News
Fate Still Uncertain Of Course | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:47

 

WILLOW PARK

 

The long term fate of Castro Valley’s Willow Park Golf Course and Events Center remained as cloudy as today’s skies following Monday’s meeting of the liaison committee for the two districts involved. 

The 1,200-acre golf course property is owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District and is leased by the East Bay Regional Park District, whose master lease expires at the end of the month.

A representative from EBMUD told the committee that the lease between the two agencies would not be ready to evaluate until mid-2015.

A 50-year lease by the current operator is also expiring and the only two bids from golf-course operators received to date have been rejected, according to Jim O’Connor, assistant general manager of the park district.

A new request for proposals will be released sometime next year. Until then, the park district has contracted a month-to-month lease with Touchstone, a golf-management company, as interim operator.

Steve Falzone, president of the Willow Park Golf Club, emphasized to the committee the importance for Castro Valley to have a place to hold events. He said the closing of the restaurant and events center, which Touchstone is not involved with, would hurt the entire community.

If those facilities remained closed for six months, it is feared that they would have to go through a full County review, a process that can take a long time. And bringing old buildings up to meet current codes can be costly and slow.

Cliff Sherwood, speaking as a member of the community, said he felt the golf course and event center should be operated by local interests, noting that one of the rejected bids was from a local business.

Falzone and others who attended the meeting were critical of the park district’s lack of communications with both the current lesee and the public.

 


 
EBMUD Meeting Next Wednesday at CV Library | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 November 2014 16:15

 

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has scheduled a meeting for next week in Castro Valley to discuss the need for mandatory water rationing and increased water rates in 2015 should the drought persist or worsen.

The meeting will get underway at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Library, where district officials will announce their latest plan of attack if it doesn’t rain much during the rest of this month and December.

The water agency bought a 5-billion gallon emergency supply of water from the Sacramento River back in April without raising rates to consumers. But if another purchase is necessary this winter, it will come with a temporary 14% surcharge until the district recoups its costs. The EBMUD board will consider buying the supplemental water supply on Dec. 9.

The proposed drought rates are part of a four-stage plan that includes increasing surcharges of 14%, 20% and 25% on customer’s volume charges, and a proposed excessive-use penalty of $2 per unit over 60 monthly units (about 44,000 gallons per month) in stage 4 of the drought. Very low water users would receive a credit.

Interpretive services in Spanish and Chinese will be available at next Wednesday’s meeting. For more information, visit www.ebmud.com or call 1-866-403-2683.

 


 
Longtime Castro Valley Charity To Close at the End of the Month | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 12 September 2014 15:02

 

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The Michael Guidotti Center on Almeda Street in Castro Valley, headquarters for CARH, Inc., will cease its operations next week.

 

By Fred Zehnder
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

 

A noted Castro Valley one-of-a-kind charity that has served thousands of handicapped people since 1972 will close its doors at the end of next week.

CARH, Inc. announced that it is shutting down its recycled clothing operation and its one-acre complex on Almeda Street next Friday, Aug. 29, a victim of mounting – and often aggressive – competition.

Executive Director Cathy Giouzelis told the Forum that, over the past couple of years, 18 or 19 for-profit businesses had sprung up in Castro Valley, collecting clothes and household items that are sold overseas. Finally, CARH was no longer able to compete.

Well-known for its mailed, brightly-colored cards for use in identifying curbside clothing donations, CARH had seen both a decrease in those donations and an increase in thefts of items that were left on sidewalks for pick up.

Last week, Giouzelis had the sad task of laying off six of her staff members, retaining only one to help close down the operation. CARH’s current 1,500 clients will now have to seek assistance from other agencies.

In a letter of thanks to CARH’s donors and supporters, Giouzelis said the organization “has struggled for the last few years to sustain our household recycling program, but times have changed. As difficult as this is, it is time for CARH to cease its used clothing and household items collection efforts ... with the hope that we come back at a later date.”

The nonprofit CARH (an acronym for Care, Advancement, Respect and Hope) was started by Leo Guidotti and his wife Barbara after the birth of their special-needs child 42 years ago.

Concerned about the loneliness their son Michael would almost certainly face without his own community, they began an organization that eventually served thousands of clients who enjoyed a social calendar that included dances, picnics, movies and summer camps.

CARH also provided financial assistance for such basic needs as wheelchairs, eyeglasses and special beds.

The Michael Guidotti Center is now for sale.

 

 

 
Monthly PG&E Bills To Jump | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 12 September 2014 14:59

 

Bills Will Go Up by $7.50 This Fall

 

The California Public Utilities Commission last week approved rate increases for PG&E’s customers beginning this fall with additional increases over the next couple of years.

Customers will see an average increase of $4.50 on their gas bills next month, and about $3 more on their electricity bill in October.

While cutting the utility’s original request by $700 million, the commission cited PG&E’s need for additional money to provide safe and reliable electric and gas service through 2016.

“This was not a ‘business as usual’ rate case,” said CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio. “Consistent with our renewed focus on safety, the CPUC approached this rate case very differently from those in the past by integrating a heightened evaluation of safety, risk assessment, and accountability.

“The amount we authorized is intended to provide the necessary revenue for the maintenance, replacement, and improvement of PG&E’s aging infrastructure, and for the operation of the utility system in a manner that provides safe, affordable, and reliable service to PG&E’s customers,” Florio said.

Rates will rise again next year and again in 1016 as a result of Thursday’s CPUC decision.

 


 
EBMUD Announces Mandatory Water Restrictions | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 12 September 2014 14:47

 

By Jim Knowles
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

Conserving water during the drought isn’t just a suggestion anymore.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District announced mandatory water restrictions last week for outdoor water use. Local utilities are required to do this after the state Water Resources Control Board told the districts to prohibit certain kinds of outdoor water use.

Mainly, the restrictions just mean to conserve water – pretty much what EBMUD customers have been doing since earlier this year.

“We had asked people to restrict water as a suggestion, and now it’s a requirement by the state,” said EBMUD spokeswoman Nelsy Rodriguez.

The mandatory restrictions mean EBMUD customers must:

• Limit watering of outdoor landscapes to two times per week maximum.

• Prevent excess runoff when watering landscapes.

• Use only hoses with shutoff nozzles to wash vehicles.

• Use a broom or air blower, not water, to clean hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks, except as needed for health and safety purposes.

• Turn off any fountain or decorative water feature unless the water is recirculated.

EBMUD isn’t going to fine customers who ignore the restrictions.

“We’ve found in past droughts that the carrot works better than the stick,” said EBMUD board of directors president Andy Katz in a written statement.

Since EBMUD customers were asked in February to voluntarily cut back water use by 10 percent, customers have followed through with a 10.7 percent reduction in water use, according to the utility district.

The state water board and EBMUD board believe the restrictions are necessary now because there is no telling when the drought will end, no guarantee that this upcoming winter won’t be another dry one.

Most customers should be able to meet the 10 percent voluntary cutback by abiding by the new outdoor water use restrictions, fixing household leaks or installing water-efficient fixture and landscaping. Additional water saving tips and ideas can be found at www.ebmud.com/watersmart.

“Just save as much as you can, because we don’t know when the drought will end,” EBMUD’s Rodriguez said.

 

 

 
Castro Valley Long-Distance Hitchhiker Arrives in Congo | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 10:53

 

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Democratic Republic of the Congo: Tyrel Bernardini arrives at the Equator, where half a dozen inquisitive Congolese children gathered to see what was so interesting.

 

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Hitchhiker Tyrel Bernardini

 

On a sunny morning in April, a 25-year-old Castro Valley man with backpack in tow, stepped onto an on-ramp to I-580 to thumb a ride. Not to San Francisco or Oakland. No, Tyrel Bernardini’s destination was 7,000 miles away on the other side of the world.

A member of the Class of 2006 at Castro Valley High School, Bernardini was heading for the politically-unstable Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa.

He had graduated last fall from Humboldt State University with a major in zoology and a minor in wildlife management and wanted to share his knowledge with Africans in exchange for learning more about their culture.

It was a daunting plan to be sure. Just the first leg of his trip – from Castro Valley to the East Coast – would mean weeks of catching rides across the country.

No stranger to using his legs, Bernardini had begun running around Lake Chabot and jogging through the trails of the East Bay Regional Park system at age 14. The outdoors became as much of a home to him as the Castro Valley home he shares with his grandmother.

His thirst for knowledge about nature and the environment led him to become a volunteer at Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward and the Oakland Zoo where he first had the opportunity to meet Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

Before this year, he had already hitchhiked more than 12,000 miles to such destinations as Peru and Alaska.

While acknowledging it isn’t the safest means of travel, hitching rides is a way of meeting people from all walks of life, he says, and a way to travel to distant places without leaving his own carbon footprint on the environment.

In a unique way of financing his venture to Africa, Bernardini has received backing from both friends’ and strangers’ donations through the non-governmental on-line organization Beacon. In return, he provides regular Internet postings of his progress.

He arrived in Miami in June, but most of the sailing boats he’d hope to catch had left  because of the hurricane season. So he joined the crew of a catamaran to New York where prospects of a trans-Atlantic ship ride were more favorable.

After three months of travel by hitchhiking and boat, Bernardini made it to Morocco on the north coast of Africa. From there he took his only plane flight to Rwanda.

Then, last week, he made his way to the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center, “GRACE,” in the eastern part of Congo.

“I am their first ever volunteer and will be aiding with photography, film, educational programs, enclosure design, and much more,” Bernardini told the Forum in an email. “I am very excited to be here. So far, the only item I have had stolen (on the ferry from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, Morocco) was my toothbrush and thermos. Ha. Life goes on.”

Beyond this trip to Africa, Bernardini says he doesn’t know where his road of life will lead. Stay tuned.

 


 
Wary MAC Requests More Design Info | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 10:27

 

NEW CELL PHONE TOWER


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By Amy Sylvestri
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

The Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council has asked PG&E to take its plans for a new cell phone tower back to the drawing boards.

The utility wants to put up a 55-foot antenna at their substation at 22020 Center Street and possibly augment or remove a light pole that already stands at the site.

The company had asked the board to approve the plan at Monday night’s meeting and also to help choose the design of the tower, which could be disguised as a tree.

The board could decide between designs that would resemble a pine or eucalyptus tree, or opt for a plain pole. However the MAC board told PG&E consultant Todd Johnson that they needed more information before making a recommendation.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of luck with cell phone towers in Castro Valley,” said MAC board member Marc Crawford. “Some have turned out dramatically different than what we’ve approved.”

Crawford was likely referring to a T-Mobile cell phone tower near a school on Lake Chabot Road that touched off weeks of embarrassing controversy in 2012 when many citizens said it appeared to be a phallic symbol.

That tower was given a make-over six months later with a bushier base and pointed top to look more like a tree – an Italian cypress –  after the public outcry.

Crawford also told the PG&E representative that he wasn’t thrilled with the look of  a faux-pine tower that company put up seven months ago on Sunnyslope Avenue.

The MAC board asked Johnson to return with foliage samples and tree designs so they can pick the most unobtrusive one. They also want to know for certain if the light pole on the property will stay or be removed.

“It’s a matter of aesthetics and choosing the lesser of three evils,” said board member John Ryzanych.

The board said the topic would come back at a later MAC meeting, probably within a month or so for final approval.

 


 
Bicycle Shop Owner Recalls Comic’s Visits | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 15:26

 

ROBIN WILLIAMS

 

The shocking death of Oscar-winning actor and comic Robin Williams this week was particulary poignant for one Castro Village merchant.

Chris Padavana, owner of Eden Bicycles, remembered Williams’ many visits to his shop over the years, always leaving customers, staff  and passersby in gales of laughter.

Williams, who was an avid bicyclist, bought three bicycles and many accessories from Padavana.

Yesterday, Padavana recalled one visit when Williams strolled over to the nearby Starbucks to buy coffee for everyone in the bicycle shop and returned with a crowd of Starbucks patrons in hysterics.

Williams, who was 63 and a longtime Bay Area resident, was one of Hollywood’s most celebrated movie and television stars. He was found dead at his Tiburon home Monday morning, an apparent suicide.

 


 
Power Lines Downed In Saturday Accident | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 13:02

 

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A motorist was treated at Eden Hospital for minor injuries Saturday after his southbound Toyota Camry snapped a power pole in two (at right) and crashed through a fence onto a power failure at more than 1,400 homes in the area for several hours. PG&E said all power was restored by midday Sunday. CHP Public Information Officer Eric Thomas said the 40-year-old driver, who may have been suffering from a medical condition, was going about 40 mph when the accident occurred. The accident is still under investigation.

 

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Red Tape Cited As Hindrance To Businesses | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:58

 

CHAMBER SURVEY:

 

By Amy Sylvestri
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

The Castro Valley Chamber of Commerce recently conducted a survey of local businesses, taking their temperature about what it is like to run a workplace in town and what they’d like to see in the future.

Despite reaching out to hundreds of Castro Valley’s business owners, the Chamber received only 35 replies, so nothing could be conclusively taken from the survey, but the responses they did get will be taken into consideration, according to Bill Mulgrew, executive director of the Castro Valley/ Eden Area Chamber of Commerce.

One of the largest take-aways was that several of the business owners (29 percent) were frustrated at having to go to multiple county agencies in Oakland or Hayward to get permits and licenses, with many saying they’d like to see Castro Valley incorporated so they could deal with things on a city-level.

Additionally, 30 percent of respondents said their businesses were impacted negatively by frequent changes in rules and regulations, and the time required to deal with various government agencies.

Mulgrew said that the next step for the chamber will be to meet with the county to see if they can work out a way to ease the permitting process.

Aside from the permitting issues, respondents said health care costs were their biggest woes, with 25 percent saying insurance fees have a “high impact” on them.

Those answering the survey said that the “inconsistent look of the commercial business area” was problematic (84 percent) and conditions of roads and walkways are poor (53 percent).

One quarter said that 75 to 100 percent of their business comes from Castro Valley shoppers. About half said that most of their competition comes from other businesses in town, and 27 percent said their main competition is from national “big box” stores.

The survey brought in positive responses as well. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said that Castro Valley has a strong feeling of community, 60 percent said the town has good community identity, 66  percent cited Castro Valley’s high-quality schools, and 63 percent commended public safety.

When asked what types of businesses they’d like to see come to Castro Valley, 64 percent said an upscale restaurant, with many saying that they don’t have options for places to take clients for business meetings and must go out of town for them.  About 42 percent said they’d like to see a book store open, 35 percent wanted a brand-name department store, 29 percent said a plant nursery, 25 percent said a produce stand, and 22 percent said a craft store or art gallery.

Respondents said there were plenty of banks, car repair shops, gas stations, dry cleaners, doctors, and bars already.

Mulgrew said that the Chamber will mow share their findings with the county and move on from there. He added that the chamber plans to a similar survey of residents toward the end of the year to see what the general public thinks about existing businesses in town.

 

 

 
Don’t Trash it, Restore It: Making Old Furniture Look Like New | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:52

 

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Instructor John Stallknecht uses golf tees to hold caning in place as he works to restore an old chair. Watching in the background is Larry Bendowski, who is restoring an old picture frame.


By Linda Sandsmark
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

If you have a piece of wood furniture that’s seen better days, check out the most economical class in town. For just $1 per drop-in session, you just may be able to restore that item to its original state.

“Don’t throw it away, restore it instead. That’s our motto up here,” says instructor John Stallknecht.

Stallknecht has been teaching “Refinish, Restore and Recane Antique Furniture” techniques for 12 years at the Kenneth C. Aitken Community Center. He is a true artist who can show you how to revive a piece of furniture for very little money, if you’re willing to put in the time.

As an example, Stallknecht is working on a child’s chair that he found  in  “a scrap heap somewhere.”  If the chair were taken in for professional re-caning (creating new woven seats) the charge could be $250.

However, the materials to replace the caning only cost about $10. The cane itself is attached in seven steps, and is held in place with golf tees as the work progresses. It may take six to eight weeks in Stallknecht’s class (once a week, Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon)  to completely replace the seat.

Caning is something of a lost art, and locally only one store in Berkeley does it. Both caning and refinishing are time-consuming processes, but well-worth it if one is willing to expend the effort.

“If you find furniture at the curb, or have stains on tables, and don’t want to throw it away, yes, we can work on that here. I like to call it re-purposing furniture,” says  Stallknecht. “We’ve even put veneer that’s missing or loose back on furniture. We can patch holes with wood patch and then sand it smooth. It’s not difficult. It’s just time consuming.”

Though the participants arrive with pieces they are working on – hoping to beautify and eventually use them – they stay for the fun.

“I enjoy it. It’s something different and it’s a good social outlet,” says Mike Brodie, who is stripping white paint off a desk that his wife got at Bolt’s End Fabrics when the store went out of business. “And who would have known there was all this beautiful wood underneath this paint if I hadn’t worked on it?”

Class members can work indoors, or outdoors during nice weather. A variety of items in various stages of restoration can be seen in progress, including picture frames, a headboard and footboard, chairs and tables. One student completely re-caned a Civil War-era wheelchair.

“If you have stuff that you don’t know how to fix or what to do with it, come on out,” says Stallknecht. “You will walk out of here with something beautiful.  The class is open to anyone – you don’t have to be a senior.”

“Refinish, Restore and Recane Antique Furniture” classes are held Mondays from 9 to noon at Kenneth C. Aitken Community Center, 17800 Redwood Rd. Cost is $1 per session. Call 881-6738 or see www.haywardrec.org

 
National Night Out: Night to Get to Know The Neighbors | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2014 13:17

 

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National Night Out neighborhood organizer Alison Schmidt (right) shares a flyer about the August 5 event with her neighbor Dagmar Bedard.

 

By Linda Sandsmark
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 



All across the U.S.A., Tuesday, Aug. 5 will  mark a “National Night Out” (NNO) where people are encouraged to turn on their porch lights and step outside to meet their neighbors.

In one neighborhood near Creekside Middle School, a movement is growing to create that “small-town” feel on an ongoing basis. Starting with this year’s NNO, residents are hoping to stay linked for the long term.

New resident Alison Schmidt, who participated in NNO events at her past residences in Oakland and Southern California, is spearheading the effort with her boyfriend Brian Weber.

“We really just want to get everyone in the neighborhood together to get to know each other and hopefully have a good time, and maybe have some lasting results in terms of a more connected and safer neighborhood,” says Schmidt.

The plan is for residents in the vicinity of Gliddon Street and  Edwards Lane to hold a potluck barbecue starting at 6 p.m. at the intersection of those two streets. Tables, chairs and two grills will be set up. Although bringing re-usable plates is encouraged, disposable place settings will be available.

Residents of the east side of Center Street from Paradise Knolls to Heyer are invited to drop by (including Larimer, Parkview, Noree, Rollinghills, Newhaven, and the streets mentioned above).

Longtime Edwards Lane residents Lu and Dagmar Bedard say they are excited about the event.

“We’d really like to get a small-town feel to our neighborhood, more than just a wave as you drive by,” says Dagmar.

She and her husband are especially hoping to “map” the neighborhood, to help find out who might need assistance in case of emergency (such as the elderly, or those living alone or with young children) as well as which neighbors might have medical skills or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.

Schmidt adds that in her former neighborhood in Oakland it wasn’t easy to get to know her neighbors, but one community-minded resident set up a neighborhood social network using the free “Nextdoor.com” website. She encourages others to explore the site.

“We found it to be a great way to get news about the neighborhood, so when we bought our house in Castro Valley, we looked up the group for this area on Nextdoor.com, and found that one existed,” she says.

It was started by the Bedards, and included 30 homes in the neighborhood. Those members have been contacted about NNO, and flyers are going out to all neighbors. Schmidt hopes more residents who live nearby will come and introduce themselves.

“It can be difficult to meet your neighbors,” says Schmidt, “but we really do so much better when know our neighbors and can look out for each other.”

 

 

 

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