Geico ad banner falls from plane, damages Fremont home gazebo

No such thing as bad publicity, right? Right?!

FREMONT — In 15 minutes, you could … accidentally stir up a lot of chaos in a sleepy neighborhood.

An advertising banner touting Geico insurance fell from a plane towing it Monday afternoon and subsequently blanketed a home, struck a set of power lines and damaged a gazebo in the city’s Centerville neighborhood, police said.

At 4:36 p.m., a resident on Castanos Street called to report that a massive banner had fallen from the sky and landed on a neighbor’s home on Jacinto Drive, police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said.

Arriving police and fire crews found a 45-foot-by-90-foot banner covering the house and also laying across a set of PG&E power lines.

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Fremont attic’s $50,000 ‘mystery’ painting

FREMONT — A lucrative piece of art history and a whiff of mystery apparently have been hiding for years in the Patterson House attic, where staffers recently discovered a nearly 90-year-old painting by a famous New York artist.

The portrait of a Patterson family in-law has been appraised at up to $50,000, said Christie Dentry, manager of the Patterson House.

The historic home is part of Ardenwood Historic Farm, a 205-acre Fremont park.

“We call it ‘The Mystery Painting,’” Dentry said. “At first, we didn’t know who was in the portrait, or who painted it.”

Dentry’s staffers soon found on the painting the signature of John Koch, an artist known for capturing New York City’s social scene in the mid-20th century.

But that raised more questions: How did one of Koch’s earliest known paintings end up 3,000 miles from the artist’s Manhattan home? And how is it connected to Fremont’s Patterson House, a 16-room Victorian-era mansion originally owned by 19th-century gold-miner-turned-farmer, George Washington Patterson?

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Fremont historic home might be saved, as Newark school house might be demolished

A year after three historic Newark and Fremont homes were put on sale for a dollar, a buyer has stepped forward to save one, as the others seem headed for demolition.

The Brown House, a two-story, three-room farm house built circa 1850, might be spared by a Southern California event planner who restores aged homes as a hobby.

Tom Gandolfo said he plans to move and restore the historic building, and display it for educational and historical purposes.

“I’m interested in the pioneering spirit of Americans moving West, working their way through the wilderness,” Gandolfo said. “It’s a very romantic notion and I’m driven by that.”

The two structures running out of time are Mowry’s Landing School, a one-room school house built in 1884 and later converted to a residence, and the Bettencourt House, a 19th-century home built in what is now Fremont.

The three buildings were moved 30 years ago to the Ardenwood Historic Farm Regional Preserve, but rising renovation estimates doomed the park district’s plan to convert them into a history exhibit.

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Fremont’s Innovation Center coming into view in Warm Springs

FREMONT — The shell of the Warm Springs-South Fremont BART station has made conspicuous progress in recent months, slowly rising above a dusty field northeast of the Tesla factory.

That small step in the city’s complex Warm Springs development signifies something big: Fremont’s dream of creating an 850-acre Innovation Center is slowly becoming reality, after years of planning and negotiating among a daunting set of moving pieces.

“It’s so unique in the Bay Area to have a wealth of land to develop in a thoughtful way in proximity to BART,” said Kelly Kline, Fremont’s economic development director. “A project like this ensures our economic future by creating opportunities for a major employment center around transit.”

That vision has been focused in the city’s Warm Springs/South Fremont Community Plan, which council members will consider Tuesday night.

The plan envisions adding up to 4,000 housing units, 12,000 jobs, shopping and entertainment, restaurants, hotel and convention facilities, and parks and open space to an area anchored by Tesla and the new BART station. It also will offer office space tailored for biotech and solar-energy companies that already have clustered in the Warm Springs district, on Fremont’s southern edge.

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Fremont: Water district drought surcharge adopted

FREMONT — Starting this week, the Tri-City-area’s heaviest water users will pay more.

The Alameda County Water District has adopted a surcharge on bills customers pay every other month to fill a $15 million budget gap that agency leaders blame on the drought.

Residents of single-family homes now will fall into one of three separate rate structures for each two-month billing cycle based on a water unit of 748 gallons:

  • Use of 0-16 water units: zero surcharge.
  • Use of 16-30 water units: surcharge of $1.48 per unit.
  • Use of 31 or more water units: surcharge of $2 per unit.

A flat surcharge of 46 cents, regardless of water use, will be applied to residents in apartments and other multifamily residences, businesses, schools and government agencies.

The water district’s board of directors approved the drought surcharge last Thursday.

It took effect Monday, agency spokesman Frank Jahn said.


Fremont: Nightly road closure this week on S. Grimmer Blvd

FREMONT — Part of South Grimmer Boulevard will close on four consecutive nights this week for construction on the BART Warm Springs Extension Project.

From 10 p.m.-5 a.m., Tuesday-Friday, crews will build guard rails on the BART track overpass on the roadway, between Osgood Road and Fremont Boulevard.

The construction will take place near the Warm Springs/South Fremont BART station, which is scheduled to open at the end of next year.

For more information, call 510-413-2060 or email bartwarmspringsextension@bart.gov.


Fremont city manager, council receive pay raises

Fremont city officials receive salary raises City Manager Fred Diaz and Fremont’s five council members have received salary raises.

The City Council earlier this week approved a 2 percent cost-of-living hike for Diaz, a Fremont employee since 2004. The raise matches the cost-of-living increases that took effect for most Fremont employees this month.

The $5,000 bump will push Diaz’s annual salary to $265,345. The city manager’s five-year contract runs until July 2018. The City Council also gave itself a raise. A 4-1 vote — with Councilman Raj Salwan dissenting — boosted council members’ annual salary by 40 percent.

Mayor Bill Harrison’s monthly salary rose to $3,095. The other four council members’ monthly pay now is $1,970. The council’s July 8 decision takes effect in December. It was the City Council’s first salary increase since 2002.

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Water District board to vote on drought surcharge

ACWD Meeting Thursday Night

If you go
What: Alameda County Water District public hearing on surcharge to offset drought-related budget gaps
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: District office, 43885 S. Grimmer Blvd., Fremont
Information: 510-668-4200 or www.acwd.org

FREMONT — After 12 consecutive years of rate increases, water district directors will meet Thursday to consider another hike for customers, including extra penalties for heavy water users.

The agency has proposed a surcharge on bills customers pay every other month to fill a $15 million budget gap that Alameda County Water District leaders blame on the drought.

The shortfall stems from revenue streams that began to dry up after district leaders asked its 336,000 customers in Fremont, Union City and Newark to reduce water use by 20 percent.

They were trying to stretch water supplies that dwindled as the state last year recorded its driest year on record.

In March, the board also declared an emergency water shortage and put mandatory limits on landscape irrigation.

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Union City puts sales tax measure on November ballot

UNION CITY — Residents this fall will be asked to renew a four-year-old sales tax that pays for city services.

The half-cent sales tax, which Union City voters passed in 2010, will expire April 1 next year unless voters pass the extension, City Manager Larry Cheeves said.

The tax generates nearly $4.5 million each year and helps pay for police, firefighters, street maintenance and other essential services.

The five-member City Council last Tuesday put the measure on the November ballot.

It would need the support of 50 percent plus one of those voting to pass. At least 62 percent of Union City voters likely would approve the extension, according to a telephone survey three months ago. Voter support rose to 70 percent when those surveyed were informed that the money would be spent on public safety and other essential city services, consultants said.

Union City’s current total sales tax is 9.5 percent, city leaders said.


Fremont moves to create new downtown’s ‘Main Street’

FREMONT — As a contractor prepares work on lengthening the downtown’s key roadway to a vibrant downtown, city leaders have announced plans to celebrate its groundbreaking.

The city will pay Goodfellow Top Grade Construction nearly $6 million to extend Capitol Avenue, which Fremont leaders envision as the new downtown’s “Main Street.”

Meantime, Fremont is finalizing details on using eminent domain to acquire a commercial building that must be torn down to make way for the project, city leaders said.

“The case is still chugging along, and we expect to have possession of the building later this month,” said City Attorney Harvey Levine.

The street extension will begin in August and is expected to be done next spring, said Fremont City Engineer Norm Hughes.

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