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CASTRO VALLEY Ice Skater Has Dreams OF OlympicS | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 May 2014 12:01

 

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Marina Capatina of Castro Valley hopes to join the 2018 U.S. Olympic figure skating team. She practices at least six hours a day, including skating, gymnastic and dance lessons.


By Linda Sandsmark
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM
As the Winter Olympics concluded in Sochi, Russia, 12-year-old Marina Capatina of Castro Valley was hard at work, hoping to qualify for the 2018 U.S. figure skating team.

The training necessary for such a lofty goal means working out five days a week, at least six hours per day. Though she foregoes a lot of typical childhood activities, Marina loves her sport.

“Almost everyone I practice with is trying to make it to the Olympics,” she says. “I work very hard to achieve that goal. You need commitment to the sport. Although you never know what may happen in four years, I try to stay positive, and I think that I can make it.”

Marina trains at the same San Jose skating club where 15-year-old Olympic sensation Polina Edmunds does. Marina cheered her friend’s “fabulous performances” in Sochi, noting that even though many skaters have talent and support, they may not be able to perform well in front of judges.

Marina’s mother Val says that her daughter has been skating since she was three, and has given up a lot to pursue her Olympic dreams.

“If she didn’t love it, she would not be in this. It’s a commitment over the years, and nothing comes easy in skating. You do 100 jumps every single day, and hope that in a year you might see the results,” says Val.

With lessons from four different coaches (jumping, choreography, etc.) and additional classes in  ballet, Pilates and gymnastics, every minute of the day is scheduled. In fact, Val and Marina grew so tired of the commute that in January they started spending most weekdays at a residence hotel in San Jose. They return on weekends to join Marina’s dad in Castro Valley.

Marina is able to keep up with her studies thanks to an online public school, California Connections Academy. She needed the flexibility of a virtual classroom due to her exhausting workout schedule.

This is her third year with California Connections, and she keeps in touch with her teacher via frequent phone calls and e-mail. Some of the classes are taught through live online instruction, where students wear headsets and can ask questions via voice or chat.

“My favorite subjects are math and science, because they’re really interesting. I like science because it’s about the natural world, and math because it’s very precise,” Marina says.

Marina was born in Walnut Creek and her parents were born in Romania, so she is fluent in both English and Romanian. She is also studying Spanish and German through her school, which provides recorded lessons and tests similar to a classroom. She spent last summer training in Germany, which gave her a chance to practice her German while competing in another country.

A You Tube video of Marina training in 2011 can be viewed online (www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlFviilks6Q), showing a glimpse at the workout required to become an Olympic skater.


 

 
Non-Teaching Staff Calls for Wage Increase | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 29 May 2014 11:59

 

By Amy Sylvestri
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

The non-teaching staff of the Castro Valley Unified School District took a stand at the school board meeting last week after working for nearly a year with no contract.

The Classified California School Employees Association, local Chapter 52 – which includes cafeteria workers, office assistants, bus drivers, librarians, aides, custodians, and other non-teaching staff – rallied at Thursday’s meeting, in what Chapter President Arlene Cristobal described as a “call to action.”

The more than 300 union members have been working without a contract since last June, according to Cristobal, who said that cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increases and medical insurance are the major bones of contention.

“We haven’t had a COLA increase in six years,” she said.

The contracts are usually made for three-year periods. The union seeks a COLA increase and is willing to stagger it over that time-line – 3 percent the first year, then 2 percent, then another 2 percent.

The members of the union aren’t teachers, but Cristobal said they are every bit as vital in educating Castro Valley students. “My members are everyday people trying to get by. We aren’t asking to get rich, we just want something to live on.”

At last week’s meeting, Cristobal said that the members just wanted an opportunity to speak with the board.

“We were just there to tell our stories,” said Cristobal. “My members are just so tired. We are seeing 5-to-8 percent increases in insurance costs with nothing to offset that. There are people making less than what they did the year before.”

The board listened to the comments, but did not address speakers.

While negotiations are ongoing, Cristobal said the union has no work stoppages planned.

“We won’t strike; striking benefits nobody and hurts the kids,” Cristobal said. “It’s all wait and see at this point. Maybe when the state budget is more clear, we can all figure something out.

 

 

 
Businesses Vandalized by Bleeding Man Not Eligible for County Help | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 13 May 2014 15:49

 

A number of businesses along Castro Valley Boulevard that were smeared with blood by a drunk man two weeks ago have complained that they got no help from the county to clean up the mess on windows and the sidewalk.

But the county says it isn’t responsible for helping with the clean-up. The man responsible, whose name has not been released by police, has been cleared of any criminal charges. His injuries were minor. He apparently cut his hand and wrist by accident and then left a trail of blood on the sidewalk as he smeared blood on buildings and walls, according to Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s just one of those things,” said Nelson. “It’s odd, weird, and he was drunk when we found him, but there’s not something really criminal there.”

The affected businesses were left with a bio-hazard of sorts to clean up on their own. But the county says it’s a private matter and public resources would not be used to help out.

“It was such an odd thing to happen that I’m not sure there is any procedure in place for it,” said Marc Crawford, president of the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council.

Crawford says that the MAC didn’t get any businesses requesting help with clean up, but if they had, the council would have advised them to hire an outside clean-up company.

“It’s basically a private property issue,” said Crawford. “If someone had smashed the windows, the county wouldn’t have paid for it.”

Bob Swanson of Supervisor Nate Miley’s office agreed.

“It’s not the county’s responsibility,” said Swanson. “Actually, if we had used resources (to help) there would probably be complaints about that.”

–By Amy Sylvestri

 


 
No Water Rationing for Now | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 24 April 2014 14:18

Although this is shaping up to be the fifth driest year on record, Castro Valley residents aren’t going to be subjected to mandatory water restrictions or rationing, at least for now.

Instead, the board of directors of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) yesterday afternoon chose to follow the recommendations of district officials, asking customers to continue a 10-percent voluntary cutback on usage.

At the same time, the directors approved a plan to buy 16,000 acre-feet of water — about a normal month’s supply — that would come from the Sacramento River through their contract with the Central Valley Project. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.

The water would be piped to the district’s San Pablo and Upper San Leandro reservoirs to help alleviate what EBMUD anticipates will be a “severe” drought stage that’s likely to occur by the end of summer.

To partially offset the cost of delivering that Sacramento River water, the district will use funds from its recent $5.6-million sale of 24 acres of surplus land in Castro Valley to the Hayward Area Recreation District. That property had been idle for half a century after EBMUD abandoned plans to build a filtration plant at the site. It was the subject of a failed 2006 “Measure Q” bond issue.

EBMUD directors will meet again in mid-May.

 
Work-at-Home Opportunities For Retirees With Computers | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 09:45

 

 

 

By Jim Miller
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM

 

If you have a computer with high-speed Internet access and a home phone, there are unlimited work-at-home opportunities for retirees depending on your skills and interest.

But beware of scams! Work-at-home scams that offer big paydays without much effort are rampant on the Internet.

The best way to avoid these scams is to use websites that weed out scammers like the ones mentioned in this column, and never invest any of your own money without thoroughly checking out the business with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.

It’s also a good idea to use search engines like Google or Bing to research a potential employer to make sure it’s legitimate.

Here are a few popular home-based career opportunities to check out, along with some trustworthy resources to help you search for employment.

• Customer-service agent: These jobs answer inbound customer calls for big companies – you don’t place telemarketing calls. Agents earn an average of $8 to $15 an hour and you can usually set your own hours and pick an employer whose products or services are suited to your knowledge and interests.

To find these jobs see arise.com, alpineaccess.com, liveops.com and workingsolutions.com.

• Web search evaluator: Most large search engines like Google and Bing rely on home-based evaluators to test the accuracy of online search results, examining different search terms and the websites they turn up. Basic Internet skills are required and the pay ranges between $10 and $15 per hour. See lionbridge.com/careers and leapforceathome.com to apply.

• Tutor: If you’re a college graduate, and have expertise in English, math, science or social studies, you could make money as an online tutor at tutor.com/apply. Tutors work with students from grade school through college and make between $10 and $15 an hour.

• Transcriptionist: If you have good typing skills there are transcriptionist jobs that pay around $10 per hour for typing verbatim accounts of board meetings, presentations, conference calls, etc. Some companies that hire transcriptionists include rev.com, tigerfish.com, ubiqus.com and ctran.com.

• Translation services: If you’re fluent in more than one language you can do interpretation over the phone, or translate documents or audio files not just word for word but often with cultural differences in mind.

Learn about opportunities at telelanguage.com, sdl.com, verbalizeit.com, ubiqus.com and atanet.org. The pay can range from $15 to $40 an hour or more for languages in high demand.

• Write or edit: If you have some writing experience, freelance writing assignments are available online and pay around $10 to $20 an hour. Contact writersmarket.com, freelancewriting.com and writerfind.com for opportunities. Or, if you’re a skilled writer, or have expertise in a particular area like food, travel, art, etc. consider submitting writing samples to magazines, trade publications, newsletters, websites or local newspapers as a freelance writer.

Proofreading is another option, if you have some editing experience this pays $12 to $20 per hour. See firstediting.com and cactusglobal.com to look for proofreading jobs.

• Selling online: At sites like ebay.com, craigslist.org, amazon.com and etsy.com, you can sell your own stuff or you can purchase items at garage sells, flea markets or online and resell them for a profit.

If you don’t find these options appealing, try flexjobs.com, which lists thousands of legitimate work-at-home jobs from nearly 3,700 employers. You can gain access to their listings for $15 for one month, $30 for three months or $50 for a year.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

 


 
Young CV Man Dreams of Cannes | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 March 2014 14:38

 

 

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Drew Cathey of CV (bottom right) holds a Silver Tripod Award. His film, “Being A Man,” will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Seated with him is his co-director, Zach Ready. Back row: director of photography Daniel Casillas;  Actress Hayley Goldstein; editor/sound designer Brian Walker; and camera operator/gaffer Mike Lee.

 

By Linda Sandsmark
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

A young writer/director from Castro Valley is on his way to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France, bringing his award-winning short film for worldwide debut.

Andrew (Drew) Cathey’s  “Being a Man” was one of only 10 student entries selected from over 6,000 submissions nationwide. He is now busy trying to raise funds to pay for the trip.

Cathey, 22, who graduated from Castro Valley High in 2009 and recently finished San Francisco State University’s film program, won Best Director and Best Drama in the Campus Movie Fest competition this past fall. The competition is the largest student film festival in the U.S. and has a partnership with  the Cannes Film Festival.

The rules of the festival specify that a film be shot and edited within one week. Incredibly, Cathey and his crew shot not one, but two movies during that time period, and both went on to become winners.

“We started about 6 a.m. on a Wednesday, and finished the first film (“Being a Man”) at  3 p.m. the next day,” says Cathey. “We took a two-hour break and then started shooting a comedy (‘The Spot’). We filmed that from six at night until four in the morning. We took the following day as a break, then spent the better part of the next four days editing.”

Cathey says that editing is tough — because as a writer/director he loves every scene that is in the script. Still, some cuts had to be made based on sound, visual quality, continuity or pacing.By the time he left the editing room, he says, “I had no idea what anyone would think of ‘Being a Man’.  It’s  a western drama about a guy who must re-learn what it really means to be a man.”

But at the fall screening, Cathey and co-director Zach Ready won Best Director,  “Being a Man” won Best Drama, and lead actor Brennan Keel Cook won Best Actor. “The Spot” also won Best Comedy.

“My team stole the show!” says Cathey.

He’s particularly proud of “Being A Man,” because he had never shot a drama before. Now he’s determined to accompany both of his films to Cannes, and appreciates everyone who has given him a hand so far.

In fact, the movie came about because he was a Cutco knife salesman for about five years, and one of his customers has a huge ranch in Livermore.

“She offered to let me film there. She was gracious enough to let me do just about anything I wanted, as long as I didn’t burn down the shed. I wrote the script for that setting,” he says.

The actors and crew are all people he knew through S.F. State.

Anyone interested in helping Cathey make the trip to Cannes may visit the website Indiegogo (www.indiegogo.com/projects/697134/emal/6522036)

The page can also be reached by typing “help-andrew-get-to-cannes-film-festival” in any search engine. Cathey’s goal is to raise $4,000 to pay for the trip.

“Castro Valley is a really close-knit community, and I’m really looking for 400 people who can  donate $10,” he says. “I’m not looking for a few people to donate a thousand dollars, although that would be great if it happened. I’m more interested in reaching as many people as I can.”

Career-wise, now is the time for Cathey to meet other filmmakers,  and Cannes is the perfect place to do that.

“I’m going to make it happen,” he says. “It’s a huge opportunity and I can’t pass it up. My long-term goal is to make movies and have fun doing it.”

 

 

 

 
SMOKY FIRE DESTROYS GARAGE | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 10:46

 

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Heavy black smoke rose over Castro Valley shortly before 4 p.m. Monday when fire engulfed a detached garage at 17730 Almond Road. The fire was extinguished within 10 minutes by several units from the Alameda County Fire Department which is investigating the cause. The garage and its contents were destroyed.

 


 
Man Fatally Shot By Deputies | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 10:16

 

SAN LORENZO

 

By Amy Sylvestri
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

A 60-year-old man who had called police to his home almost 20 times in the past was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies following another 911 call Monday night in San Lorenzo.

At around 9:30 p.m., medical emergency personnel were called to 97 Paseo Grande for a man reportedly suffering from seizures, according to Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

About 30 minutes later, the emergency medical team that was treating him called for police backup when the man became combative, Nelson said.

Deputies had been called to the home numerous times over the past two years for domestic disputes, reports of drunkenness and other disturbances.

On this occasion, as medical technicians tried to offer aid, the man shoved them off and ran back into his home, according to Nelson, who said deputies then entered the home with shotguns and other weapons.

Inside the home, the man armed himself with a baseball bat and hit one armed deputy, causing him to drop his shotgun. Other deputies then shot the suspect multiple times and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The sheriff’s office had not released the man’s name by Tuesday evening. An autopsy is scheduled for later this week.

No deputies or emergency personnel were injured.

The two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on routine leave pending the investigation.

 

 

 
$6 Million Digital Arts Studio Opens on Friday | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 10:01

 

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The Bay Area Digital Arts Studio in San Lorenzo occupies the space where a National Guard Armory once stood.


By Linda Sandsmark
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

The San Lorenzo Unified School District will unveil its new Bay Area Digital Arts (BADA) studio this Friday, which was built on Ashland Avenue where a National Guard Armory once stood.  School officials hope the studio will help students connect with companies and individuals to create partnerships in learning.

“The district has created an industry-standard professional recording space and digital arts studio for its students to learn in,” says Lance McVay, BADA’s  co-lead teacher.

“We also want the community to be involved. We want industry professionals in the Bay Area to use the facility, and they’ll get reduced rates if students can be involved or observe production.”

The official ribbon-cutting takes place this Friday, with student-led tours for some 200 invited guests.

The digital arts program is one of San Lorenzo High’s small learning communities, as part of the California Partnership Academies network. It is funded by a state grant to tie the media curriculum to core curriculum,  preparing students for careers or college after high school.

The BADA studio cost $6 million, made possible through a Career Technical Education Facilities grant from the state, with matching funds provided through Measure O, a 2008 voter-approved bond measure.

The new building houses state-of-the-art media production space. It will be available to regional businesses on a rental basis, although the emphasis at the academy is on-the-job training in media. Local employers who wish to partner with the BADA program by guest speaking, offering internships, etc. will be offered reduced rental rates.

For more information, contact Barbara Billich at the San Lorenzo School District, 317-4707, or by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


 
Strike Ban Discussion Next Week | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 10:00

 

BART MEETING

 

An advisory ballot measure to ban strikes by transit workers will be among the topics at BART’s first nighttime board of directors meeting next week.

As a pilot program to encourage more public attendance and participation, the board is scheduling five meetings at 5 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month through June. The first will be on Feb. 27.

Board President Joel Keller will lead the discussion on his dispute-resolution proposal which would prohibit work stoppages like those that occurred twice last year. Keller will seek input from other board members and the public on the controversial idea.

Meantime, at last Thursday’s board meeting, directors approved the hiring of a consultant to investigate the contentious months-long labor negotiations which led to those two chaotic four-day strikes.

“The goal of the evening meetings is to provide a more convenient opportunity for members of the public to weigh in on important decisions that affect their commute,” said BART Director Rebecca Saltzman, one of the leading voices for the night meetings. “We are eager to hear from BART riders and residents of the district, and we encourage people to attend the meetings to share their views.”

Next Thursday evening’s meeting will also include a presentation on BART’s funding priorities for the next fiscal year and an update on the proposed Livermore extension.

The board, which also meets at 9 a.m. on the second Thursday of every month, will place topics with the most public interest and impact on the agendas of the night meetings.

“Several important issues that are relevant to the public are coming before the board in the near future and we want to provide the public an accessible opportunity to convey their views as we decide on these issues,” said Director Zakhary Mallett, who also pushed for the trial run of evening meetings.

Members of the public can, of course, attend all board meetings. They are held in the BART Board Room on the third floor of the Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall at 20th and Webster in Oakland. The agenda is released to the public on the preceding Friday and can be found online at www.bart.gov/about/bod.

BART Police will provide safety escorts from the board meeting room to the 19th Street BART station.

 


 

 
Retrofiting to Begin on lake chabot dam | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 12:31

 

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A section of the aging Lake Chabot Dam due for quake retrofitting over the next several years.

 

By Amy Sylvestri
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has just started a years-long project to seismically retrofit the dam at Lake Chabot. Built in the late 1800s, the dam is situated deep in Lake Chabot Park near the Castro Valley-San Leandro border. It extends about 23 feet above the lake’s water level and acts as a backup reservoir for Castro Valley and other parts of the East Bay.

The dam itself will be strengthened to eliminate any slumping issues that could potentially occur in an earthquake. Also, some of the mechanical parts that open and close the dam will be moved farther away from the structure, so that they wouldn’t be damaged if they shifted during an earthquake.

“These types of projects are always long-term,” said EBMUD spokeswoman Michelle Blackwell. “This is something that’s been in the works for years.”

The environmental impact report for the retrofit is now being finalized, with an eye to construction starting around this time next year. But even if a large earthquake were to hit tomorrow, the chances of any problems with the dam are slim.

“It’s a seismic upgrade, but people should be aware that the dam is safe,” said Blackwell. “It’s just so much more expensive to repair something after the fact than to try to prevent it in the first place.”

When construction does start, it will be necessary to close large portions of the popular 10-mile hiking loop that goes around Lake Chabot, beginning around the fall of 2015.

“It just wouldn’t be safe to have an open path while the work is being done,” said Blackwell. But because the project could take over a year, the trail may be open periodically during the work.

Because it is a large and lengthy project, EBMUD invites those interested to sign up for email updates by contacting This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 510-287-2053.

 

 

 
Deal is in the Works to Sell Daughtrey Site | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 12:25

 

By Linda Sandsmark
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM

 

It may come down to money. Although demolishing the former Daughtrey’s Department Store building to create a new town square may be a fine idea, could Castro Valley afford it?

That was the question debated at last week’s meeting of Castro Valley’s Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC).

A group of local residents, headed by Peter Rosen, presented a proposal to transform the area next to Knudsen’s Ice Creamery into an open green space where people could meet to chat, eat ice cream, and hold outdoor events.

However, developer David Greensfelder is already in negotiations with the county to buy the building, remodel it, and rent it out. The vacant store’s current estimated value is between $950,000 and $1 million.

“The question really is, what is the best thing that can enhance Castro Valley’s downtown and be commercially viable?” said Greensfelder.

Demolishing and clearing the site would cost approximately $500,000. Greensfelder said it would not make economic sense to tear down the building, which he said is fundamentally sturdy.

He suggested that one large retailer plus a smaller restaurant could go into the space, and that BevMo, several restaurants and sports entertainment businesses had approached him about possibly becoming tenants.

MAC Chairman Marc Crawford summed up the dilemma: If a plaza were to be built instead of a retail establishment, the first $1 million would have to be found to buy the property, another $500,000 would be needed to remove the vacant building, and then more funds would be required to build and maintain the plaza. He estimated that over $4 million might  have to be spent at a time when county funds are scarce.

Many in the audience spoke in support of the plaza plan, and some also expressed doubts that remodeling the 50-year-old building could make it attractive regardless.

Ernie Daughtrey, whose family originally owned Daughtrey’s Department Store, said they have come under a lot of criticism for the current state of affairs, but that it was not his family’s fault. He said they sold their company to a department store chain out of Cleveland years ago and that it is out of their hands.

“We exhausted every option we had,” said Daughtrey.

Over the last two decades the property has housed a pool hall, Disney outlet and Halloween stores, but mostly remained vacant.  Although the timeline for ownership of the troubled property is convoluted, it was most recently purchased in 2011 by taxpayers using $2.8 million in Redevelopment Agency funds. The county could then recoup as much of that money as possible by finding a suitable buyer to upgrade the site.

Now that the Redevelopment Agency has been disbanded, taxpayers might essentially pay for the same property twice if Castro Valley has to purchase the land for a plaza. The Daughtrey’s building is one of 12 properties in Alameda County left in limbo by the shuttering of the states’ redevelopment agencies.

All five MAC members in attendance last Tuesday night said they support open space and like the idea of a plaza, but paying for it is a larger issue.

“How much money is it, and where is that money going to come from?” asked council member Cheryl Miraglia, who said that if citizens aren’t ready to step up and pay for it, the future is uncertain for a downtown plaza.

Ultimately, the MAC members recommended that plaza supporters return once they assess what it would take to fund and create a town square. They were also asked to define specific uses for the site. In the meantime, negotiations on the Daughtrey building will continue between the county and Greensfelder Commercial Real Estate.

 

 

 

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