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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

ec vets memorial 1944a

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.

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Friends of 5 Creeks gardening tips to minimize water use

Some advice from the latest newsletter from Berkeley-based Friends of 5 Creeks (www.fivecreeks.org):

Water-saving tips

Learn how to lose your lawn: For many homeowners, the easiest way to save water (along with effort and money) is to shrink or get rid of lawn. The Bay Friendly Coalition offers a free workshop, with individual advice, at 10:30 AM Sat., May 3, at the California Native Plant Society’s Native Here Nursery, 101 Golf Course Dr., in Tilden Park. This also is a great place to find drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly, replacement plants.

Nursing new plantings through the summer: Our delicious late rains have been a reprieve, but summer will be dry. With time, it is possible to develop a flourishing garden that needs no watering. (Summer water under coast live oaks, our species of the month, can kill them.) But even drought-tolerant plants generally need some summer water until their roots are established. At F5C’s restoration projects, we found that tough natives survived with deep watering once a month from June or July to October.
Drip irrigation usually saves water, but it can be leak-prone and costly to install. Here are some techniques that don’t require even drip irrigation:

Most basically, plant in fall, giving plants a rainy season in which to get established. Use lots of mulch, which holds water like a sponge, shades the soil, and discourages water-stealing weeds.
Along with a new plant, install a tube with a small opening at the bottom that lets water drain slowly to deep roots. Fill it occasionally. The tube can be a commercial product – or an upside-down plastic soda bottle.
Use a bucket or bag with a small opening that drains slowly. As with tubes, these can be commercial products – or old buckets or plastic trash bags.
Consider a tree tube or tree shelter. This is a translucent plastic tubes, held in place with a stake, serving mainly to protect young trees from hungry animals. But they also help retain moisture in windy areas, and condensation inside the tube can provide a little extra water.
Consider commercial gels that release water slowly, such as DriWATER.

Submit your own water-saving tip to the group at https://app.icontact.com/icp/sub/survey/take.

Click here for to read the F5C information sheet, “Why Should You Save Water? And How?”

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A look at the Albany Theater through the years, part 2: The great Batman promo of 1966

Albany Batman January 1966 a

Former Albany Theater manager Jack Tillmany offers this great reminiscence about the Batman promotion at the movie house in 1966 that was tied in not to the wildly popular TV show that debuted that year, but to the reissue of the black-and-white 1940s movie serial issued during the war:

In late 1965 Columbia Pictures had tremendous success with the re-release of their 1943, 15 episode serial, Batman and Robin, selling it as a “High Camp Folk Orgy” (love that 60s vernacular!). In San Francisco it played to turn away crowds, week after week, at the Presidio, and I convinced Foster to play it at the Albany. Since it was my idea, I had to promote it for all it was worth, and had two of my employees dress up as Batman and Robin, and drive around Berkeley in the Batmobile, which was actually a 1959 black Chevrolet convertible, which belonged to one of them, and couldn’t have been more perfect. They had a ball, and we sold out just about every performance night after night, for several weeks.

Unfortunately, Tillmany adds that he can’t remember who the two employees were who got to portray the Dynamic Duo.
The promotion and serial screening arrived in Albany in January 1966, the same month the TV show hit the air.

More photos of Batman and Robin’s appearance at the Albany Theater are below (click for larger views), along with video of the opening sequence of the 1943 serial.

Albany Batman January 1966 b

Albany Batman January 1966 c

Albany Batman January 1966 d

Albany Batman January 1966 e

Albany Batman January 1966 f

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Caltrans reschedules paving work at MacArthur Maze

Rain this week prompted Caltrans to reschedule the start of its paving project at the MacArthur Maze to April 29. The agency issued the following announcement today:

Caltrans Polyester Overlay at Maze Structure Delayed Until April 29th Due to Weather

ALAMEDA COUNTY – On April 29th, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will initiate a paving project in the I-580/I-80 maze structure. Construction crews will lay down a fresh coat of durable, long-lasting polyester concrete.

The work schedule will be Tuesday night through Sunday morning every week for the course of the project. During the closure the McArthur on-ramp will be closed and traffic detoured to Powell Street. The first closure will be westbound I-580 to eastbound I-80 connector (full closure). Changeable Message Signs and detour routes will be clearly visible.

Closure Times

Tuesday – Thursday

· 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M

Friday – Saturday

· 11:59 P.M – 7:00 A.M

Detour Routes

There are currently two detour maps available on the Caltrans District 4 website. Please visit the website to view Detour Map 1 and Detour Map 2

· Westbound I-580 traffic will be detoured on I-80 westbound to the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Toll Plaza parking lot where commuters will be able to return to I-80 eastbound.

· The McArthur on-ramp to I-80 eastbound will be closed and traffic detoured to Powell Street on-ramp to I-80 eastbound.

Motorists should expect delays in the area and are advised to use alternate routes during the closure period. Drivers are advised to remember that traffic fines are doubled in construction zones.

Please “Slow For The Cone Zone.” For the most up to date traffic information, visit our webpage or follow us on Twitter.

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A look at the Albany Theater through the years, part 1

Albany theater 1920s
This photo of Solano Avenue from the late 1920s shows the original Albany Theater, a small one-story building at the left that dates from 1914 and hosted vaudeville. Behind it is the two-story building that was built as an Italian organization meeting hall. The hall would be renovated and reopened in 1935 as the Albany Cinema. In its original form, the meeting hall had two storefronts at street level and a ballroom and meeting rooms on the second floor. Note the Southern Pacific street car tracks (and overhead wires) on Solano and the Key System tracks on San Pablo Avenue in the foreground.

(Click on the pictures for a larger view.)

The movie house on Solano Avenue known over the years as the Albany Theater (or Theatre), Albany Cinema, and now the Albany Twin, is a survivor in an era when many neighborhood film emporiums have closed. Victims include The Oaks at the Berkeley end of Solano, shuttered for several years.
But the Albany Theater was not the original venue with that name, nor was it originally a theater.
It succeeded a one-story predecessor next door on Solano that was built in 1914 and operated as a vaudeville venue.
The second Albany Theater was originally a two-story meeting hall built in 1926 by an Italian-American organization. It had two storefronts on the ground floor and meeting space and a dance floor above.
The building was purchased in 1934 by a successful theater operator who hired Berkeley architect William Garren to redesign the building to show movies. Plans were announced in November 1934 and the building’s interior was gutted and turned into a movie house that opened in 1935.
Garren took control of the theater when the man who hired him died and the well-known architect would go on to manage it for the next 30 years, becoming a popular figure in town, becoming a leader of the business community and serving on Albany commissions.
One longtime resident recalled that homebuilder C.M. MacGregor would annually treat the local kids to a free matinee and ice cream at the theater and would dance down the center aisle wearing a tam o’shanter and singing a little ditty.

Garren had a good run as the unplanned cinema operator, but finally bowed out in 1965. He did remain active in civic affairs for some years to come.
Jack Tillmany, who managed the Albany Theater after Garren stepped down and provided many of the photos and clippings we will post here. He offered the following reminiscences:

In the early 1960s, I managed the Piedmont Cinema in Oakland for Martin Foster, who also operated the Parkway Cinema on Park Blvd. Both of them were tremendously successful, thanks mostly to a well selected format of popular titles, such as the James Bond and Pink Panther series at the Piedmont, and more international fare at the Parkway, seasoned with hotties like Dr. Strangelove and Romeo and Juliet. It was inevitable that Foster would expand and the Berkeley market beckoned. In October 1965 he took over the Albany from William Garren and I was promoted to general manager for the three enterprises. Garren had operated Albany as a mom and pop venue for the local family trade, with Saturday afternoon matinees for the kids, etc., all of which had, by that time, had become part of a bygone era. Foster wanted to appeal to the Berkeley crowd, with more of an off beat, and European flavor, and the changeover was an immediate success, bringing new life into a dying operation, and a new Berkeley audience who had probably never before ventured that far West on Solano Ave.

The earliest (circa 1941) and only photo I’ve ever seen of Albany, is before its 1950 remodeling, when SP trains still ran on Solano Avenue.You can’t see much of the theatre, except its original vertical, and the “Any Seat Any Time 30 cents” sign on the West wall, but that sort of says it all.

Albany circa 1941
The Albany Theatre (“30 cents cents any seat, any time”) about 1941 with a streetcar of the Southern Pacific line in the foreground. At the left is the S.P. (Southern Pacific) Store, managed by Max Etingoff and now Max’s Liquors. Also note there is a street level billboard on Solano at the left of the streetcar.

Tillmany continues:

I really don’t think Garren every quite understood the 1960s or what was happening to his beloved theatre, but it had suddenly become part of the era and Foster was smiling all the way to the bank. I remember one evening, with a sell out crowd inside and a line around the corner and up the block waiting for the next show, and Garren stopped by and just looked around in amazement! Here it is in June 1967, with another tremendous success that Foster had milked dry at the Parkway and then moved up to the Albany for an even longer, continued run, Georgy Girl.

Albany June 1967
The Albany Cinema as it looked in June of 1967. In addition to its original conversion, the building by this time had undergone three remodeling projects inside or outside.

garren1934
Work to convert the meeting hall to a movie house began late in 1934 and it opened in 1935. The interior was gutted and the second floor removed to create an auditorium and the exterior was remodeled and a marquee added. Note that plans included an airplane beacon and a nursery with cribs and toys.

garrenremodel1945
Plans were filed in 1945 to remodel the theater’s interior.

Albany Newspaper 02 6 Jan 1965
Newspaper coverage of an exterior remodeling in 1950.

COMING UP NEXT: BATMAN COMES TO THE ALBANY THEATER

albanytheater2014a
The Albany Twin as it looks today.

albanytheater2014b

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Caltrans overnight paving work at maze will cause closures, detours

Caltrans issued the following news release today about paving work planned at the MacArthur Maze that starts April 24:

Caltrans Plans Polyester Overlay at Maze Structure Beginning April 24 with Full Freeway Connector Closure

ALAMEDA COUNTY – On April 24, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will initiate a paving project in the I-580/I-80 maze structure. Construction crews will lay down a fresh coat of durable, long-lasting polyester concrete.

The work schedule will be Tuesday night through Sunday morning every week for the course of the project. During the closure the MacArthur on-ramp will be closed and traffic detoured to Powell Street. The first closure will be westbound I-580 to eastbound I-80 connector (full closure). Changeable Message Signs and detour routes will be clearly visible.

Closure Times

Tuesday – Thursday

· 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M

Friday – Saturday

· 11:59 P.M – 7:00 A.M

Detour Routes

· Westbound I-580 traffic will be detoured on I-80 westbound to the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge Toll Plaza parking lot where commuters will be able to return to I-80 eastbound.

· The MacArthur on-ramp to I-80 eastbound will be closed and traffic detoured to Powell Street on-ramp to I-80 eastbound.

Motorists should expect delays in the area and are advised to use alternate routes during the closure period. Drivers are advised to remember that traffic fines are doubled in construction zones.

Please “Slow For The Cone Zone.” For real-time traffic, click-on Caltrans Quick Maps or follow us on Twitter.