Tacos by day, tequila by night

Saturday will present a pair of firsts in Hayward, neither of which is an official city event, both of which are fairly blatant publicity grabs, but they sound fun nonetheless.

First is the taco-eating contest at El Taquito in the early afternoon. Councilman Francisco Zermeno is entered in the competition, which involves scarfing down as many of the restaurant’s carne asada tacos as possible in 10 minutes.

And the evening brings the Hayward Tequila Festival, which does not include a drinking contest, and that’s a good thing. Price is kind of steep at $50, but those who fancy themselves a tequila connoisseur or would like to learn to be a tequila connoisseur will be well served by the scores of high-grade samples that come with the price.

Oh yeah, Zermeno’s going to be there, too.

“I’ve been toying with the idea (of a tequila festival) for years,” he said. “There’s only one other one in Northern California. It’s a great way to highlight the city.”

He said that while people will be able to sample up to 40 small doses of tequila, they will have plenty of food on hand “to make sure no one gets overly excited.” There will also be a mariachi band and a raffle for prizes.

So if you party with Zermeno this weekend, tell him the HayWord says “Hi!”


Missing the point on I-880?

Something has vanished along the Interstate 880 corridor. It used to serve as an unofficial road sign for southbound commuters — if you want to take 238 to 580, why, you’d better start moseying over to the right lanes.

According to the new tenants of 3199 Alvarado St. in San Leandro, they took down the landmark (albeit dilapidated) Levitz spike n’ sign about three weeks ago. It has been replaced with their own Dependable Logistics Services sign, which is about half as high as its predecessor. Dependable, a warehousing and trucking company, signed a 13-year-lease for the 260,000-square-foot space nearly a year ago.

Luke Sims, San Leandro’s director of community development, said current zoning would never allow for something as tall as the Levitz sign. He did acknowledge that it was an unusual piece of the skyline.

“The Levitz Needle,” he said. “Yeah, that was kind of a skewered, ’60s-looking thing.”

Dependable general manager Trevor Schirmer said the surrounding community had wanted the big sign taken down, and they were happy to oblige. It has been dismantled and scrapped.

“Now you can look at our sign and make it your landmark,” he said.

Photo is of the Levitz sign in happier discount furniture days, taken by Studio H on flikr one morning in 2005.



That ’70s BMX Show

With a new bicycle motocross track approved for a lot behind the San Lorenzo Adult School, local BMXers will soon have a place to play. Jon Moohey, who has been involved in the sport since the 1970s, was at Monday’s meeting and had fond memories of the old Depot Road course in Hayward. He was kind enough to send along some photos of the track and a flier — here they are:


Why did the chicken stand in the middle of the road?

UPDATE: The HARD board voted to oppose construction of the power plant at its Monday night meeting. They essentially said that it’s their job to act in the interest of the parks, and the plant would have a negative impact, at least visually, for people using the Hayward Regional Shoreline. “It’s our job to make sure that our assets are protected,” said boardmember Minane Jameson. “Tens of thousands of people use the shoreline and the interpretive center, and (the power plant) will hurt our business.” Jameson made the motion to oppose and was joined by Paul Hodges and Dennis Waespi. Carol Pereira and Lou Andrade were absent. We’ll have a story about the upcoming Sept. 2 meeting on the power plant later this week.

To protest the proposed Calpine Russell City Energy Center, of course.

At Thursday night’s downtown Hayward street party, a small group of demonstrators gathered in front of the Calpine booth. One was dressed as a chicken and carried a sign urging people to honk, but the road was closed to vehicle traffic so few could comply.

Calpine opponents plan on attending Monday’s HARD meeting, urging the park and rec district to oppose the power plant. And the next big deal is set for Sept. 2 at City Hall in Hayward, when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will hold a public hearing regarding issuing a permit for the plant.

The BAAQMD issued a draft permit earlier this summer.

Back to the street party. Thursday was the third of four such things, and there seemed to be more people than at the last one. It went off pretty smooth, police said, although there was a skirmish in the parking lot behind Buffalo Bill’s (also behind the Daily Review) after the party ended. There were reports it was a 15-on-1 fight, and at least one hysterical woman called police, but when they arrived the involved parties had scattered.

Here’s a few more pics from the festival:


Fraud case may bring Willie Brown to town

UPDATE: Organizers said about 200 people showed up. It was the third such demonstration at the courthouse. Here’s a couple of photos from the event, from staff photographer Jim Stevens. There was no sign of Willie Brown, at least not outside the courthouse.


Anyone near the Hayward Hall of Justice next Monday around 1 p.m. might notice more than the usual number of people outside, some with signs, possibly chanting. They’re demonstrators, in town for the third time for a court appearance by Monica Ung, owner of NBC Contractors, accused of bilking workers out of $3.6 million through paycheck fraud. She’s scheduled to enter a plea regarding the criminal charges.

She also may bring a Bay Area celebrity to town. She has reportedly hired Willie Brown as her defense attorney. Yep, former S.F. mayor Willie Brown.

In case you forgot Brown was once an attorney, an online biography helps jog the memory: “After earning a degree in political science, Willie Brown went to Hastings law school, where he was elected president of his class. There were few African American attorneys practicing in San Francisco at the time, and Brown made a name for himself in the community by taking on cases other attorneys would have dismissed as hopeless.”

If there’s a paper trail connected to the alleged fraud, this one could be pretty tough, too. Let’s see if Brown can work some silver-tongued magic in Hayward.


Baby Jane

Last Friday, County Supervisor Gail Steele, Lone Tree Cemetery general manager Thomas Gratny and Bobby Mattos of Bras & Mattos Monuments dedicated an engraved river rock to an unclaimed fetus that was found in Fremont on Dec. 7, 2007.

But without anyone noticing, the rock was engraved with the date 12/07/09!

Steele said Tuesday she is working to have the error corrected so that Baby Jane can be memorialized properly.

Read the article here.


Fake TV scam story hits a nerve, or a funny bone

Sometimes a story just won’t die. Take Jason Sweeney’s tale about the flat-screen television for sale that was really an oven door. It’s been reigning in the top five most viewed stories on the InsideBayArea Web site for more than a week, just falling to number six today. Perhaps it’s because it was picked up by technology and gadget blogs Gizmodo, Gear Diary and Slashgear as well as news aggregator Fark.com, but it still goes to show that people love a good quirky crime yarn.


Loma Prieta quake: Where were you?

We know you weren’t surfing the web when the ’89 quake hit. But what were you doing?

Our online production team has created a Loma Prieta Earthquake page in conjunction with the 20th anniversary. Check out the cool interactive map at www.contracostatimes.com/loma-prieta-earthquake or www.insidebayarea.com/loma-prieta-earthquake. Add a marker to show where you were and what you were doing at the time the quake struck.

The map is the first element on this page. Much more to come. Have fun posting and reading. And please share this link with others.