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Folk art Christmas display pieces by El Cerrito’s Sundar Shadi were made from recycled materials

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A small exhibit at this year’s display shows how Mr. Shadi constructed the figures from recycled and repurposed materials.

The volunteers who set up and restore the beloved Sundar Shadi Christmas display on Moeser Lane in El Cerrito are offering a look at how the figures were made in a small exihibit.
It turns out Mr. Shadi, who fashioned and cared for the collection of homemade folk art figures and pieces for almost years, was what could now be considered a “green” or “eco artist,” making his pieces from recycled materials and items around his house.
Materials included scraps of wood, wire hangers, boxes, milk cartons and the like, said Dee Amaden, one of the volunteers with the Sundar Shadi Holiday Display group that now oversees the collection. “He made them out of found things,” she said, “and would repurpose them.”
Costumes for the human figures were made from oilcloth (water resistant) by Mr. Shadi’s wife, Dorothy, Amaden said.
A new addition to the display is a plywood figure of Mr. Shadi himself, as so many saw him when he was tending his garden or setting up the display.
The display, which has upgraded light and sound systems this year, is down the hill from Mr. Shadi’s home on the Arlington at Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive. It is illuminated nightly through Dec. 26.

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Angel figure originally made by Sundar Shadi and restored by El Cerrito artist Mark Canepa.

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Shepherd and sheep figures. Mr. Shadi experimented with different materials for the exterior shell of the sheep, including concrete. But he preferred plaster.

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Camels and the “Peace be with you” sign.

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Instructions for making a figure.

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Volunteers placing the figure of Mr. Shadi, the newest addition to the display.

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A 1985 article from Scouting magazine Boy’s Life shows one of the elaborate floral displays Mr. Shadi used to design and grow on his Arlington property.

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A 1980s shot of the buildings made by Mr. Shadi at their original location next to the family home on Arlington.

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Mr. Shadi as a young man. A native of India, he came to the United States and enrolled at UC Berkeley in 1921. Mr. Shadi died in 2002.

Time-lapse video by volunteer and El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford of this year’s display setup:

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Black Friday protest held at shellmound site in Emeryville

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While the day after Thanksgiving has again attracted bargain-seeking shoppers to Black Friday sales, it has also brought out protesters.
A group of at least 200 people representing different organizations and religious groups, as well as members of the Ohlone tribe, were at Bay Street Emeryville today.
The gathering was held to call attention to the fact that the shopping center stands on the site of one of the largest of the shellmounds that were once found on the East Bay shoreline from Oakland to Richmond. The mounds and contained the remains of native Americans who inhabited the area. The protest was held at the corner of Shellmound Street and Ohlone Way.
Most of the shellmound sites were leveled and developed long ago. The Emeryville mound was developed as a dance pavilion and amusement center more than 140 years ago and later was an industrial site, before the area was redeveloped with the shopping center.
Other Black Friday protests in the area included one at the Walmart at Hilltop Mall in Richmond.

“Pavement and buildings now mostly cover what used to be hundreds of shellmounds — gently rounded hills formed from accumulated layers of organic material deposited over generations by native coastal dwellers,” writes the Sacred Land Film Project. “Often the sites of burials and spiritual ceremonies, these shellmounds are still places for veneration. But preserving the remaining shellmounds has proven to be a contentious issue among developers, indigenous rights groups, preservationists, and local governments.”

The protest included remarks, chants and drumming, as well as signs calling for shoppers to boycott Black Friday sales.
The shopping center does include a small memorial site dedicated to the shellmound.

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A 1907 illustration by researchers showing known shellmound sites on the East Bay shoreline.

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Richmond home front: The return of sliced bread in 1943 was the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread

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A January 1943 ad for Kilpatrick’s Bread, in the familiar gingham wax paper wrapper, notes that it “is easy to slice.”

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A January 1943 Richmond Independent article on the changes coming to bread, including the end of pre-sliced loaves and orders that bread be enriched.

During World War II the federal government restricted, rationed or ceased production of numerous consumer goods for the duration. New cars and tires and large household appliances weren’t available at all. Staples such as gasoline, sugar and beef were rationed. It was all to allow the shifting of materials to war production and supplies for the military.
But maybe the most puzzling restriction of all was the short-lived ban on sliced bread, of all things, which had been around since the late 1920s. The ban was enacted in 1943 with the logic that more wax paper (bread didn’t come in plastic bags) was needed to keep sliced loaves fresh than whole loaves. There was also some stated rationale that more labor was needed to produce sliced bread and that whole loaves would help keep consumer costs down.
At the same time, bakers were ordered by the government to enrich white bread with the nutrients removed during the milling process, so that it would be as nutritious as whole wheat bread, in case you were wondering where that practice started.
Bakeries complied, but less than a month into the ban were asking that the restriction be lifted, contending that the slicing process was automated and therefore required no extra labor. They also offered the somewhat flimsy excuse that housewives would be forced to buy bread knives, which were made of metal, a critical war material.
The ban, enacted on Jan. 18, 1943, was rescinded less than two months later.

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Bakers on the West Coast lobbied the government to end the slice bread in Februrary 1943.

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Richmond: For National Comic Book Day, here’s the Henry J. Kaiser story told in comic book form

In honor of National Comic Book Day today, here is a four-page, World War II-era comic book story on the life of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser that concludes with his determination to build ships for the war effort. The Richmond shipyards of the home front era are part of the basis of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.

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Richmond: Adult literacy program celebrating 30 years on Sept. 21

LEAP, the Literacy For Every Adult Program in Richmond, has been serving the community for 30 years and will celebrate its successes at an anniversary event from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sept. 21 at its offices at 440 Civic Center Plaza, Suite 150 in Richmond.
The celebration will be an open house with “entertainment, raffle prizes, informational workshops and networking opportunities for all.” The community can meet LEAP volunteer tutors past and present, and learn about the success stories of those served by the free program, which is sponsored by the Richmond Public Library.

Below, courtesy of LEAP volunteer Paul Ehara, are examples of lives changed by the program:

If it hadn’t been for that moment 28 years ago when she snapped at her seven-year-old son for asking how to spell a word she didn’t know, maybe Mary Johnson wouldn’t be sitting now in her office at Contra Costa Community College as coordinator of its Cooperative Education program.

Mary vividly remembers that moment and her son Rodney’s reaction to her frustration. “The look in his eyes… he was confused, surprised more than scared. I’ll never forget it,” she said. At the time she was a single mother living in Richmond, California. “My son at age seven was reading and spelling better than I was,” she said. “I felt so badly that I couldn’t help him.”

Most of the adults in Mary’s early life didn’t anchor her childhood and could not always be counted on. And so she had vowed to be a permanent resource for Rodney. “Not being able to help him, it’s when I realized I needed to do something, if only so that he could have a better life,” Mary noted. Compelled by the desire to help her son, Mary set out to become a better reader. Only later would she come to understand that learning how to read and write proficiently would also be a gift to herself.

Shortly after the incident Mary watched a television public service announcement from the local library offering help with reading and writing skills. So she called the Richmond Public Library and the staff there referred her to the Literacy for Every Adult Program, or LEAP, where she received a skills assessment. Mary learned that her overall academic prowess was at a fifth/sixth grade level, and she had the reading and writing skills of a second grader.

How could this be? While Mary had in fact graduated from high school, she had known for years that she possessed beginning literacy skills. Years of moving and changing house-holds between Trenton, New Jersey, Jacksonville, Florida and California had exacted their toll. “I kept quiet in school and was obedient,” she recalled. “I picked up enough survival skills to get to the next grade level.” Mary memorized hundreds of words by sight and thus could read to herself, but she didn’t like reading aloud in front of others; she did so slowly and haltingly. It was an embarrassing and humiliating experience.

At LEAP Mary found help. She experienced the “Aha” moment that she wasn’t alone. “We were all low-level readers,” Mary recalled. “We were all scared, not wanting anybody to know we were there.

“LEAP was like a safe haven, so we could be ourselves and not be embarrassed or ashamed. We could let people know where we were at, and learn. We could support each other, and seeing others in the same situation took away the fear.” The stigma, if not removed, had been softened.

Enter Doris Lopez. A Richmond resident like Mary, living not far from the LEAP office, Doris had recently become a volunteer and had been assigned by LEAP staff to be Mary’s tutor. “This was the best match ever made,” said Mary. “Without Doris I wouldn’t be where I am now.” LEAP had just received a donation of two Apple computers, and the learning materials were being converted from printed materials to software. “But the main resource was the tutors,” said Mary. With help from Doris, Mary worked to improve her reading and writing skills.

“Mary was my first student at LEAP,” recalled Doris. She had just started volunteering, and she remembers noticing Mary’s penchant for African American history and culture. So one day she cut out an article in the Smithsonian magazine about the acclaimed painter Jacob Lawrence and brought it in for the two of them to read together. “Doris would bring in materials she knew I’d be interested in,” recalled Mary. “An article or something to read about Jacob Lawrence, or Othello, anything that tied back to African American or African history. I’d want to read it.” Then there was the time Mary wanted to throw a Kwanzaa celebration, and the two of them worked on the invitations together. Call it a practical writing exercise.

Doris said many times Mary would bring Rodney to the tutoring sessions because she had no other childcare option. For his part, Rodney remembered how many times—for months on end—that Doris would go out of her way to pick them up at their home and drive them to the Richmond Public Library where the tutoring sessions took place. “Eight or nine times out of ten, I’d be in the Children’s Library while my mom worked,” Rodney recalled. Here he spent the time reading books. “That’s where I learned to love books, to love reading,” he said. And if it got late and the library closed, he’d head over to the LEAP office and play learning games on one of the computers. After the tutoring session was over, Doris would then drive them back home.

Soon Doris and Rodney Ferguson, LEAP’s Learning Center evening manager at the time, both encouraged Mary to think about attending the local community college. With some trepidation, Mary would enroll at Contra Costa College and go on to earn her degree. The road was not without its washboard moments. During this time Doris continued to tutor Mary; every now and then Mary would call her, asking if they could get together so she could get some help with a paper she was working on. Thirty years later, they still keep in touch. “It’s been a great friendship,” said Doris. “I’ve been very impressed with her,” she added. “I always thought Mary was an intelligent person. To navigate in a world and not being able to read, you had to be very intelligent.”

Rodney looks back on his mother’s struggles with grace. If Mary’s beginning literacy skills prevented her from helping her son the way she wanted to, she did the next best thing. “I learned how to become self-reliant,” Rodney said, “because she taught me how to look stuff up on my own.”

# # #

§ After earning her associate degree at Contra Costa Community College, Mary Johnson went on to receive her B.A. in psychology at California State University, Hayward. In 1996, two months after graduating, she was hired by LEAP Director Isabel Emerson to be one of the organization’s Learner Coordinators, recruiting students and tutors until 2003. Mary would later earned her graduate degree in marriage and family counseling. She is currently the Cooperative Education Coordinator and an instructor at Contra Costa College, and also serves clients through her private practice.

§ Doris Lopez lives in Richmond and is a volunteer for Richmond Trees (www.richmondtrees.org), founded in 2011. To date Richmond Trees volunteers have planted over 300 trees throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

§ Rodney Wilson (Mary’s son), 35, is the father of a daughter and son who will turn seven and six, respectively, this month. He’s currently majoring in American Studies at UC Berkeley with a concentration in Race and Education. Rodney is applying to Ph.D. programs in sociology and plans to begin earning his doctorate degree in the fall of 2015.

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Richmond shipyards take over Tilden Regional Park on Labor Day in 1942

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Berkeley Daily Gazette warns of upcoming “invasion” of Tilden Regional Park by shipyard workers.

It would have been easy for officials of the World War II Kaiser shipyards in Richmond to take a pass on observing Labor Day in 1942. The massive operation was already operating around the clock producing cargo ships for the war effort and the deadlines that had to be met couldn’t stop to give the tens thousands of employees a day off.
But Kaiser did find a way to honor labor while continuing production on Sept. 7, 1942, and like everything else about the shipyards, it was immense in scale, possibly the largest company picnic ever held in the Bay Area. Confined by travel and gasoline restrictions in choosing a location for the celebration, shipyard officials rented the largest nearby public area available — Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley hills. The park at that point was 1,700 acres, and less than a decade old and parts of it were being used by the military, including aircraft spotting stations.

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A map directing shipyard workers to the Labor Day picnic at Tilden Park.

Initial estimates were that as many as 25,000 people — shipyard workers and their families — might attend the epic gathering, held from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. with certain portions repeated for the benefit of workers who arrived at different times during the day before or after their shipyard shift had ended.
Admission to the gathering, described by the Berkeley Daily Gazette as “One of the largest and gayest events Northern California has ever seen,” was free — provided employees had paid the $1 annual family dues to enroll in the Richmond Shipyards Athletic Association. The association — an early incarnation of what is known today as the Kaiser Permanente “thrive” philosophy — was a recreation program that hosted baseball and basketball leagues, golf tournaments, bowling leagues, dances (by far the most popular of the association’s offerings) and other events for shipyard families. As with the groundbreaking Kaiser medical plan, the philosophy was that recreational activities resulted in healthier, happier and more productive workers. The day was also justified as a morale-builder and a chance for families — a good many new to the Bay Area — to meet, socialize and feel less like strangers.
The director of the Richmond Shipyards Athletic Association, and chairman of the picnic, was no less a personality than Claude “Tiny” Thornhill, already well-known locally and nationally as the former head coach of the Stanford University football teams that went to the Rose Bowl from 1933-35.
The event was promoted to workers in issues of “Fore ‘n’ Aft,” the shipyard employee magazine, which headline one article “Everybody will be there” and opened another by claiming that

It will be colossal…
It will be stupendous …
It will be terrific …
It will be everything a dozen publicity men from a Hollywood motion picture studio could dream of in a moment of wild imagination.
What are we talking about? Why, the Richmond shipyards Labor Day picnic, of course.

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A preview of the picnic from the Berkeley Daily Gazette.

Maps showing how to get to the park were also published and Kaiser put up signs along the various routes.
Activities included swimming and diving in Lake Anza; golf on the Tilden course; various relay races categorized for men, women and children; band concerts and a vaudeville show featuring shipyard workers that repeated during the day; pickup baseball and softball games; boxing and wrestling; tug-of-war contests; horseshoes “and many other sports.” Not to mention picnicking and barbecues fired up at various sites around the park. Employees also had access to the Brazilian Room, where a dance was scheduled (now-familiar attractions such as the merry-go-round and steam trains were not yet part of the park).
“Lake Anza to be invaded” was the headline in the Berkeley Gazette, while the Oakland Tribune assured readers that “Holiday won’t interrupt work” at Bay Area defense industries. (Interestingly, the machinists union held its own all-day picnic for members at Eastshore Park — now Booker T. Anderson Park — in Richmond that day.)
Actual attendance at the picnic was estimated at 10,000, less than the original projections, but still a large company picnic by any standard.
The event was recounted the next week in “Fore ‘n’ Aft”:

“Gone but not forgotten is the story of the Labor Day picnic held by the Richmond Shipyards Athletic Association at Tilden Park.
Early in the morning excited and anxious crowds began to arrive in cars loaded down with shipyard workmen and their families — and huge baskets piled high with good things to eat.
By mid=afternoon it was estimated that at least ten thousand were present. Some were playing golf, softball and swimming; others were dancing at the Brazilian Pavilion; still others were engaged in various friendly games and contests or listening to a band concer. The rest were milling around having the time of their lives meeting old friends and making new ones.
Everyone who was there can truthfully say, “We sure had a swell time.”

(Our gratitude to the Richmond Museum of History and the East Bay Regional Park District for their assistance with this entry.)

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Preview of the event in the Oakland Tribune.

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Richmond Independent preview of the shipyard picnic.

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Coverage and photos of the event by the Oakland Post Enquirer, courtesy of the East Bay Regional Park District archives.

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More coverage and photos of the event by the Oakland Post Enquirer, courtesy of the East Bay Regional Park District archives.

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A Richmond union also hosted a picnic that day.

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Reporter’s notebook on Richmond free speech issues

At the July 15 Richmond City Council meeting, there was several hours of debate about how to reduce disruptions and virulent attacks from the public during meetings.

Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, who proposed the item asking the city attorney to craft new laws that might tamp down disruptions while protecting free speech, said, “I am a defender of free speech and the right to express obnocxious points of view … but when it leads to action it’s not protected.”

 

She made several other statements:

“Admittedly the lines are little fuzzy.”

“This is for staff to create legal options.”

“Also, disruptions lead to denial of rights to other citizens.”

“Regular insults and homophobic remarks, enabled by some councilmembers, discourage other residents from participating.”

“This chamber is so toxic and hostile you can feel it through the television set.”

“That’s a violation of their free speech. This is not about me.”

“I ask city attorney to work with chief of police for possible options.”

“Handling disruptions in chambers, the chronic and weekly disruptions that’s occurring.”

Councilman Corky Booze asked City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller:  ”Is this putting the city in harms way?”

Goodmiller: The courts decide. The federal courts almost always. Most of the teaching we get comes from 9th circuit. My view and is in a 7 page memo that sets out the Richmond ca views on this topic. It’s on the website.”

Booze: you said not an item we should deal with.

Goodmiller: no sir. It’s a memo legal regarding the topic suspension from the city council chamber for disrupting public meetings.

Booze: what could a resident say to get them suspended for 6 months?

Goodmiller: our memo specifically addresses that point, future attendance, and concludes it is not legally permissible (to suspend). We advise against that.

Booze: open forum. What are the guidelines to adhere to?

Goodmiller: open forum is a limited public forum. Can’t talk as long as they want. People need to speak about items within the city’s jurisdiction.

Booze: if they hurt my feelings, that is just tough stuff.

They can say what they want about us whether we like it or not right?

Goodmiller: yes.

Booze: f word to me is inappropriate, yes?

Goodmiller: that is not for me to say. The rules are silent on that particular point.

Booze: I rest my case.

Councilman Jael Myrick: so a vote in favor of this tonight just directs staff to investigate it more?

Beckles: correct.

Goodmiller: irrelevant attacks are out of order but the government has to be really careful about prohibiting those. The citizens have an absolute right to get up and criticize their public officials.

Goodmiller: if a speaker ignores the counci’ls out of order rulings and causing a disruption … with irrelevant speech disrupts, he or she may be removed …

Beckles: can they yell fire in this building?

Goodmiller. No. the two exceptions are yelling fire to endanger, and so called fighting words.

Bekcles: so the answer is no they can’t say what they want. Fighting words are intentionally directed … so venomous or full of malice. Incite retaliation. Not protected. Sounds to me like breach of peace by yelling fire and also to incite the hearer to want to retaliate.

Goodmiller: I certainly agree with the basic principles. The government woul have to prove the likelihood that the person addressed would immediately physically retaliate.

Myrick: what about protected classes? Harrasment, discrimination, is there any cases on that?

Goodmiller: have a first amendment right to hate speech. That is not prohibited. The city county or state can’t adopt a rule that says you can’t get up and say that in a meeting. Same with sexual harassment.

Booze: because you chose to be elected you have to take the attacks?

Goodmiller: I don’t take pleasure in saying this. But judges ruled that.
The courts have definitely agreed with that, the citizens, it’s the essence of democracy that citizens can come up and criticize their elected leaders.

Booze: tell me a fighting word?

Goodmiller: example from a case. Hey I wanna rip out your bleeping heart and feed it to you. I wanted to kill you. Pound your head in with an ice pick.
I feel like i’m back in law school. I graduated first in my class by the way.

Booze: was that an online study course?

Goodmiller: the point all the courts try to do is they have to be content neutral. Not the content, but the disruption.

Butt: 1942 case. I’ve heard a lot worse said in this council chamber than fascist and rackateer.

Mclaughlin: free speech have guarantees that people can say what they want but off topic is different.

Mayor: do not call people filth or dirt (pounds gavel stops resident)

resident Kenneth Davis: I’ve been called ignorant. You sit there. Lie on me. (talking to council).

resident Don Gosney: It’s the hostile reaction to protected speech that disrupts the meeting. Call me old fashioned but I still believe the people have a right to be part of the process of governing our community.

resident Bea Roberson: you think you’re queen but you’re not a judge.

Mayor ejects rev. davis for disruptions.

Mayoral candidate Mike Parker: the reality of the video shows that Beckles is minding her own business. Then (residents) yelling at her, harassed.

4th recess.

resident Dennis Dalton: the issue isn’t beckles, its whether we should have disruptions with meetings.

Butt: we definitely have work to do on this. I keep hearing about FA rights, but the city attorney’s memo shows that in fact there are multiple limitations to what people can say in this chamber.

Fighting words. We see all of this here.

Myrick: hateful comments have no place in the public square.

Booze: I can’t believe we’re putting this together.

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1948: PG&E proposes a giant natural gas storage tank for Albany Hill

Albany Hill before construction of the condominiums.

The opening of the Gateview Condominiums in Albany in 1977 have changed the look of the city’s namesake hill from Interstate 80.
A proposal almost 30 years earlier might have changed its appearance even more.
In May 1948, PG&E announced plans to build a $1.5 million natural gas storage tank in a residential zone at the northwest side of the hill, presumably about where the condos are now, that won approval from the Albany Planning Commission after a two-hour hearing attended by more than 200.
The Oakland Tribune at the time reported that the steel tank would hold 17 million cubic feet of gas and “would tower over Albany Hill.”
Supporters, including a former mayor, said the city could benefit from the tax revenue the installation bring. Alarmed residents of the area around the hill raised safety and aesthetic concerns and began a petition drive to bring the issue to voters.

“Walter Howell, Berkeley area manager for P.G. and E., told the hearing, that steel for the tank had already been ordered and the company “”will have to start from scratch” if they find an election will delay rezoning …”
“Backing its drive for the tank the company pointed out it would supply 15 to 20 per cent of the gas used in the East Bay and that the company has never had a tank burn.”

We wonder if the condominiums would have been proposed if the project had been realized.

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