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‘Vape’ Store to Get Commendation From Supervisor Miley, Chamber
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 09:45
Ben Jewell, owner of Ready, Set, Vape, fills an atomizer in his Castro Valley Boulevard shop.
By Amy Sylvestri

At noon today, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley is set to offer a commendation to Castro Valley business Ready Set Vape – a store that sells electronic cigarettes, vaporizers, the “juices” that are used in the devices, and other accessories.

The commendation will be accompanied by a ceremony conducted by the Castro Valley/ Eden Area Chamber of Commerce and a reception that’s open to the public.

Ready Set Vape opened over a year ago and has been successful at its location at 3024 Castro Valley Boulevard. Yelp reviews are nearly all “five stars” and boast people from all over the Bay Area lauding the store and its products and talking about coming to Castro Valley from miles away just to visit the shop.

Ready Set Vape owner Ben Jewell says that electronic cigarettes are a great help to people trying to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. Miley says that he agrees and that the business is an asset to the community.

But critics say that e-cigarettes are potentially just as dangerous as traditional tobacco products and need to be more closely regulated.

Miley, however, takes issue with equating e-cigarettes with regular smoking.

“It’s an erroneous road to travel, to lump (e-cigarettes) with tobacco,” said Miley. “I don’t want to demonize vaporizing because what they are trying to do is admirable. We need to reevaluate these shops on their own merits, not the same way we regulate tobacco. My position is, let’s not categorize this as a tobacco product.”

Miley’s proclamation for Ready Set Vape comes just a few weeks after the California Department of Public Health issued a warning about the toxicity of electronic cigarettes. And the American Lung Association says that e-cigarettes and vaporizing are too untested to support as smoking cessation aides.

Serena Chen, policy director for the American Lung Association, says she personally knows people who have stopped smoking with the help of electronic cigarettes, but she also says so much is unknown about them that she cannot stand by them as a way to kick the habit.

“There is just not enough independent research out there,” said Chen.

Chen said she’s seen studies funded by e-cig advocates that say they help quitting. But she’s also seen opposing studies by other groups that say the electronic cigarettes could encourage kids to pick up smoking under the guise of being less harmful than regular cigarettes and because they come in kid-friendly flavors like lemonade, vanilla, and strawberry.

“There is the troubling thought that they could make smoking glamorous again,” said Chen. “I do believe it has helped some people quit, but there is the major problem that e-cigarettes are totally unregulated.

“Besides the smoking issue, the ‘juices’ that are used (vaporized) in the devices are unregulated. Should people be inhaling these substances we know so little about? It’s Supervisor Miley’s business if he wants to praise a business that is doing well, we just have our concerns. It’s unfortunate.”

Chen went on to say that many cities in Alameda County have started establishing ordinances restricting e-cigarettes and the businesses that sell them, but that unincorporated areas like Castro Valley have less regulation.

Miley acknowledged that his lauding of Ready Set Vape could be controversial, but said that vaporizing and e-cigarettes will be an area where a lot of discussion is happening in the future, and that he supports Ready Set Vape as a successful local business.

“This is a national debate,” said Miley. “Let’s look at it cautiously and meticulously because I don’t think there is enough evidence on either side at the moment to make a final decision.”

Ready Set Vape owner Jewell says that he has had a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the community and that his product helps a lot of people.

The state Public Health Department warning against e-cigarettes was issued in January by Dr. Ronald Chapman, who stepped down from his position as director just days later amidst a controversy for failing to regulate nursing home complaints.

Jewell said that Chapman’s final shot at e-cigarettes could have been his way of diverting controversy and saving face even as he quit.

Regardless of Chapman’s intent with the warning, Jewell maintains he has only well-meaning intent for his business.

“There is a lot of fear-mongering about e-cigarettes, but if you look at the data and science, people are being helped,” said Jewell. “We don’t market as being health-based, but yes, we do play a part in harm reduction. From dealing with the public, I know for a fact I help people quit.”

After 14 Years On-the-Go, Castro Valley’s Chief Problem-Solver Heads for Retirement
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 14:24
Bob Swanson at his backyard pool, where he plans to spend a lot more time after March 6.
By Linda Sandsmark


Bob Swanson, who has dedicated most of his adult life to the citizens of Castro Valley, is ready for a long “staycation.”

When he retires next month, the constituent liaison for county Supervisor Nate Miley is simply planning to relax by the pool at his Castro Valley home.

“When most people retire, they pack up and travel. I was in the navy and traveled  all over the world. I’ve had enough traveling,” says Swanson, 68. “Of all the places I’ve been, Castro Valley is about the nicest place in the world. The climate is just about perfect. I was raised in Chicago, and when I got here I said to myself, ‘Oh man, this is like a dream. It’s like the best place on the whole planet’.”

During his 14-year tenure at the supervisor’s district office on Redwood Road, Swanson has assisted residents on land use, public works and affordable housing issues for Alameda County District 4 which includes Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, Pleasanton and parts of Oakland. He helped write the county’s medical marijuana ordinance and secured start-up funds for the Ashland Free Clinic.

wanson joined up with Miley during the 2000 election cycle. Miley opposed a controversial Highway 238 bypass through Castro Valley, so Swanson supported him by convincing 80 residents of Grove Way to put Miley’s campaign signs in their front yards.

An impressive 74 per cent of Swanson’s precinct turned out to vote, and Miley was elected. The next year Swanson went to work for Miley – 20 hours a week in the Castro Valley office. At first he wasn’t sure he wanted the job.

“I said I’d give it a try, and if I liked it I’d stay, if I didn’t I’d quit, and if I did anything they didn’t like they could fire me,” recalls Swanson.

That never happened. In fact, over the years the job has evolved to the point where Swanson had to be “ready to jump 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Now he’s ready to trade that stress for the “bed and breakfast” setting he and his wife Donna have created at home.

“There are a lot of things I’m still interested in here,” he says.  “I’ll be around.”

Swanson had always been a renter until age 65, when he and Donna bought a house with a 20-by-40-foot pool. They went all in for home-ownership, adding solar panels to reduce their electric bills. However,  Swanson says he’s never been able to stay home and enjoy it. Since the 2008 recession, county issues have taken up more and more of his time.

“The recession, the Castro Valley Streetscape and Lewelling Streetscape all happened at once and all were stressors. Castro Valley never had commercial vacancies before the recession, and suddenly a number of businesses closed up. We weren’t used to that here,” says Swanson. “I’m glad that things are better now. Businesses are starting to come back and people are mellowing out.”

Swanson moved to Castro Valley in 1973. In the 1980s he founded the Caltrans Tenant’s Association, which represented renters in 500 local units – homes the state had acquired, but never demolished, when the Highway 238 bypass plan stalled. The tenant’s association helped ward off rent hikes and evictions for hundreds of residents.

Prior to his arrival in Castro Valley Swanson spent four years in the U. S. Navy, achieving the rank of Yeoman, Petty Officer 3rd Class. His  military travels took him to Hawaii, Vietnam, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey and Malta. He decided to stay in the Bay Area after being stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station.

Following his military service, Swanson earned an A.A. from Chabot College and a B.A. in both Psychology and India Studies from Sonoma State. After further study in India, he became a meditation instructor and volunteered on a myriad of civic and advocacy groups in the East Bay.

He was also instrumental in establishing Castro Valley Farmer’s Market, which his wife managed for the first two years.

A more extensive list of accomplishments, along with photos of Swanson with dozens of luminaries, may be seen on his Naval biography website,



Toxic Algae Posing Risk at Lake Chabot
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 15:21

020415Signs have been posted along Lake Chabot trails warning of water toxicity caused by a bright blue-green algae bloom along the shoreline. So far, three dogs have died from drinking the water. Such algae blooms are common in late summer, but it is uncommon for it to persist into the winter. Officials believe the drought and the warm winter weather is exacerbating the problem. Swimming and wading by people or dogs at the lake are always prohibited.



Three dogs have died after drinking the water at Lake Chabot – the result of toxic algae bloom, officials say.

The first two dog deaths occurred in December and the third case happened last week, according to Abby Figueroa of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).

The problem is “cyanobacteria” or blue-green algae, which is toxic to the liver in humans and animals.

Signs are up at the park advising people to keep themselves and their pets out of the water – any swimming and wading are prohibited by park rules regardless of the algae toxicity. “I think it’s scary,” said Mike Hernandez, who was walking his dog along the popular Lake Chabot loop trail last weekend. “I mean, the water doesn’t look good to drink, but you still don’t think “Hey, this is going to kill my dog if he gets to it.’”

Monica Wu says she walks her dogs at Lake Chabot “as a treat” and has seen other pet owners allow their dogs to dip in the lake on hot days despite the rules.

“I’d definitely say something now if I saw people let their dogs in the lake,” said Wu. “It’s pretty strange to think that something in there is poisonous.”

Figueroa says that algae blooms are common in the summer, but don’t usually continue into the winter. Its appearance in the lake now is likely the result of the drought coupled with unusually warm weather for this time of the year.

Lake Chabot is an EBMUD watershed and back-up water reservoir, but is not currently plumed into the utility’s system, Figueroa said.

The drought has brought algae blooms to lakes all over California.  The 13-acre Lake Temescal was closed to swimmers for 46 days last year before it was treated with chemicals to make it safe. Lake Chabot would be much harder to treat because of its 315 acre size.

Lake Chabot remains open for activities, including boating and fishing. The lake was recently restocked with fish and they are deemed safe to eat. People are advised to wash themselves with freshwater if they come in contact with the lake water, and fish should be well-cleaned and rinsed, with the intestines removed prior to cooking.

Superintendent Jim Negri to Retire
Friday, 30 January 2015 15:05

012815Castro Valley School Superintendent Jim Negri will retire at the end of June after six years at the helm of one of the Bay Area’s most respected school districts.

Negri announced his plans late Monday afternoon in a press release sent to news organizations in which he thanked the members of the school board, both past and present, “for their faith and trust” in his leadership.

He said he had applied to the district based on the board’s “unwavering commitment to the success of every student, strong fiscal management and belief in the Governance Team model,” and that he had never been disappointed.

Negri has had a long career as a public educator, serving as a superintendent in a number of East Bay districts, most recently in the Acalanes Union High School District, before being hired by the Castro Valley Unified School District in 2009.

“For 41 years, I have had incredible experiences as a teacher, site administrator, district office administrator and superintendent, said Negri. “I have truly loved every position, school and district in which I have served, but Castro Valley has been home.”

Longtime members of the school board were quick to praise the superintendent.

President John Barbieri said Negri “has always focused on ‘what is best for our students.’ He has developed a team of site and district leaders that has stressed academic excellence while coping with the financial challenges of recent years.”

Board Vice President Jo Loss added, “Jim has been an exemplary superintendent; acting as an instructional leader and a true believer in providing avenues to success for every student.”

During Superintendent Negri’s tenure, the district schools and staff continued to be recognized for their academic achievement; managed the challenges of state budget cuts; began implementation of the Common Core State Standards; upgraded technology throughout the district and completed the seismic retrofitting of the schools.

Negri is also serves on the Board of Directors of Castro Valley Rotary and the Castro Valley/Eden Area Chamber of Commerce, and he serves as Chair of the Eden Area Livability Initiative Education Working Group.

Barbieri said the board will initiate discussions at its meeting tomorrow night regarding the process it will use to hire the next superintendent.

Will CV Man’s Ad Make It To Super Bowl Broadcast?
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 11:39

012115Castro Valley native Ryan Turner, second from left, directed a commercial (“Baby’s First Word”) which may air during the Superbowl broadcast on Feb. 1 if it gets enough votes online. From left are Director of Photography Alex Pollini, Turner holding a “stand-in” baby doll, actors Jeff Galfer and Michael Sun Lee, and Writer/Producer Travis Braun. The ad cost only $350 to make and features Landon Crew as Baby Liam, shown on the poster behind them.

By Linda Sandsmark / CASTRO VALLEY FORUM


Castro Valley native Ryan Turner is on the verge of stardom — a hilarious commercial he directed was selected as one of 10 finalists worldwide that may be shown during the Superbowl.

Whether or not his commercial is chosen depends on online voting, and Castro Valley residents are invited to help.

Shot in a friend’s back yard on a budget of only $350, Turner’s humorous take on the lure of Doritos Tortilla Chips is entitled “Baby’s First Words,” which may be viewed at Viewers may then vote for the commercial, which will help the Doritos judges select the winner. Fans may vote once per day through January 28.

“This is the biggest opportunity of my life, and I appreciate any support people can give me,” says Turner, 25, who graduated from Castro Valley High in 2007.

There were almost 5,000 entries to the “Doritos Crash The Superbowl” contest. The Doritos company chose their favorite 29, which were then narrowed down to a top ten.

The contest asked for “consumer-created commercials” to compete for airtime during the Superbowl on Sunday, Feb. 1,  plus a $1 million grand prize.

Two of the commercials will air on that day, one chosen by the Doritos company, and one by popular vote. Without giving anything away, the commercial is funny, engaging and definitely worth a look.

“When they picked our commercial for the semi-finals and then the finals, we were really blown away,” says Turner. “Now it’s up to us to promote it. We’re out on the streets wearing t-shirts with ‘’ on them, handing out flyers, and asking everyone to share it. The Castro Valley High teachers and students are really supportive, which is heartwarming.”

Prior to CVHS, he also attended Canyon Middle  and Independent Elementary schools.

The high school will be running an announcement on its marquee about Turner’s commercial.

Turner actually started his career at Castro Valley high’s Advanced Video Production classes with teacher Ken Jacobsen. He always loved working with film (“It’s so much fun, it doesn’t feel like work”) and was a film major at U.C. Santa Barbara. After graduating in 2011, he moved to Los Angeles and began working on video projects.

In September 2014 he was introduced to a writer, Travis Braun, who needed a director to shoot his ad for the contest. Braun works for Netflix and had just won a Nickelodeon writer’s fellowship. Turner and Braun’s collaboration, filmed Oct. 15, resulted in “Baby’s First Words.”“We were working completely out-of-pocket, so we pulled in all the favors we could think of, including borrowing a college friend’s back yard for the location. The cast and crew are volunteers.

The hard part was casting the baby, because they can’t read lines and some were crying or asleep. When Landon Crew, who plays baby Liam, came in, we knew we were saved. He had a big smile and was so charismatic that we knew we had a commercial.”

Indeed, the commercial’s baby-parent interaction is so endearing, one would have no idea of the work that went into the filming.

“We were all dancing around the yard trying to get him to do what we needed. His mom was right there helping too. He is a baby, after all,” says Turner. “We were shooting mostly on natural light, so that dictated what we could do and when.”

After finishing the baby’s scenes they shot the rest of the footage, Turner edited it on his computer, then it was sent out for sound editing and color spacing. It was submitted November 5 and selected in January by the Doritos company, which is known for its humorous ads. Now the rest is up to public support.

The contest winner will also get the chance to work as a contractor for a full year onsite at Universal Pictures in Hollywood. The eight finalists whose commercials don’t air during the broadcast will each win $25,000. The runner-up whose ad airs, but does not receive the most fan votes, will win $50,000.

Entries arrived from all over the world, with finalists from the U.K., Australia, Canada and the U.S.

The easiest way to vote for Turner’s commercial is to click on the website Another link is

More information on Turner is available on his facebook page,

Replacing Castro Valley’s Aging Water Mains
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 13:04
EBMUD crews at work yesterday replacing an old water pipe on Miramar Ave. in Castro Valley. Excavations in the center of the street mean single-lane travel for a few more weeks.

By Simon Wong

For motorists who have been putting up with a single traffic lane on Miramar Avenue, relief will come, but not for a few more weeks.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has been excavating the center of the roadway between Stanton Ave. and Grey Fox Drive for the past seven weeks, replacing 500 feet of water main that serves 18 homes in the area. The project is 75 percent complete and is due to be finished by Feb. 22.

“Our system has more than 4,000 miles of pipe and we try to replace 10 miles of water main, annually,” explained EBMUD Spokesperson Nelsy Rodriguez, who said customers are notified of planned work in their area and of possible interruptions in their water service. “The work on Miramar is an example of our commitment to ensure continued service to our customers in that neighborhood.”

While EBMUD schedules pipe-renewal according to age and other known factors, such as corrosion and land movement, the agency also “treats the system like a triaged patient.”

And Castro Valley is no stranger to bursting water mains that flood streets and sometimes homes. Those occurrences as well as other issues mean priorities change around the clock, every day of the year, so planned works in Alameda and Contra Costa counties are sometimes delayed.

“We recognize interrupted water service and pipeline construction crews in your street are inconvenient. Most of the time, the pubic realizes we do what we can to minimize disruption to their daily routines and appreciate their patience with this essential work,” added Rodriguez.



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