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San Leandro: Home-buyers seminar June 14

SAN LEANDRO — A free seminar for first-time home-buyers is planned for Saturday, June 14.

The workshops will cover how to prepare to be a homeowner, how to purchase and finance a home, strategies for today’s market, and services available to first-time home-buyers.

The seminar is being held by the city and the Bay Area Home Buyer Agency, a non-profit regional joint powers authority. It takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Titan Room at Marina Community Center, 15301 Wicks Blvd.

Reservations are required; go to www.myhomegateway.com or call 888-572-1222, extension 101.

 

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Hayward open house to share vision for city’s future

HAYWARD — People’s eyes often glaze over when hearing the words “general plan,” but if you ask them what they want their city to look like in 25 years, most have suggestions.

Over the past 18 months, Hayward has been asking its residents the vision thing, and on Saturday, March 8, the staff will host an open house from 9 a.m. to noon to share the results.

The general plan often has been called a blueprint for future growth and development, though some question how people now can anticipate what the future may bring. Still, the overall direction helps the city make day-to-day decisions.

To get to the draft 2040 General Plan (named for the year it will expire?), city staffers held public workshops and Planning Commission and City Council study sessions. The liveliest discussion has been at the online community forum, www.Hayward2040.org, though it appears city planners may have tried to make the site dull while at the same time not checking their spelling. From the site: “What are your comments related to the enviornmental analysis for the draft General Plan?”

Now, you may be asking why you should get up early on Saturday and make yourself presentable. Seriously, this is something that affects all Hayward residents. At the open house, you’ll find a series of stations for the topics covered in the plan and that oh-so-popular EIR (that’s government-speak for environmental impact report, which is a boring way of saying that if a project could harm the environment, you’d better spell out what you’re going to do to make sure that doesn’t happen).

City staff members and consultants who worked on the general plan will be at the open house to answer questions. Overview presentations are planned every 45 minutes. It’s a drop-in event, so feel free to wander over from the Saturday farmers market any time during the three-hour event.

For those who don’t know, Hayward City Hall is at 777 B St.

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Downtown Hayward comings and goings

This week’s City Council meeting includes a presentation from the Cal Poly Technical students who have been working with the city to bring some fresh ideas to rejuvenate the downtown plan, some of which dates back to the ’70s. The students have a website soliciting input from the community; you have until March 20 to weigh in. Take a look at some of the ideas that are being floated over there and if you weigh in, cut and paste it over here for the HayWorders.  And the city also has a page dedicated to the downtown plan update with a lot of information.

Buffalo Bill's Brewery, which has been around since 1983, is one of downtown's success stories and owner Geoff Harries recently told city officials that business is better than ever these days. Here, manager Alex Caldeira doles out the good stuff. (Photo by Doug Duran/Staff)

Figured I’d use this as an opportunity for an update blog and clean out my notes of recently collected downtown stuff.

Here’s a story about a new owner taking over the Cinema Place property, which a lot of people are excited about. Here’s one about the ongoing roadwork in the area — the job is about halfway done and that controversial loop of streets is set for completion at the tail end of the project, about a year from now.

Recent downtown closures, openings and odds and ends:

Garry’s Donuts, the little shop kitty corner to the Bistro, closed after more than 20 years. A number of people cited an increase in rent as the reason. There used to be an older fella who enjoyed sitting outside the donut shop on warm afternoons — haven’t seen him since it closed.

Crepes de Art shut its doors on Foothill, and one of the sisters that opened it back 2009 said they’re still making crepes but on a catering basis only, without a storefront. The yogurt shop next door has been gone for a while, more recently Zuckersuss vacated its Cinema Place space, although you can still see a white baby grand piano inside. Foothill also took a hit with the closure of Montero’s Market, the big Mexican supermarket and taqueria.

The BBB Salon on B Street  held a blow-out sale a few weeks ago before also closing, building owner managed the shop and she said she simply doesn’t have time to spend running a clothing boutique that wasn’t making money. She added that the city is “too strict” in what uses they allow for downtown space, and said she could have rented it out to a popular S.F.-based boxing gym if the city had been receptive to such a use. “You have to accept whatever type of business wants to open,” Hong Do said. “After a while, once you have foot traffic, then you can pick the businesses that come in.”

Leather Odyssey also put up a clearance sign, but  is sticking around, although owner Glenn Marciel said it’s “really sluggish” right now and he’s in “survival mode.” He said the owners of the Odd Fellows building he’s in gave him a pretty good break on the rent and that’s the only reason he’s getting by.

Now some good stuff: We had a story on Vintage Alley and its friendly owners, and new burrito joint Avocado Freddy’s recently set up shop the old KFC building at that tricky E/Foothill/Mission intersection. Story on the Hayward Area Historical Society, which is well on the way to opening up their new space in the former Kumbala building, and have rented 6,000 square feet of space to a health services company. Turns out that was the spot that Big 5 Sporting Goods was eyeing a while ago, which fell through.

There’s a restaurant going in at the old Smith building on B Street, called KUPE Studio. It will be African-themed fare, with a bar. As you can see on the website, owner Richmond Apande originally wanted to open a spot with music, entertainment and dancing, but said he got in a “back and forth” with the city over his business and security plan and eliminated that part of KUPE. Now things are going smoother, he said, and he hopes to have it open in the next few months.

Also new on B: California Acupuncture Center and Herbal Shop. Around the corner on Main, the former Main Street Diner is now Bombay Masala Cafe, noticed a opening special of three beers for $10 so they might be aiming for the same college crowd that was attracted by the previous incarnation’s nightly specials.

That’s it for this round. Anyone see something else appear or disappear?

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Greg Jones: Keep gang injunctions as priority

Former City Manager Greg Jones checked in with a letter to the editor, related to the City Council setting priorities for the coming year. Jones is concerned about diluting the core goals with the addition of “Green,” which was done last year, and a lack of interest in pursuing gang injunctions,  a hot topic at the Council priority-setting meeting in January. Here’s his letter:

To The Editor:

The Hayward City Council has been reviewing their priorities for 2012. I applaud their continuing efforts to ensure the focus remains on the right things, a process I began back in late 2007 when I arrived at the City. We built a strong, clear framework for how the resources of the City are allocated to service delivery.

Unfortunately, two things (among others) have occurred to weaken that clarity first established almost five years ago:

1. The two overriding priorities of Public Safety and Cleaning Up Hayward have been diluted by the addition of a third overriding priority of “greening” Hayward. This has distracted the organization from the core services that first have to be delivered above all others. Conservation efforts have always been emphasized at the City through a number of actions and policies, but serve as a support of the other two priorities. Each of us has a personal responsibility to assist in meeting environmental challenges to be sure, and local policies enhancing that ability should be carefully considered. I want my elected Council to stay focused on the most concerning and immediate of issues: Safety and Cleanliness!

2. The Gang Injunction Program, a priority articulated when I arrived that has languished for the past four years, has lost Council support. Interestingly, it is members of Council running for reelection that shrank from their commitment to continue to strengthen our public safety efforts. Olden Henson is the lone supporter of the Gang Injunction Program running for reelection. Mayor Sweeney and Council member Marvin Peixoto also support forging ahead with the effort. The others have gone eerily silent in supporting this important policy decision. A number of very effective initiatives have been implemented, but the Gang Injunction Program is a crucial element of a comprehensive strategy for curbing crime.

The community supported Measure A, the Utility User’s Tax, to maintain public safety and to clean up Hayward. We need a Council that will stay true to that commitment. We certainly have NOT reached our goal of a “safer” Hayward nor have we “cleaned up” Hayward to the point we can move on to other issues that could be considered as important.

Let your City Council know you want them to stay the course. Let’s getHayward safe and clean before we start distracting ourselves with other less specific and measurable endeavors.

Greg Jones

Former City Manager, City ofHayward

City of Hayward Resident

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Share your ideas for downtown Hayward at meeting tomorrow

The public’s input is being sought at a meeting tomorrow as the city aims to update its plan for downtown Hayward. Here’s today’s story, here’s the flier for the event and here’s the staff report from the Oct. 25 meeting when the idea was brought up to council.

One point that was omitted from the story because of space constraints is the downtown’s absentee landlords. Both the mayor and Councilman Marvin Peixoto said the city needs to do something to address the owners of buildings who seem to be uninterested in finding tenants.

“The worst gateway is the west side of Foothill, from Hazel on up,” Peixoto said. “Those people need to be contacted. They live outside the city and are not looking to put capital improvements into their projects.”

Mayor Mike Sweeney said some property owners “seem clueless about their business.”

“I don’t understand the strategy of why keeping buildings vacant for years on end, asking unreasonable rates from tenants, how that’s good for business,” he said. “Maybe we need to do mental health clinics for the owners there to bring them into the real financial world.”

Sweeney also cautioned that the loop of one way streets currently under construction in the area could prove to be a pitfall for some downtown ideas.

“If part of the vision for downtown is to make it walkable, I don’t see how it will help,” he said. “Especially Mission Boulevard, how is having five lanes of traffic going to help make downtown more walkable?”

Sweeney,  Olden Henson and then-councilwoman Anna May opposed the loop the last time it came up, in early 2009, when they wanted to revisit the idea. They were outvoted by the rest of the council.

The man and his magical musical machine

Final note: While lauding Buffalo Bill’s, Peixoto talked about how such family-friendly venues make great tenants and pointed at the late great Ye Olde Pizza Joynt (which technically sat on county property) as another example of such a venue. Brought back fond memories — I loved that place when I was a kid, especially when organist Don Thompson would bring the house down with the theme from Star Wars. Good pizza, too.  Place closed years ago after a fire, but there appears to be something in the works there these days and a source who inquired a crew there told me they’re putting in some kind of chicken restaurant.

Anyway, if you have some thoughts on downtown, would love to read them in the comments.

 

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Council: Let those in Bunker Hill-ville buy in

Blue lots are those the city recommends be offered to current residents.

Blue lots are those the city recommends be offered to current residents.

Residents of Bunker Hill, the area above Central Boulevard and below the CSUEB campus that was once slated to become a freeway, have been petitioning to be allowed to buy the houses they live in ever since the freeway plan derailed. The City Council on Tuesday agreed to support that sentiment, and will be sending such a recommendation along to Caltrans, which owns the property.

The homes would be offered at a market value to current residents only. If the person who lives there now is not interested, the home will not be offered up to others in the area. Based on interest shown by tenants, the city mapped out 17 properties they’d like to see offered up, some with additional assessments to pay for extra infrastructure such as sewer lines and roads to improve the area.

“(Residents) are tied to the neighborhood, and they’ve improved their homes when Caltrans did not,” said Steve Ronfeldt of the Public Interest Law Project. “These are responsible tenants.”

One of those tenants, Debbie Frederick, has been vocal throughout the Caltrans land disbursement process. She was at the meeting to thank the city for working with them, and to give the neighborhood a “human face.”

“Twenty-two years ago this September when I moved in, I was making $6 an hour as bookstore clerk,” she said. “Having the stability of the home environment I created there, and the nourishment of the neighborhood, I was able to move on with my life, and get a nursing degree… I now work at a local hospital, and go to a local church.”

She said she’s had “countless Christmas and Easter dinners” at her home, and added she’s not alone in her love for the neighborhood.

“The tenants have persisted in this … and we are motivated to make it the neighborhood our city envisions,” she said.

In 2009, Caltrans announced that most of the properties it purchased decades ago would be made available to current residents. The Bunker Hill and Maitland Drive lots were left in limbo, and in spring, Caltrans announced that it would be most viable to sell the land in bulk to one developer, which could better facilitate making the needed improvements in the area.

Under the recommendation made Tuesday, the remainder of the land, which as shown in the map above constitutes the majority of the area, would be made available for purchase to a master developer.

Find more information on the city’s Route 238 page.

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Water rates, Burbank homes, Bunker Hill on tap tomorrow

hetchhetchyview

Who wouldn't want to drink this water?

UPDATE: Here’s the story on the approval of the rate hike.

City officials love Hayward’s water. It’s from the scenic Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park, the same water that is piped to San Francisco. Some businesses have even located themselves in Hayward to take advantage of the superior water, officials say, and Hayward has been buying the precious commodity from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission since the 1960s.

Unfortunately, upkeep of the pipeline has been lax, and there are seismic improvements that need to be done. All told, it’s going to cost more than $4 billion, and those who buy water from the utility need to pay their share. Hayward’s share is estimated at $200 million. So SFPUC has increased the water rate to the city, and the city in turn will discuss raising rates for water users at tomorrow’s meeting.

We had a story earlier this year on the damned-if-you-do fact that saving water results in higher prices, but Hayward officials said that effect is minimal compared with the cost of the upgrades and retrofit to the pipeline.

This could cost water-intensive businesses a lot of money.  Maybe we’ll see some concerned parties at the meeting.

Also on the agenda: The proposed 57-home development at the former site of Burbank Elementary School. It went before the council at a meeting last month, and while everyone liked the green features and were generally supportive, they want to talk more about undergrounding utilities along B Street, and who is going to pay for it.

And staff is recommending a resolution supporting Bunker Hill residents who want to buy the homes they’ve been renting from Caltrans, part of the aborted Route 238 bypass project.

Find the agenda and reports here.

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No grocery moratorium for Hayward

walmartletterUPDATE 5/9: Here’s the story, which came out over the weekend. Also, on Friday the city provided me the requested original Feb. 1 email from the union to Quirk regarding the matter, you can read it at right. The jist of it is that the union believes Wal-Mart is making a push to set up grocery stores in Hayward and the greater Bay Area. Here’s the union’s page on WalMart.

Just received word  that the proposed moratorium on Hayward supermarkets was shot down by the City Council at last night’s meeting, with Councilman Bill Quirk making the motion to oppose. I did not attend — had some furlough days lately, in case anyone was wondering about the lack of HayWord posts and diminished number of stories in recent weeks.

The video of the meeting has not been posted yet, but according to the City Clerk’s Office, staff was directed to go ahead with the study analyzing the effects of new groceries without imposing a moratorium. Here’s the staff report as well as letters from property owner, neighboring business, a union representative, the union’s lawyers, and lawyers for the property owner.

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Fresh and Easy supermarket coming to Fairway Park

fresheasyThe grocery chain announced that it will open the doors of a new market at the Fairway Park Shopping Center, on Mission Boulevard at Rousseau Street on April 27. Fairway Park residents have long said that their neighborhood needs just such an addition, and everyone’s invited to a five-day grand opening celebration. According to the Fresh & Easy map of East Bay locations, there’s also another one slated to pop up at A Street and Hesperian Boulevard. Find the press release after the jump.

Coincidentally, the Bay Area Newsgroup business editor was talking about Fresh & Easy in his column today, mainly about those self-service checkout counters that are popping up everywhere. Continue Reading

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Hayward committee says no to RECO

While Sustainability Committee members all like the idea of people greening up their homes, making them more energy efficient through added insulation, air leak studies and the like, they didn’t want to impose a Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance on homeowners at this time.

The matter will go before the City Council in May with a recommendation to make it a voluntary thing, coupling it to an education campaign to let people know what options and incentives are out there to help them retrofit their homes.

Note that the decision was not without a warning, from Commissioner Mendall and Mayor Sweeney, that residents should take advantage of those incentives and take it upon themselves to improve their homes before they are told they have to do it.

Sweeney said he “missed where if ducts are leaking, how if people are paying double their energy bill, how that’s good for a homeowner. I missed the explanation of how a green home hurts property values, and I heard a little bit of that philosophy out there in the room tonight.”

Meeting is available on video, which is unusual for Sustainability Committee meetings.