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Boat Burns at Alameda’s Fortman Marina

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A houseboat docked in Alameda’s Fortman Marina caught fire shortly after noon today, Wednesday, March 30.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze and found no one aboard the vessel.

The Alameda Journal/Bay Area News Group reported that the live-aboard boat is about 35 feet long. It was gutted by the blaze, according to Interim Alameda Fire Chief Mike Fisher.

A veteran sailor who witnessed the blaze, said that he heard no explosion before the fire started. Some “popping” noises were heard later, though.

The plume of smoke could be seen around Fortman Marina, nearby Grand Marina, Coast Guard Island and from the other side of the Oakland-Alameda Estuary.

No other boats or structures were affected by the fire.

The burnt houseboat was located close to a covered docking area. “If the boat had been in the covered area, instead of on the downwind side, then the blaze could have spread to other vessels and been much worse,” said the witness, who preferred to remain anonymous. “Fiberglass boats are very flammable.”

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(Contributed photos by James Fryer.)

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Alameda High 10th-Graders Focus on Lessons of the Holocaust

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Alameda High School is conducting Holocaust Studies Week on campus, according to Martin Gross of the school’s history department.

On Tuesday, March 29, students in the 10th grade watched “Schindler’s List,” the 1993 film about a German businessman saved the lives of more than 1,000 Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

And on Wednesday, March 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:45 pm, three survivors of the Holocaust will be speaking to sophomores on campus — in the Kaufman Auditorium, Little Theater and the Media Center.

As Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel and other victims of the Holocaust remind us, “To forget the actual victims is in fact to kill them a second time.”

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Bye-Bye, Alameda Donut Shop

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Dozens of Alameda residents visited Golden Pin Donuts on Park Street one last time on Saturday, March 26, the final day that the friendly shop was in business.

Owner Rahim Seyedin, a native of Iran, decided to retire after 26 years of running the store.

As customers lined up for the final batches of fresh donuts on Saturday, many stopped to shake Seyedin’s hand and thank him for his friendly, community-focused service.

When asked about the shop’s name, Seyedin said a friend suggested it and thought it was “lucky.” It refers,”you know, to a golden rolling pin” that a baker would use for making treats, he explained.

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The staff at the donut shop say a Chinese restaurant is set to occupy the space.

Hopefully, another donut shop or bakery (or two) can open soon on Park Street. With the the closing of Bonaire Bakery (several months ago) and now Golden Pin Donuts, those with a sweet tooth are out of luck in this section of town when it comes to a shop dedicated to such delicacies.

There is, of course, Feel Good Bakery (down near Buena Vista and Park), and a new sweet-treat shop has been set to open on Park Street near the Bank of America for several months — but hasn’t shown any signs of life lately.

Given its history and warm-hearted service, Golden Pin will certainly be missed by Alamedans and others.
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Bonta Hosts Alameda Town-Hall Meeting

Alameda City Councilman Rob Bonta, now serving as vice mayor of the city, is hosting a discussion and meeting with residents to exchange ideas regarding his first 100 days in office.

There will be a question and answer session as part of the forum.

Members of the public are invited to come to the meeting, which is set to take place from 6-8 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, March 25, at Cardinal Point at Mariner Square, 2431 Mariner Square Dr.

Light refreshments will be served, and Bonta asks that resident RSVP for the event, if possible, by sending an e-mail message to rob@robbonta.com.

Bonta says that he was a strong supporter of the recently passed school parcel tax, Measure A.

The city faces a number of significant challenges, including the need to fill top posts and come to grips with lawsuits filed by interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Terri Highsmith, who were placed on paid administrative leave in December.

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St. George Spirits’ Rupf Gains National Recognition

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St. George Spirits of Alameda Point has been attracting lots of national attention.

Its president, Jörg Rupf, was picked as a semi-finalist for a presitigious 2011 James Beard Foundation Award earlier this year. The honors are given annually to top chefs and others in the U.S. food and beverage industry.

Though he wasn’t picked as a finalist, Rupf was one of only 20 wine and spirits professionals to be selected as a semi-finalist.

He first come to the Bay Area in 1979 to do research at UC Berkeley on a post-doctoral grant sponsored by the German Government. His family has been brewing beer and distilling fruit brandies (eau de vie) for several generations in the Black Forest city of Freiburg.

Thanks to the quality of fresh local fruit and the absence of U.S. fruit brandy producers, Rupf gave up life as a judge and an academic to open up “America’s first eau de vie distillery and start the micro-distillery movement in this country,” according to the company’s website.

He set up St. George Spirits with assistant distiller Bill Mannshardt and later began working with Lance Winters, a former navy nuclear engineer and brewer.

In 2000, the two rolled out St. George Single Malt Whiskey, and two years later, they released the first batch of Hangar One Vodka.

The team moved into a hangar out on Alameda Point in May 2004.

The distillery and tasting room are open to the public from 12 to 7 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tours take place at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

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Future of Alameda’s Peet’s in Play

There is a lot of buzz going on about Peet’s Coffee & Tea, which has a large roasting plant on Bay Farm and may be in talks about a merger with Starbucks.

The San Francisco Chronicle and lots of other new sources are covering this.

Peet’s stock dropped last week, when it was left out of a deal involving sales of single-serving coffee . But with the recent Starbucks-related rumors, its stock is “in play” again and rising.

A merger with Starbucks could certainly affect Peet’s operations, begging the questions: Would Peet’s keep the Alameda plant open after a deal? Would it keep its Park Street retail presence going in town?

Starbucks sells about $11 billion in coffee and other items in a year vs. about $335 million for Peet’s.

Students at Alameda High School who are members of the DECA marketing club have to keep up with trends affecting the food & beverage industry, according to supervisor JoAna Sydow, and this developing local, national and global story about the java trade is certainly eye-opening and educational.

Sydow says some members of the student-marketing group are traveling to a national marketing contest in Orlando next month. DECA members sold treats to those riding the Harbor Bay Ferry on Thursday, March 17, to help pay for the April trip.

It will be interesting to see what happens first — an announcement from Starbucks or news from the youth marketing contest.

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Alameda Day-Care Family in Need after Blaze

Donations are now being accepted for the family of Marfa Lyons, whose child-care center and personal belongings were lost during a blaze last week in the 2400 block of Lincoln Avenue.

Neighbors ask community members to consider making a donation in the form of a gift card from Kohl’s, Target, Safeway or CVS. Such donations can be left at Cliff’s C-5 Volvo repair shop, across the street from the damaged day-care center, at 2429 Lincoln Avenue, .

Also, one elementary school in town and staff at Cliff’s are accepting donations of the following items: women’s clothes (size 24) and shoes (size 10.5), clothes in misses’ size 12 and 7.5 shoes, and clothes in girls’ size 8-10 and shoes (size 1Y-youth).

On a bright note, a group of teachers in Sacramento who read about the blaze online say they are going to send a monetary donation in soon.

Sadly, Lyons, family members and the kids had recently planted a nice garden in front of the day-care center and had re-done the back garden area.

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All Kids A-OK After Fire at Alameda Day-Care Center

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Staff and kids from Marva’s Happy Town child-care center in the 2400 block of Lincoln Avenue are all safe and sound after a blaze led to center’s evacuation at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 10.

Seven kids, including one infant, had their afternoon naps interrupted, shared Marva Lyons.

“It’s a good thing we had fire drills!” she said. “It sure helped. Some of the kids were in a deep sleep. But they started running to get their shoes as soon as I woke them up.”

The children, most of whom are toddlers, waited patiently while firemen in five firetrucks arrived to put out the blaze, which started in the attic and spread quickly throughout the home, which houses the day-care center.

The kids spent a few minutes out on the sidewalk watching the action. Then, when the rain started, they moved into the living room of a nearby condo. Neighbors, including staff from Cliff’s Volvo shop across the street, shared blankets, crackers and other items with the kids, before their parents picked them up.

“We’re so grateful to everyone for their help,” Lyons said.

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Alamada Schools Celebrating Parcel-Tax Vote

The Alameda Education Foundation, a fund-raising group for special school programs and resources, is thanking the community for its passage of Measure A on March 8.

“By over a two-to-one margin, you showed your support for continued quality education in Alameda,” AEF said in a statement. “The fact that current economic conditions made this a difficult choice for many indicates our community’s willingness to sacrifice to ensure that Alameda students have the educational resources, programs and conditions they need for success.”

The Alameda Education Foundation says it especially wants to thank members of the business community that supported Measure A, which enjoyed more business support that the failed Measure E last year. “You, like us, realize that thriving schools are necessary for a strong community and a promising future for all of us,” AEF explained.

AEF also praised the Alameda SOS campaign committee for its “exceptional job of galvanizing the community to pass Measure A.”

According to the Alameda Country Registrar of Voters, the majority of Alamedans participated in the Measure A vote: 21,180 votes were counted, representing 50.9% of the Island’s 41,609 registered voters.

Some 14,200 ballots were sent in by mail, and about 7,000 ballots were filled out on election day at polling sites across town.

The “yes” votes totalled 14,342 — or 67.8% — and the “no” votes numbered 6,806, or 32.2%. The parcel-tax measure needed 66.6% or more votes to pass.

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Alameda’s Measure A, School Parcel Tax, Ahead in Latest Election

With about 18,800 votes counted, the pro-schools force appears to have won voter approval for the Measure A parcel tax. And the pro-Measure A campaign has been celebrating already at Tucker’s Ice Cream Shop on Park Street.

The current election results are: 12,861, or 68.43%, yes; 5,934, or 31.57%, no.

These results reflect votes cast by about 45% of the city’s eligible voters, which number roughly 41,600.

Parcel taxes in California must pass with 66.6% of the vote or more.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ website is calling these results “unofficial,” with more ballots (i.e., absentee or mail-in votes) expected to be counted soon.

Because the last parcel-tax measure, Measure E, failed by a small margin, the pro-schools alliance was very organized and focused in this recent campaign. Some residents supporting Measure A, for instance, tracked down each and every voter in their neighborhood to help ensure its passage.