Full House Applauds SL’s Teen Talent PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 15:21

020416n1By Loryn Aman • Special to the Times

Talent was in the air on Saturday night as San Leandro teens performed at a sold-out show at the fourth annual “San Leandro’s Got Talent” at the Main Library.

Eleven acts competed for the title of this year’s most talented teen, and the audience, along with the panel of guest judges, decided the winner.

Kayla Jones won first place, performing an original choreographed African praise dance. Second place went to Clara Martinez who played guitar and sang “Riptide.” And third place went to the band “Dead Girls Candy” made up of Jayne Lyell, Lily Stevenson, and Lyla Neely who sang and performed an original song.

The whole show was run by teen members of the Youth Advisory Commission and the library’s Teen Advisory Group, with all proceeds from the show going back to San Leandro teens through library services and a grant given by the Youth Advisory Commission.

CAPTION: Kayla Jones preformed an original choreographed African praise dance and won first place in the annual “San Leandro’s Got Talent” show on Friday night at the Main Library.


City Council to Allow Two Pot Shops in Town PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 15:19

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

The City Council is working on legislation which will allow a second medical marijuana dispensary to operate in San Leandro.

At their Monday night meeting, the council voted 6-1 (with Benny Lee dissenting) to pick a second operator from among the unsuccessful applicants from the first round of medical marijuana dispensary vetting, which happened last fall.

Lee wanted to open up the process again to all potential candidates and start from scratch. City staff said that would be a waste of effort, since they’d gone through the process – including federal background checks –  with several qualified candidates just months ago.

Back in September the council chose to award the city’s medical marijuana dispensary permit to Harborside Health Center. When that clinic opens its doors later this year, it is expected to bring in over $100,000 in permit fees, taxes, and other money to the city annually.

Originally, the council was only going to allow one clinic in the city, but almost immediately the idea to open a second clinic was pitched by City Manager Chris Zapata.

One of the leading candidates to open a second pot shop is the Davis Street Family Resource Center. They are expected to be among the applicants as the city continues its discussion of a new operator.

A possible vote on a new operator will take place at the City Council’s next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The council will need to change the ordinance to allow two pot shops in the city before picking the new operator.

Also at last Monday’s City Council meeting, the board unanimously approved an “urgency ordinance” that amends the city’s current pot laws in order to prevent an upcoming state law from superseding the city’s authority.

The new ordinance prohibits large-scale commercial cultivation of medical marijuana within the city of San Leandro. Pot for personal medical use can still be grown.

New state legislation, which is set to go into effect March 1, would have used state-imposed mandates by default rather than let the city set the rules, so they voted to adapt the new ordinance.

“Do you want the city to set the guidelines (on medical marijuana) or the state to set the guidelines? That’s the real question,” said Councilman Jim Prola. “Our medical marijuana guidelines are much stronger than the state’s. If I thought this was going to affect anything negatively I wouldn’t vote for it. I say tax it, control it, regulate it. It’s medicine.”


Rent Review Policy Passed With Minor Changes PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 15:17

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

The months-long discussion of the city’s Rent Review Board (RRB) policies continued at Monday night’s City Council meeting, with several new tweaks suggested for the ordinance.

In the end, the City Council voted 5-2 (with council members Jim Prola and Ursula Reed dissenting) to move forward with a RRB ordinance that will set the threshold for renters to bring rental disputes to the board if they have their rent increased by more than 7 percent in a single year.

A previous version of the ordinance had single-family homes that are rented included in the the rent review process, but under the current ordinance they are not. Single-family home renters account for about 4,000 households in San Leandro.

But people renting duplexes, which weren’t covered by the old RRB ordinance, are now eligible to go before the board if their rent is raised by more than 7 percent a year.

The RRB provides non-binding arbitration in disputes between landlords and tenants. The board has no power to decide rents, it just tries to help resolve rent disputes.

Prola and Reed both said they favored a 5 percent rent increase threshold in order to be more protective of renters. Both also advocated to keep the $75 annual increase guideline that the older RRB ordinance had.

“In the short term, percentage works, but in the longer term as rents increase, the dollar amount works more,” said Prola.

About 51 percent of San Leandrans rent their homes. And at an average of $1,513 per month, San Leandro still has the lowest median rent in Alameda County. But the average rent in San Leandro has increased by 32 percent from 2006 to 2014 and vacancy rates are at an all-time low of 1.5 percent.

The City Council discussion of proposed changes to the RRB ordinance have provided a platform for a number of San Leandrans to bring up their concerns about skyrocketing housing costs in the city.

As at each of the several previous RRB ordinance meetings, public speakers again pointedly asked the City Council what they were doing to protect tenants who are being priced out of their homes.

“Bodies of government exist for the needs of the larger community,” said speaker Carlos Carmona. “We need to protect those who are socio-economically disadvantaged.”

Speaker Howard Keyes says his daughter, a teacher, rents a house in San Leandro and is in danger of being priced out of her place because her rent is jumping from $2,000 to $2,700 per month.

“It’s appalling,” said Keyes. “I understand the need to make a profit, but not at the expense of other people.”

After the 7 percent threshold was approved by the majority of the council, Councilman Prola addressed the crowd.

“I do want to apologize to the renters out there,” said Prola. “I know a lot of you will not be able to live in San Leandro any more. I did the best that I could. What I can say to you is, you’ve got to get politically active. It’s the only way to get your voice heard.”

The new ordinance will be read at the City Council’s next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, if you want to add any last minute opinions. If final approval is given, the ordinance will go into effect in March.


Bus Service Letting Down Disabled, Families Say PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 15:13

020416n2By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times

People with developmental disabilities and their families didn’t beat around the bush last Wednesday night.

The bus service they count on for transportation has been letting them down, and they let the transportation company know about it at a meeting in Hayward.

Recently, the people served by the busses have had to wait for hours. In some cases they’re not getting home until 10 p.m. when their program ends at 3 p.m. People complained they’re being left waiting for hours, or that drivers are dropping off disabled people in the middle of the street.

The Regional Center of the East Bay recently canceled the contract of one transportation service, MV Transporation, and hired another, called A-Paratransit. The switch was made to improve poor service, but from what people said, the service hasn’t improved.

Although the manager of A-Paratransit told the crowd that the service would improve soon. He said his company was asked to take the job sooner than expected, and once they have time to hire new drivers and other personnel, things will be better.

But that was not before dozens of people lined up to have their say at the meeting at the Walpert Center in Hayward, a center for The Arc of Alameda County which hosted the meeting.

“My daughter’s safety was not taken care of,” said speaker Maria Wood.

Wood said the bus was two hours late and she saw the driver let off her daughter and not help her out, as needed, and then the driver didn’t even look to see which way her daughter was going around the bus. Instead the driver seemed to be looking down as if he was looking at his phone, she said.

One person after another told similar stories. Several said that they’re not getting a call when the bus is running late, as they should.

“You need to make sure that dispatch is working,” said Reta Hunter. “You’ve got to call the family, and make sure you’re not dropping off down the street, or in the middle of the street.”

The new transit company is touting its technology, that the buses are all equipped with tablet computers, cameras, GPS, and so forth.

Hunter said maybe a little old-fashioned technology might work better.

“You got iPads, that’s fine,” Hunter said. “What you need is a call list.”

Another complaint was that passengers were stuck on busses for 3 or 4 hours and couldn’t go to the bathroom, which is unacceptable for people with special needs.

The Regional Center of the East Bay runs a number of centers for disabled people. The centers are part of the state’s Department of Developmental Services. Under the Lanterman Act of 1969, the state must provide for people with disabilities to live their lives just a non-disabled people do.

The bus service is essential to the clients getting to the centers each day.

The general manager of A-Paratransit, Steve Everson, said he understood what people are saying and his company would fix the problem. They were called in to service a month earlier than expected, and they need a few more weeks to get things straightened out, he said.

Bus Company Manager Promises to Improve Service

Everson said he’s been a driver and he knows the importance of special needs passengers.

“I heard what you said, I took notes,” Everson said. “I can assure you that in the next couple of weeks you’ll see a change.”

The Arc of Alameda County CEO Ron Luter said he was glad people expressed themselves, and he hoped to have another meeting in a few months and see some progress by then.

Luter also thanked the people from the transportation companies who came to the meeting.

“I have to give props to all who came here and faced the music,” Luter said.

Lining up a new transportation system for 600 clients on short notice is difficult, as the new company started on Jan. 4, instead of Feb. 1, as previously expected, said Ronke Sipido, director of community services for the Regional Center of the East Bay (RCEB).

“We tried to ease into a new transportation company but we had to scramble,” Sipido said.

Sipido added this week that she had been having meetings with the transportation company, including with the owner of the company.

One driver was pulled off the route. Sipido said she’s also been talking with the families of the clients who’ve had problems with transportation, trying to get the service straightened out.

More buses and drivers are going to be coming in, said Pricilla Gomez, transportation coordinator for RCEB.

But people who work with the disabled, and their families, said things have to be straightened out right away, because the situation is unacceptable.

Renee Chapman who works at Serra Center in Union City said that doctors have been giving more medication to her clients.

“It’s just because they’re so stressed,” Chapman said, who added that the transportation company’s dispatchers need to be retrained.

Luter said Arc of Alameda County called for the meeting because it advocates for the disabled, and the Arc’s clients are served by the Regional Center’s bus service. The local Arc in San Leandro is one of 700 chapters around the country, started by parents who wanted something better for their children, not an institution.

The Arc has had to pay staff overtime to ensure the safety of its clients until the bus arrives.

Arc CEO Says State Funding for the Disabled Is Inadequate

Part of the problem, Luter said, is that the state is not chipping in as much money as it should for the Department of Developmental Services. So the regional centers are forced to contract with the lowest bidder for services, not necessarily the best service provider.

But Luter said the bus service just has to brought up to par for the clients.

“I was shocked by what I heard (at the meeting) that night, that’s unconscionable,” Luter said.

CAPTION: Families of disabled clients of the paratransit bus service came to a meeting to say that the service needs to improve.


Hoverboard Fire on Glen Drive PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 15:10

020416n5A family on Glen Drive has been displaced after a fire caused by a hoverboard seriously damaged their home. The fire broke out around 3 p.m. last Saturday, according to the Alameda County Fire Department. The fire was contained within about 10 minutes. Inside, investigators found the charred hoverboard. The owner said it had been plugged in charging for about 24 hours.The popular toys have been the suspected causes of a half-dozen fires around the state since the holidays.

Chamber CEO Johnson to Leave PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016 15:05

San Leandro Chamber of Commerce CEO David Johnson will depart the positon he has held since 2008, said Garry Offenberg, chair of the Chamber of Commerce.

“Dave Johnson led the chamber through the depths of the Great Recession and the board and I appreciate his service,” said Offenberg in a press release. “We wish Mr. Johnson all the success in his future endeavors.”

Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer Emily Griego will serve as interim president and chief executive officer until a replacement for Johnson is recruited. The search for a replacement will begin no sooner than July 2016. Offenberg said the chamber wants to take its time in finding the right person for the job.

The San Leandro Chamber of Commerce has been a voice for business in San Leandro since 1927.




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