Young Man Shot and Killed by Friend PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 17:12

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

An 18-year-old San Leandro man was shot and killed by a close friend last week.

Police have arrested the friend and he has been charged with murder, but  he says the gun went off accidentally.

Frank Franz was visiting the Oakland home of his friend Isaiah Powell on July 21 just before 1 a.m. when Powell, 19, allegedly shot him while Franz’s back was turned.

There were four other friends in the room at the time, and one corroborated Powell’s story that it was an accident and the other three have so far refused to talk to police, according to Franz’s grandmother Sherry Larsen.

Powell is currently being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and his next court date is scheduled for August 18.

“We don’t know what happened, it just doesn’t make any sense,” said Larsen.

Franz’s mother, Nicole Beville, is also mystified as to how a friend could have killed her son. She says Powell was at her house just a few hours earlier helping her put away groceries.

“No one is exactly sure what happened,” said Beville. “There has been an arrest and he’s been charged. Others have said it was an accident, but the stories haven’t been the same, there have been red flags.”

Beville said her son, known to family and friends as “Frankie,” was a funny young man with tremendous charisma who could connect with anyone. He graduated high school earlier this year and would have tuned 19 next month.

“It’s just unreal,” said Beville.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations  be made to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions,


County Looks at Bigger Tax on Tobacco Sellers PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 17:11

By Julia Baum • Special to the Times

A proposed annual tobacco retailer license could take a chunk out of local store owners’ pockets if approved by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

Under the proposed licensing ordinance, all tobacco retailers would be required to pay $350 annually to the Alameda County Department of Public Health.

The licensing program would pay for enforcing state laws that ban tobacco sales to people under the age of 18, as well as keeping all tobacco and e-cigarette products behind the counter.

Officials from the Department of Public Health say that the program would hold clerks and store owners accountable for state and local laws, but some attendees at a July 22 Unincorporated Services Committee meeting criticized the program for targeting e-cigarettes.

Many argued that the devices are not tobacco and instead a cessation device, including Board Supervisor Nate Miley, who said that his own daughter used them to quit smoking. Other attendees were concerned that e-cigarettes could be used to introduce young people to nicotine because of its perception as a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The proposal also faced both support and criticism for its $350 fee. Cherryland resident Mike Baratta said that it was right for retailers to pay for the annual fee and that he would not be bothered if it meant fewer tobacco products were sold as a result.

“My own opinion is $350 is not too much; that doesn’t bother me,” Baratta said, “I think the people making a profit should pay for it.”

Plaza Bottle Shop owner Tom Pedemonte disapproves of the proposal because he already pays for programs to enforce tobacco sales laws every year. He said that his store has a failure rate for illegal sales to minors that is ten percent below the state average.

“There’s something in place that is working,” Pedemonte said. “It especially gripes me now when it’s working. It’s redundant.”

One aspect of the program pointed out by both sides was lack of planning to collect fines from retailers caught breaking the law. Tobacco Control Plan director Paul Cummings said that a plan has been purposely left out for now.

“We don’t have in place the collection mechanism yet,” Cummings said. “One of the things here is that we haven’t wanted to put everything in place prior to the ordinance being approved.”

Based on testimony from the meeting, Supervisors Miley and Wilma Chan voted to send the proposal to the Board of Supervisors without recommendation.


Funeral Today for Fallen Cop PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 16:56

073015n2The funeral for a Hayward police officer who was killed in the line of duty is set for this morning, Thursday July 30 at 10 a.m. at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.

Sgt. Scott Lunger, 48, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Hayward last Wednesday.

Mark Estrada, a 21-year-old Oakland man has been charged in his death and, if convicted, could face the death penalty.

The public is invited to the service, which was moved to the arena because of the large turn out expected to pay their respects.


Sand Guys Go Against the Grain PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 17:05

073015n4By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times

America is the land of opportunity.

If it was ever in doubt, consider what Rusty Croft and Kirk Rademaker do for a living. They make sand castles.

They’ve been all over the world. They star in a Travel Channel TV show. They spend their time on beaches.

“It’s a lot of work, too,” Croft said with his trowel in hand. “It’s a job. It’s not all beaches and babes.”

Rademaker replies, “Well, it sort of is.”

“Well, Croft said,” it’s a job but I’ve had worse jobs.”

The Sand Guys, as they call themselves, came to Bayfair Mall last Saturday to do what they do, build sand castles. Nearby, the Hipwaders kept the beat with their original songs in the mall courtyard.

The Sand Guys do their sand sculptures for special events, Silicon Valley companies, and advertising products. They did a Caterpillar Tractor promotion on the beach in Rio de Janeiro. They said Caterpillar brought in some expert bulldozer operators for the promotion.

Croft didn’t grow up on the beach playing in the sand, far from it.

“I grew up in Iowa,” he said. “But sand is pretty much everywhere.”

Croft decided he wanted to make a living in sand after he saw a sand sculpture at the San Diego Zoo.

“I remember the day I saw a professional company make a sand sculpture at the San Diego Zoo,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”

Everybody can relate to sand, Croft said. People may not have tried other mediums, but sand is something that everybody has played with.

As we’re inundated with more high-tech gadgets, we come to appreciate some of the everyday things like sand.

“There’s something extraordinary about sand,” Croft said.

Another thing about sand – it’s everywhere. There’s always a sand-and-gravel company around. The Sand Guys like to work with a good, consistent, fine-grain sand that they say is known as PG&E fill sand, because PG&E uses it to around their underground pipes. The sand makes a good, stable base and separates the pipes from rocks.

Rademaker remembers when he decided to go whole hog into the sand sculpture business. He had some practice making sand castles at Stinson Beach while he worked for a cabinet making company in Oakland, and one year he won the annual sand castle contest in Alameda.

But one day his girlfriend at the time called and told him he just got invited to go to Italy to make sand castles. Pretty soon he was making sand castles full time, and competing with the pros.

“And I won $10,000 one time in Japan,” Rademaker said. “I’ve basically been all around the world now.”

The Sand Guys website is

CAPTION: Kirk Rademaker and Rusty Croft – The Sand Guys – came to town to demonstrate their sand castle techniques at Bayfair Mall last Saturday.


Creekside Resident Finds Tracks and He Ain’t Lion PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 17:02

073015n3Bryan Lucchesi had just watered around a tree in his yard when he noticed the lion tracks.

The MacArthur Boulevard resident lives next to San Leandro Creek and the tracks appeared to come up from the creek. He sees lots of deer who come to eat from his vegetable garden on his 1-acre lot, and suspects that the mountain lion was waiting for a deer, because the lion’s tracks led to a tree.

“The lion climbed the avocado tree, I imagine, to wait for deer,” Lucchesi said.

Lucchesi took photos of the mountain lion’s paw print and took it to the Animal Control officer at the police station, who said they would contact the state Department of Fish & Game.

– By Jim Knowles

CAPTION: Creekside resident Bryan Lucchesi found footprints of a mountain lion in his yard and took this photo with his wife’s hand for perspective.


Conservationists to Speak on Chopping Down Trees in Hills PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 17:01

A conservation biologist and a firefighter will speak on Friday, July 31, at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. in Berkeley, to address the question, “East Bay Hills Forests: Invasive Fire Hazards or Natural Treasures?”

Conservation biologist David Theodoropoulos and retired Oakland firefighter David Maloney will address the FEMA-funded tree removal projects in the East Bay hills from Richmond to Hayward.

The speakers will question whether eucalyptus, acacia, and Monterey pines are invasive fire hazards or not, and discuss pesticide use in the hills.

The talk is co-sponsored by East Bay Pesticide Alert ( and the Social Justice Committee of BFUU (


Oakland Woman Starts Petition on Tree Destruction PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 16:59

An Oakland resident has started a Care2 petition to stop the city’s plan to cut trees in the hills in August. The petition has gathered over 52,000 signatures, including over 5,491 from California residents.

The Care2 petition was started by Jamie Brown, a longtime Oakland resident who says she is concerned about the environmental effects of the tree-cutting plan. Brown, 48, and those who have signed her Care2 petition also disapprove of the plan to use herbicides, which will be sprayed to prevent the trees from regrowing. Brown plans to present the petition signatures to the Oakland City Council and the East Bay Regional Park District. The Care2 petition can be found online at:


New Education Center PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 16:53

073015n8Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern helped break ground on the new “Sandy Turner Educational Center II,” at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin last week. The center will be located next to the existing Sandy Turner Educational Center, and will provide more vocational training, hands-on learning; and more case management to help inmates better prepare for life when they are released.


Hey, Grandma, Your Letter to the Editor Went Viral PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Friday, 31 July 2015 16:50

By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times

A San Leandro grandmother somehow got caught up in the digital media fray last week.

It might have been a slow news day, but a couple of TV stations and the San Francisco Chronicle decided there was news in San Leandro’s little controversy over the proposed 55-foot statue, “Truth Is Beauty.”

They picked out Gerry Isham’s letter to the editor in this newspaper as an example of criticism of the statue. Actually, Isham’s letter was in response to the first letter that came to us about the statue where the letter writer said the statue was 55 feet of porn.

Isham’s letter was a mild reply, saying that the statue wasn’t porn, but it was a little tacky.

But you know how it goes, big news websites are full of comments made by people who don’t bother to read the story. As the comments rolled into the Chronicle’s website,, people started blasting Isham, who is 79.

“I don’t have a computer but my grandson told me about it,” Isham said. “He said it’s gone viral.”

“I said, what does that mean?”

“He said, that’s when lots of people answer it.”

“I said, when does it go away?”

“He said, it’s buried when a better story comes along and people start writing about that.”

Isham’s daughter in Arizona also called her and said the comments were about even, for and against.

“But the funniest thing was that they saw ‘Gerry’ and thought I was a guy,” Isham said.

Isham also laughed about how so many online comments were off base.

“I thought, what are they talking about? They don’t even know what I wrote,” she said.

It was a fun week for Isham, hearing from her family, and from her friends here in San Leandro who kidded her about her instant celebrity status.

“My friends all gave me a hard time about it,” she said.

The statue that started the whole thing was built for the annual Burning Man art festival in the Nevada desert. So it all ties together.

“My granddaughter Emily met the love of her life, Nick, at last year’s Burning Man,” Isham said.

Isham plans to keep on writing letters. She stays in practice, because when a product doesn’t work as it should, she writes to the company CEO.

“And I always get a response,” she said.


Camelot’s Days Are Over PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 16:45



The Camelot School suddenly closed last week.

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

The Camelot School in unincorporated Castro Valley announced its abrupt closure late last week, giving parents just days to find alternative care for their kids and leaving the teaching staff without jobs.

The Camelot School had been operating for more than 37 years, proving care and classes to children from 8 weeks old through kindergarten. Over 130 students from San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley and beyond are currently enrolled.

Calls to the school have not been returned.

The private school, located at 2330 Pomar Vista Avenue, will shut its doors after class ends this Friday and parents were only notified via email on July 24.

The email, written by Camelot owner Georgina Armstrong, states that the school is closing because the San Lorenzo school district, which owns the property, has not renewed the lease with Camelot.

But the school district voted to begin the process of selling the property only after Armstrong notified them that she was looking to sell her business, according to Annette Heldman of the San Lorenzo Unified School District.

Heldman said the district officially terminated their lease with Armstrong in April and gave her 180 days – until the end of October – to vacate the property. That the school is closing before that deadline is entirely Armstrong’s decision, Heldman said.

Parents are angry that Armstrong didn’t tell them about closing the school sooner and say the school even went so far as to ask parents to sign up for fall 2015 enrollment.

“She (Armstrong) wasn’t forthcoming and we want to know the truth,” said parent Ashley Mercier. “Maybe she was afraid that people would’ve withdrawn their children and she’d lose money.”

Mercier says that she and her fellow parents have been “scrambling” to find day care and classes for their kids and that a San Leandro Montessori school hired another teacher so a new class could be created for the Camelot refugees.

“Parents are out there pounding the pavement trying to find spaces for their kids,” said Mercier. “If we’d known earlier, there wouldn’t be this panic. It’s horrible.”

In the email that Armstrong sent to parents, she said the school had looked into relocating or negotiating with the San Lorenzo School District,  but that she ultimately deiced to shut it down for the good of the children and staff.

“In making any decision to try and hang on for a little longer, I feel that, morally and ethically, it would be wrong for us to both ignore the well-being of a child in accepting any enrollment and ignore what would be in the best interests of the staff in their need for job security,” wrote Armstrong.

Teachers at Camelot were also not informed about the closure until last Friday afternoon, a point which Mercier says has infuriated the parent group, who want the teachers to receive severance pay.

“I’m not interested in a lawsuit at this point, but we are trying to get Georgina to do right by the teachers who have taken such good care of our children,” Mercier said.


Grass Catches Fire Under BART PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 16:43


Alameda County firefighters put out a grass fire under the BART tracks a little after 5 p.m. on Tuesday just south of the San Leandro BART station near Williams Street.  The right of way under the BART tracks has been planted with drought tolerant native plants with bark as a ground cover, all of which burns pretty easily.


City to Host Meeting on Downtown Parking PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 16:42

The City of San Leandro will host a meeting about downtown parking on Wednesday, Aug. 5, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the San Leandro Museum/Auditorium, 320 West Estudillo Avenue.

San Leandro is developing a parking management plan to help regulate downtown parking and reduce impacts on residential neighborhoods.

Residents are invited to express their ideas about parking in downtown San Leandro.




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