“I’m really exited for someone my age to be elected to office – it’s big,” said Aguilar, who will be attending San Francisco State this fall with plans to major in political science and minor in education.
Aguilar says that he knows he’ll have his doubters, but believes his age will be a help, not hindrance as he serves on the board.
“Of course, if people don’t think I have enough experience, I’d refer them to my time on the San Lorenzo board,” said Aguilar. “I truly believe that if anyone my age wants to get involved, they should. We are the generation who is going to inherit the consequences of decisions that are being made now, so get involved in those decisions.”
As a student school board member last year, Aguilar was on the board during two particularly tough decisions – budget cuts and the changing of San Lorenzo High’s mascot from the controversial Rebels to the Grizzlies – both of which he says helped him mature as a politician.
“The mascot issue was emotional for a lot of people,” said Aguilar. “During that process, I changed my mind about what was the best decision. I learned how to allow myself to listen and that things change, opinions change and I appreciated experiencing that.”
The board dealt with the serious matter of recommending where to make over $5 million in budget cuts. Aguilar said that even though his vote as a student was symbolic, going through the process of meeting face to face with employees facing reductions was very real.
“That was difficult,” said Aguilar. “School districts are a people business and we’re talking about people’s jobs and making cuts. It’s very difficult.”
The other school board seats in Areas 2 and 4 are also one-candidate elections this year, with business owner Christian Rodriguez the only candidate in Area 2 and incumbent Leo Sheridan the only candidate in Area 4.
In years past, the San Leandro school board has had trouble attracting candidates. In the last election in 2016, all the races were also uncontested. That same year, a teenage trustee was temporarily appointed to the school board when no other candidates came forward.
“Apathy is an issue in San Leandro and nationwide,” said Aguilar. “I feel like that’s something that needs to be examined. I see very few people at board meetings and I’d like to get people more engaged in what’s happening in their schools.”
CAPTION: James Aguilar says it’s his generation that will inherit the consequences of the decisions that are being made now, so it’s good to get involved.
New Parking Plan Enforced Downtown
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 08-23-18
You may have noticed color coded stickers on the meters downtown, part of the city’s parking management plan to revamp they city’s approximately 3,000 downtown paid public parking spaces.
There are now seven parking zones downtown. And you can’t just move your car a short distance and have a fresh start on the time limit. Cars can’t park in the same zone past the stated time limits even in free spaces.
You’ll need to move at least one-tenth of a mile to be in the clear. The monitoring of this is done electronically, so don’t look for a chalk mark on your tire to serve as a warning.
Parking rates vary in the different zones that have recently been put in place. Parking is free throughout downtown after 6 p.m., all day on Sundays, and on designated holidays.
The new parking plan includes meters where people have the option pay via phone app, which charges a 20 to 35 cent service fee per transaction. The app can tell you if your time is running out and offer you a chance to pay to extend your parking period remotely.
About 630 people paid for their parking via the app in the month of July, according to Alice Kim, the city’s communication manager.
To enforce this new payment structure, the city is using two Jeeps equipped with license late readers to see if parked cars are all paid up.
The license plate readers can also tell whether a car is stolen. The data from the license plate readers will be uploaded at the end of each shift to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), a regional law enforcement data center that compiles information.
The city’s parking plan is still evolving, according to Kim. The city is currently researching and working with businesses in Pelton Center to see if paid parking may be viable there. City staff is also planning to contact people who live in the downtown area about a residential permitted parking plan.
SL Swim Team Stays Unbeaten
By Andrew Joseph
San Leandro Times • 07-19-18
The San Leandro Drowning Darryls swim team beat the Mission Valley Swim Club at home in an East Bay Swim League (EBSL) meet on Saturday by a close score of 554-526.
“We knew we were going to have a tough meet against Mission Valley today, they’ve been our arch-rival for a long time,” said San Leandro head coach Fred Scheberies. “The goal is always to improve our times every season and win.”
The scoring breakdown was the San Leandro boys winning 285-255, while the girls fell just short of Mission Valley, 269-271.
“I was a little bit nervous about today because Mission Valley is really good,” said 15-18 boys swimmer Quinn Sitchon. “I just focused on swimming fast today and bringing my times down to help us win.”
San Leandro has been undefeated for the past seven years, looking to make it eight straight with a championship this season.
“I was excited going into the meet today to beat Mission Valley and stay undefeated,” said 13-14 girls swimmer Kaira Willits. “The goal for this year is to make it to the championships and drop our times so we can do well.”
The road this season to their eighth consecutive EBSL Championship had not been easy in 2018. Last week the boys struggled against Newark and lost 253-287, though the girls won by a large margin 314-226, to give San Leandro the win in the overall score.
“It has taken a lot of hard work, practice, good technique and a lot of dedication to win seven championships in a row,” added coach Scheberies. “We have even had a lot of kids move on to real high quality swimming in sectional meets and other meets outside of just summer.”
The San Leandro Drowning Darryls will compete in the last meet of the EBSL regular season this Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., at home at the SLHS pool against the Highland Sharks.
CAPTION: San Leandro Swim Team 14-18 year-old boys swim against Mission Valley in the freestyle on Saturday.
PHOTO BY ANDREW JOSEPH
Zapata Lands Job In Anaheim
City Council names Jeff Kay city manager in special meeting
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 07-19-18
A month after being cleared of charges of sexual harassment and two weeks after separating from the city of San Leandro, Chris Zapata has a new job as city manager of Anaheim.
The Anaheim City Council voted on Tuesday to hire Zapata as city manager with an annual salary of $291,000.
“Chris has the experience and community dedication we are looking for in a city manager,” said Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait in a written statement. “He embraces what it means to be a city of kindness. We welcome him to Anaheim and look forward to working together.”
Meanwhile, the San Leandro City Council voted, 7-0, to appoint Jeff Kay as the new city manager in a special closed session meeting last Thursday. Usually, personnel matters are handled in closed session right before the regular City Council meeting, which would have been Monday, July 16.
The special meeting to hire Kay was held because of City Council “calendar conflicts and travel schedules coupled with a desire to move forward,” according to deputy city manager Eric Engelbart.
The City Council has demanded that all city commissioners and board members sign an agreement not to say anything negative about Zapata while acting in their official capacity or else possibly be removed from their commissions.
The commissioners had until July 13 to sign the demand letter, which also said they could potentially face a lawsuit if any defamation occurs.
The document dictates that neither party – Zapata and the city (including the City Council, all employees, and appointed commissioners) – say anything negative about the other.
Would Gag Order Stifle Candidates’ Speech?City Hall Says No
One commissioner who did not want to be named is considering a run for City Council this year said he was worried that signing the agreement would impede on his ability to speak critically of the current administration during his campaign.
But Engelbart said that any commissioner campaigning would not be in their official capacity as a city commissioner and so could say whatever they want, as they would be speaking as an individual.
The potential candidate said he still had his misgivings and chose not to sign the document. He said he spoke to the city attorney who told him that failure to sign means that the City Council is within its rights to remove him from his appointed position, but no action has yet been taken against him.
“I refused to sign this agreement due to the poor language written in the agreement and the infringement of my First Amendment right to free speech,” said the commissioner. “Our fellow appointed and elected citizens should not be silenced. This is a matter of the city of San Leandro manipulating and trying to silence our community with this agreement.”
Engelbart said the city would not comment on how many commissioners returned the requested signature because it’s attorney/client privileged information.
Why Was Zapata Given $350,000?
Engelbart also said that the $350,000 Zapata is being paid was not a severance package, but a “negotiated mutual separation agreement.”
Engelbart said that the City Council and city attorney came up with that agreement in closed session so he could not comment on why the city would choose to give Zapata the $350,000, despite there being no provision for a payment in his contract.
Mayor Pauline Cutter has said that Zapata has said he will donate that payment, minus lawyer’s fees and taxes, to San Leandro charities.
City Hall Says Don’t Call It a Gag Order
City Hall also objected to using the term “gag order” to describe the demand that the commissioners not speak ill about Zapata.
“The city respectfully requests that the San Leandro Times cease referring to this matter as a ‘gag order,’” wrote Engelbart in an email. “That is a factually inaccurate description that is inconsistent with the legal definition of the term, and its continued usage further perpetuates inaccurate reporting on this topic.”
A gag order can be a judge’s order that a case may not be discussed in public, or a nonjudicial prohibition against public discussion of a sensitive matter.
CAPTION: The City Council named Jeff Kay as city manager in a special meeting last Thursday night.
Speakers Rally for Evicted Tenant
San Leandro Times • 07-19-18
Over a dozen speakers demanded that the San Leandro City Council do something to protect low-income mobile home residents at Monday night’s meeting. Though there’s not much the City Council can do.
Many speakers came in support of John Busch, 81, who is facing having to live in his car after rent on his mobile home was hiked by over 60 percent when a new company purchased the property.
Harmony Communities bought the Estudillo Trailer Park on Grand Avenue, changed the name to Bayshore Commons, and raised that rent earlier this year.
“Why would they change their name to Harmony when they are causing more disharmony than I’ve ever seen?” Busch said when he addressed the council. “If you know that in order to make a profit you are going to disrupt 40 people’s lives, maybe you should find another business.”
Busch isn’t the only one to be forced out of his home. Other residents of Bayshore Commons are feeling the strain, as are residents of Trailer Haven, who saw their rents increase when a new property owner bought that park in 2016.
“We have a crisis going on, as you well know – we have residents being gouged out of their homes” said speaker Jeromey Shafer. “This has happened before, this is happening now, it will happen again. The question is what are we doing about it?”
Tom Liao, San Leandro’s Community Development Director, said that the city has little recourse other than acting as an arbitrator when dealing with the decisions made by private companies. But several members of the City Council said maybe that should change.
“I’m just furious about this whole situation,” said Councilman Lee Thomas. “Now is the time to send a message. We just can’t allow this to happen in this city.”
Thomas suggested that the council form an ad hoc committee or create a task force of mobile home residents. He said that the city should look into imposing restrictions on developers when they buy a property so they have to give a year’s notice before raising rents or displacing residents.
The council directed Liao and staff to look into what other cities are doing to protect mobile home residents, noting that San Leandro could become a haven for unscrupulous developers if it doesn't have the same ordinances in place as other cities.
“Where is the protection we are offering our most vulnerable?” asked speaker Rob Rich. “That is not lost on speculators who come here and see someone like John Busch as someone to be evicted.”
Currently there are nine mobile home parks with 855 spaces in San Leandro. Councilman Ed Hernandez said the city should see if those other parks will be changing hands soon.
“We need to do whatever we can do to be proactive,” said Hernandez, who wants mobile home parks to be eligible for tenant relocation assistance. That’s the ordinance that the city created last year that requires landlords to pay the equivalent of three months rent to tenants forced out of their homes by rent increases of 12 percent or more in a year, with the amount not to exceed $7,000.
Councilwoman Corina Lopez said that, while San Leandro has touted attracting tech businesses and economic growth, the council must make sure the city’s most vulnerable residents are cared for.
“We are going though a transformation here in San Leandro that could inadvertently have consequences,” said Lopez. “I don’t want San Leandro to go through gentrification and leave certain people from the success story.”
The group Our Revolution San Leandro has started a Go Fund Me page for Busch’s legal representation in his fight against homelessness. So far, over $2,600 of the $10,000 goal has been raised (www.gofundme.com/81-year-resident-faces-eviction).
Tobacco Stores Hit with $500 Annual Fee
San Leandro Times • 07-19-18
Stores that sell tobacco products will be required to pay $500 annually for a special tobacco retailer’s license beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.
And starting Aug. 15, those stores will no longer be allowed to sell any flavored tobacco products.
On Monday night, the City Council voted 6-0 (with Councilman Benny Lee abstaining) to require each of the 86 stores in town that sell tobacco to pay for the special licenses.
Lee said that he supported keeping tobacco away from kids, but he’d like to see what the ban accomplishes before making a decision on the licenses.
The city says the $500 license will go towards paying for police to make sure stores are in compliance with the flavor ban.
The City Council first approved the flavor ban last fall, and at that time, dozens of shop owners said it would hurt their businesses.
This week, shop owner Paul Sekhon said that he didn’t believe the $500 license was fair and that the city should prove people are out of compliance before instituting a costly means of keeping them in compliance.
“There is no data proving we are bad retailers,” said Sekhon. “We are good people, actually, I think that’s something that gets lost in this. We are already paying two different associations to come and investigate us. We are losing an estimated 30 percent of our sales (to the flavor ban).”
Tobacco retailers already pay for a business license from the city and for a state Board of Equalization tobacco license.
Sekhon said that things are bad for small independently run shops because of these types of fees and from the city’s mandated minimum wage increases.
“We want to work with you,” said Sekhon. “We want to cooperate. We want a fair business relationship.”
Compared to other cities with license requirements, San Leandro’s $500 tobacco retailer’s fee is about average: Hayward charges $400, El Cerrito charges $439, San Jose charges $533, Union City charges $769, and Oakland charges a whopping $1,500.
Currently, there is no ban on flavored product in the unincorporated area, so people would just have to take their businesses a few blocks away to by flavored products, according to Lt. Robert McManus of the San Leandro police.
But the city said that making tobacco harder to access is an effort to keep it away from kids.
“Our whole goal here is to keep people in compliance and to obey the laws here in San Leandro to keep people safe,” said McManus.
Among the programs that would be funded from the license fee would be decoy operations where underage kids working for the police try to buy cigarettes. McManus said they would also do checks to make sure no forbidden products are on the shelf.
Those outlawed products will include flavored cigarettes, cigars, or vape juice, but menthol is still legal. All cigarettes must be sold in packs of 20 or more, all individual cigars must be sold in packs of five or more and cost at least $7 but individual cigars can be sold if they cost more than $5.
Several people, most from the Alameda County Tobacco Control Coalition, spoke about the dangers of tobacco and thanked the City Council for taking strict measures to make it difficult to buy tobacco products in San Leandro.
“I am long-time champion of banning flavors because flavors target kids like my grandson,” said Beatrice Cardenas-Duncan, a volunteer with the American Lung Association. “For the health and well-being of all San Leandro residents, I respectfully ask you to establish the tobacco licensing fee at $500.”
Brian Davis, a member of the Alameda County Tobacco Control Collation said that convenience stores make “only 17 percent” of their money from tobacco sales and that they will still be able to sell non-flavored tobacco, so they will survive.
“The profit from those products will be much more than adequate to pay for the license,” said Davis. “San Leandro has taken a positive stand by developing a strong tobacco retailer’s license.”
There will be an information session for retailers about the specifics of the flavor ban on July 25 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
Our Readers Remember
San Leandro Times • 07-12-18
Rick Wood works on an old Ford in 1949 at the Texaco gas station that was across the street from San Leandro High in a photo sent by reader Bob Juntz.
A Young Cowboy Poses for a Photographer at Thrasher Park
Back in the early 1960s my dad and grandfather had a shoe repair shop on Davis Street near Douglas Drive where my brother and I would spend many afternoons after school.
One day as my dad drove us down Davis Street, we noticed that there was a guy with a pony at Thrasher Park taking photos. I remember what a thrill it was for my 5-year-old self to get all decked out into full cowboy gear for this photo.
My parents, Benny and Sarah Jason, who still live in the same house they bought in San Leandro 63 years ago, still have this photo, and the matching one of my brother, proudly displayed in my old bedroom.
The Picture that Became Picazo Family Treasure
Mama couldn’t afford three pictures but one did the job
By Ester Picazo
Special to the Times
In the 1940s there were men who made a living with a pony and a camera, traveling all over Texas documenting wide-eyed children atop a tired horse.
Mama couldn’t afford three pictures, so the photographer willingly eliminated the pony. He gave our grandparents copies of this photo, and through the years a copy has surfaced at unexpected times.
Our clothes were home-sewn and the pose reflects the era – the older sister in charge of the younger ones. Being poor did not mean being hungry or on public assistance. The war erased many barriers and our mother worked as a Rosie the Riveter at a shipyard in Galveston.
Our memories are of an unfettered childhood, playing outside until dusk, falling in love with movie cowboys (I never recovered from loving Gene Autry), learning to read from hymn books, and having no activity more high-tech than playing cards with our grandparents and learning to count in the bargain.
It was a sunnier world then, less threatening and safer, because in our neighborhood a kid was everybody’s child.
The Bush Girls Take a Picture at the Fountain
Back in the day, schools had plays that were presented to the students at an assembly during school hours. They were always fun to be in them, or to watch.
In 1939, at McKinley School, our class put on a play where a few classmates and I were flowers. I cannot recall what the play was about, but it was fun preparing for it and making our flower costumes.
In the picture, the three girls kneeling are (left to right) Leah Godwin, Mimi Fithian, and me, Margaret Castro (Dambley). Standing is my best friend Midori Ogo.
Years later, in 1945 at San Leandro High School, our Spanish Club put on a play for the Junior assembly, and then for the Senior assembly. It was directed by our Spanish teacher, Annie Tedeschi.
Left to right in the high school picture are Mary Castro (Hicks), John Behymer, Margaret Castro (Dambley), Joe Torres, and Marie Vigallon (Rodriguez).
PHOTO COURTESY OF GIN MURPHEY
Board Members Forced to Sign Gag Order
‘Failure to sign will result in immediate removal,” Council woman Cox tells commissioners
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 07-12-18
The City Council has issued a gag order to all the members of the city’s board and commissions, preventing them from speaking ill of former City Manager Chris Zapata.
The document is dated July 3 and is addressed to all appointed officials of the city of San Leandro, informing the recipient of a new legal obligation.
Zapata and the city entered into a “mutual separation agreement” last week when Zapata exited the city’s top position after having been accused, and subsequently cleared of sexual harassment allegations.
The document sent to the commissioners refers to the separation agreement which says that neither party will “defame, disparage, demean or besmirch the reputation” of the other.
If the commissioners do not sign the agreement, the letter says they will be removed from their appointed positions.
The document also says that the commissioners could face a “legal risk to you personally” for making any defamatory comments about Zapata.
If any commission or board member wishes to make statements in violation of the separation agreement, they would have to resign before doing so.
The non-disparagement clause is two-way street, so Zapata also can’t say anything bad about the city and city officials and employees.
The gag order only applies to the commissioners and board members when they are acting in their official capacity, according to deputy city manager Eric Engelbart.
Engelbart said that the agreement is “fairly standard” and that it does not force the officials to abandon their First Amendment rights to express their opinions when acting as an individual.
Engelbart said that the agreement also applies to all San Leandro employees when acting in their official capacities, but city employees are not being asked to formally acknowledge the agreement in writing.
None of the commissioners who were reached wished to be identified, but one who is planning to sign the document said she is doing so because she doesn’t want to lose her spot on the board.
Another was on the fence about signing and said he was considering getting his own lawyer to look at the document before he made a decision.
Another said he did feel that the letter violated his First Amendment rights and questioned the city’s authority to make him resign if he didn’t comply. He called the City Council's handling of Zapata’s case “filthy.”
In a cover letter sent with the gag order to the commissioners she appointed, Councilwoman Deborah Cox said she was saddened by Zapata’s loss and said he was “falsely accused of sexual misconduct.”
Cox’s letter also told her commissioners: “Failure to sign the document will result in the immediate removal from your commission.”
In her own cover letter, Mayor Pauline Cutter wrote: “Although at first glance this letter may appear to be strongly worded, please know we are doing our best to protect the best interests of all parties involved and appreciate your cooperation.”
Former Mayor Stephen Cassidy has criticized the city’s decision to issue the gag order to the commissioners. It should be noted that Cassidy now works for Bloom Innovations, a marijuana-related business whose CEO is also the CEO of the Davis Street Wellness Center, where Zapata’s accuser Rose Johnson is the director of community benefits.
Cassidy said he was “shocked” that the city was trying to limit the speech of the commissioners and wrote:
“Threatening the service of city commissioners in an effort to silence any negative comments concerning the job performance of the former City Manager constitutes an abuse of power by the mayor and City Council and displays a shocking lack of understanding of the value and importance of the First Amendment’s right to free speech.”
The city has given the commissioners and board members a deadline of July 13 to return the signed document.
CAPTION: Mayor Pauline Cutter and City Councilwoman Deborah Cox sent letters to their commissioners advising them to sign the document, or be removed from their position.
Sex Charge Dropped on Ex SL Cop
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 07-12-18
Charges have been dropped against the San Leandro police officer who had sex with an underage girl in the department’s youth Explorers program.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed the case against former San Leandro policeman Marco Becerra, 27, because the young woman involved declined to press charges.
Under California law, alleged victims of sexual misconduct have the right to decide not to proceed with prosecution at any time and the victim, who is now over 18, made that decision.
Becerra was facing three statutory rape charges stemming from having a sexual relationship with the Explorer in late 2017 when she was still 17-years-old.
Becerra was a mentor in the Explorers program that the girl had joined. The program is designed for young people interested in law enforcement careers.
Becerra resigned and confessed last October to having sex with the 17-year-old on three separate occasions while he was off duty.
In November, Becerra was charged with three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse.
Becerra had been with the department for three years, was a SWAT team member, and was formerly a part of the Explorers program himself.
The Explorers program is open to young people ages 14 to 19. The program was temporarily suspended following Becerra’s arrest, but started running again in February.
The San Leandro police made changes to the Explorers program policies, including allowing Explorers to go on ride-alongs only with officers of the same gender and adding rules on how instructors can contact Explorers.
Becerra’s lawyer Michael Rains said shortly after the arrest “This relationship in every sense was consensual. There were strong emotional feelings by both parties and despite that she as just shy of 18, the law says it was illegal.”
The age of consent in California is 18, under California state law.
Full Report Finds that Accusations Against Zapata Don’t Hold Up
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 07-12-18
The City of San Leandro released the full 50-page independent investigator’s report on the allegations of sexual harassment made against former City Manager Chris Zapata by Davis Street Family Resource Center CEO Rose Johnson.
The report is the result of an independent investigation by attorney Karen Kramer who found Johnson’s accusations to lack credibility. The report includes interviews and documents that weren’t included in an earlier summary of Kramer’s findings which was released in June.
“The credible evidence presented during the course of the investigation establishes that more likely than not, Mr. Zapata did not make any sexual overtures towards Ms. Padilla Johnson, nor did he express any interest in having a romantic or sexual relationship with her,” Kramer wrote in summary.
Zapata has said that Johnson’s allegations were designed to undermine his credibility, whether as a distraction from Davis Street’s financial issues or in retaliation for the city not granting the Davis Street Wellness Center a lucrative medical marijuana permit. A few of Kramer’s discoveries seem to indicate that someone was trying to dig up dirt on Zapata.
At some point, Zapata learned that Davis Street made a Public Records Act request from his former employer, National City, seeking any complaints made against Zapata while he was employed as city manager there.
Zapata and several other National City officials were named in a lawsuit in 2006 in which a national City employee alleged she was wrongly terminated and harassed for being non-Hispanic.
Zapata told Kramer that on May of 2017, a redacted party told him “I’m not a part of this. It’s Rose (and two other redacted names)” who were obtaining “opposition research” against Zapata.
Another part of Kramer’s report says that Zapata believed that Johnson or an affiliate of hers had hired a private investigator in an attempt to uncover something to discredit him months before she sent the City Council a letter saying she’d been harassed by Zapata.
The conflict between Johnson and Zapata apparently stemmed from the fact that Zapata made public that in 2016 Davis Street failed to pay back a loan of $1.5 million in taxpayer money the city gave the non-profit to open a clinic, and missed payment deadlines even after they were extended.
Kramer’s report determined that not only did Davis Street not pay back the money in time, Johnson signed papers stating that the loan was unencumbered when she knew the same piece of property was being used as collateral for both the city loan and a separate loan from Wells Fargo.
Zapata’s interview with Kramer also suggests that Davis Street did not not intend to back the city’s loan of taxpayer money immediately, even after they sold some real estate.
“Mr. Zapata shared that in June 2016, he saw Ms. Padilla Johnson at the Cherry Festival,” Kramer wrote. “He had heard from (redacted) that the Davis Street property was for sale, so he asked Ms. Padilla Johnson if the City would be paid back once the property sold. According to Mr. Zapata, Ms. Padilla Johnson told him that Davis Street has other bills.”
Kramer’s full report is available on the city’s website under the “press releases” tab.
CAPTION: At the Fosters Freeze on Alvarado Davis Street CEO Rose Padilla Johnson claimed that City Manager Chris Zapata behaved inappropriately.
TIMES FILE PHOTO
Big Crowd Protests Immigration Policy
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times • 07-05-18
Hundreds of people turned out for the “Families Belong Together” rally in San Leandro on Saturday morning to protest the Trump administration’s policy on immigration.
Some people brought signs, some made them on the front steps of City Hall, and then the crowd marched down the street to Root Park where the rally continued.
Drivers passing by on East 14th Street honked as people chanted and held up signs reading “No Border, No Walls,” “Families Together,” “No One Is Illegal,” “Abolish ICE,” “Babies Need Their Mommies, and “Make America Kind Again.”
Mayor Pauline Cutter found the opportunity to use her patented catch phrase, “San Leandro is a city where kindness matters,” over a portable PA, and a poet spoke as well.
City Councilwoman Deborah Cox said there’s a movement going on since the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and added, “and I haven’t stopped, and we won’t stop.”
Immigration Policy Isn’t the American Way, Marchers Say
One person in attendance said she came to the march for a simple reason.
“Because taking children away from their parents is not what America is about,” said Pam Streitfeld, who mentioned that her family had to leave Poland to escape the Nazis just before World War II, even changing their family name to avoid getting captured by the Germans.
Our country should open the door for people who are escaping terrorism in other countries, Streitfeld said. There’s a way to keep out those who would do harm to the country, while letting in the vast majority of immigrants who would contribute to the country, she added.
The crowd protested the stricter immigration policy that began in April and has resulted in separating over 2,000 kids from their parents apprehended for entering the country illegally. Many are families fleeing turmoil in Central America.
The Trump administration said there is no policy to separate kids from their parents. But the stricter enforcement that started in April, holding the parents for a criminal offense, inevitably leads to separating parents from their kids when they enter the country together.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order stopping the separation of families, and a federal court ordered immigration to place the children back with their parents within a month. But it still remains unclear how many families have been reunited.
CAPTION: Hundreds of people came to rally against the Trump administration’s policy on immigration in front of City Hall and at Root Park in San Leandro on Saturday.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Zapata to Leave; Council Doesn’t Give a Reason
City manager to get $350,000 ‘severance pay’ in what is called a ‘mutual separation agreement’
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 07-05-18
Despite being cleared of sexual harassment allegations by an independent investigator last month, San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata will no longer work for the city as of next week.
After a closed session meeting Monday night, the City Council did not say whether Zapata was fired or quit but instead said they had unanimously approved a “mutual separation agreement.”
Under the agreement, Zapata will receive a $350,000 severance package and neither party admits any wrongdoing or gave a reason for the separation. Zapata also agreed not to file a lawsuit against the city.
Also in the agreement, both Zapata and the city agree not to “defame, disparage, demean, or besmirch the reputation, character, image or services of the other party.”
Assistant City Manager Jeff Kay will once again serve as acting city manager, just as he did throughout Zapata’s nearly six month paid leave of absence earlier this year during the investigation.
The City Council offered no comment on why Zapata, who has been the city manager since 2012, was separating from the city.
Instead, the city sent out a press release where both parties compliment each other.
“Chris has been a valued leader in our community,” said Mayor Pauline Cutter in the press release. “Included in a long list of accomplishments, our city has made advances in technology, has a strong support net in place for those residents who depend on services, and is more diverse financially than ever before in our history.”
The statement attributed to Zapata reads: “I want to thank San Leandro and particularly want to thank the city staff and the mayor and the City Council for their work during my time here.”
Zapata was recently cleared of accusations after he was accused last December by Davis Street Family Resource Center CEO Rose Padilla Johnson of inappropriate behavior during a series of one-on-one business meetings over a period of several years.
Among Johnson’ accusations was that Zapata told her she “held the key” to getting a permit for the Davis Street Wellness Center to get a city permit to open a medical marijuana dispensary.
But Zapata denied there was any sexual meaning behind those words and an independent investigator hired by the city found Zapata to be credible and that Johnson was factually inconsistent in her account.
Zapata was reinstated to work at the city on June 4, but has not attended any City Council meetings which have taken place since then.
The controversy was made public when Zapata sent a 23-page email from his city email address preemptively denying any wrongdoing and accusing Johnson and Davis Street board member Gordon Galvan of trying to influence the decision on the medical marijuana permit.
In the email, Zapata also said Johnson’s allegations were retaliatory because his office made public the fact that Davis Street was overdue on a $1.5 million loan of tax payer money.
The loan issue also revealed that Johnson used the same piece of property as collateral for the loan from the city while concealing that it was also being used as collateral with another loan from Wells Fargo.
Before the council adjourned into closed session Monday night, the public had a chance to speak.
Speaker Peggy Combs said that, if not for the unproven allegations of harassment, Davis Street’s financial issues would’ve made a bigger splash with the public.
“The questionable acts of Davis Street and their deception with the loan, in any other context, that would’ve been the news,” said Combs. “There have been no explanations and there have been no apologies from Davis Street.”
Of the half dozen speakers, only Mike Katz-Lacabe urged the council to terminate Zapata.
“You don’t have to consider the results (of the harassment investigation) in order to have cause to get rid of him,” said Katz-Lacabe. “That email was a 23-page breach of trust.”
But several speakers told the council that Zapata would not have had to write the inflammatory email if he hadn’t been falsely accused in the first place, so he shouldn’t be punished for trying to defend himself even if the way he did it may have been less than professional.
“The investigation concluded with no evidence of wrongdoing,” said speaker Dale Gregory. “His letter doesn’t constitute enough of a violation to cancel out his excellent work. Frustration in defending himself is a human response.”
Former City Councilman Jim Prola agreed.
“I worked under four city managers and Chris has been the best one,” Prola said. “If someone accused me of sexual harassment, I too would have written a letter.”
Prola’s wife Diana, who is on the San Leandro school board, also spoke in favor of Zapata.
“I don’t want to see the city manager dismissed,” said Prola. “Basically, I think this whole thing has made the City Council and Davis Street look bad.”
How to Run For City Council, School Board
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 07-05-18
The nomination period for this year’s election opens later this month and running for office may be easier than you think.
In fact, winning may be easier than you think.
During the 2016 general election five out of six San Leandro races were unopposed. Two out of three council races had no competition and all four of the San Leandro School board elections were one-candidate races.
This year, the mayor’s seat and City Council seats in Districts 1, 3, and 5 and school board trustee in Areas 2, 4, and 6 are all up for election. The nomination period runs from July 16 to Aug. 10.
Anyone is eligible to hold office as an elected council member if they are a registered voter in San Leandro and a resident of the district where they are seeking office for at least 30 days prior to the filing date. A district map is on the city’s website.
Nomination packets are available at City Hall. San Leandro City Clerk Tamika Greenwood can set up an appointment to go over the paperwork and answer questions.
Greenwood said it might seem intimidating at first but she works with the candidates and hasn’t had anyone send in an incomplete packet yet.
The next step for a candidate is getting at least 20 but no more than 30 signatures from residents of their district.
Then, there’s the optional candidate statement which is up to 200-words and is published on the sample ballot and mailed to all registered voters. Candidates have to pay for the cost of printing, which is $900.
Greenwood says she’s more than willing to walk people though the required financial contribution statements, guidelines about posting camping signs, and everything else involved in running for office.
If you decide to run and wind up getting cold feet about actually representing the people of San Leandro in offie, you have until Aug. 10 withdraw your nomination papers.
For more information, visit the city’s website at www.sanleandro.org and click on the “How Do I” tab.
81-Year Resident Faces Eviction
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times • 07-05-18
John Busch grew up in San Leandro where he was a Boy Scout and got his picture in the San Leandro Observer playing the acting police chief for a day.
Busch, 81, who worked as an engineer most of his career, has to move out of his home at the Estudillo Trailer Park by July 11. He’s been in a dispute with the new owners of the trailer park on Grand Avenue who’ve raised his rent from $560 a month to nearly $900.
For the past five months, Busch has given the landlord a check for $560 plus an additional 7-and-a-half percent, an amount he thinks is fair. He says he can’t afford any more.
But the landlord hasn’t accepted the checks because it’s far less than the current rent.
So Busch went to the courthouse in Hayward last Wednesday. He said they have legal aid people in the hallway to help people who can’t afford a lawyer. Busch said he should have talked to them first, but the landlord’s lawyer caught him and proposed a deal that Busch accepted.
Busch agreed to move out by July 11, and he wouldn’t have to pay the back rent for the past five months. But now he’s having second thoughts. The 81-year-old admitted he can sometimes be forgetful.
“I kind of blew it,” Busch said. “I got a little confused and agreed with their offer.”
Busch said he was planning on going to court, but when the lawyer came up and offered a “compromise,” it sounded good at the time.
Now Busch has about a week left before he has to move out, and he can’t afford any place else. He’s lived in San Leandro his whole live, attending school here from Roosevelt through San Leandro High, and can’t fathom living anywhere else.
“I’m going to have to live in my car and get harassed by the cops for being homeless,” he said.
Residents were notified of the rent increase in January just after the property was sold. (“Rent Hikes Hit another Trailer Park,” San Leandro Times, Jan. 18, 2018)
Management at Harmony Communities, the new owner of the property, hadn’t yet returned a phone call this week, but previously said that even though they raised the rent, it’s still lower than in other parks in nearby Castro Valley and Hayward.
The increased rent is being used to improve the property and make it fit in better with the surrounding neighborhood, said Harmony Communities spokesman Matthew Davies earlier this year. He said the company has budgeted about $400,000 over the next year to make improvements.
But Busch says he just doesn’t have the money to pay the new rent, an increase of 60 percent.
“I really wanted to make an issue of this because I thought it was immoral, if not illegal,” Busch said.
Busch said he will check with legal aid to see if there’s anything he can still do, but he just has until July 11. He’s always liked to be an activist, joining protests, including the “Families Belong Together” rally on Saturday at Root Park.
But Busch said the agreement he signed forbids him to make an issue out of his eviction, or he will have to pay his back rent. He acknowledges that he decided to sign the agreement, though.
“I just don’t think people should be in my position,” he said.
CAPTION: John Busch, who has lived in San Leandro his whole life, is getting evicted from his trailer home.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Breakfast Club Honors Past Presidents
San Leandro Times • 06-28-18
The San Leandro Breakfast Club celebrated its Past Presidents Luncheon on Friday, June 22, at Paradiso Restaurant.
The club was established in 1954 with member breakfast meetings each week in San Leandro.
Club president Tom Baker spoke of the amazing San Leandro leadership present in the room and recognized that it was the Breakfast Club that has shaped San Leandro.
Two of the club members attending the luncheon are World War II veterans. Mayor Pauline Cutter attended and was the first speaker of the lunch.
Former mayor Shelia Young and City Councilman Ed Hernandez, both club members, were also in attendance.
CAPTION: Past San Leandro Breakfast Club presidents with Mayor Pauline Cutter and former Mayor Shelia Young are Franck Haggas, Susie Kleebauer, Arnold Mew, former police Chief Robert Maginnis, Pat Sangiacomo, Ken Pon, Mike Adelson, Tom Baker, Melody Mar, Lary Huls, Whit Magor, and Wayne Gregori.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SAN LEANDRO BREAKFAST CLUB
Two Suspects Arrested for Downtown Murder
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 06-28-18
Two men have been arrested for last week’s fatal stabbing in Washington Plaza which left one man dead and another in critical condition.
The two victims apparently got into an argument in the parking lot near the downtown Safeway with two other men who stabbed them.
San Leandro police have arrested Michael Mendozaroche of Alameda and Alex Fernandez of Oakland, both 23-years-old. On Friday, the district attorney’s office charged both with murder.
The homicide victim has been identified as Michael Kittrell Smith, 25.
The name of the other man who was injured has not been released, but police say he was a 36-year-old coworker of the dead man and he remains in critical condition at a local hospital.
Both Mendozaroche and Fernandez were arrested at their homes less than 12 hours after the stabbing, according to Lt. Isaac Benabou of the San Leandro police.
Police say that both pairs of men appeared to have been in the same nearby restaurant on the night of Tuesday, June 19, and got into the argument at around 11 p.m. in the downtown plaza parking lot near the Safeway.
Benabou said that both victims were stabbed multiple times and described the surviving victim as “clinging to life” when emergency responders arrived.
A weapon, reported in the San Francisco Chronicle to be a barber’s scissors, was left at the scene and appears to have been used in the attack.
Witnesses reported seeing two men leave the scene and Benabou said San Leandro police also used surveillance footage from cameras in the area to identify the suspects.
"We are very thankful to the community, and to everyone who came forward to assist us in the investigation," said Benabou in a written statement. "Without the assistance of witnesses, business owners, and residents in the area it would have been a challenging and time-consuming investigation.”
Mendozaroche and Fernandez are being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and face charges of murder, use of a deadly weapon, and premeditated attack. They are scheduled to enter a plea at the East County Hall of Justice today, June 28.
East Bay Set to Celebrate 4th of July
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 06-28-18
There are plenty of places in the East Bay to watch fireworks and celebrate Independence Day next week.
If you can’t wait until the Fourth to see fireworks, there is a nightly display at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, now though July 8 – every night except for the Fourth of July, when the fair closes its doors at 6 p.m.
There will also be an early fireworks show following the Oakland A’s 6:05 p.m. game against the Padres on Tuesday, July 3. Or you might just want to catch a game on the Fourth and watch the A’s play the Padres at a 1:05 p.m. day game.
The City of Alameda Mayor’s parade starts at 10 a.m. on July 4 and they expect about 60,000 spectators to line the over 3-mile route.
And after the parade, check out the Second Annual U.S. Coast Guard Festival at Pier 3, Alameda Point. Tour a Coast Guard Cutter, view a rescue drill, and watch a silent drill team demonstration. There will be food trucks, kids’ activities and more from noon to 4 p.m.
Jack London Square is having a “block party” for over 10,000 expected guests from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with live music, a beer garden, barbecue, a kids’ zone, and local vendors.
The party starts at noon at the Berkeley Marina with live music, food vendors, free dragon boat rides, carnival rides, and fireworks set to start at 9:35 p.m.
In San Francisco, the Fisherman’s Wharf fireworks over the Bay start at around 9:30 p.m., but don’t plan on seeing them from the San Leandro Marina, as the park will be closed at 6 p.m. on July 4. Access to the El Torito and Horatio's restaurants and Marina Inn hotel will be accessible to their customers only.
Cutter Returns from Mayors’ Meeting
With Hopes for More Child Care
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 06-28-18
Mayor Pauline Cutter recently returned from four days at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where she got the opportunity to chair a panel on women in government.
Cutter was one of more than 250 mayors from cities with populations of 30,000 or more who traveled to the annual conference, which was held in Boston this year.
Cutter said she relished having a chance to explore a city with such a rich political past and at the same time speak with her fellow elected officials about the political future.
“It was exciting to see all the history in Boston and being around the mayors is also exciting because you have the opportunity to learn a lot form each other,” said Cutter.
Cutter is the chair of the Women Mayors Leadership Alliance, so she led a panel on women in politics featuring a speech from Senator Elizabeth Warren, who shared her own struggles balancing motherhood and her career.
Warren said that child care is essential for any working woman and that she wouldn’t have been able to complete her own higher education, let alone be elected to the Senate, without help raising her kids – in her case from family members.
But people who don’t have family to help need affordable day care, and Cutter says San Leandro needs to work to provide more childcare opportunities.
“It’s important to do everything we can as a city in support of that,” said Cutter, who said that the 5,000-square-foot child care center at the Marea Alta apartment building is a start. The city has contributed $800,000 to help run the center to be operated by Bridge Housing and the Davis Street Family Resource Center.
Cutter said that women’s issues in general were a “trend” at the conference and that male mayors seemed more open to listening than in previous years.
“Women’s issues were more prevalent and got more equal time, if you will,” said Cutter. “The men mayors are starting to notice and there was a large audience at the women’s leadership meeting – not just a specialized meeting for women.”
Cutter and several of her fellow mayors took the opportunity to march in the Boston Pride Parade while they were in town and Cutter says she planned to be a part of a San Leandro contingency at the San Francisco Pride Parade last weekend.
Part of the parade route was along the Boston Marathon route and they took a moment to remember the victims of the 2013 bombing.
“If was a lot of fun walking out with your colleagues, but it was also poignant in a way,” said Cutter. “When they say ‘Boston Pride,’ it has two meanings for them.”
Part of attending these national meetings is getting your city’s name and identity out there and Cutter said that more big-city mayors are aware of San Leandro than ever before.
“They know we are in the Bay Area, they know we are tech-friendly,” said Cutter. “We’re mentioned with other cities like Portland and Kansas City with a focus on technology. People are really starting to notice us.”
CAPTION: Cutter meets Elizabeth Warren in Boston.
Ashland Kids Learn from Real Madrid
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times • 06-21-18
Kids in Ashland took a soccer lesson on a recent Saturday in a program run by one of the greatest soccer teams in the world.
The Real Madrid Foundation Soccer clinic came to Ashland on June 9 and held a one-day clinic on the field at Edendale Middle School. The coaches teaching the clinic are traveling around the country holding one-week clinics at different cities, including Oakland.
These 5-day clinics cost hundreds of dollars per player, but the 1-day course in Ashland was taught for free.
“This is a special day,” said Miguel Miranda who helps run the Real Madrid program.
The training gives the kids some of the experience of the Real Madrid Academy. The goal isn’t just to teach soccer, but the values of the club as well, said Miranda.
All the kids are part of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Activity League, which runs the soccer programs at the Ashland REACH Youth Center.
“We work with around 2,000 kids, and it’s all free,” said Nick Lusson who runs the Sheriff’s Activity League soccer program. “It’s the only one in Northern California that’s free.”
Lusson has taught in youth soccer clubs where kids – or their parents – pay from $2,000 to $5,000 a year. He and another coach decided they wanted to bring soccer skills to kids that don’t have the means to join those expensive programs.
“We wanted to use soccer for a bigger objective,” Lusson said.
Besides teaching, Lusson said another challenge he’s facing is just finding fields in the area – where there is a shortage of parks and open space.
“Field space is a big problem,” he said. “The Eden Area is under-parked. It’s a big challenge trying to find new spaces.”
The Sheriff’s Activity League is part of a broader program by the Sheriff’s Department involving sports, art, community economic development in the less affluent neighborhoods of the county.
The Sheriff’s Office says that it’s shifting form “an enforcement-driven model to a more holistic approach that takes into account community-level stressors and strengths-bases solutions.”
The Sheriff’s Offices says the program is a national model. The Community Capitals model of economic development by the Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Sheriff’s Activity League has:
• Launched Dig Deep Farms and Food Hub
• Expanded the DSAL Soccer League to over 2,000 players
• Advocated for the construction of the REACH Ashland Youth Center
• Created a community hub for the Hayward Adult School
• Built a mini-soccer park in a vacant lot with volunteers
• Created Spanish-speaking Residents’ Academies
• Supported development of the Ashland Community Association.
CAPTION: Youth soccer players in Ashland took a lesson from coaches for the Real Madrid soccer team the Saturday before last on the field at Edendale Middle School.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Marina to Be Demolished By Next Year
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 06-21-18
There will likely be no boats in the San Leandro Marina by this time next year, according to a report the City Council heard Monday night about the upcoming $6.7 million “decommissioning” of the harbor.
The old harbor must be demolished before work begins on the Monarch Bay Shoreline Project. The project by developer Cal Coast includes plans for houses, apartments, a hotel, restaurants, and a pedestrian boardwalk around where the harbor is located today, and for kayaks and small boats rentals to be available.
The city will have to pay to remove the wooden docks, pylons, the foundation of the old Blue Dolphin restaurant, restrooms, and the harbormaster’s office. Funding for the nearly $7 million deconstruction project has already been set aside over the next two fiscal years’ budgets, according to the city.
Councilman Lee Thomas, who sat on a citizen’s marina committee before he joined the council, was pragmatic about the future of the marina.
“I think it’s time to move forward,” said Thomas. “We have a plan in place. I feel like we are just holding on to something from the past.”
Even the people who keep boats in the harbor seem to be resigned to the idea that their days of sailing out of San Leandro are numbered.
Public Works Director Debbie Pollart said that the city stopped accepting new berth rentals in 2012 and occupancy is currently down to 18 percent (87 boats) and only six people still live aboard vessels. Two more boat owners have announced their intentions to leave by the end of the month.
Because the marina fills in with silt, only boats with drafts of less than four feet can get in and out of the harbor at low tide and conditions continue to worsen. Pollart said that just 47 of the boats in the berths can do so at this point, so she encourages them to watch their tidal charts.
The decommissioning of the harbor will take about 13 months beginning this fall, with the physical demolition to begin next April with an eye to completion in October of 2019.
Cal Coast has estimated that they will begin construction of the developed portion of the marina in summer of 2019 and Pollart said the demolition and some of the construction can be coordinated to happen concurrently.
But even though the marina was built on a natural mudflat and the channel out to the Bay needs to constantly be dredged, a few council members weren’t totally ready to give up on the idea that dredging could be possible and boats could once again use San Leandro as a spot to launch into the Bay.
Council members Ed Hernandez and Corina Lopez asked if anything could be done to keep the cement piers in place so if a dredge was somehow possible five or ten years down the line, at least they could be used.
”We can’t unring that bell,” said Lopez of decommissioning. “I don’t want to take opportunities away from a future council.”
Hernandez asked if there was any last-ditch possibility of federal funding if a commercial enterprise could operate from the harbor or a creative solution to the dredging problem could be found.
But Pollart said there is just no funding available for such improvements and even if there were, the harbor has over $10 million in deferred maintenance that would need to be done first.
And developer Cal-Coast has made their designs based on plans of not having any vessels larger than a kayak in the the harbor.
Pollart reminded the council that the dredging costs millions of dollars and the city had been unable in the past to even find a company who’d perform the task. Additionally, it costs millions more to haul away and dispose of the silt once it is dredged.
Mayor Pauline Cutter said that she understands the desire to keep the marina the way it was in the past but that’s just not possible, and that once the decommissioning is over, the city can look forward to a new amenity to enjoy.
“We all knew this was coming,” said Cutter. “This is one of the unpleasant parts of it, but when it’s all over, we will be pleased.”
CAPTION: The southern half of the San Leandro Marina is practically empty these days as the basin fills in with silt and sailors move their boats to other marinas. When the project is finished the marina will become a basin for shallow-draft boats such as kayaks.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
DA Says Don’t Fall for Phone Scam
San Leandro Times • 06-21-18
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said they’ve learned of a recent attempted scam in which people are receiving calls on cell and home phones from someone claiming to be from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
The callers leave messages or speak to the individual answering the phone and addresses the call recipient by name and supplies a correct date of birth. The caller claims to be collecting on a payday advance loan with a case number and demands an immediate cash payment be wired or the person will face arrest, prosecution and wage garnishment.
But the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office never calls with a demand for money or payment. Any such calls are a scam and the public is warned not to wire or send money in response to such calls.
Anyone receiving a similar call demanding payment may report the attempted fraud to the District Attorney’s Office by calling 383-8600.
Man Murdered in Downtown Plaza
Man stabbed by unknown assailant in front of Safeway;
in another case, man pulls gun and fires at liquor store clerk
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times • 06-21-18
One man was killed and another remains in critical condition after a fight broke out in the Washington Plaza parking lot in front of Safeway late Tuesday night.
When police arrived at the parking lot at 1499 Washington Avenue at around 11 p.m., they found two men with stab wounds lying on the ground, according to Lt. Isaac Benabou of the San Leandro police.
One man was pronounced dead at the scene and the other was taken to the hospital where he has undergone surgery and was in critical condition as of Wednesday morning.
The victims' identities have not yet been released.
Benabou said that police believe that a total of four men including the two victims were involved in the fight. He said that no motivation for the stabbing has yet been determined. It appears the two victims knew each other and got into the altercation with two other men, but it’s not known if they knew the suspects.
“We have no information as to what led to this altercation,” said Benabou in a written statement. “Whatever the reason, nothing justifies taking another life. We send our deepest condolences to the victims’ families for this senseless crime.”
The two men who fled the scene are wanted for questioning. Benabou said that detectives were able to speak with witnesses who gave accounts of the incident. Police are also currently going over video surveillance footage from the area.
Shot Fired at Liquor Store San Leandro police are looking for two suspects after one of them shot at clerks at the 3-Ring Liquor store last week.
A man entered the store at 15267 Hesperian Boulevard on June 15 at around 7:40 p.m., bought a bottle, and then left.
But the man returned right away and got into a dispute with the two clerks for an unknown reason, according to Lt. Isaac Benabou of the San Leandro police.
He left the store again but returned moments later, this time brandishing a firearm and shirtless. A woman who apparently knew the man entered the store and tired to get him to leave. The man was pointing and waving the gun at the clerks and he fired once, narrowly missing the clerks and hitting the wall behind them, Benabou said.
The woman then grabbed the man and pulled him out of the store. The couple got into their car and fled south on Hesperian Boulevard.
The man is described as a black male, mid to late 20s, 6-foot to 6-foot-2, about 200 pounds with black hair. The woman is described as a white or Hispanic female in her mid to late 20s, 5-foot-3 to 5-foot-7, 220 to 225 pounds, with red hair. The car is described as a red 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo.
The San Leandro police are asking anyone with information about this incident to call them at 577-2740.
Market Revives Sleepy Mall
A once desolate little strip mall on Doolittle now booming
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times • 06-14-18
Just a few years ago, the Marina Faire Center on Doolittle Drive was an old-fashioned strip mall, past its prime.
But not anymore.
Today, cars circle the parking lot looking for a space. The place is packed.
Shoppers flock to the New Sang Chong Market where fresh produce at reasonable prices lines the front sidewalk, shaded from the afternoon sun by canopies. Grocery workers unpack boxes of produce from a truck.
Inside, the checkers are going non-stop, serving customers who come from Alameda to Castro Valley to Newark. Workers pull live fish, caught by local fishermen, out of tanks for waiting shoppers.
Next door to the market, new restaurants have opened – The Pearl Bay Tea House on one side, and Hanoi Chicken Noodle on the other.
The whole center at Doolittle and Fairway is seeing a revival that all started with the New Sang Chong Market. But it wasn’t easy, says the founder’s daughter.
“The first year was rough,” said Janet Phung, whose father John Phung started the market, moving to San Leandro from Oakland’s Chinatown. John Phung has since passed away from a heart attack.
“This was his pride and joy,” said his daughter, who described how her dad started out selling fruit from a little sidewalk stand, before eventually moving into a fish store. He took a gamble opening the store in a sleepy old strip mall in San Leandro.
“The first year was very slow,” said Janet’s sister Linda Phung. “My dad really took a gamble. A market that size could wipe you out.”
This wasn’t just a little shop in Chinatown. The family’s savings were put into this new venture and they didn’t know if it would catch on or not.
It took three years of construction and getting all the permits required by the city before the market opened in 2011, and then another slow year before word spread and business started to grow.
Both Janet and Linda say their dad always tried new things and he was very resilient. Even though he had almost no formal education, having to escape Vietnam during the war, he taught his kids about business.
“My grandparents fled China during the Japanese occupation when their entire village was wiped out,” said Linda Phung. “They went to Vietnam and then war broke out in Vietnam. My parents fled Vietnam to Hong Kong.”
Janet said a Mormon family sponsored her mom and dad to come to the United States. After living in Utah for a year, they came to California where her dad liked the weather and the opportunity to go into business in Oakland’s Chinatown.
“He loved America and he was go glad for the opportunity,” Janet said.
Her dad couldn’t go to school in Vietnam, bombs and land mines made it impossible. But Linda thinks that instilled in her dad a resilience that she and her five siblings, who grew up in America, don’t have.
“I don’t think we have the vision and courage he had,” Linda said.
Their dad taught them to put themselves in the customer’s shoes, said Linda, who then described her dad’s approach to business.
“What do the common people want?” she asked. “A good deal, basically. Fresh produce, but affordable.”
Though their market is more affordable than a lot of places (fresh tomatoes for 49 cents a pound, cherries for $1.99), produce in general has gone up a lot in recent years, Linda said. So maybe people are looking for a good deal more than ever.
Janet and Linda’s mom owns the new restaurant next door, Hanoi Chicken Noodle, in a beautifully remodeled space, where their brother Chris is the manager.
“My parents have had chicken noodle soup in the family for a long time,” said Chris Phung, who also recalls the slow year where they weren’t sure the market would make it.
Linda Phung said she’s not sure how it caught on, maybe just word of mouth.
“It’s not social media,” she said. “We don’t have social media. It’s not a trendy thing, just a market.”
But for some reason people all over the East Bay are swarming to the little mall on Doolittle Drive. The other restaurant, Pearl Bay Teahouse, has a busy lunch crowd all week.
Linda said her dad knew the owners of Pearl Bay Teahouse and encouraged them to open.
“The restaurant and grocery store go hand-in-hand, both help each other,” Linda said.
When they started the market, people would come by and see the empty parking lot, the lack of customers, the little strip mall that was out in nowhere, Linda said.
“Everyone would come by and say, ‘What are you guys doing?” Linda recalls. “But my dad knew what he was doing.”
CAPTION: The Marina Faire center has seen a revival since the opening of the New Sang Chong Market.
North Area Residents Not Down with Air BnB
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 06-14-18
A dozen neighbors from the Broadmoor area took to the public comments section of last week’s City Council meeting to say that there are several single-family homes in San Leandro being rented out to 20 or more people per night via Air BnB and other websites.
The main complaint was about 393 Dowling Boulevard, a house the owner has listed on Air BnB as “The Summit.” The website describes it as a “beautiful retreat home perfect for large groups” and is recommended for 16 or more guests with five bedrooms and 14 beds, including some bunk beds. The cost is $875 per night and there is self check-in with a keypad code
Frank Hicks, who lives on nearby Beverley Avenue, said that the residential area simply isn’t zoned for that type of use.
“It is legally in fact a hotel,” said Hicks. “It wastes critical local housing that could be used for a family here in San Leandro. Why is this hotel permitted to operate?”
Currently, the city estimates that there are around 75 rentals operating in the city through AirBnB, VRBO, HomeAway and other listing services.
Short-term rentals aren’t addressed in the city code, which was written before the popularization of Air BnB-type rentals. So the city needs to make the code more specific to address the new issues the rentals bring up.
“Short term rentals are prohibited under the zoning code,” said Andrew Mogensen, the city’s planning manager. “We never allowed them to begin with, so this is something that we need to address at the enforcement level.”
Enforcement against short-term rental units is complaint-based – basically the city has no way of knowing about them unless someone calls to complain. Last November, the city reported that it had received four complaints about disruptive renters and the city has issued four cease-and-desist letters as a response.
The problem is, without an explicit Air BnB ordinance on the books, the city has little recourse for further enforcement if the cease-and-desist letter doesn’t work.
Last November, the City Council began discussions about regulating Air BnBs and other rental companies but has yet to take any vote.
The homeowner of the Air BnB is known by the username “Shashi” on the website. In addition to “The Summit,” Shashi lists another San Leandro home as a seven bedroom “mansion” in the San Leandro hills available for rental for $1,600 per night and he also rents another a 10-bed retreat called “Treetop” in San Leandro for $1,200 per night.
The house rules Shashi has posted on his Air BnB ad discourage house parties and loud music, though one neighbor who appealed to the City Council last week said that she ran into a group of DJs from Germany who were planning a rave at the property.
“Imagine at 5:30 in the morning going out to walk your dog and there are 20 strange men outside your house,” said speaker Rainee McGrew.
Neighbor Gloria Strom rents in the city and want to buy a home but said her family is being priced out of living in San Leandro by people who own multiple properties that they aren’t living in. She said her family is willing to spend over $100,000 more than the asking price on some homes and are still getting outbid.
“You may very well lose me as a San Leandro resident,” said Strom. “My family is being pushed out by investors who buy single-family homes and open hotels. They contribute nothing to the community.”
Speaker Rose Riskund took the council to task for not properly regulating the rentals and said the overcrowded homes could potentially lead to a fire or other tragedy.
Because the Air BnB issue was not on the meeting agenda, the City Council could not respond to any of the speakers, but Mayor Pauline Cutter told them she would put the matter on an upcoming agenda.
CAPTION: Houses in San Leandro are being rented out to 20 people per night on Air BnB.
School District Plans Parcel Tax
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 06-14-18
The San Leandro school board came one step closer to putting a parcel tax on the November ballot that would likely collect about $1.8 million for the school annually.
At the Tuesday night meeting, the board continued the discussion to a special meeting to be scheduled in the next few weeks. The board didn’t approve placing the tax measure on the ballot because they have yet to decide the exact amount of the tax, how long it may be levied, and how it would be assessed.
The school district is considering either a flat per parcel tax, a per-square-foot tax, or a hybrid model of the two.
So far, the hybrid seemed to be the most popular pick. In that case, homeowners would be assessed a $64 annual tax, plus one cent per-square-foot of their homes.
So someone in a 2,000-square-foot-home would be paying $84 dollars annually, which is more than the $78 parcel tax the school district failed to pass lass year.
But the district thinks the hybrid will be more palatable for homeowners. Under that model, it would be commercial property owners who would be paying the highest parcel tax, so the board is hoping to appeal to homeowners to pass it, as they wouldn’t have the largest burden.
Board member Lance James suggested that the district try to appeal to businesses by saying they could tout the fact that they are helping schools.
“The businesses will try to slap us back with the hybrid (tax), but we can try to get in front of that and say ‘Look what you can say you are doing for schools,’” said James.
Several of the school board members expressed concern that a the hybrid model will be confusing to voters, but also said they were worried a flat parcel tax would not pass with the necessary two-thirds voter approval.
School board president Monique Tate said that she thinks the tax can pass this time because it will be on a general election ballot and more people will be voting.
“It will be different than the mail-in,” said Tate. “I think we could promote it to where the community will support it.”
The City of San Leandro was considering a parcel tax of its own, but decided against it in part because it didn’t want to compete with the school district’s tax.
Former school board member Morgan Mack Rose told the board she supports the hybrid model and even gave them some marketing advice.
“I think it’s really easy to say, ‘You won’t even give one penny to our schools?’” said Mack Rose. “I think that’s a good argument.”
A telephone survey of 300 likely voters was commissioned by the school board and conducted May 30 through June 1.
The survey indicated that 43 percent of those questioned would “strongly” vote yes and 22 percent said they were a “not so strong yes.” And 20 percent said they would “strongly” vote no and 8 percent said “not so strong” no, and 7 percent were undecided.
Though the 2017 parcel tax failed, voters have been supportive of school revenue measures.
In 2016, voters passed Measure J1, a $104 million general obligation bond that has property owners pay $36 per $100,000 of their assessed property value.
And San Leandro residents are also currently paying for two other school bonds – the $109 million Measure B bond from 2006, and the $50 million Measure M bond from 2010 assessed at $25 per $100,000 of property value.
New Electricity Firm to Cover San Leandro
By Amy Sylvestri
San Leandro Times • 06-14-18
When you flip that light switch in your home, the electricity that comes out might not be from PG&E – San Leandro has begun the switch over to East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) an alternate electricity provider.
Last week, municipal, industrial, and commercial electricity was switched over to EBCE. Residential accounts will be enrolled in November.
The City Council voted in 2016 to join the program, which is Joint Powers Authority. In Alameda County, all cities except Alameda, Pleasanton, and Newark are part of the EBCE.
The EBCE will still pay PG&E to maintain the transmission infrastructure. The county says EBCE saves money because they buy power directly from a source, circumventing PG&E.
The money saved from that step could go to pay for more expensive forms of energy, including solar and wind. The EBCE currently has a request for bids out to alternative energy providers, according to Annie Henderson, EBCE spokeswoman.
For now, the EBCE says it is using energy from a variety of sources including hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest and wind farms in Southern California, but they hope to get electricity from more local sources.
“We hope to stimulate the renewable market,” said Henderson, who added that sources from within Alameda County would be given preference.
EBCE is also sourcing some of its energy from PG&E because of ongoing long-term contracts. Henderson said that PG&E does sell them energy at a reduced rate because they have more than they are using.
Going through a middleman seems an unlikely way to cut costs, but Henderson said EBCE customers can expect about a one and a half percent savings over PG&E because EBCE is a non-profit governmental agency that “runs lean” with a small number of employees and doesn’t have to answer to shareholders like PG&E.
The EBCE is overseen by a board of directors with one elected official from every participating city. City Councilman Lee Thomas is San Leandro’s representative.
Community energy aggregators like EBCE currently serve just over 12 percent of Californians.
They’ve received some opposition from PG&E, which spent $46 million on Proposition 16 in 2010, which would have made the creation of the local utilities more difficult but was voted down.
Others say the agencies are just being used so cities can say that they are doing something “green.” The former mayor of San Diego said that such agencies are being created because cities are under pressure to comply with the various climate action plans they have put in place over the years that demand clean energy use.
And the California Public Utilities Commission issued a report in May saying a state plan needs to be put in place about what would happen should one of the local energy aggregators fail, leaving customers with out a supplier.
“You’re going to have some failures,” wrote Michael Pickler, CPUC president. “Electric markets can be brutal. So what happens to the customers, midyear, if the company or the (program) goes away? Where do those customers go?”
The EBCE program is opt-out rather than opt-in, so your electricity will be coming from EBCE unless you chose to take action to leave the program.
Those with questions about EBCE or who want to opt out and remain with PG&E can visit ebce.org or call (833) 699-EBCE.
“This is a model that’s been working in California for over eight years, beginning in Marin County,” said Henderson, who said the participation rate is about 95 percent in places with community energy aggregators.
Music in the Streets
As Cherry Festival Draws a Crowd
San Leandro Times • 06-07-18
The Project 4 Band was in a groove as part of the entertainment at the Cherry Festival on Saturday on W. Estudillo Avenue in downtown San Leandro. Many booths sold cherries as the crowd mingled and enjoyed the sunny afternoon to mark the annual festival that began in San Leandro in 1909.
City Council Puts Zapata Back on Job
5-month investigation finds no wrongdoing by city manager
Padilla Johnson’s claims shown to be inconsistent with evidence
By Amy Sylvestri San Leandro Times • 06-07-18
San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata has been reinstated following a lengthy leave of absence after an independent investigator found that claims of sexual harassment made against him were unsubstantiated.
The city hired attorney Karen Kramer to look into claims made by Davis Street Family Resource Center CEO Rose Padilla Johnson that Zapata allegedly made sexual comments to Johnson and implied that a $1.5 million loan the city gave to to Davis Street in 2016 could have been extended if Johnson were to have a relationship with him.
After five months of interviews with nine people, and reviewing hundreds of documents, emails, and text messages, Kramer found Zapata had not behaved inappropriately and that Johnson’s account of events could be proven to be false in several instances.
The City Council voted 6-1 at a closed session Monday night to reinstate Zapata, with Councilman Ed Hernandez dissenting. Hernandez could not be reached for comment.
Zapata returned to work on Tuesday afternoon, hours after being reinstated by the council.
In her report summary, Kramer wrote: “The credible evidence presented establishes that more likely than not the relationship between Ms. Padilla Johnson and Mr. Zapata was a professional relationship.”
The council offered no comment on their decision at Monday night’s meeting, but Mayor Pauline Cutter released a statement via email.
“The City Council has unanimously accepted the findings of the independent investigator,” wrote Cutter. “The City Council has also determined that it is appropriate for the City Manager to return to his duties. City Manager Zapata denied all wrongdoing and the investigation concluded that his testimony was credible.”
Cutter went on to say that the city was eager to move forward and complimented Zapata on his work as city manager.
Johnson’s Account Called ‘Inconsistent’
Kramer’s report said that Johnson’s account of the timeline of events was often inconsistent and said that Zapata backed up his testimony with numerous emails and texts.
Kramer wrote: “Ms. Padilla Johnson made many inaccurate statements during her interviews as part of this investigation. It is unclear if Ms. Padilla Johnson did so knowingly or because of the passage of time and/or her own perception of certain events being clouded by the stress she was under due to the financial condition of Davis Street during the relevant time period.”
Kramer said that some of Johnson’s allegations were easily disproved such as a claim that Zapata would only agree to meet with her privately at the Fosters Freeze when there was evidence they met numerous times at City Hall over several years.
Zapata said that he agreed to meet at the Foster’s Freeze because it was approximately halfway between his and Johnson’s offices and that he doesn't like to meet for meals or after work, but he said Johnson initiated all the ice cream meetings.
Kramer’s report included a not-before-heard allegation by Johnson that while they were in the parked car in the Fosters Freeze lot, Zapata spilled ice cream on his crotch and rubbed his genital region. Johnson could not tell Kramer when this event allegedly happened and Zapata denied it outright.
The report says that Johnson’s primary allegation – that Zapata would extend the terms of the $1.5 million loan that Davis Street owned the city – doesn’t make chronological sense by Johnson’s own timeline.
Specifically, Johnson said that she “begged” for a loan extension in October 2016 and Zapata tried to take advantage of her desperation. Kramer found that, at that time, Zapata believed that the matter was already settled and that the city would be wired the money by the end of the month.
In fact, a Davis Street representative contacted San Leandro Finance Director David Baum to get the city’s banking details to make the transfer and the city thought the money was on its way, so Kramer therefore determined that it was unlikely that Johnson had pled with Zapata days earlier.
Kramer said it wasn’t until a voicemail was left by Johnson on Oct. 31 at 3:40 p.m. (the day the payment was due) that Zapata became aware the city wouldn’t be repaid.
When the loan became overdue, Zapata discovered that Johnson had used the same piece of property as collateral to secure the loan from the city and as well as a line credit from Wells Fargo. Kramer found that Zapata would’ve been unlikely to pursue a romantic relationship with Johnson given his discovery of her dishonesty in that matter.
Johnson said that the alleged misconduct came to a head when Zapata told her “you hold the key” regarding the loan extension, which she says she took as meaning he’d help Davis Street financially in exchange for a sexual relationship.
Kramer found that Zapata likely did say “you hold the key” to Johnson at some point, but said Zapata provided a reasonable explanation for using the phrase, in that he was referring to negotiating with Mayor Cutter because he thought she would be the swing vote for the City Council to approve an extension.
Zapata’s Reason for Sending Email
Before Johnson’s allegations were made public last January, Zapata released a preemptive 23-page email denying any inappropriate behavior.
In a phone interview with Zapata on Tuesday with San Leandro City Attorney Richard Pio Roda also on the line, Zapata said he’d heard whispers of the allegations for over a year and after speaking with his lawyer, he decided he needed to fight back.
“For 400 days, I’d been a victim of a smear campaign,” said Zapata. “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will, so I sent the email.”
Zapata said that despite the accusations made by Johnson, he and the city will still work with Davis Street, as it is one of San Leandro’s largest charitable organizations.
“Any type of perceived retaliation is a non-starter,” said Zapata. “We must work with Davis Street. They have an important mission.”
Zapata: ‘Johnson Owes San Leandro an Explanation’
Zapata said he doesn’t want an apology from Johnson, but does think she owes San Leandro as a whole an explanation.
“This was a cruel and calculated attempt to impugn my integrity,” said Zapata. “It was not well-thought out. This person owes an explanation to the community, to the Davis Street board of directors, and to others as to what was on this person’s mind. I think it’s a tragedy that this occurred at public expense but my reputation will survive because I did nothing wrong.”
City Attorney Pio Roda said that the total expense of the investigation was $38,000. The city also had to pay Zapata’s salary ($244,170 annually) on top of the acting city manager’s pay while he was on leave.
Johnson: ‘Report Favored the Aggressor’
On Tuesday afternoon, Johnson sent out a written statement through her publicist Sam Singer saying that she is disappointed in Kramer’s conclusion and will continue her charitable efforts.
“There are no winners here.” wrote Johnson. “I am proud and pleased that I stood up and reported the incidents and situations that happened to me. I am disappointed in the report and its findings, which I believe favored the aggressor in this misconduct case.”
Johnson said that she believes that the public will be wary of dealing with Zapata in the future.
“We must challenge our leaders to lead by example,” wrote Johnson. “In the future, the City Manager must be compelled to conduct himself appropriately and to execute the work of the City with the highest standards of fairness. The importance of Davis Street and its services to the neediest members of our society is more important than anything else.”
Kramer’s summary of her investigation is available at https://bit.ly/2Jh5aae and Pio Roda said the complete report will be made public by July 31.
Voters Pass San Lorenzo School Bond
By Amy Sylvestri San Leandro Times • 06-07-18
In Alameda county just 20 percent of registered voters (about 170,000 people) bothered to cast a vote in Tuesday’s California Primary Election. The preliminary results are in.
Voters passed the San Lorenzo School District Measure B bond, a $130 million bond the district says will be used to upgrade outdated classrooms and buildings at the schools and improve student access to technology.
Measure B, which passed with 68 percent of the vote (4,185 votes) will be assessed at a rate of $60 per $100,000 of assessed property value to those in the San Lorenzo School District.
Alameda County Measure A, the half-percent sales tax increase for childcare and early education failed to reach the 66.6 percent supermajority it need to pass, but it was close with 65 percent of the vote (106,943 votes in total).
RM3, the regional transportation measure to increase bridge tolls by $3 over the next few years was voted on by all Bay Area counties and passed with a 54 percent simple majority overall.
The race for District Attorney was the only real competition on the county ballot, as incumbent Nancy O’Malley defeated civil rights lawyer Pamela Price. O’Malley received 59 percent of the vote (87,643 votes) to Price’s 40 percent (59,979 total votes.
The rest of the major races were incumbents running unopposed.
Karen Monroe will sere another term as the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, as she got 97.5 percent of the vote.
Wilma Chan will serve another term on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, representing parts of San Leandro and San Lorenzo in District 3. Chan got 97 percent of the vote, and there were 680 write-ins for other candidates.
Sheriff Greg Ahern will serve another 4-term. He received 96 percent of the vote (110,984 votes) with about 4,450 write-ins for other candidates.
In the race for U.S. Senator, incumbent Dianne Feinstein was the clear winner with 44 percent of votes statewide. Because the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, she will face off in November against fellow Democrat Kevin De Leon who got 11 percent of the votes statewide.
Barbara Lee, the incumbent who represents San Leandro in Congress, was running unopposed and got 96.5 precent of the vote or 76,567 total votes. The rest - nearly 2,800 votes- were write-ins.
Democrat incumbent Eric Swalwell, who represents San Lorenzo, Ashland, and Castro Valley as part of the 15th Congressional District got 69 percent of the vote (42,884 votes) and will face off against Republican Rudy Peters in November. Peters received 28 percent of the vote or 16,867 total votes in a district that is about 25 percent Republican.
Gavin Newsom was the top voter-getter in the crowded 15-plus candidate race to be California's next governor. The Democrat and current lieutenant governor got 33 percent of the vote statewide.
Republican candidate John Cox took second place with 26 percent of the statewide vote. Newsom and Cox will face off in November.
The race for lieutenant governor will be between two Democrats – Eleni Kounalakis who got 23 percent statewide and Ed Hernandez who came in second place statewide with 21 percent of the vote.
San Lorenzo Woman, 97, Hasn’t Lost Any of Her Spunk
By Jim Knowles San Leandro Times • 06-07-18
Ora Wheeler turns 97 next week but that doesn’t mean she can’t still quarrel with a neighbor.
She’s sick of the guy’s big tree covering half her garden with leaves.
She works in her garden every day. The only part she doesn’t like are those damned tiny little leaves.
“You can’t even rake them, you need a blower,” she says.
Other than that, gardening is her favorite thing.
“The exercise for one thing,” Wheeler says. “I just can’t believe that I keep going. Most people my age are sitting on their butt looking out the window. That’s what killed ’em.”
Tending the garden, Wheeler gets right down to business.
“I hand water it,” she says. “And I put in fertilizer. I use bull. You know what bull is?” She grins when she asks that question.
Wheeler grows roses, lavender, daisies, and there’s rhubarb, an apple tree and a lemon tree.
“I don’t use city water, it’s all well water,” she says.
Wheeler points to the well pump by the back wall of her house in San Lorenzo.
“My husband dug that well when we moved here in 1960,” she says.
During the drought, she liked to water the front yard. Her neighbors couldn’t because they didn’t maintain their wells. Because she only uses well water outside, her water bill is practically nothing.
“Everybody’s yard was brown and burned, and I had the only green yard around here,” she says. “I’d hose down the driveway, the street, and people would go by and say, ‘Oh, she’s wasting a lot of water.’”
Ora says that people will tell her, “You should see my water bill.” She replies, “You should see mine. A water bill doesn’t scare me.”
Wheeler and her late husband Gus moved to California from Arkansas in 1941. Gus worked in the shipyards and then in a cannery for $25 a week.
Gus grew up on a farm just like Ora, and just like her he was one of 11 kids.
“You had to have those kids to work on the farm,” she says.
Wheeler just knows how to grow things. Somebody gave her a flower in a pot recently but she’s not going to plant it yet.
“You can’t plant that until fall,” she declares.
When it’s pointed out that the planting instructions are on the little plant marker, she brushes off the notion with a wave. “They don’t tell you nothing.” She doesn’t pay any attention to that. Wheeler just gardens by instinct.
“On the farm, you just do it,” she explains. “We grew everything we ate. You don’t have enough to eat in the wintertime if you don’t grow it and can it. You just know what you had to do.”
Wheeler used to work in the kitchen for senior lunches in San Lorenzo but not since she stopped driving. She said she called the San Lorenzo Homeowners Association about her neighbor’s tree, but didn’t get anywhere.
“They’re worthless,” she says with a wave of her hand. Now she’s trying the county public works department to see if they can do something about her neighbor and his tree, which he won’t trim.
“He does everything he can to spite me,” Wheeler says.
Meanwhile, Wheeler has been toying around with a little plan with the leaves. She says, “I might just sweep them all up and dump ’em back over the fence.”
CAPTION: Ora Wheeler works on her garden every day
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Young Marines Mark Memorial Day
The Young Marines of Hayward set up flags for Memorial Day
San Leandro Times • 05-31-18
The Golden Gate Young Marines of Hayward helped set the stage for the Memorial Day observance at the Golden Gate National Cemetery on Monday, setting up flags and passing out programs and memorial poppies.
The program consisted of several patriotic musical performances, vocal, instrumental and bagpipe.
The Young Marines in the photo are Jacob Denza, Joseph Consolino, Will Johnson, Jared Lyman, Ethan Brush, Ryan Wyder, Amanda Crawford, Adrian Darbison, Benjamin Bococ and Austin Moss.
They also assisted at the observance at Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF KATHLEEN JOHNSON
Student Brings Loaded Gun to San Lorenzo High
Sheriff’s Department arrests 16-year-old for carrying pistol
By Amy Sylvestri San Leandro Times • 05-31-18
A teenage boy was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to San Lorenzo High Tuesday.
Police say a tip from a fellow student led to the discovery of the Glock 9mm handgun.
A policeman was alerted by a student that a 16-year-old classmate had a gun, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
The teen was pulled out of class and his backpack was searched and the gun was discovered, loaded with a 12-round magazine.
The teen was arrested for felony weapons violations and taken to the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro. Deputies also determined that the gun has been reported stolen from Santa Clara County.
Kelly said the student’s motivation for having the gun isn’t known at this time.
The sheriff’s office does not release the names of minors who are arrested.
Tuesday’s arrest was the second time a gun has been found on a San Lorenzo campus in the past two months.
In late March, deputies put Arroyo High in San Lorenzo on lockdown after a 15-year-old student was reported to have a handgun, according to Kelly.
Just as in this case, another student heard a teen had a gun and officers found a loaded handgun in a backpack.
There have also been several cases of false gun threats at local schools recently.
On March 14, San Leandro High was placed on lockdown when threatening graffiti was found in a bathroom at the school saying that someone would be “shooting the school.” The school was in lockdown that day and classes were cancelled all day March 15.
Similar messages threatening violence were found at Creekside Middle School in Castro Valley in March. In Hayward, both Tennyson High and the Impact Academy were briefly shut down due to similar threats.
Kelly said that the students who reported the gun to campus officers are instrumental in preventing a potential tragedy.
“We should continue to support and explain to our children that saying something is the right thing to do,” said Kelly. “We are very proud of the students that stepped up today to report this incident. It’s nice to know that students, faculty, and officers working together can prevent gun violence.”
Longtime Swim Coach Hangs Up Whistle
By Amy Sylvestri San Leandro Times • 05-31-18
After more than 45 years teaching aqua exercises, Erika Silva will be hanging up her whistle and retiring at the end of June.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning during swim season Silva can be found on the deck of the San Leandro Family Aquatic Center in Washington Manor Park giving lessons for the city’s recreation department. Before that she taught at the Boys and Girls Club pool.
For an hour each class, she leads her students in the pool though a series of exercises. The students in Silva’s class are mostly senior citizens, but that doesn’t mean that Silva doesn’t expect a lot of effort out of them – march in place, swing those arms in circles, and don’t stop moving.
Throughout her career, Silva has been a lifeguard, swimming teacher, and pool manager. She said that she started out teaching classes as a small side gig to “get a little money for a decent haircut” but she quickly fell in love with getting people to be active in the water.
Silva joked that this is her third time trying to retire but at age 80, she’s ready to call it quits for good.
“This time it’s definitely going to take,” said Silva.
Through the decades, she has taught thousands of San Leandrans water exercises, including Mary Jo Knueven, who calls Silva “amazing.”
“To be out there teaching at age 80 is just incredible,” said Knueven.
Silva met her husband Kenneth in her native Germany while he was in the service some 50 years ago. They moved to San Leandro and raised a daughter, Christina.
She does all her instruction from outside of the pool so her students can see her movements, so Silva says that now that she is retiring for good, she might finally have time to take a dip herself.
“Everyone’s been asking me what I will do when I retire,” said Silva. “I might have a chance to actually get in the pool now.”
CAPTION: Erika Silva teaches at the Washington Manor Park pool.
County Honchos Rake It In
By Amy Sylvestri San Leandro Times • 05-31-18
Alameda County’s public employees continue to be among the highest paid in the state according to California's largest public pay and pension database.
Alameda County’s highest paid employee in 2017, administrator Susan Muranishi, received total pay and benefits of $775,000. Of that $501,400 was base pay.
That’s about $288,000 ahead of the next highest paid county administrator from San Joaquin County who received $487,000 in total pay and benefits.
And when she retires, Muranishi’s contract calls for her to receive a pension matching her highest salary, so she will be collecting over a half-million annually for the rest of her life.
And that salary is rising – this year’s figure is over $100,000 more than the $657,000 Muranishi received five years ago in 2013, according to Transparent California, a database of public employee salaries.
The county’s next highest paid employee is Sheriff Gregory Ahern, who is running unopposed for reelection in next week’s June 5 primary. Ahern’s pension and benefits totaled more than $632,300 in 2017, with pay of $313,000 and benefits of nearly $319,000.
Ahern was the third highest paid sheriff in the state in 2017 according to the database, behind only the sheriffs of Riverside and Los Angeles counties.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who is running for reelection in the primary, collected $486,700 in total compensation including almost $321,000 in base pay.
O’Malley was the state’s second highest paid DA in the database, behind only the district attorney of Los Angels County.
Alameda County Auditor-Controller Steven Manning received nearly $475,000 in compensation, including salary of $304,000. Manning is retiring this year and not seeking reelection, so he will begin collecting a pension of $170,000.
Manning was the highest paid auditor-controller in the state last year, topping the second highest compensated controller from Los Angeles County.
Alameda county’s population was estimated at 1.6 million last year, far smaller than the 10 million people who live in Los Angeles County.
All told, 22 current Alameda County employees had total competition of over $400,000 in 2017.
Of the county’s 7,410 full-time employees, the median pay and benefits totals $122,500, with just under $83,000 in salary. The total cost of all compensation for county employees in 2017 was nearly $1.2 billion.
And those are the currently active employees. According to the website “100k Club,” a project of the California Policy Center think tank, 739 retirees from Alameda County jobs are currently drawing annual pensions in the six figures.
The California Policy Center estimates that there is $600 billion in unfunded pensions statewide for California's public employees.
SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-24-18
Signature gatherers are out getting voters to put propositions on the November ballot, the election-year exercise where we sign a proposition we haven’t read and find out just before the election just what in the heck we signed.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
BRT Construction To Finish by End of Summer
AC Transit says rapid bus line won’t open until end of 2019
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-24-18
The AC Transit Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project is 80 percent complete in San Leandro, but don’t expect to hop on an express bus until the end of 2019 at the earliest.
BRT construction began in San Leandro in April of 2017 and major roadway and station work will be done by the end of the summer, according to BRT program director David Wilkins.
That’s good news to the business along the East 14th northern corridor who have had their sidewalks blocked and parking restricted during the 16-month-long construction project. That includes Angelina’s Pizza owner Claudia Norberto who estimated she’s lost 15 percent of sales since construction started.
The currently active construction zones in San Leandro are on East 14th Street at Georgia Way and West Broadmoor Boulevard and median work is being done on Durant Avenue.
BRT is touted as “light rail on wheels,” a 9.5 mile route on International Boulevard and East 14th Street between 20th Street in Oakland to the downtown San Leandro BART station. It will feature both median and curbside elevated stations and will replace the existing Line 1 route.
About 80 percent of the route will include dedicated bus lanes in the middle of the road, but in San Leandro the bus-only lane will go just a few blocks into the city before turning off East 14th Street at Davis Street and heading to the BART station.
The $213 million BRT project has been in the works for over 15 years. In 2014, AC Transit said the buses would be running by 2017.
Once the construction is complete in San Leandro, AC Transit will finish construction in Oakland and then take several months to organize the new fleet of hybrid buses, schedules, and ticketing systems before passenger service starts late next year, Williams said.
Williams gave a BRT progress report to the City Council on Monday and said there will be a loss of 36 parking spaces along the 1.1 mile BRT San Leandro.
Councilwoman Deborah Cox put a positive spin on that, saying there will be a need for fewer spaces because people will be on the bus, not in their cars.
Mayor Pauline Cutter said that, because each station will have security cameras and bright lighting, she also hopes people will feel safer.
“I hope it will rejuvenate that part of town,” said Cutter.
Councilman Ed Hernandez asked the AC Transit officials if BRT might eventually expand its route to the Bayfair BART station, which he would like to see.
“I’m supportive of bringing mass transit to the masses,” said Hernandez.
The AC officials sounded amused at the question, probably because in 2012 plans for the BRT to run all the way to Bayfair with dedicated lanes were rejected by the San Leandro City Council, before Hernandez was on the council.
But Cutter said that there is still a possibility of a Bayfair BRT in the distant future.
“I think once we see the success (of this potion of the project) we shouldn’t have too much trouble selling it the rest of the way,” said Cutter.
AC Transit also announced that beginning June 17, there will be expanded services on several regular bus lines in San Leandro and that they will be adding more bus stops in town in the near future, including new stops at the marina and near the Davis Street Family Resource Center.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a construction project in San Leandro without a little “not in my back yard” feedback.
Councilman Lee Thomas said that he’s heard from constituents near the planned Alvarado/Fremont Street bus stop that they are worried about trash, noise, vandalism, and parking congestion near the stop. AC Transit promised to monitor the stop closely once it opens.
CAPTION: AC Transit plans to have a BRT rapid bus line with dedicated bus lanes running from the San Leandro BART Station to downtown Oakland.
City Council Postpones Parcel Tax
By Jim Knowles SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-24-18
The City Council will postpone putting a parcel tax for the police and fire departments on the November ballot, and instead shoot for a special election next June.
The decision came on Monday night after council members discussed a conflict with the school district also planning to put a parcel tax on the ballot this November. There’s a better chance of a tax measure passing if just one is on the ballot, council members agreed.
Councilman Lee Thomas said it would be better to put the public safety parcel tax on the ballot next June, and Councilwoman Corina Lopez seconded the motion.
All the other council members agreed, before voting unanimously to move the tax to June of next year and let the school district make its case before the voters this November.
Several council members also said going for the November ballot is rushing things, so it’s better to wait until later.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Councilman Benny Lee
City Manager Jeff Kay says everyone agrees that more money for public safety is a good thing.
In the public speaking segment of the meeting, several speakers encouraged the council to delay the parcel tax, including director of the San Leandro Education Foundation and former school board member Morgan Mack Rose, and former mayor and school board member Stephen Cassidy.
San Leandro Teachers’ Association President John Sherr said he appreciated the collaborative nature of the meeting, as did current school board member Monica Tate.
“Thank you for considering the parcel tax at a later date,” Tate said. “We appreciate it very much.”
DA Candidates Price and O’Malley
Square Off at Forum in San Lorenzo
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-24-18
In the race for Alameda County District Attorney, Pamela Price is trying to emphasize what sets her apart from incumbent Nancy O’Malley – namely, Price’s refusal to accept donations from police unions.
But in nearly every other subject touched on at a candidates’ forum this week, the women were in close agreement.
Price and O’Malley met Monday night at the San Lorenzo Library for a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs. The two alternated answering questions posed by moderator Janice Friesen, a former Castro Valley school board member, and they often took the same stance on a given issue.
Asked their opinions on trying teens as adults, both said diversion programs to keep young offenders away from prisons are ideal.
Price said that when it comes to deciding whether a youth should be tried as an adult, minority teens face the adult court more often than white teens.
“I will not charge a juvenile as an adult when I am your district attorney or charge a juvenile with life without the possibility of parole,” said Price. “I want to make sure we give kids a chance to make a mistake.”
O’Malley agreed that getting young offenders back on track to being members of society is important, but said that juveniles receiving harsh sentences is only for “very heinous crimes.”
O’Malley added that in 2016, four teens ended up in the adult court, one a “white guy who lit a woman on fire and then stabbed her when she wouldn’t die fast enough.”
In 2017, a juvenile triple rape suspect was charged as a an adult and no youths have been charged as adults so far in 2018, according to O’Malley.
On working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) both women said they would protect the undocumented.
“I would have no involvement with ICE as your district attorney,” said Price. “We need to figure out how to support the immigration population.”
O’Malley said she currently does not work with ICE and never asks the immigration status of people at the Family Justice Center, a program the county has for victims of crimes like domestic violence and human trafficking.
On police accountability, O’Malley said that building relationships between cops and the community is key to understanding each other.
“When people talk and have a respectful dialogue, those judgements fall away,” said O’Malley.
Price said that ousting bad cops will help build public trust.
“I will hold bad cops accountable for bad acts,” said Price. “Trust me, that’s what good cops want.”
That segued into the discussion of Jasmine Absulin (also known as Celeste Guap), the teen who allegedly prostituted herself to over two dozen members of the Oakland Police and other local police agencies in a scandal that drew national attention to Alameda County law enforcement.
Price is Absulin’s former attorney and O’Malley said she exploited the teen when representing her. The initial legal retainer between Price and Absulin not only hired Price as a lawyer, but also gave Price the exclusive option to buy the intellectual property rights to the story and represent Absulin in the media.
O’Malley went on to say that, when she dealt with Absulin during the prosecution of the officers, Absulin’s “biggest complaint was against my opponent.”
Price countered that O’Malley botched the investigation. Price said O’Malley would have covered for the dirty cops if not forced to investigate when Absulin’s identity was made public after the suicide of one Oakland police officer.
That was pretty much the only point of contention between the two at the forum.
Price ran unsuccessfully for the state assembly in 2014. O’Malley ran unopposed for district attorney in 2010 and 2014, and she was the first woman to be Alameda County’s DA after being appointed to replace Tom Orloff mid-term in 2009.
O’Malley has the endorsements of the entire Alameda County Board of Supervisors, 12 Alameda County mayors including San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter, as well as senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, over a dozen other California district attorneys, and several police unions.
Price played up her outsider status, saying she’ll upset the status quo. She told the story of how she was introduced into the justice system at age 13 when she was arrested for a civil rights protest and saved by mentors who saw her potential. She is a product of the foster care system who made it all the way to Yale and went on to get her law degree from UC Berkeley.
Price’s endorsements include Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza, actor Danny Glover, and Our Revolution, San Leandro.
Election Day in Tuesday, June 5. For more information about the election, including sample ballots, voters’ guides, and the location of your polling place, visit www.acvote.org.
MedShare Volunteers Honored
SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-17-18
Over 50 volunteers were honored at Medshare’s Distribution and Volunteer Center in San Leandro last month, celebrating both the volunteers and Earth Day.
The volunteers help Medshare deliver needed medical supplies to parts of the world that lack the medical equipment we take for granted in this country.
The day kicked off with lunch, after which the volunteers were presented with the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award for giving a minimum of 100 hours of voluntary service.
This was followed by a presentation by one of the volunteers, detailing the impact Medshare has had on his home country of Pakistan.
The event was spearheaded by Medshare’s Western Regional Director, Eric Talbert and Volunteer Program Manager, Shana Hassol.
To recognize the positive impact MedShare volunteers have on the environment, there was a send-off ceremony for a shipment of high-quality medical supplies and equipment, destined to the Philippines. Part of what made this Primary Care shipment a wonderful fit for the event was that it was funded by a MedShare volunteer and her husband.
"MedShare volunteers know that human health and environmental health go hand in hand,” Talbert said. “Each of us has the responsibility to make a healthier world, and that's exactly what MedShare volunteers do each day."
Since the beginning of the year, more than 6,000 people have volunteered their time to advance MedShare’s mission to improve global health.
“Thanks to the selfless efforts of MedShare’s volunteers, more than 330,000 patients will now live healthier lives,” Talbert said.
Pauline Cutter, Mayor of San Leandro, also attended the event.
“One of the best things about being mayor is getting to talk to people in the community who have a heart, who make the community better,” Cutter said. “What (Medshare does) here just can’t be duplicated. diverting things from landfill and actually giving it to people to use to help save lives.”
CAPTION: MedShare volunteers pose under flags of countries that receive the non-profit’s medical equipment.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MEDSHARE
City Council Looking at Parcel Tax
Tax money wanted for rising police, fire salaries, pensions
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-17-18
The San Leandro City Council is considering asking taxpayers to open their wallets and approve a special parcel tax for the police and fire departments.
The City Council voted unanimously on May 7 to begin the process of putting a parcel tax for public safety on the November ballot, which would largely go to police and fire salaries and pensions.
The next step will be to poll the public to see if there is enough support to pass the tax.
It’s an election year and the endorsements of the police and fire unions can give a candidate a boost. More than half of the council is up for reelection in November.
But the tax may be a tough sell to voters – as the city’s budget projections show it will be in the red for at least the next decade, due to rising expenditures.
The voters have approved four other tax measures in less than five years. Measure HH passed in 2014 and extended and doubled to a half-cent an older sales tax. Measures NN (a tax on marijuana sales), OO (a tax on warehouse space), and PP (a hotel tax) were passed in 2016.
The new public safety parcel tax is being considered because the city faces looming unfunded pensions. Also, the police and fire unions say they need more money for equipment and staffing.
Currently, the fire department wants $650,000 for new vehicles and equipment, as well as money for additional crew members. The police say they need $400,000 for new radios.
But by far the biggest expenditures come from salary and pension costs.
Currently the San Leandro Police Department accounts for $40 million of the city’s $112 million budget expenditures, which funds 135 staff members – 93 of which are sworn officers. The average annual cost of an officer is $270,000 including benefits.
The city contracts fire services with the Alameda County Fire Department at a cost of $23.7 million per year, which pays for 63 firefighters in town.
The amount of the tax is still to be determined after public polling results. The city is considering taxing an additional $140 per parcel, which would bring in $6 million per year.
Yet to be decided: commercial and residential priorities could be taxed a different rates, the tax could be assessed based on size or per parcel, exemptions for seniors and disabled people could be considered.
Only one public speaker addressed the City Council regarding the tax. Sean Burrows of the firefighters union unsurprisingly said that he’d like more funding and said that putting a tax on the ballot couldn’t hurt because it gives the public a chance to make the decision.
Former Mayor Stephen Cassidy emailed a statement Monday saying that the city shouldn’t attempt to ask for more taxpayer money at the same time it is forecasting 10 years of budget deficits and has $188 million in unfunded pension costs.
“Exploding pension costs constitutes the cause of the city’s looming fiscal crisis, (so) San Leandrans will legitimately ask why the city has not immediately cut its expenditures and entered into negotiations with employees to reduce pension costs prior to seeking any new tax,” wrote Cassidy. “There will not be (enough) support in the community for a parcel tax to fund rising and unsustainable pension costs for public safety officers.”
Councilman Pete Ballew acknowledged that he has spoken with several residents who are concerned about the city’s finances.
“I haven’t even asked the public; they’ve volunteered it,” said Ballew. “They are very vocally wanting to know what we are doing to raise revenue and lower expenditures.”
Ballew, who is a former police officer, said that the city’s cops and fire personnel are their “own worst enemy” because he says they do their jobs so well that he public might not think they need more staff or funding.
Aside from the issue of public support, another challenge will be a significant time crunch – the city usually likes a full year to work on a tax measure and it’s now less than six months to election day.
Councilman Ed Hernandez countered that waiting might not pay off if there is an economic downturn in the meantime.
“If we don’t do it now, the probability of it passing in 2020 may actually be less,” said Hernandez.
Mayor Pauline Cutter ultimately voted to go ahead with the polling, but said she was wary of rushing the tax and having it result in an unsuccessful vote.
“I hate to be the lone man out but I’m not sure this is the right thing for right now,” said Cutter. “I’m just worried this is going to be back to bite us and we won’t be supporting our police and fire like we should.”
City Council members are all vocal about that support because the backing of those unions can be helpful during their campaigns. This November, Cutter, Councilman Deborah Cox, Councilman Lee Thomas, and Councilwoman Corina Lopez are up for reelection. Councilman Benny Lee is in the middle of his second term, but is running for mayor against Cutter.
The school district is also considering a parcel tax of its own, which could crowd the ballot and potentially discourage voters from saying yes to both.
Another challenge is that earmarked parcel taxes require a supermajority of two-thirds for approval.
The costs of getting a parcel tax on the ballot would be about $130,000 including consultant’s feels, the survey, and election costs, according to a city staff report.
The City Council said they want the police and fire unions to chip in on the the costs of the survey.
Mellon Gives EBMUD Update
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-17-18
If you want to know what’s going on with water and wastewater in town, just ask East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Board Member Frank Mellon.
Mellon has been on the board since 1994 and represents EBMUD’s Ward 7 which includes Castro Valley and portions of San Leandro, Cherryland, and Hayward. He gave an update to the public on Tuesday on some of EBMUD’s local projects this week.
This past winter wasn’t as rainy at the last, but EBMUD reservoirs are in good shape. The reservoir system is at 109 percent of average and 89 percent of capacity as of April.
EBMUD has a $2 billion, 2-year budget with several rate hikes to customers over the past few years. Last July, the board approved raising rates by 9.25 percent and another 9 percent hike is scheduled for July 2018.
That’s on top of rate increases totaling over 35 percent since 2013. So, the average East Bay household’s water bill went from $30 per month five years ago to more than $50 in 2018.
The irony is that people are using less water, but their bills are still increasing. Water use in the EBMUD coverage area dropped from 195 million gallons in 2007 to 125 million gallons in 2016.
EBMUD says its costs don’t change just because the amount of water used goes down, so the rate hike is necessary to maintain the infrastructure.
As far as infrastructure goes, EBMUD says they are constantly replacing their pipes, some of which are over 100 years old. There will also soon be upgrades to some important pumping plants, including a $1.8 million rehabilitation of mechanical and electrical equipment at the Fire Trail pumping plant in Castro Valley and the Bayfair pumping plant in San Leandro.
The district also plans on spending $5 million to replace the control system at the Upper San Leandro Water Treatment plant.
And EBMUD will also soon spend $80,000 to perform a customer opinion survey to analyze customers feedback on water and wastewater services.
EBMUD is also part of the “Haywired Scenario” which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) put out to demonstrate what could happen if a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Hayward fault.
The USGS predicted an Oakland epicenter quake would lead to 800 deaths, 16,000 injuries, and about $120 billion in quake and fire damages.
EBMUD is trying to mitigate some of that potential damage with their seismic upgrades, including replacing brittle cast iron pipes with more flexible plastic ones which can better withstand the shaking, the recent retrofit of the Chabot Dam and the switch to a steel tank from a cement reservoir in the Castro Valley hills.
U.C. Prof Reveals Tech’s Flip Side
By Jim Knowles SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-17-18
All the glamour of high tech comes at the cost of rising numbers of homeless and people struggling to keep a roof over they heads, said social geographer Dick Walker in a talk last Saturday.
High tech is the biggest industry in the world. The Bay Area is the world’s center of high tech. People like Zuckerberg and Musk are giants of the tech industry. The Bay Area has it all.
Yet California and the Bay Area lead the nation in homelessness. A quarter of the Bay Area work force is employed at minimum wage. And only 20 percent of the people in the Bay Area can afford a house today.
“It’s getting beyond belief. Is this the best capitalism has to offer?” asked Walker, a longtime U.C. Berkeley geography professor, recently retired.
Walker talked about his new book, “Picture of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area,” at the South Berkeley Senior Center, presented by Speak Out Now, Revolutionary Workers Group.
“I try to give an honest picture, how important this place is,” Walker said. “This is probably the most important place in the world right now. It’s a shooting star. Tech is the most important industry in the world. We laugh at Zuckerberg and Musk without realizing how critical this is.
“It’s a balloon that hasn’t blown up yet. But of course it will.”
The reason for the housing crisis “is you,” said Walker, looking at the audience.
“The reason it’s gotten so bad is because you oppose new building in your neighborhood,” he said.
Walker said so-called gentrification, the idea of artists fixing up a rundown part of town, is a myth.
It’s not gentrification, what you have is the central cities have been taken over by the rich as their private playground, driving workers out to places like Stockton on the outer reaches of the Bay Area, he said. And the wealthy depend on a huge pool of cheap labor who can barely afford to live in the Bay Area, or who live in their cars.
The housing supply has fallen behind while the demand for housing has shot up. You can’t create housing like iPhones, Walker said. It takes years to expand the housing supply.
There’s a myth that the high tech industry is built on genius, said Walker. But it’s really built on social capital, all the tech workers in the Bay Area.
But all the tech workers aren’t sharing in the immense wealth produced by the tech industry, because costs are so high. A lot of coders are sharing rooms, like living in a flop house, Walker said.
Millions of people in the Bay Area are doing jobs that are neither high-tech nor glamorous. One of the greatest illusions of the age is that the real producers are the highly educated and entrepreneurs, while the mass of working people are just hangers-on, he said.
But low-paid workers are doing the jobs that make it possible for the Bay Area to exist.
Tech made capitalism fun and exciting again, Walker said. It relies on fetishism (sleek iPhones, Teslas, etc.) to put people under a spell.
“And if you oppose it, you’re backwards or a Luddite,” Walker said.
A woman in the audience asked Walker if he thought Silicon Valley might emulate Kaiser, which built housing for its shipyard workers. Walker’s simple answer brought a chuckle from the crowd.
No one will build housing for the bottom third, there’s no money in it, unless you’re forced to, Walker said. He added that Pullman built housing for his railroad car workers and what he learned from that is that it solidified a sense of class antagonism.
Another reason housing won’t be built is there’s no federal money for housing anymore, thanks to the neo-liberals, Walker said.
“We’re all grappling with the 25-hour news cycle and Tweets from a crazy president,” Walker said.
But try to keep Trump in the background, he said, and work on a more enlightened housing policy. Adding, take housing off the market, which you have to do in a crisis.
Someone mentioned the teachers strike in West Virginia that got them a raise. Walker said the teachers union is powerful in California too, and returned to Silicon Valley where he cited examples of the low wage workers starting to organize – the food service workers, and the Teamsters organizing the bus drivers.
“Revolutions happen, strikes happen,” Walker said. “They can just sort of come out of nowhere.”
The high tech titans aren’t doing much for the working poor of the Bay Area, Walker said.
“These guys talk a good line but they end up falling in line with their class interests,” he said. “The ruling class has gotten so rich and so disconnected with reality.”
When the next recession comes it could hit the Bay Area hard, Walker said.
“I do foresee a major downturn. I’ve predicted the last four out of five, you can ask my students,” Walker said.
It won’t be as bad as the recession in 2007-2008, but tech is hit the hardest in recent recessions, so the Bay Area will feel it worse than the rest of the country. And a lot of loose capital has flooded the Bay Area – Chinese money, New York money – going into apartments and housing.
“And a lot of that is going to go away,” Walker said. “So it could be pretty dire.”
But Walker ended on an upbeat note.
“In the Bay Area we have people who know how to solve every problem, the housing crises and all the rest,” Walker said. “If they could simply be unleashed, they could solve the problem.”
CAPTION: San Leandro homeless people, many who grew up here, come to a free lunch provided by volunteers.
TIMES FILE PHOTO
Pedal Power in San Leandro
SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-10-18
Bicyclists return from the San Leandro Marina on Sunday for BikeSL 2018 that started at Casa Peralta in downtown San Leandro. The annual bike ride draws hundreds of two-wheelers. Today is Bike to Work Day where East Bay Bike will have Energizer Stations around the East Bay, including one at the San Leandro BART Station.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
New Plans Laid Out for San Lorenzo
Blueprints show apartments and retail at former Mervyn’s site
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-10-18
The old Mervyn’s site in downtown San Lorenzo could become a four-story apartment complex and retail development after sitting empty for over 20 years.
Developer Terry Demmon wants to create the “Village Green Apartments,” 163 market-rate units in four apartment buildings, three and four stories tall.
The developer has plans for a pool, dog park, a BART shuttle for residents, and 12,000-square-feet of retail space on the corner of Hesperian Boulevard and Paseo Grande.
The architectural style is art deco to match the Lorenzo Theater across the street and Demmon is pledging $200,000 on façade improvements to the historic theater.
Demmon showed a standing-room-only crowd at the San Lorenzo Library last week drawings of his planned development and most people seemed positive that something might actually be built on the long-empty property.
But some at the meeting said they’d been through all of this before. In fact, Demmon gave a nearly identical pitch last summer.
“We were here last year,” said one woman in the crowd. “It’s been a year and nothing has happened.”
But Demmon said he faced a lot more pushback last year and he never brought that version of the plans to the county for approval. He has since added more retail space to his plan and he thinks he can get the necessary approval this time.
“I like to think we’ve listened to everyone,” said Demmon.
Some in the crowd said they were worried about parking, saying the apartments’ tenants would park along the public street on Via Arriba in front of their houses, but Demmon says he’s planning enough parking – the complex would have two spaces per unit including some in an underground parking garage.
Another speaker said she was concerned that children living in the new development would make San Lorenzo schools over-crowded. But enrollment in the San Lorenzo Unified School District has actually been declining for the past several years, so the school district could use a boost in attendance.
The land is owned by Bohannon Companies, but if approved, Demmon Partners would own, manage, and lease the development.
Previous plans for the site have come and gone over the years – a Golden Corral restaurant was interested in opening about five years ago, but that deal fell through.
Demmon says that he anticipates getting county approval for the Village Green apartments and that construction should take about two years if all goes according to plan.
Creek Group Needs a Hand Removing Ivy
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-10-18
The flora along the San Leandro Creek in Chabot Park looks lush this spring, but among all the thriving greenery are some plants that don’t naturally grow there – nonnatives.
So the Friends of the San Leandro Creek are organizing two work days and asking for volunteers to come help get rid of the invasive plants, including ivy and blackberry vines.
Volunteers are asked to come out on a pair of Saturdays (either or both) – May 12 and May 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to lend a hand.
There is more overgrowth than usual because Chabot Park just reopened in February after nearly two years being closed due to the Chabot Dam retrofit. Maintenance at the park also changed hands from the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to the City of San Leandro.
So no plant maintenance was done during the closure, allowing the nonnatives to creep in.
And as they left, EBMUD cut down several large eucalyptus trees and rolled the logs to the edge of the creek, which didn’t thrill Susan Levenson, watershed coordinator of the Friends of the San Leandro Creek, because they hinder access to the creek.
“I’m not really happy with that,” said Levenson. “I guess they thought they were opening up the park, but it’s really closing off the creek. I would like to have the community be able to easily see and enjoy the creek. After all, Chabot and Root Park are the two places in the city where the public can easily access the creek.”
The Friends of the San Leandro Creek recently got a $1,500 grant to get rid of the nonnatives, after San Leandro resident Stephanie Pruegel brought it to their attention.
On the first work day, the volunteers will pull the weeds and trim back plants. Then the next week, they will cover the area with a donated burlap from coffee bags, and then put down a layer of mulch. The Friends of the Creek will also be putting up a sign informing people about nonnative plants.
It’s going to be hard work, because the plants are tenacious - some ivy vines are as thick as your wrist.
“Those nonnatives are tough,” said Levenson. “It’s going to take a lot of time and they are going to want to come back.”
Of course, some of the biggest trees in Chabot Park are nonnatives – the eucalyptus – but Levenson joked they don’t have the budget to get rid of those big guys.
Volunteers should bring gloves, clippers and shovels if you have them, sturdy shoes, and clothes they don’t mind getting dirty. The Friends of The Creek will provide limited tools and refreshments.
Volunteers will need to sign a waiver before they can get to work. You can find more information about the project and the waiver at www.fslc.org and waivers will also be available at the worksite.
CAPTION: Chabot Park, at the end of Estudillo Avenue in the hills, skirts San Leandro Creek where the non-native plants will be removed.
Woman Dies in Ambulance Crash
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-10-18
A San Leandro woman was killed and four others were injured when the ambulance she was a patient in got involved in a crash at the intersection of Hesperian and Lewelling boulevards Monday morning.
Catherine Sunday, 74, was taken to Eden Hospital in Castro Valley following the collision where she was later pronounced dead, according to the Alameda County Coroner’s Office.
Sunday was being transported in the ambulance traveling southbound on Hesperian at around 11:15 a.m. at a “code 3” which means the lights and sirens are on, according to the Alameda County Fire Department.
The driver of a white Audi sedan was headed east on Lewelling and crashed into the side of the ambulance in the intersection, according to the California Highway Patrol, who responded to the scene.
The ambulance was hit on the right side and tipped onto its left side. One emergency worker in the ambulance was able to get out of the vehicle on his own and began providing emergency care to the victims on the scene, including Sunday, two other first responders in the ambulance, and the driver of the Audi.
Everyone involved in the collision was taken to Eden. The paramedics have all been treated and released for their minor injuries.
The driver of the Audi was treated for a wrist injury and a cut to his head. The CHP says that alcohol and drugs do not appear to have been a factor in the crash.
The crash is under investigation by the CHP and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. It is not known at this time whether Sunday died as a result of the collision or from whatever medical emergency led to her being in the ambulance.
Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call the Highway Patrol at 581-9028.
CAPTION: A San Leandro woman died after an ambulance overturned at Hesperian and Lewelling boulevards when it was hit by a car.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALAMEDA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT
Miley Speaks Out Against Litter and Illegal Dumping in County
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-10-18
Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley says some people are turning our streets into garbage piles by illegally dumping mattresses, old televisions, and other unwanted large items.
Miley took to Facebook on May 2 to host a live virtual town hall about illegal dumping and what the county can do about it.
“Illegal dumping is unacceptable in every way and form,” said Miley. “We all need to take responsibility to make sure our environment is something to be proud of.”
Miley described a three-prong strategy for eliminating dumping, saying simply cleaning it up doesn’t work because it rewards the bad behavior by making it successful. If something is dumped and it gets cleaned up, the litter bug will probably dump again.
“I’m going to be frank with you – it’s irresponsible people blighting our community,” said Miley. “People don’t have to dump, but they do because they are irresponsible.”
So Miley proposes “education, eradication, and enforcement” to stop dumping.
Miley has helped create an initiative called “CURB” or Communities United to Remove Blight, which focuses on removal because Miley said that when it comes to trash, the “broken window theory” is in effect.
That’s the theory that if someone lets a broken window go unrepaired, soon other blight will follow because there is an impression that no one cares about the area.
Miley encouraged everyone to sign up for an app called “Litterati” which lets you report illegal trash dumping sites. So far, over 1,500 trash sightings have been reported in Castro Valley and 660 in San Leandro.
To eradicate trash, Miley said another step will be requiring small trash haulers to have a business license. He said that people hire a hauler with good intentions of having their trash taken away, but some haulers are dishonest and don’t take it to the dump where they’d have to pay - they just take it to an empty lot or street corner.
That could be because paying to dispose of garbage can be expensive. Waste management charges $21.70 to dump a mattress, $35 for each large appliance, and $32.25 per cubic yard of trash at the Davis Street transfer Station.
There are some free and legal alternatives, though. The Mattress Recycling Council has a website where you can find a list of recycling centers at byebyematress.com and Waste Management also offers customers free bulky pick ups, to schedule one call 537-5500 for Castro Valley and 613-8710 for San Leandro residents. On the Waste Management website, you can also find out about special drop-off trash days.
“All of us have to take responsibility,” said Miley during the live stream. “This is a call to action. Use the app, call Waste Management, adopt a spot and make sure it is cleaned up. This is a problem for all of us and we all deserve a safe, clean, wholesome environment.”
On the enforcement front, Miley says that the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office are both on board with arresting and prosecuting offenders.
“The District Attorney sees this as a threat to the environment and public health and is committing to prosecute,” said Miley
The next steps will be making a PSA video and instituting a street sweeping schedule in the unincorporated areas, and getting people signed up for the Alameda County Public Works Department’s “mobile citizen app” where they can report dumping, as well as graffiti, potholes, and other requests for service.
Miley took a few live questions and said he believes the Facebook Live format will be helpful in keeping in touch with constituents in the future. He announced that his next live broadcast will be on the topic of housing and homelessness.
“People expect a lot from the government, but government is only as good as the people out there sharing their concerns,” said Miley. “I get my best ideas from the constituency.”
CAPTION: Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley spoke out against illegal dumping in an online town hall meeting on May 2.
City Programs Promote Youth Outreach
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-03-18
The City says that if San Leandro wants to have a solid foundation, it’s important to reach out to San Leandro’s kids – what the city calls their “youth diversion programs.”
“It helps them be a part of their city,” said Mayor Pauline Cutter.
Taking inventory of what San Leandro is doing for youth was the idea of Councilman Lee Thomas who said he wanted to do more for young San Leandrans as he began studying tobacco policies and saw some grim statistics. He said he wanted more positive opportunities for young people so they wouldn’t get involved with smoking, drugs, alcohol or crime.
The city says three departments mainly deal with kids in town: recreation, libraries, and the police. At a recent City Council meeting, the council heard from all three.
City Recreation Director Jeanette Dong says that her department works to have as many free and inexpensive classes and programs for kids under 18 as possible.
Fong said that on the surface, these things are lots of fun, but they also serve as a place for kids who come from vulnerable backgrounds. The city gives kids a chance to have something as simple as a movie night or a holiday cookie celebration for free when they otherwise might not be able to afford it.
“Our origanization was not created as a safety net, but we know now that it is a safety net,” said Dong.
Similarly, librarian Bill Sherwood says that San Leandro’s libraries give a safe, comfortable space for young people to do homework and have internet access.
Sherwood says there are 6,100 active library card holders in San Leandro under the age of 18 and he wants to implement a pilot program so kids can use their school IDs as library cards to make library access even easier. He estimated that 35,000 young people attended 738 event at city libraries last year.
Sherwood says the library has programs from teen book groups down to baby story time, with Lego club and doggie reading buddies in between.
Councilwoman Deborah Cox said that the city’s libraries can’t be overestimated as resources for San Leandro youth.
“You at the library probably watch more kids after school than most after-school programs,” said Cox.
And San Leandro police go directly to San Leandro classrooms as early as preschool to connect with young people.
That practice has caused some pushback from the public in the past, though police say fostering strong community relationships helps keeps kids out of trouble and prevents crime.
In 2016, dozens of parents attended school board meetings, urging the board not to allow cops into the classroom as part of the Gang Resistance Education and Training or “GREAT” program. There is also “recess with the cops” where officers come to schools to p;ay and field trip to the police station
Proponents of officers in the classroom said it fosters healthy relationships between authorities and young people. Opponents said they didn’t like to see lines blurred between teacher and police officer. Some parents questioned whether the officers would be gathering information on the students and their families during these informal interactions.
And the school board itself has been resistant in the past to allowing more cops in schools. In 2015, the San Leandro police department received grant money to double the number of officers on campuses from two to four, but the board unanimously voted against it.
But Captain Jamie Knox told the council that events such as Santa on Motors and National Night Out give young people and police a chance to interact in a less formal setting.
Councilman Pete Ballew also coaches San Leandro High football and said that SLPD Chief Jeff Tudor stops by the school often to talk to his players.
“Our football players have the utmost respect for SROs (school resource officers),” said Ballew. “Those of us on the football them consider Chief Tudor a third SRO. I think that speaks to the culture of the police department.”
But it couldn’t go without comment that San Leandro police interaction with teens has gone wrong in the recent past.
Last November, former San Leandro police officer Marco Becerra, 26, was charged with statutory rape after allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old girl in the department’s Explorer program for young people interested in law enforcement careers.
Becerra resigned from the department in October after admitting to having three sexual encounters with the girl last fall. Becerra had been a former Explorer himself.
Councilman Thomas asked what measures the department was taking to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.
“What is the SLPD doing about the safety of those in the Explorer program?” asked Thomas.
Knox that Explorers programs helped him and numerous other officers pursue their careers.
He said that Becerra’s actions were an “isolated incident” and said officers have since received more training and held parent meetings. He added that their goal in the future is to have both male and female chaperones at Explorer events.
The City Council thanked Dong, Sherwood, and Knox for their departments’ work and Councilman Benny Lee asked what more can be done in the future – he particularly wants more focus on kids in foster care and kids who come from families that don’t speak much English at home.
“I am focusing on at-risk kids because I was an at-risk kid myself,” said Lee.
Nurse Makes Life
By Jim Knowles SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-03-18
Kevin So wasn’t sure he made the right decision when he left his job at the Stanford Hospital Emergency Department to wind up on a ship halfway around the world.
But So wasn’t exactly going on some luxury cruise liner. He left his job to work on a Mercy Ships hospital ship to bring medical care to some of the poorest parts of the world.
There’s no pay. The hospital workers even have to pay for their own room and board while working on the ship.
So spent two months working on the ship docked in Cameroon on the west coast of Africa. And he says it’s about the best experience of his life.
“It goes to the roots of why so many medical people go into the profession, to help people,” So said. “When that goal is so well defined – not for money, not for fame – it’s always a dream to help people’s lives, but here you really see it.”
Kevin So grew up in San Leandro and attended Chinese Christian School on Fargo which has since moved to Alameda. He was on the San Leandro “Drowning Darryls” Swim Team’s 200 meter freestyle relay team that set a record in 2010, the year he graduated from high school
He got a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Dominican University of California and then began working at Stanford. He plans to go back to work this summer, but he couldn’t pass up the chance to work on the Mercy.
So’s favorite patient on the ship was a woman named Yaya, who for 10 years had hidden her face behind her clothing because of a large tumor in her jaw.
“She described her life to me as being over,” So said. “She thought there was no future and that no one would accept her. And unfortunately, a majority of that was true.”
When So asked her who were the strong people in her life, she replied her mother, father and her husband.
Yaya had two surgeries, one to remove the tumor, and a second to graft part of her hip bone to the titanium which would regrow her jaw.
So remembers just before Yaya was discharged from the hospital and they took the elevator up to the deck for some fresh air and the elevator got stuck.
“She was laughing so hard in the elevator that I couldn’t figure out how to open the door!” So exclaimed.
With Yaha, and all the people in Cameroon, So was amazed at their toughness.
“It’s amazing how high the pain tolerance and perseverance through suffering is. It puts it into perspective what humans are capable of conquering,” So said.
A lot of Yaya’s personality changed after the surgery, So said. She was more open to showing her face.
“I think it really changed her life,” So said. “It’s unfortunate that so many people don’t have access to health care. Her situation is unique but not uncommon.
“You can’t change the world, but you can change one person’s world – their future is now changed for the better,” So said.
Mercy Ships is a Christian-based global charity that since 1978 had delivered medical services to over 2.6 million people, treated over 163,000 dental patients, and performed 89,000 life-changing or life-saving operations such as cleft lip and palate repair, cataract removal, orthopedic procedures, facial reconstruction and obstetric fistula repair.
But the ship’s goal is to also longterm, training over 6,000 local professionals, including surgeons, and taught over 223,000 local people basic health care.
Mercy Ships was founded in Switzerland and operates four hospital ships. It’s funded mainly through private donations, foundations and corporate donations. Volunteers working on the ships pay monthly fees, enabling Mercy Ships to delivery medical service at a fraction of the usual cost.
So did fundraising with family and friends to help pay his costs to work on the ship. Everyone on the ship pays, not just doctors and nurses, but housekeepers, I.T. people, and engineers.
“Doctors and nurses get the spotlight but it’s the people behind the scenes that make it work,” So said. “And they’re from countries all over the world.”
Though Mercy Ships is a Christian-based program, you don’t have to be Christian to work on the ships or to be a patient.
“A lot of people in North Cameroon are Muslim, but that doesn’t exclude anybody,” So said. “That was inspiring to me - the whole idea of mercy, providing free health care with no strings attached.”
CAPTION: Kevin So of San Leandro said the most inspiring thing in his life was working on a hospital ship that treated the people of Cameroon in the West Coast of Africa.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCY SHIPS
Travel Ban is Personal for SL Shopkeeper
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-03-18
Normally, Essa Alharbi would be busy ringing up customers at his store in downtown San Leandro during the Tuesday lunch hour.
But on April 24, he locked his doors and turned away business from noon to 1 p.m. as part of a national protest by Yemeni shop owners.
Alharbi and his family own the Cigarette Max in the Downtown Plaza where you can find him and two of his brothers behind the counter. But their other brother is stuck in an embassy in Djibouti, running from Yemen’s civil war and unable to come to America due to President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Last year, after a previous version of the travel ban was announced, an estimated 8,000 Yemeni-owned stores shut down in a similar protest, mostly on the East Coast. Alharbi says he is participating because of his family’s situation and also as a sign of solidarity.
“Every Yemeni business is doing it,” said Alharbi.
The third version of the travel ban is now in front of the Supreme Court this week and this current iteration prevents most travelers from the primarily Muslim countries of Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Syria as well as North Korea and Venezuela from entering the United States.
Alharbi says it’s a twist of timing that kept his older brother Jamal, his wife, and five kids from entering the county. Essa and his other siblings became U.S. citizens when they were born because their father had already secured American citizenship but because Jamal as already born, he did not automatically. The rest of the Alharbis have been in America since the year 2000 when Essa was 10-years-old.
The Yemeni Civil War has been going on since 2015. According to the United Nations, approximately 13,000 people have been killed during the conflict including more than 5,000 civilians.
Alharbi says his brother and his family had already fled Yemen and were months into the immigration process when the travel ban came in 2017. They had already gone through medical evaluations and interviews at the American Embassy in Djibouti.
“They were close to getting visas almost a year ago,” said Alharbi. “They are running away from violence. It costs us $2,000 or $3,000 per month to send them rent and other help but we aren’t considering having them go back to Yemen. No way.”
Alharbi says another family-member’s wife and kids are stuck in a similar situation at an embassy in Malaysia.
“They got plane tickets to where they could to get out of Yemen,” said Alharbi. “That’s our personal problem, but you’ve got to see it’s happening to so many people.”
Alharbi says he’s gotten a lot of support from his customers as his family goes through this even when his store was closed for business.
“Our neighbors have been great,” said Alharbi. “Most people came back after the protest was over to support us. But even if we did take a loss, that’s not a loss for me if our voices were heard.”
Oro Loma Open House Saturday
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 05-03-18
The Oro Loma Sanitary District is inviting the public to an Open House this Saturday, May 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at their treatment plant at 2600 Grant avenue in San Lorenzo.
Visitors will have a chance to get a first-hand look at how the water treatment facility works by taking a tour. There will also be hands-on activities including robotic sewer inspection camera and a visit by a Waste Management truck.
And Oro Loma will be offering complimentary treats to guests, including hot dogs, cookies, shaved ice, and drinks.
Curious about what happens to your wastewater between the time it leaves your house and the time it is released into the Bay? A tour of the plant will help people understand how the process works.
Oro Loma’s staff will be on hand during the open house to talk with young people about careers in operations, pipe maintenance, and more.
The Oro Loma Board of Directors will also be at the event to meet with the public and speak about Oro Loma’s goals for the future, which include replacing at least 1.5 percent of its aging pipes annually while stile maintaining the lowest rates in the Bay Area.
Visitors will also have a chance to speak with people from Save the Bay, who will be hosting a booth at their nursery site for native plants which is at the treatment plant.
Oro Loma handles waste and recycling and wastewater treatment for about 135,000 commercial and residential customers in parts of San Leandro, San Lorenzo, and Castro Valley.
Council to Lower Appeal Fees
Recent cases of $6,000 to appeal bring light on cost
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-26-18
Recently, a San Leandro resident filed an unsuccessful appeal against the construction of a large apartment complex project at a personal cost of nearly $6,000. That drew attention to just how costly getting your voice heard by the city could be.
Some council members say the price is too high and now the City Council is considering the cost of what San Leandro charges to participate in government.
But the planning department says that the appeal fee is appropriate and is only there to cover the costs of the staff time it takes to go through the process.
The city’s current fee to appeal a decision to the City Council is a $5,300 deposit plus a non-refundable $534 City Clerk filing fee.
This week, the City Council’s Rules Committee (made up of Mayor Pauline Cutter and councilmen Pete Ballew and Lee Thomas) began preliminary discussions about whether the city charges too much.
But the same City Council voted unanimously just last year in May of 2017 to raise the appeal to the $5,300 deposit, up from $2,000. That action was part of a larger group of general fee hikes that was approved all together without individual discussion of the appeal fees.
“A $2,000 deposit wasn't enough, we were going way over that,” said city planning manager Andrew Mogensen, who added a recent appeal cost the city $11,600 in staff time.
The city adds up the total staff costs to process the appeal and deducts that from the deposit and whatever is left goes back to the appellant.
But Ballew said that even as a deposit, the fee was high and essentially prices many people out of even attempting an appeal.
Mayor Cutter agreed, saying that the city needed to lower the cost.
Mogensen said that the current filing fee is fairly average for what his department’s costs tend to be during an appeal process.
Mogensen said that the city only gets around two to four appeals on City Council decisions per year, but believes that number will rise as more housing developments are proposed in infill spaces and a “not in my back yard” mentality begins to be more prevalent in San Leandro and all over the Bay Area.
Mogensen says that San Leandro’s appeal fees are “on par” with other East Bay municipalities, but everyone goes about setting the costs differently – some charge more if the appellant is the person who applied to begin the project, some do flat fees, some do deposits.
Newark only charges $100 and Pleasanton charges just $269 – refundable if the appeal is successful – to appeal a decision to the City Council. Albany charges $597, Piedmont $655.
Mogensen said those cities told him they rarely if ever see any appeals.
The process is more costly in other cities – Hayward charges a $6,000 deposit, Fremont requires a $3,000 deposit. Livermore charges $3,600 non-refundable and Oakland’s fee is a non-refundable $1,900.
The Rules Committee members all indicated they would like to see San Leandro's policy change, but said they need more discussion before bringing the matter to the full council. It will likely be discussed again at a Rules Committee meeting the first week of June.
“Government sets the standards, but the government is also supposed to be of the people,” said Ballew.
Ballew added that he’d like to see the appeal cost from those who were charged $5,300 refunded to the appellants.
“That’s not even a sneeze for the city budget when it comes to what’s right,” said Ballew.
Arab American Choir to Sing on Saturday
SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-26-18
In celebration of Arab American Month, the Aswat Men’s and Women’s Choir will give a free performance on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the San Leandro Main Library, 300 Estudillo Ave.
Aswat is an ensemble for classical and folk Arabic music. It performs Muwashahat (Arabic poetry, sung in the tradition of Andalusia, Spain) as well as traditional and contemporary songs from the Arab World.
Aswat has achieved a professional level of competence and has made appearances in numerous colleges, universities, festivals and conferences in the Bay Area.
The group consists of 20 singers and musicians from different parts of the world and welcomes anyone who is interested in Arabic music. Aswat is part of Zawaya, a non-profit forum that provides instruction and presentation of all aspects of the Arabic culture.
Zawaya is a non-profit organization that seeks to contribute to the multicultural discourse of the Bay Area with the Arab arts. Zawaya means “aspects” or “corners,” suggesting the many art forms to be discovered and enjoyed in Arab culture.
Swalwell Calls for Assault Gun Ban
By Jim Knowles SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-26-18
Congressman Eric Swalwell called for a ban on all assault rifles at a town hall meeting in San Lorenzo on Saturday.
The congressman didn’t just stop at banning the sale of the weapons that fire bullets at a rapid rate, but getting rid of all the ones that exist in the country.
“I think the American people are willing to sell a of a couple of F-35s (jet fighters) to buy back every assault weapon in the country,” Swalwell said. “We can’t just ban future sales, we need to go to the heart of the problem.”
Swalwell added that he wanted to assure hunters and gun collectors that he favors a ban on the rapid-fire assault weapons only, not to ban other guns.
The congressman’s remarks came at a town-hall meeting in the Arroyo High gym on Saturday afternoon with around 200 people in attendance. He spoke for half an hour before taking questions on a wide range of topics from health care to Russian hackers.
A woman who said she was a grandmother said something has to be done about guns, and Swalwell replied that it’s something society can’t accept.
The automobile industry equipped cars with air bags and other features to make sure there were fewer deaths, so the gun industry should do the same, Swalwell said.
The Democrat from California’s 15th Congressional District said he wants national health care.
“We need Medicare for everybody,” said Swalwell who presents himself as someone who can work well with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
On sanctuary cities, Swalwell said he prefers the term “safe cities,” saying that people are safe knowing that they’re not going to be deported if they get pulled over.
“I don’t think our police officers want to be turned into border patrol agents,” Swalwell said.
A man asked about climate change and alternative energy, and Swalwell replied that the key to green energy is tying it to new jobs. People aren’t going to be for something that threatens their jobs.
The third-term congressman said the Democrats made a big mistake when they just opposed the Keystone Pipeline to carry oil from Canada. Just being against something won’t work, unless you have an alternative plan that will create jobs, he said.
But the alternative energy plan won’t happen unless somebody steps up, he said, suggesting that the oil lobbyists and money have an influence on Congress.
“To be 100 percent renewable energy, you can only do that if you are bold enough to do it,” Swalwell said. “It’s dirty money in politics that’s just as dirty as the oil it comes from. Strip away the money.”
Swalwell said he favors a disclosure act that tells all shareholders of stock what campaign contributions the company makes.
On Russian influence of the 2016 election, Swalwell sounded convinced of collusion with the Trump campaign, which Trump denies.
Swalwell said Trump has invested heavily in Russia and the Russians invested a lot in Trump, and added that the Russian hackers “delivered the goods.”
Responding to a question about rent control, Swalwell said he understood how, in our economy, market forces are at work, but something seems wrong when rent increases much more than other costs. He said he was afraid that for future generations starting a family, buying a house would be out of the question.
But then, as he addressed the question of housing costs, Swalwell swung over to student loans, saying he’s introduced legislation to reduce interest on student loans to zero. And he’s working with Republicans to encourage employers to contribute to student loan debt.
It appeared the entire crowd was made up of Swalwell fans. There wasn’t a word of disagreement, a debated point, or a tough question. Whether that’s good news or bad news is the only question.
CAPTION: Congressman Eric Swalwell meets with constituents at Saturday’s town hall meeting in the Arroyo High School gymnasium.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
City Manager Investigation In Progress
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-26-18
Over four months after it began, the investigation into the alleged misconduct by City Manager Chris Zapata is still in progress.
“Unfortunately, there is nothing to report,” said assistant city manger Eric Engelbart on Wednesday. “The City Council hasn’t received anything from the investigator yet.
In early December, the city received a letter from an attorney representing Davis Street Family Resource Center CEO Rose Padilla Johnson alleging that Zapata sexually harassed her at a series of one-on-one meetings in her car in the Foster’s Freeze parking lot.
Before those allegations were made public weeks later, Zapata sent out an email on Jan. 16 preemptively denying any wrongdoing and countering that Johnson and her colleague Gordon Galvan attempted to bribe him in order to receive a lucrative medical marijuana permit from the city. He said Johnson’s claims were made in order to ruin his reputation.
Shortly after that, the City Council put Zapata on paid administrative leave and on Dec. 22 the council hired Karen Kramer, an attorney who specializes in workplace investigations, to make a determination in the case.
The council has said they will not be commenting on the matter until the independent investigation is completed and the report is given to them.
“The City of San Leandro does not tolerate nor condone harassment of any type,” said Mayor Pauline Cutter in a written statement at the time of Zapata’s suspension. “It also believes in due process.”
City to Charge Developers ‘Impact Fee’ to Fund
Affordable Housing; But Fee Could Discourage Building
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-26-18
San Leandro is trying to figure out how much they can charge developers of new projects in town in order to fund affordable housing projects, but they don’t want to set the fees so high that developers won’t build in the city.
Tom Liao, the city’s acting community development director says the city is attempting to achieve a jobs/housing balance – to bring in business but also have housing be affordable to the people who work for those companies.
Liao made a presentation to the City Council last week on the city’s “affordable housing nexus study.”
“We want to come up with a fee that doesn’t hinder residential development but is high enough to finance affordable housing in the community,” said Liao.
San Leandro Already Has a Mandate for 15 Percent of New Housing to Be Affordable
The city is considering adding the “impact fee” charged on new construction that could be set aside for affordable housing. Additionally, San Leandro already has a mandate in place that 15 percent of new housing projects be set aside for affordable housing.
The fee would be paid to the city, held in trust, and eventually given to a non-profit affordable housing organization when they begin a housing development.
Liao said that the study showed feasible fees could range from $42,800 for a single family home to $36,500 per unit for a high-density apartment, but he added the city would likely recommend charging about half that to stay competitive.
The city would likely charge commercial development fees in the range of $4 per square foot for an office to 50 cents per square foot for a warehouse, so San Leandro could attract businesses. So for a 20,000 square foot office building it would be a fee of $80,000.
“We are trying to develop an innovation economy; we don’t want to obstruct that kind of growth,” said Liao.
Council to Decidein the NextFew Months
If the city does decide to begin charging an impact fee, the final amount of the fees would have to be approved by the City Council after a series of planning sessions over the next few months.
One issue that will have to be resolved is what to do about the several large housing projects that have already been approved by the council but have yet to break ground.
Councilman Pete Ballew said that people in the development pipeline shouldn’t be held to a brand new standard.
“It’s like an ex post facto law and doesn’t seem fair to me,” said Ballew.
Farrelly Pool Fix Still Years Away
City Council votes to design new pool; won’t open before at least 2020
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-19-18
The Farrelly Pool will remain closed this summer, for the third year in a row.
But the City Council took the first steps toward reopening the popular recreation spot on Monday night, voting to spend $277,000 to hire an architectural firm to design a replacement for the nearly 80-year-old swimming pool.
Built in 1940, the pool’s fiberglass lining was set to be replaced a couple of years ago. But when the city started on that project, they discovered that Farrelly is no longer up to county code because an internal wall in the pool separates the deep end from the shallow end.
In order to get up to code, either the wall would have to be removed and the pool re-graded to create a slope or two separate pools would have to be created with at least six feet of space between them. Either option would cost up to $3.5 million, according to the city’s engineering director Keith Cooke.
Farrelly Pool is owned by the school district and is on the property of Roosevelt Elementary. The city leases the pool from the school district for a token dollar a year fee, but the lease agreement will end during the next ten months and needs to be renegotiated.
Council member Ed Hernandez questioned whether the city should pay the $277,000 design fee, let alone another $3 million before getting something down in writing for a long-term lease agreement.
“I don’t want to stop the project, but I want to be prudent, given that we are looking at this looming crisis,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez is referring to the city’s budget projections which show it will be in the red for at least the next decade, beginning with a $4.4 million shortfall this fiscal year.
But Mayor Pauline Cutter, a former school board member, said she’s been on both sides of joint-use agreements between the city and schools and said she was “confident” in paying for the design without an long-term agreement in place.
Hernandez said the mayor’s confidence was enough to have him support the design contract and the City Council voted unanimously to approve it.
The city estimates that up to 10,000 people visit the pool each summer. During the time that Farrelly Pool has been closed, city swim lessons and other recreation programming usually offered at Farrelly is available at other sites around town, including lessons at the San Leandro High School aquatic center.
Cooke said that the public will have an opportunity to offer feedback on the design for the new pool. He said that it will likely shrink from 33 yards long to 25 yards, which is standard for lap swimming.
The city estimates that design and construction will take at least 20 months, so there won’t be any swimming at Farrelly Pool until at least 2020.
CAPTION: Farrelly Pool was a popular summer swimming pool but it will be closed again this summer for the third year.
Lake Chabot Road Closed
By Amy Sylvestri SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-19-18
A portion of Lake Chabot Road from Chabot Terrace to Astor Drive was closed this week for the first steps in a road stabilization project.
The road will reopen Friday morning to through traffic.
The city of San Leandro has paid Cal Engineering and Geology $200,000 to design improvements to the road and eventually plans on spending $3 million to $5 million to shore up the hillside.
The hill could shift and cause the road to become impassable in the event of an earthquake or heavy rain, according to city engineer Nick Thom.
“Lake Chabot Road is not your typical San Leandro street,” said Thom. “Unlike most streets in town it was cut into a hillside and there are steep slopes both above and below the road.”
Thom said that most of the road is supported by bedrock, but at some locations the downhill edge of the road is on fill and over the past 20 years or so, the city’s engineering department has seen those portions that are on fill slowly shifting down the hillside.
After the road survey is completed this week, the next step will likely be drilling into the bedrock and pouring in concrete to make it more stable, said Thom.
A similar project was completed on two I-580 San Leandro exits back in 2016. CalTrans shored up the Benedict Drive and 150th Avenue exits after the pavement cracked due to slippage on the hillside.
Thom said that a more precise budget and construction timeline for the Lake Chabot Road project will be able to be determined after Cal Engineering shares the findings with the city. He said that the road will be closed again during the construction but when that might happen depends on when funding is available.
CAPTION: A portion of Lake Chabot Road was closed this week so an engineering company could plan a project to stabilize the road, which has been slowly shifting down the hillside.
PHOTO BY AMY SYLVESTRI
75 Years Later... Lamata Gets Medal
Filipino veterans of World War II finally recognized for valor
BY JIM KNOWLES • SAN LEANDRO TIMES • 04-19-18
Al Lamata recently got a Congressional Gold Medal for playing a part in the liberation of the Philippines as a member of the United States Army.
“It only took 75 years,” Lamata said.
The medal recognizes Filipino and Filipino-American veterans of World War II.
Lamata attended a ceremony on April 7 at the Presido in San Francisco to mark the 76th anniversary of the Bataan Death March and to honor those who received the Congressional Gold Medal – for those who couldn’t make it to the ceremony last October in Washington, D.C.
Lamata, who says he’s “only 94,” just regrets that a lot of the veterans who deserve a medal have already passed away.
Lamata was younger than a lot of the soldiers in his regiment. The average age was 28 but he was 18.
“I was just a kid then,” Lamata said.
The four major campaigns are inscribed on the back of the medal – Bataan & Corregidor, Luzon, Leyte, and the Southern Philippines.
A goal of the Filipino veterans group, FilVetRep, is to educate the American public on the history and sacrifice made by the veterans, the interminable cost of their mission and brutal ordeal to defend the United States and the Philippines.
Lamata was part of an army counter-intelligence group that planted radio operators in the Philippines to send back information on the Japanese army. Lamata later landed in the Philippines, though he says he can’t say much about it because he doesn’t know if it’s been de-classified.
The radio operators on the islands are the reason the U.S. Navy won the battle of the Philippine Sea, Lamata said.
“Our guys could see their ships coming, they were stationed on different islands with their radios,” he said. “And some of our guys were houseboys for Japanese generals.”
When the Japanese army overran the Bataan Peninsula, they transferred soldiers on a forced march of 70 miles in one week without adequate food or water, now known as the infamous Bataan Death March where 700 American soldiers and an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Filipinos perished during the journey.
The mobilization of forces to retake the Philippines included 9,000 Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the United States Army 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments, including Lamata, who was in the Second Filipino Infantry Regiment that trained at Fort Ord, California.
The Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded to many famous Americans, including Walter Reed, Bob Hope, Robert Frost, Lady Bird Johnson, Howard Hughes, the Navajo Code Talkers, and George Washington.
“The first one to get it was George Washington,” Lamata said. “So we’re in pretty good company there.”
CAPTION: Al Lamata displays the Congressional Gold Medal he received for his part in the liberation of the Philippines.