Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:58
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
The San Leandro School District is planning to erect steel fences at eight schools this summer and the public has one last chance to speak on the matter at a meeting tonight (Thursday) at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
A combination of 9-ft vertical steel bar “anti-climb” fences and black chain-link fences will be installed this month, according to John Howell, a school bond project manager.
Similar fences are already up at the high school and now Garfield, Monroe, Wilson, McKinley, Roosevelt, and Washington elementary schools and John Muir and Bancroft middle schools will be getting fences.
The school district says the fences are needed for safety reasons, but there have not been any incidents where students have been in danger on campus.
The district says that no single event occurred to make them concerned about the safety of the campuses, but sometimes people walk though the campus without checking in. And the police have been called a few times to tell trespassers to leave, though there was no indication any of those people intended to harm anybody.
The fences would also enable the campuses to be put on “lock-down” if an incident occurred nearby and the police thought it was necessary.
“In the event of an emergency, the campus could be secured as soon as possible,” said Powell.
School board member Evelyn Gonzalez said that’s important because San Leandro campuses are spread out, with portables and different buildings, not like some schools that are contained to one multi-story building, where they could just lock the doors.
Howell says that, barring any major problems, construction will begin in August and it will only take about three days per school to put up the fences.
School district officials say the idea is to direct people coming on campus straight to the front office, where they can check in and get a visitor’s pass, which has always been the policy for visitors.
The $800,000 fencing project will be paid for with money from Measure M, the $50 million bond that voter’s approved in 2010. The largest part of the bond funded the Burrell Field and aquatic center upgrades but money has always been set aside for the fencing.
Howell says that they consulted principals and teachers at each of the schools and everyone is in favor of the fences.
Flyers were distributed to everyone living within 700 feet of the schools and Powell said some of those residents were concerned about how the fences would affect the look of the schools.
“There have been murmurs about aesthetics,” said Howell. “But people understand that safety comes first and safety is the number one reason we are doing this.”
Gonzalez emphasized that the fences will be unlocked after school, on weekends, and during the summer so the public will have access to the parks and playgrounds.
Gonzalez added that some people have come to her with concerns that the fences will be all people can see when they drive by a San Leandro school.
“People want to know that the front of the schools aren’t going to have these big fences across them, and they aren’t,” said Gonzalez. “It’s going to look the same in the front and the fences will be high quality. They’re not going to look like little prisons.”
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:55
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
The Eden Township Healthcare District (ETHD) voted unanimously last week to take the first steps to put a parcel tax on an upcoming ballot that would benefit two financially struggling facilities – San Leandro Hospital and St. Rose Hospital in Hayward.
San Leandro Hospital is already partially funded though county taxpayer’s dollars – as part of county-run Alameda Health System (AHS), San Leandro hospital receives funding from Alameda County Measure A.
Measure A is a half-cent “essential health services” sales tax which was approved by voters in 2004 and extended again in 2014 – it is now set to run through 2039. Measure A brings in about $100 million annually, $75 million of which goes to the nine hospitals and medical offices in the AHS.
This proposed tax would be overlapping within the district – the ETHD includes San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Hayward, Ashland, and Cherryland. If the tax is passed, residents of all those areas would be paying.
Though half the money from the proposed parcel tax would go to San Leandro Hospital, city officials are hesitant about supporting the ETHD’s efforts.
San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter and other city officials say they cannot support an ETHD parcel tax at a time when the district has failed to meet other financial commitments to the tune of $17 million.
Cutter and other council members have chastised ETHD for dragging its heals in paying the $17 million that was previously promised to San Leandro Hospital, and that could mean the city wouldn’t support any parcel tax ETHD proposed.
San Leandro City Councilman Jim Prola said as much at last week’s ETHD meeting, but emphasized he was speaking for himself, as the City Council hasn’t taken a vote on the matter yet.
“San Leandro residents are really ticked off right now for you not following the agreement,” said Prola.
The ETHD board has maintained that they only promised to try to raise the money – they did not make a legal agreement to pay that amount.
In a letter to the ETHD board, Cutter said that it was “premature” to be talking about a parcel tax and that upcoming ballots could be “cluttered” with other tax measures, which voters could reject if they feel like too many other taxes are proposed.
Prola told the board that they would want endorsement and support for the tax from San Leandro’s elected officials and he didn’t think they had it yet.
“Never in my life have I voted against a parcel tax,” said Prola. “But there’s not a lot of trust in this board.”
The idea of the parcel tax was introduced by Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle, who previously served on the St. Rose Hospital board for a decade. He said that St. Rose has turned itself into a valuable community asset, particularly for low-income patients.
St. Rose is not part of the AHS, but is part of the ETHD. San Leandro Hospital is part of both.
“Perhaps there is an element of trust that needs to be brokered,” acknowledged Valle. “There are some hurdles, but I think we can overcome them.”
Hayward City Councilwoman Sara Lamnin and St. Rose Hospital board representative Bob Mallon also spoke at the meeting to encourage the ETHD board to go forward with the tax.
It’s not known yet how much the parcel tax would be. Preliminarily, the tax would be on the November 2016 ballot and It would need to pass with a two-thirds majority of voters.
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:54
A special “celebration of life” ceremony honoring fallen police officer Dan Niemi will take place this Saturday, July 25, at 1 p.m. at Root Park, located on the corner of East 14th and Hayes streets.
The ceremony marks the 10th anniversary of Niemi’s death in the line of duty.
As a tribute, a portion of Hays Street has been renamed Dan Niemi Way and new street signs will be unveiled at the ceremony.
The newly dubbed Dan Niemi Way will be closed to traffic from 10 a.m. until after the ceremony on Saturday and drivers are advised to take Davis Street
The dedication ceremony will include words from the Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter, Dan’s brother Jim Niemi, and San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli.
“I am so proud that our city will be able to publicly pay tribute to the life and legacy of Officer Niemi by renaming a street in his honor,” said Cutter in a written statement. “This is not something we do regularly here in San Leandro, but our City Council felt very strongly that this action would provide an enduring testament to the sacrifice that Officer Niemi made for our community.”
Niemi was shot and killed while responding to a noise complaint call at a Doolittle Drive house party on July 25, 2005. Niemi’s death was the first death of a San Leandro police officer in the line of duty in over 40 years.
“Although I was not the chief when this tragedy occurred, as the chief of police for this city, we will never forget those officers killed in the line of duty,” said Spagnoli in a written statement. “Dan honorably served this community for 3 1/2 years, and wore the San Leandro police badge with pride. He will be forever in our hearts.”
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:53
“Veterans Connect @ the Library” is a state-wide program and the San Leandro chapter is one of the most successful in the entire state.
The Veteran’s Resource Center, located at the San Leandro Main Library, is dedicated to helping veterans and their families.
The center provides assistance through trained volunteers who can connect veterans and their families to benefits and resources.
The center also provides access to books, DVDs and pamphlets on various topics including veterans benefits, registration with federal e-benefits, transitioning from military to civilian life, finding jobs, and managing post-traumatic stress disorders.
Veterans can make an appointment to meet one-on-one with a volunteer coach by leaving an appointment request at the library or via email or phone.
The program is currently understaffed and could use some new volunteers, who will ecieved training.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Mary Beth Barloga at 914-6553 or
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:52
A man has been missing for more than a week after jumping from a boat into Lake Chabot.
East Bay Regional Park District Police and Alameda County firefighters have been searching for the man since last Tuesday, July 14, when he entered the lake just before noon.
East Bay Regional Park District police say the man deliberately jumped into the 35-foot deep water. Police located a note at the man’s home.
The man’s name has not been released, but he is believed to be in his 20s and from Hayward, according to park police.
Witnesses saw him jump feet-first into the lake.
He rented a boat from the Lake Chabot Marina that morning and the boat was recovered later that day, but the man’s body has yet to be recovered despite a team of divers from the sheriff’s office combing the lake.
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:37
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Volunteers labeled books at the Garfield Elementary School library last week, including Beryo Bickham, Deborah Tang, Sophia Xu and Michelle Xu.
By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times
If you like being around books, the school libraries are looking for you.
Volunteers are pitching in this summer to label all the 50,000 books in the libraries at San Leandro public schools for the Accelerated Reader program.
The San Leandro Education Foundation (SLED) is organizing the volunteer effort. They hope to get all the books labeled before school starts, so they’re glad to have volunteers. You can work a few hours on any day, Monday through Thursday.
To volunteer to help label books or for more information, go to www.sledfund.org.
The program motivates kids and their reading progresses, said Rosanna Mucetti, the deputy superintendent of the San Leandro Unified School District.
The labels help students find a book at their reading level, assessing the student’s progress with an online quiz after finishing a book. Then the student can be steered toward books at the right level – challenging but not above their reading level – to make progress as a reader.
But the book labeling program is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a sea change going on in the schools to promote reading, say school officials.
Schools all across the country have recognized a decline in literacy. Now the focus is swinging back toward the importance of becoming a good reader at an early age.
“We want students building up their reading muscles, so they go into high school as solid readers,” Mucetti said. “And the volunteers are helping to make that happen.”
The connection between reading and academic success is clear, Mucetti said. Students who drop out usually haven’t developed good reading skills. And students who are good readers are more successful academically.
And the more you read, the better you are at reading.
There’s a “reading crisis” across the country, Mucetti said. It’s not necessarily caused by constant screen time on a phone or laptop, since the decline in reading started long ago. But schools are now taking steps to turn the tide.
San Leandro’s elementary school libraries just re-opened in the past year, after being closed for several years by budget cuts.
Having the eight elementary school libraries open and fully staffed, as well as the middle schools and the high school library, is a vast improvement, said school district Librarian Roxanne Ansolabehere. She was an English teacher back in 1985 and says this is the first time she’s seen all the districts libraries fully staffed.
A lot of kids in the school district don’t come from homes where reading is encouraged, so school is their first encounter with reading.
“A great many of our kids don’t have reading materials at home,” says Ansolabehere. “We have parents who say their kids are so excited when they bring something home to read.”
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:34
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
Is San Leandro so focused on attracting tech companies that the concerns of the everyday citizen are being overlooked?
That was one major issues members of the City Council faced when constituents asked questions at a special town hall meeting on July 13.
Mayor Pauline Cutter joined District 3 Councilmen Lee Thomas, District 4 Councilman Benny Lee, and District 6 Councilman Jim Prola to update constituents about what is going on in their districts and take questions and comments.
Also available to answer questions were the heads of most of the city’s various departments, including police, fire, engineering, business development, and the libraries.
Sometimes City Council meetings can be a bit stiff and even self-congratulatory, as projects are discussed and ordinances are passed. But this meeting was more informal and people were free to talk about whatever they want.
The biggest compliant was that the city is more concerned with promoting business and industry rather than looking out for residents.
Prola named a list of new developments, including the opening of the 21st Amendment Brewery, the “Gate” offices at Westgate Center, and the development of the marina – which is moving forward with 354 new residential units and three new restaurants.
Prola also chided CalTrans for the traffic-snarling work in the I-880 overpass widenings, saying the state transportation department “does what it wants.”
All that new development is good news for some, but not for speaker Rachel McGrath.
“It seems like San Leandro is more concerned about business than people,” said McGrath. “CalTrans isn’t the only one who does whatever the hell it wants, the city of San Leandro does as well.”
McGrath and several other speakers said their Davis West neighborhood is too busy to be safe. Jammed roads, busy shopping centers, railroad tracks and now a proposed new prayer center on Laura Avenue that would attract hundreds more people to the area. Residents are worried about what would happen in the case of an emergency and also are lamenting traffic and parking issues.
“I’ve lived in Davis West since 1958,” said Shirley Rocha, who said she remembers when the area was largely rural before the Costco, Walmart, and other shops came in. “My kids are telling me, ‘Mom, get the hell out of there.’ I don’t want to leave, I love the people around me... but I do want to see safety brought to our area.”
Mayor Pauline Cutter said that the council was aware of the concerns in the area, though she didn’t offer any ideas on how they might be resolved.
“We hear you loud and clear that you are very unhappy,” said Cutter.
Speaker Leo T. West brought up the fact that the city has proxy servers on library computers that can monitor what patrons are looking at online.
Library Director Theresa Mallon said that was true, but the staff does not look at the online activity and that browser histories are frequently erased so no record of people’s activity exists.
Paul Gonzales asked the city’s engineering department to install steel pylons so speeding cars wouldn’t keep hitting the fences at the intersection of Farnsworth Street and Lewelling Boulevard.
Engineer Keith Cooke said he’d take a look at the intersection and see what could be done to make it safer for drivers and residents.
Les Nardine told the city they should look into having recycled water from the East Bay Dischargers Authority be available to citizens so they could water their lawns during the drought.
Prola said they are in the middle of discussions and that the water will likely be available shortly.
“It’s in the works,” said Prola.
And public feedback does actually work in swaying the city sometimes.
If you didn’t make the meeting, or the meeting for the other districts that was held last May, the city says they still want to hear from you. Contact information for all the council members and department heads is available on the city’s website, www.sanleandro.org.
“It’s really important for us to hear from you,” said Mayor Cutter. “We want to know what your questions and concerns are.”
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:33
Another 42 parking spaces at the San Leandro BART station will be closed so that work improvements can be made on the electrical substation under the tracks near Davis Street.
The project will replace most of the existing equipment from the 1970s with new equipment. The 42 parking spaces, out of 925 spaces, will be closed for a year.
The parking lot across the street from the BART station has already been closed for the construction of an apartment building, so commuters are already finding it tough to park. But there will be a new underground parking garage for BART once the apartment building is finished.
BART officials say they realize it’s an inconvenience and appreciate the public’s patience. If you have questions or need information about this construction contract, you can contact BART Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Shahbaz Khan at 464-6531.
Tuesday, 28 July 2015 14:31
By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times
The opening of the downtown Wi-Fi service was delayed a week by a snafu, but all the connections are being made so it’s now scheduled to be running on Wednesday, July 29.
The free Wi-Fi service will go live at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, as Mayor Pauline Cutter and other city officials will hold a ceremony at the downtown farmers’ market. The City of San Leandro will also have a booth where they will answer questions about the Wi-Fi service.
The Wi-Fi is connected to the LitSan Leandro, city-owned fiber-optic cable, so it’s being called “SL Wi-Fiber.” It will be among the fastest internet systems available anywhere in the Bay Area, said Tony Batalla, the city’s information technology manager.
The Wi-Fi signal will beam out from the iconic Pelton Center sign on East 14th Street, and from street lights, to provide free Wi-Fi service over a 4-block area downtown. The devices blend in with their surroundings, so they won’t be noticeable.
Over time, the city plans to expand the area covered by the free Wi-Fi.
The downtown Wi-Fi system costs $68,000 for installation and five years of maintenance and support. Businesses within the area of coverage will get an “SL Wi-Fiber” decal for their windows to show that the free Wi-Fi can be accessed.
The project is part of a broader plan to develop downtown San Leandro, and connect it to the future high-tech office building now under construction just west of the San Leandro BART station.