Many Thanks to Folks Like …

Desiree Meyskens and Facundo Del Pin!

The Alameda couple has finished organizing the building and financial support of a family in Santa Fe, Argentina, that really needed a home.

The young pair started with the wedding registry — to support the Silva family rather than collect gifts, about a year ago.

Now, they two are proud to announced that the house was finished in July — just before the rainy season started. And there are many new photos posted that show the hard work and give cause for celebration.

“Currently there are about 12 Silva family members living in the
three-bedroom house. Most of them are children and one newborn that was
born just after the house finished construction,” says Desiree.

“We know that this is still not optimal but, it is a huge improvement from their previous shanty home.  At their new home they have a gas stove and oven,
running water, a bathroom, electricity, a cement floor and a lot more,” she explains.

And, best of all, the home has given a new sense of community to people all over the world — or at least from Alameda to Argentina.

“The house also serves as a base for a group of volunteers that discovered the necessities of other families in the same neighborhood during the construction of the house,” notes Desiree. “This volunteer group has already started a number of new projects to help assist other local families in their domestic necessities.”

There is really only one thing to say, after such a fantastic endeavor: “You all gave us the best wedding present that we could have imagined,” shares Desiree.

And for all the Alameda readers who followed the story in the Alameda Journal and supported this effort — many additional thanks.


Beach Opens with Tarball Warning

There are no more work crews on Crown  Beach, but there are tarballs — and plenty of warning signs.

Since the October 30 oil spill, large tarballs and oil puddles like the one photographed above, have been cleaned up.

But tarballs the size of a quarter or half dollar are still on the beach. And, according to official warnings  now placed throughout Crown Beach by the East Bay Regional Park District, these tarballs should be with us for a while.

They are what’s left of the oil from the spill that got churned up and moved around the San Francisco Bay. And they may show up for several months – or even years after an oil spill.

The inspection team  “found very few tar balls over the 1.5 mile length of the beach from Grand to Westline,” according to the parks district on November 23.  “In addition, the ponds left at low tide no longer show any significant sheen.”

After the storm on November 20, crews found over 9 pounds of sand-covered tarballs.  The same crews had found over 25 pounds the previous weekend, the park district reports. Today, it found less than half a pound in the 1.5 mile stretch of beach.

Crews will continue to clean the area this week.

Meanwhile, state investigators now say that there was an overflow during the refueling process on the port side of the Dubai Star that led to the spill, not a faulty valve as had originally been discussed. And, workers on the vessel and the refueling barge also say that by the time they realized there was overflow, they didn’t have time to put out a boom to contain the oil spill.

It’s worth pointing out that the spill happened around 6:30 a.m., before sunrise. And that much of the response came only after noon, an issue that state and federal investigators, as well as concerned members of the public, continue to discuss.

The party handling the Dubai Star oil spill, O’Briens Group, says it has spent $7.2 million to clean up the estimated 422 gallons of bunker fuel that was released during the incident.

About 30 birds died from the spill and 30 survived after being cleaned and treated.


Homes Going Up by Grand Marina

Despite the cool mood of the housing market, the Warmington Group of Costa Mesa, Calif., is proceeding with its Grand Marina development.

Work is moving along on the new homes as part of what the group calls Grand Marina Village.

The three-level homes being built in the area are each set to be between 2,150 and 2,375 square feet in size, according to the company — which says the development could be finished in March 2010.

They will be priced from $600,000 to the “low $1-millions.”

(Warmington has a 76-unit townhouse project, Vantage, in Palo Alto that became “the Bay Area’s largest solar powered development” in 2008, the company says.) 

It will be interesting to see if the project finishes on time, especially since we are set to have a rainy winter, and to see how quickly the units sell.

We’ll check back in with other Grand Marina tenants as the units pop up to see what their projections are, and how “green” these homes turn out.

According to the Grand Marina Harbormaster, with the resumption of the development, some parts of the marina’s parking lot may be closed at times. So boaters should check signs in the area carefully.


Turkeys Needed in Town

The community is in need, according to the hard-working folks at the Alameda Food Bank. Fortunately, folks like members of the Alameda Soccer Hooligans have responded.

They collected more than 20 frozen turkeys and other food items on Sunday, November 15, and they plan to keep collecting.

Over the past two years, demand at the Alameda Food Bank has grown from about 3,000 individuals to 5,000 today. And the bad economy means that as people run out of unemployment benefits, the need for food will continue to rise.

But there’s something you can do – pitch in.  If you can stop by a department store, pick up a frozen turkey and some canned goods.  Then head over to the food bank, which is at 1900 Thau Way, off Eagle Avenue, on the West End.

On Tuesday, November 17, for instance, Lucky Supermarket on Marina Village Parkway had frozen turkeys for about $25 each. They also had bags of non-perishable items for $10 and $20.

When this blogger bought a couple birds, the Lucky staff gave me a gift card to say thanks.

That’s the spirit!

The best times to drop food off are between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, November 20 or Monday, November 23; from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, November 21; and from 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 24.

Paul Russell, director of the food bank, says donations are much appreciated after Thanksgiving, too.


South Crown Beach Inspected, Still Closed

The southern sections of Crown Memorial State Beach remain closed due to environmental damage and hazards from the October 30 oil spill in San Francisco Bay.

Northern sections of the beach reopened on Saturday, November 14, between Crab Cove and Westline Drive.

However, according to the East Bay Regional Parks District, the inspectors found many medium-size tar patties, roughly the size of a quarter to half dollar and large pancake-size ones, too, on Tuesday, November 17.  Thus, the cleanup will continue for the rest of this week and through the weekend.

The good news, according to the park district, is that 2.5 pounds of debris were collected on Monday, November 16, whereas 20 pounds were picked up on Friday, November 13.

A fishing ban is in effect from the northern tip of Alameda Point to the southern tip of Harbor Bay, excluding the San Leandro Channel.


Many Hi-5s to Dance for a Cure Supporters

This was the scene Saturday night at Eagles Hall.

A crowd of 400 Alameda residents and other supporters in the fight against breast cancer showed up to dance, dine and join in the silent auction as part of the Dance for a Cure event.

DJ Alex Mejia and others kept the crowd hopping.

“It was great to see so many people come out and support us!” said Millie Luz, one of the event organizers.

The group expects to have raised at least $10,000 when all the numbers are tallied.

The effort that led to this successful event, of course, was huge. Just check out a partial list of contributors.

And while Luz says she and others are looking forward to future events, they need a bit of time to recuperate and evaluate how it all came together and turned out.

Such a break, needless to say, is well deserved.


Out and About: Encinal’s Jack Frost Series

If you’re like me, you may have wondered what sailboat racing on the San Francisco Bay is like.

Well, after getting a spot on a boat, I participated in the first of this season’s Jack Frost Series of sailboat races– hosted by Alameda’s Encinal Yacht Club this Saturday. It turned out to be quite an action-packed experience.

The races start about half a mile west of the end of the Berkeley Pier. They are short-course races that last about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the conditions of the waves, water, wind, weather and crew. During the races, groups of about 10-12 boats take several laps around a series of markers.

Members of the Encinal Yacht Club staff the race committee boat, and they have to signal the start of each race, track the boats around the marks and monitor the finish.  The boats are grouped in fleets by boat model, which generally means that boats of similar lengths and types race against each other.   

I was in the D group, or the fourth group, of boats to sail.

You learn a lot about sailing tactics, maneuvers and sportsmanship through racing. You also get a understanding of yourself, why you like to be out on the water and what you are able — and less able to do — when working as a team member focused on moving a boat as quickly as possible around a course.

And you gain a lot of respect for the efforts of groups like Encincal Yacht Club and what it takes to put on a race, namely lots of planning and other logistical work. In addition, you better appreciate the bay for the crazy mix of micro-climates and conditions that it has to offer sailors.

Finally, you wonder if you’ve pushed yourself enough during such an experience, and when — with your freshly bruised limbs (and/or ego) — you might be up for another nautical competition.

For those who are interested, future races in Encinal’ s Jack Frost Series are scheduled for next year on January 23, February 27 and March 27.

Note: Photo courtesy of http://www.norcalsailing.com 2009.


Early Edition Hi-5, GMC Ad Filmed in Alameda

It’s been a high-profile day for Alamedans.

At 6:30 a.m., Channel 5, the Bay Area’s CBS affiliate, filmed part of its Early Edition by helicopter over Alameda Avenue.

Supporters of tomorrow’s breast cancer fundraiser, Dance for a Cure, formed a pink ribbon and gave the Bay Area a “hi five,” waving pink ballons and reminding the community to come out tomorrow from 5 p.m. to midnight at Eagles Hall.

“They’re going nuts waving!” said one of the broadcasters. “See how creative our Hi Fives are — they are jumping up and down!”

“The tickets are really selling out,” said DJ Alex Mejia, an Alameda native. “We should have at least 400 people.”

Around the corner on Central Avenue, the area around the Alameda Theatre was closed off by police so that GMC could film a commercial for one of its new SUVs.

Watch out for those cameras and film crews as you move around town!


Pre-Party: Dance For a Cure


Dance for a Cure, the breast cancer benefit set for 5 p.m.-midnight on Saturday, November 14, at Eagles Hall in Alameda drew a fun crowd Thursday night to the Churchward Pub on Park Street for its pre-event party.

The venue, which used to house the Pop Inn bar, came alive with DJs — several of whom will play Saturday night at the benefit, like Alex Mejia (see lower photo).

Stunna Vodka donated several bottles of its ultra-premium liqueur for Thursday and Saturday night.

“The organizers of Dance for a Cure are really onto something good,” said Tinnikie Bryant, a Stunna Vodka distributor from Fairfield. “We are glad to be a part of it!”

Bryant and distributor J. B. Burrell came to Alameda Thursday to introduce Islanders to the liquer and to support the cause. (See top photo holding a bottle of the drink.)

“It’s so nice of them to do this,” said Millie Luz, one of the Dance for a Cure organizers (shown above, in the top photo on the left).

Also at the event was Silvano Hernandez of La Pinata, who has been very supportive of the upcoming Dance for a Cure event. “They have worked so hard to bring this together,” he said.


Sunday: Catch Film on Afghanistan

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 15, Alameda residents and other Bay Area community members are invited to see “Rethink Afghanistan” at Auctions by the Bay Theater, 2700 Saratoga Street, on Alameda Point.

The director of “Rethink Afghanistan” is Robert Greenwald.

Following the screening, Norman Solomon, director of the Institute for Public Accuracy — who just returned from Afghanistan — and is an Afghan War member of Iraqi Veterans Against the War will comment  on the film, respond to questions and lead a discussion about what we can do to change the current U.S. course on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Tickets are $9-$25 and can be bought online. 

The event is being held to benefit Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice (LC4PJ), United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ) and CODEPINK.

For more details, call 510-263-5303 or 415-863-3771.

Also note that this screening will be held one day after a free talk on U.S.-Iranian relations set for 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, at the Alameda Free Library. The speaker is Michael Veiluva, general counsel of the Western States Legan Foundation and author of “Burdens of Proof: Iran, the United States and Nuclear Weapons — A Global View.”