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Volunteers sought for Albany Hill work party on Saturday

Friends of Five Creeks sent this appeal:

Join Friends of Five Creeks and Friends of Albany Hill Saturday!
Sat., June 27, 9:30 am – 12:30 PM, F5C partners with Friends of Albany Hill to care for the wonderful urban wildland that reaches from creek to hilltop. Meet at El Cerrito’s Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Avenue (map here). Tools, gloves, water, and snacks provided.

All ages welcome — there’s a play structure for young kids at the park. If you want to work on the hill, wear long pants and long sleeves, due to poison oak.

You’ll have a choice of tasks — we need light work along the shady creek as well as work uphill removing invasive passion vine, that could smother the beautiful oaks!

No RSVP needed — just show up. Questions? Email f5creeks@gmail.com.

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El Cerrito dining and game events on Thursday will support annual Relay for Life fundraiser

panda

A pair of kickoff events for the upcoming Relay for Life in El Cerrito will be held on Thursday.

The Relay for Life team from Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is sponsoring a fundraiser from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. June 25 at the Panda Express at El Cerrito Plaza. Print and show the flier above and a “20% of your purchase (with flyer) will go toward Playland’s fundraising efforts to support the American Cancer Society.”

Organizers note that “It’s the perfect dinner for Playland’s After Dark evening from 6pm-10pm for Grown-Ups only ($10 per person)” that same evening at the amusement park tribute attraction at 10979 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito. Playland After Dark will feature board games, skee-ball, carnival games, arcade games and free play on more than 30 new and vintage pinball machines.

These and other events lead up to the annual Relay For Life of El Cerrito 24-hour walking fundraiser, set this year for 10 a.m. Aug. 1 to 10 a.m. Aug. 2 at Cerrito Vista Park, 950 Pomona Ave.

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El Cerrito squirrels have a long track record of causing East Bay power outages

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An El Cerrito squirrel pondering a power grab while on a PG&E utility pole in El Cerrito.

The electrical outage that hit the East Bay this week dominated locally focused folks on social media, particularly when a squirrel that got into the Schmidt Lane substation in El Cerrito was named by PG&E as the culprit.

Twitter buzzed with comments, snark and speculation on the rodent that left several cities and some 45,000 households in the dark.

India Today: Squirrel causes massive power outage in US: The squirrel entered the substation in El Cerrito caused the outage…

Gimme Sympathy ‏@weresoclose Squirrel assault shuts down East Bay: In a clandestine raid last night, squirrels shut down an El Cerrito, …

DarkandWondrous ‏@DarkandWondrous: several yrs ago I was in El Cerrito nr that substation—heard a SSSZZT as a squirrel became circuit&power cut

Chris Preimesberger ‏@editingwhiz Jun 8: A squirrel got zapped in a power station in El Cerrito, knocking out power to 45,000 homes and businesses. Sheesh.

Zach ‏@BarroldBonds Jun 8 45,000 people in the East Bay lost power b/c a squirrel got into a substation in El Cerrito and chewed on something. Ya couldn’t make it up.

One commenter said it sounded like a squirrel terrorist attack, another speculated that the squirrel was a “scaperodent” used by PG&E to hide the real reason of the outage.
But the fact is, squirrels dying on suicide missions at the Schmidt Lane substation and bringing the East Bay to its knees is nothing new, as these examples from the Contra Costa Times archives show. In one case the guilty rodent was placed in a plastic bag and stored in a PG&E freezer in Oakland (hopefully not near an employee’s TV dinner) as evidence in case any claims came in against the utility. As the spokesperson noted, blackout by squirrel is considered an “act of nature” and not the utility’s fault. And the nature of squirrels in El Cerrito is to get into the substation and wreak havoc with the equipment. They are a crafty bunch and we suspect there is a large stash of acorns hidden somewhere in the PG&E substation.

Squirrel sparks electricity outage
About 28,000 PG&E customers in Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito and Richmond lacked power for three hours Wednesday
Publication: West County Times
Print Run Date: 5/23/2002
Dateline: EL CERRITO
An errant squirrel met an unfortunate end Wednesday when its encounter with a circuit breaker at a Pacific Gas & Electric substation in El Cerrito knocked out power to thousands of customers temporarily and knocked out the squirrel permanently.
About 28,000 customers lost power at 12:10 p.m. The outage affected homes and businesses in El Cerrito, Richmond and parts of north Berkeley and Albany. Power was flowing to all customers by 3:04 p.m.

Police reported no major problems tied to the outage. Richmond police did take to major intersections to direct traffic in place of dark traffic lights. The city’s Civic Center turned to its emergency generators.

Temporary stop signs were posted at less busy Richmond and El Cerrito intersections.

“We have animals interacting with our equipment occasionally, ” said PG&E spokesman Jason Alderman. “Something of this magnitude is rare.”

Alderman said substations are fenced in and the vegetation around them cut back, in part, to discourage curious wildlife. But given the amount of PG&E equipment and the number of critters, the occasional run-in is inevitable.

The deceased squirrel is now resting in peace in a plastic bag in an Oakland freezer, preserved as evidence for customers seeking proof that their spoiled meat and unset video cassette recorders were not the utility’s doing, Alderman said.

“If it’s an act of nature, as a squirrel is, then we’re not responsible for it, ” Alderman said.

Most customers understand, Alderman said, but “every once in a while, if someone is particularly litigious, the squirrel will be put in a cooler and taken to court.”

Squirrel cuts power to 25,000
Publication: West County Times
Print Run Date: 11/6/2000
Twenty-five thousand customers from El Cerrito to Oakland lost power Sunday morning after a squirrel got inside a transformer at an El Cerrito substation.
The power was out from about 10:25 to 11:55 a.m., said Maureen Bogues, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas & Electric.

A BART spokeswoman, Jeanie Riehl, said the power went out at 10:20 a.m. at the Berkeley BART station.

Most of the customers who lost power were in Berkeley, Bogues said.

The Berkeley BART station was closed at 10:20 a.m. after the station went dark, and it was reopened at noon, Riehl said.

Train power was not affected and service went on as scheduled, except that trains did not stop at the Berkeley station, she said.

Electrocuted squirrel causes power outage
Publication: West County Times
Print Run Date: 11/28/1999
EL CERRITO About 37,000 East Bay homes and businesses lost power Saturday afternoon after a squirrel crawled into a transformer at an El Cerrito substation and was electrocuted, a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman said.
The downtown Berkeley BART station briefly closed because of the outage, which began at 2:23 p.m., but it reopened at 3:08. Berkeley public-radio station KPFA had to shift to an emergency power generator during the outage.

The squirrel’s electrocution caused the circuit breakers to kick over, spokesman Jonathan Franks said. Affected PG&E customers in El Cerrito, central Berkeley, Emeryville and Albany were without power until after 3 p.m. By rerouting electricity, PG&E restored power to all except about 7,900 customers by 3:05 p.m., said PG&E spokesman Ron Low, and the rest were back in service as of 3:20 p.m.

A similar outage occurred July 4, when another curious squirrel found its way into the El Cerrito substation and was killed.

Power outage caused by curious squirrel
West County Times
Print Run Date: 7/5/1999
A power outage that affected some 38,000 customers in the East Bay on Saturday was caused by a squirrel getting into an El Cerrito substation’s transformer bank, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said.

The problem began around 12:50 p.m. and lasted until 2:10 p.m., said the utility’s Maureen Bogues. It affected customers in El Cerrito, Kensington, Richmond, Albany, Berkeley and Oakland, she said.

The outage was widespread because the transformer bank feeds three substations in Berkeley, Bogues said.

Wayward squirrel blamed for outage
West County Times
Print Run Date: 6/23/1998
El Cerrito — A squirrel that scurried into an area it shouldn’t have is being blamed for the loss of electricity to about 3,400 customers in parts of El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany and North Berkeley on Monday afternoon.
The squirrel got into a circuit breaker at the substation at the end of Schmidt Lane in El Cerrito about 1:20 p.m., said Chris Johnson, a PG&E spokesman.

Workers restored power gradually, and all the customers had electricity by 3:30 p.m., Johnson said.

The squirrel died, Johnson said.

Squirrels, birds and rats are common sources of power outages, although PG&E takes measures to keep them off equipment, Johnson said.

By comparison, the squirrels in Lafayette simply aren’t as determined or well-connected.

Squirrel is responsible for power outage

Publication: Contra Costa Times
Print Run Date: 7/28/1995
LAFAYETTE – A squirrel short-circuited some electrical equipment, cutting power to nearly 3,000 people Thursday morning, a PG&E spokeswoman said.
The outage happened about 7:45 a.m. at Stanley Boulevard and Vacation Drive and cut power to about 2,900 customers in Lafayette and a small portion of Walnut Creek. The outage also cut power to numerous stop-lights and snarled the morning commute going to Highway 24 through Lafayette.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews had power restored to 85 percent of the customers by 9 a.m., said Diane Sable, a company spokeswoman. The remaining customers were expected to have power back by noon, she said.

The squirrel didn’t make it, Sable said.

ec squirrel.jpg-large
El Cerrito squirrels are adept at traversing the city’s electrical distribution infrastructure.

ec squirrels
El Cerrito squirrels have been known to gather in gangs to hatch their plots.

pge substation
The Schmidt Lane substation “is the terminus for high voltage electric lines bringing power from the distant Feather River.”

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El Cerrito: PG&E explains cause of this week’s power outage and the reason bright lights are being used overnight

El Cerrito residents have inquired about bright lights being used all night at the PG&E substation on Schmidt Lane and the utility has an explanation.
The lights are needed to replace equipment at the substation that was damaged at the substation on Jan. 20, which in turn caused a power outage to more than 30,000 customers from Berkeley to parts of Richmond.The lights allow crews to work safely at night.
Crews will continue work at the substation 24/7 through the weekend, said a PG&E spokeswoman, which may not help nearby beighbors rest any easier, but at least provides an explanation.

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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.

Albanygastank may 1948a

Albanygastank may 1948b

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Caltrans continues overnight work on MacArthur Maze

Caltrans issued the following announcement about its work on the MacArthur Maze:

Full nighttime closures continue at Maze Structure In Oakland

ALAMEDA COUNTY–The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will be continuing night time full closures in Oakland on westbound Interstate 580 to eastbound Interstate 80 connector along with Interstate 580 westbound MacArthur On-ramp from July 8th through July 11th.

Caltrans has scheduled additional construction activities on westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound 580 connector starting on July 8th. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
July 8th through July 11th, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night and Saturday night 11:59 A.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Full Closures of Westbound Interstate 80 to Eastbound Interstate 580 connector and 580 East MacArthur Off-ramp:
July 8th through August 15th, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night until Saturday morning 11:59 P.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Motorists are advised to use the following detour during the work. Detour Signs will also be posted. All work is weather permitting.

Detour for Interstate 580 West to Interstate 80 East traffic:
Motorists will continue on Interstate 80 west towards San Francisco, take “PARKING LOT EXIT ONLY” exit on the left to the Toll Plaza parking lot, and merge to Interstate 80 east.

Detour for Interstate 580 West MacArthur on-ramp traffic:
Motorists will turn right on San Pablo Ave (alternatively turn right on Hollis St), turn left on Powell St and merge to the 80E.

Detour for Interstate 80 West to Interstate 580 East traffic:
Motorists will continue to Interstate 880 South, exit at the West Grand Ave off-ramp, turn right on West Grand Ave and merge to the 580 east Maritime/West Grand on-ramp.

Detour for Interstate 580 East MacArthur off-ramp traffic:
Motorists will take the next exit to Webster St.

Motorists should expect delays and allow for extra travel time.

For real-time traffic, click-on Caltrans Quick Maps at: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/
Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaltransD4
For additional information please visit our website: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/projects/80580bridgerehab/
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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Caltrans: Full nighttime closures continue at Maze Structure In Oakland

Caltrans issued the following announcement today on overnight construction closures at the MacArthur Maza:

ALAMEDA COUNTY–The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will be continuing night time full closures in Oakland on westbound Interstate 580 to eastbound Interstate 80 connector along with Interstate 580 westbound MacArthur On-ramp from June 25th through July 2nd.

There will be no construction scheduled from July 3rd to July 6th due to the holiday weekend.

Caltrans has scheduled additional construction activities on westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound 580 connector starting on July 7th. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
June 25rd through July 2nd, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night and Saturday night 11:59 A.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Full Closures of Westbound Interstate 80 to Eastbound Interstate 580 connector and 580 East MacArthur Off-ramp:
July 7th through August 15th, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night until Saturday morning 11:59 P.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Motorists are advised to use the following detour during the work. Detour Signs will also be posted. All work is weather permitting.

Detour for Interstate 580 West to Interstate 80 East traffic:
Motorists will continue on Interstate 80 west towards San Francisco, take “PARKING LOT EXIT ONLY” exit on the left to the Toll Plaza parking lot, and merge to Interstate 80 east.

Detour for Interstate 580 West MacArthur on-ramp traffic:
Motorists will turn right on San Pablo Ave (alternatively turn right on Hollis St), turn left on Powell St and merge to the 80E.

Detour for Interstate 80 West to Interstate 580 East traffic:
Motorists will continue to Interstate 880 South, exit at the West Grand Ave off-ramp, turn right on West Grand Ave and merge to the 580 east Maritime/West Grand on-ramp.

Detour for Interstate 580 East MacArthur off-ramp traffic:
Motorists will take the next exit to Webster St.

Motorists should expect delays and allow for extra travel time.

For real-time traffic, click-on Caltrans Quick Maps at: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/
Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaltransD4
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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Caltrans work at MacArthur Maze will mean overnight traffic detours

Caltrans issued the following announcement today about its planned overnight work at the MacArthur Maze that starts June 5 and is expected to last through June 30:

Caltrans Plans Concrete Removal and Bridge Deck Overlay at Maze Structure

ALAMEDA COUNTY–The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is performing night time full closures of either or both westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound Interstate 580 and westbound Interstate 580 to eastbound Interstate 80 connectors to remove concrete and overlay bridge deck. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

To ensure worker and public safety, the MacArthur on and off ramps will be also rehabilitated and closed during construction.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
June 5 through June 30, 2014
Monday night until Friday morning 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Saturday night and Sunday morning 12:01 A.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Full Closures of 80 West – 580 East Connector and 580 East MacArthur off-ramp
June 5 through June 30, 2014
No full closures will take place until June 23rd

Motorists are advised to use the following detour during the work. Detour Signs will also be posted. All work is weather permitting.

Detour for Interstate 580 West to Interstate 80 East traffic:
Motorists will continue on Interstate 80 west towards San Francisco, take “PARKING LOT EXIT ONLY” exit on the left to the Toll Plaza parking lot, and merge to Interstate 80 east.

Detour for Interstate 580 West MacArthur on-ramp traffic:
Motorists will turn right on San Pablo Ave (alternatively turn right on Hollis St), turn left on Powell St and merge to the 80E.

Detour for Interstate 80 West traffic:
Motorists will continue to Interstate 880 South, exit at the West Grand Ave off-ramp, turn right on West Grand Ave and merge to the 580 east Maritime/West Grand on-ramp.

Detour for Interstate 580 East MacArthur off-ramp traffic:
Motorists will take the next exit to Webster St.

Motorists should expect delays and allow for extra travel time.

For real-time traffic, click-on Caltrans Quick Maps at: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/
Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaltransD4
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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As Memorial Day approaches, a look back at El Cerrito honoring military personnel 70 years earlier

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In the photo above from the Richmond Independent from June 1944 (click it to enlarge), the Louis Hagen post of the American Legion in El Cerrito dedicates a plaque in front of the veterans building on Stockton Avenue honoring those from the city on active duty in the armed forces during World War II. Members of the post at that point were veterans of World War I, where El Cerritan Hagen had died in combat.

The annual placing of flags for Memorial Day on the graves of military veterans buried at Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito will take place on May 24 and volunteers who want to help are welcome to take part.
There will also be a first-ever Memorial Day observance on May 26 at a veterans assistance office in Richmond.
You can find more details here.