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Former Secretary to Gen. MacArthur, Ann Jones to Celebrate 100th Birthday
Friday, 17 April 2015 13:17
Ann Jones of Castro Valley turns 100 years old this week. Mrs. Jones led an adventurous life, which has inspired her granddaughter Adriana (right) to travel.



When Ann Jones was born in 1915, women did not even have the right to vote. When she turns 100 this weekend, Mrs. Jones and her family will celebrate her century of adventure, which included solo worldwide travel and seven years of post-WWII service in Japan.

Born in Red Wing, Minnesota on April 18, 1915, Ann Jones was raised in St. Paul near Hamline University.  Although it was unusual for women to seek higher education, she told her mother early on that she wanted to attend college.

“She got her degree at Hamline and decided she wanted to see the world,” says her daughter, Yvonne Jones. “She started by buying a one-way ticket to Texas and got a job at Walgreens there. With her first paycheck she bought herself a ring, which she still has today.”

Ann then moved to Georgia, helping to teach pilots to “fly blind” during WWII. Determined to see other countries, she joined the civil service. Because she had a college degree, she was given high security clearance and was a secretary for Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan after the war.

While there, she hiked Mt. Fuji and volunteered at orphanages, where she was able to arrange for schooling for several disadvantaged children.

She worked in military intelligence in Austria before moving to London to become a teacher. While hiking there she met the man who was to become her husband, a British gentleman named Winston Jones. When Ann was in her 40s the couple adopted a boy (Colin, who now lives in Arizona) and a girl (Yvonne).

The Joneses decided to move to San Francisco when the children were six and seven years old. Ann had passed through the City once during her travels and liked what she saw. The family’s introduction to America was living in the Haight-Ashbury district in 1966.

Yvonne explains, “As a child in Minnesota, she had stood in a corn field one day and stretched out her arms, saying, ‘One day I will have mountains on one side and the ocean on the other,’ so it’s no surprise that she ended up in California.”

Eventually the Joneses  relocated to the East Bay. Ann Jones taught at Lockwood Elementary School in Oakland, returning to school for her Master’s in Education in her early 60s. After retirement she continued volunteer work at several locations, including Strobridge Elementary School here in Castro Valley.

Mrs. Jones has always been active. She walked three to five miles daily well into her 90s, and traveled every time she got the chance. Though her husband passed away in 2001, she continued joining in new activities, including learning American Sign Language and bocce ball.

“She always said, ‘You can’t wait around for other people to do things.’  She always took advantage of every opportunity that came her way,” says Yvonne.

A quiet and easygoing woman, Ann Jones loves to laugh and has a ready smile. She still eagerly participates in activities offered at the retirement facility in Castro Valley where she now resides, and agrees that a key to her long life was always being ready for the next adventure.

“Sounds pretty sensible to me,” she says with a smile.

Ann Jones has been an inspiration to her college-age granddaughter Adriana, who recently returned from studying overseas. Adriana recalled her grandmother’s fondness for the WWII cartoon figure “Kilroy Was Here,” so she had a tiny version of the cartoon tattooed on her ankle before she left.

“It’s like she’s traveling with me wherever I go,” says Adriana. “My grandmother is still curious and extremely independent. She’s a great role model who taught me not to be afraid of failure, and that as women we have to pursue our dreams.”

Ann’s century of adventure will be celebrated Saturday with her favorite treat, an ice cream party. Joining her will be her children and three grandchildren, family members, and many friends.

Drought Prompts Crackdown on Water Use
Friday, 17 April 2015 12:37
Governor Brown announces unprecedented restrictions on water use throughout California last Wednesday at the site of a snow-monitoring station in the Sierra Nevada.

The news was all bad last Wednesday when Gov. Jerry Brown accompanied snow surveyors to Phillips Station in El Dorado County, a spot in the Sierra Nevada where no snow was found for the first time in 75 years of the April 1 monitoring.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” said Brown. “This historic drought demands unprecedented action. Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state.

For the first time in the state’s history, the Governor directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent.

The Governor’s order calls on local water agencies to adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing, recognized as an effective way to realize water reductions and discourage water waste.

For Castro Valley and other communities within the East Bay Municipal Utility District it will likely mean steep increases in monthly water bills.

Next Tuesday, EBMUD directors will hold another workshop on a series of rate increases that come on the heels of a 20 percent increase in water rates over the past two years.

In addition, the agency is mulling a temporary drought surcharge. If the surcharge and rate increases are approved, the average customer would see a rate hike of about 24 percent, or about $12 a month.

The more water that’s used, the higher the surcharge percentage would be. The top one percent of water consumers would have a 45 percent total increase, about $119 more per month.

The vote on the rate increases and surcharges is set for June 9 and, if approved, the rate hikes and rationing would go into effect on July 1.

If a “Stage 4” drought is declared, mandatory rationing would be put into effect which could also add to your bill in the form of usage penalties.

EBMUD spokesperson Abby Figueroa said that the trigger for declaring a stage-four drought is the district’s projected end-of-September water supply. The stage-four threshold is less than 325,000 acre feet. As of today, EBMUD projects 260,000 acre feet in their supply, meaning that the stage four declaration is “likely,” Figueroa said.Frank Mellon of Castro Valley, a member of the EBMUD Board of Directors, said he understands that it is difficult to cut back on water usage because most people are already doing their best to conserve.

“People have been doing a fabulous job,” said Mellon. “We know (they) have been conserving.”

The mandated reductions would be based on a customer’s 2013 water usage –  the average household uses about 7,500 gallons per month so they would need to cut back by 1,500 gallons or be subject to fines. The amount of the fines is yet to be determined.

Mellon said that using the 2013 rates is a way to not punish those who have been conserving the past two years when the drought hit hardest, but acknowledged that people who cut back in 2013 could have difficulty cutting back even more.

The single biggest waste of water in most households is lawns, according to Mellon who said people still tend to over-water.

To that end, the governor’s order will replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments.

It will require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use.

Meantime, EBMUD asks people who see water being wasted around the community to report it via their website,

An Early Start to Mosquito – and WNV – Season
Thursday, 02 April 2015 16:39

040115FIRST STRIKE: A helicopter scatters bacterial granules over the marshlands of Coyote Hills Regional Park in the East Bay Thursday in an effort to wipe out a surging population of mosquitoes, including the type that can transmit the West Nile virus. Health officials say this year could be worse than 2014 for the virus because of California’s worsening drought.

Summer-like temperatures have created large numbers of marsh mosquitoes in the East Bay, including the encephalitis mosquito, which can also transmit West Nile virus.

To get a jump on the problem, the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District began treating marshlands at Coyote Hills Regional Park last Thursday by closing the park for several hours and scattering granular bacteria controls from a helicopter flying low over swampy areas.

The treatment, according to District Environmental Specialist Erika Castillo, is extremely mosquito-specific and does not affect other aquatic life.

“Our mosquito control program focuses on treating mosquito larvae in the water where they are developing,” said Castillo. “With this helicopter treatment, we were able to treat a large amount of water quickly, greatly reducing the number of adult mosquitoes coming from the marshes.”  

Last year was the worst year for West Nile virus infections in California. Researchers believe 2015 could be as bad or worse because of the drought since water in streams stops flowing and stagnates in pools – the ideal environment for mosquito-breeding.

While the majority of people who are infected with West Nile virus don’t show any symptoms, reaction to the disease can be severe and sometimes fatal in a small number of cases.

The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes feeding on infected birds.

Castillo is reminding residents in the East Bay to rid their property of any standing water and to report any dead wild birds (especially crows, ravens, jays, magpies and birds of prey).

One dead bird that tested positive for West Nile virus turned up in the county in February, the first indication of active virus transmission this year and the first WNV-positive bird in the state. Last year, Alameda County detected its first virus-positive bird at the end of May.

The public can submit dead bird reports online to the California Department of Public Health website at

Residents can also pick up free mosquito-fish for their ornamental ponds at the District office, 23187 Connecticut St. in Hayward from 7:30 to 4:30 weekdays, phone 510-783-7744.

For more information, visit the county’s website

A New Day – and a New Name For Castro Valley’s Golf Course
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 11:59
NOT FOR LONG: New signs will be put up soon after the 130-acre Willow Park Golf Course in Castro Valley was renamed Redwood Canyon Public Golf Course last week.

Directors of the East Bay Regional Park District voted unanimously last week to rename the golf course at Lake Chabot Regional Park in Castro Valley. The former Willow Park Golf Course is now the Redwood Canyon Public Golf Course.

“The community has been looking forward to this,” said Board member Dennis Waespi of Castro Valley, whose district includes the picturesque 130-acre golf course near Lake Chabot. “It’s not the end of the process, but it’s a very good start. We’re looking forward to a bright future for the golf course and event center in Castro Valley.”

The name change was the result of a settlement agreement between the Park District and the former operators of Willow Park, whose 50-year lease expired last November. As part of the settlement, the District agreed to rename the course by April 1.

District staff and board members considered several names but chose Redwood Canyon because the course lies at the southern end of Redwood Canyon, which was once home to thousands of old-growth redwood trees before they were logged in the 1800s. Large, lush forests of second-growth redwoods now thrive in the northern end of the 10-mile canyon.

The Park District has planted dozens of redwoods in the golf course area and intends to plant more, in an effort to bring the majestic trees back to the Castro Valley hills. One of the Bay Area’s most scenic courses, Redwood Canyon is already home to oaks, willows and a vibrant array of wildlife. San Leandro Creek runs through the middle of the course.In addition to the course, Redwood Canyon includes a pro shop, bar and restaurant, and event center. Julie Ferrantino has returned as the Food and Beverage Manager.

The Park District expects to make numerous upgrades at the facility over the next year, including replacing the roof at the clubhouse, repairing the sewer system, renovating the bathrooms, and repaving the driveway and parking lot, among other projects.

Cozy Shop Offers Unusual Plants That Need Little Water
Thursday, 19 March 2015 14:16

031815Darya and Paolo Ferrer opened a boutique succulent plant shop last year on Center Street. Darya is a 2009 Castro Valley High grad.



A boutique succulent plant shop opened by a Castro Valley High grad and her husband has brought a lovely little oasis to Center Street. The shop, called Succiko, is a great place to find drought-resistant plants in a cozy setting.

“Plants are our passion. I do the designing and my husband, Paolo, is knowledgeable about the plants and their care,” says Darya (nee Zherebnenkova) Ferrer, who graduated from Castro Valley High in 2009. “I have an eye for design and he has the technical expertise.”

Succiko (sah-chee-koh) means cacti-composition, and it also sounds much like “sachiko” which means ‘happy child’ in Japanese. The shop’s website says the Ferrers hope to bring out the happy child in guests, and encourage people to unplug from stress. Ultimately the couple would like to expand to an indoor-outdoor setting with a coffee bar.

For now, Succiko sells a variety of plants and succulents, potting materials, vessels and accessories. They host labs to show people how to plant and care for succulents, and assist customers as they make their own  plant compositions.

Darya and Paolo met at Chabot College, and married in 2011. While Paolo was finishing his bachelor’s degree at Cal Berkeley, he started collecting and studying succulents as a way to unwind.

“My father-in-law joked that I had so many succulents I could open a shop,” says Paolo.fter graduating with a public health pre-med major in 2013, Paulo did a business internship and decided running a nursery actually was the best path for him.

The couple got the keys to the store on Labor Day 2014. The location previously housed a candy shop, and the Ferrers and their friends stripped the floors, hung trendy lighting, re-did the interior.

Darya, who is the creative side of the duo, approaches the business from a design aspect. From her perspective, no space is complete without plants. She designs terrariums in many sizes, including hanging and tabletop “air plants.”

“We have a goal to make this a peaceful space that harmonizes both coffee and plants,” says Darya. “We’re brainstorming a lot of ideas now, trying to be a green business that advocates for the local economy with locally-sourced goods.”

The plants, vessels and other materials at the shop are all of local origin.  (Customers are also welcome to bring in their own pottery to work with.) Darya is bringing crystal jewelry to the shop, and is hoping to offer  coffee through the Sightglass coffee company of San Francisco. The coffee machines are pricey, so they may try a “Kickstarter” campaign to attract supporters.

Succiko will soon be hosting workshops on creating succulent gardens and terrariums. Paolo will be a featured speaker on succulents at Castro Valley library in September.

The shop is located on Center Street (near Edwards Lane) next to  Pizza Express, which works out well because the ovens keep the plants warm at night. A dog grooming shop nearby has brought in a surprising number of customers as well.

“We knew Castro Valley would be a perfect location. It’s a safe community,” says Darya.

Succiko’s address is 19577 Center St., Castro Valley. For more information, visit, check Instagram and Facebook, or call  510-825-9635.

Visiting Neigh-Sayer Arrives on CV Doorstep
Thursday, 12 March 2015 07:26
Cara Kulas of Hayward Animal Control (left) and Lisa Robinson of Castro Valley stand with horse “Koa,” who was found on the Robinson family’s Castro Valley driveway February 24.

By Linda Sandsmark



On February 24 at 4 a.m., Proctor Road resident Lisa Robinson awoke  to find a horse standing in her front yard.

“I was asleep and my husband called me as he left for work,” says Robinson. “He said, ‘Babe, you better get up because there’s a horse on our driveway.’  I thought he was joking so I hung up on him.  But he kept calling back, so I finally went out to see. Sure enough, there it was.”

At first the Robinsons thought the horse had gotten loose from a 500-acre pasture nearby. But Lisa also noticed that the horse wasn’t sweaty, like it would be if it had been running. The police and animal control officers came out to investigate, but no “missing horse” reports had been filed.

“He’s a very nice horse, but he may have just been dumped,” says Robinson. “I used to work at a race track and rescued animals there. I even had a ‘rescue cow’ at my house for three months. So maybe somebody knew of me and knew I’d take care of him.”

In fact, Robinson is manager of Alta Vista Equestrian Center in Hayward, which is high in the hills above Mission Boulevard.

So when confronted with a strange horse in her yard, Robinson just  put a rope around his neck, gave him some water, fed him some hay, and called for a trailer to take him to Alta Vista.

Now called ‘Koa,” the horse has been at Alta Vista ever since, awaiting either his owner or adoption.

“Three-fourths of the animals in the barn there are rescues,” says Robinson.

Koa is a thoroughbred, approximately two and a half years old. When he arrived he was wearing special shoes (although they were in poor condition)  which are generally worn at a race track.

One man did call Hayward Animal Control to say he thought Koa was his, but when he heard he’d be responsible for reimbursing the equestrian center for Koa’s board during the last few weeks, he balked.

Hayward Animal Control officer Cara Kulas has taken an interest in Koa, and is hoping for a positive outcome. She has some advice for animal owners.

“Be responsible. Keep your horses confined, and check your fence line. If this horse hadn’t found Lisa, it could have been an ugly situation for him,” says Kulas.

Anyone with information on Koa’s owner is asked to call Lisa Robinson at 510-760-8909. If his owner is not located, Robinson would also be happy to speak to persons who might wish to adopt him, or who would like to donate to a non-profit organization she has set up to support rescued animals like Koa.



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