El Cerrito: Memories, artifacts and more at Portola Junior High celebration Sept. 26

portola 1953

The buildings of Portola Junior High School in El Cerrito are gone, but the memories of the generations of West County students who attended there live on and will be celebrated at a gala event from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 26 at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane.
Tickets are still available for the Portola Junior High School History Celebration, which will feature dancing to live music by The Sundowners, a band of Portola alumni, no-host food and drink and a silent auction of artifacts from the school similar to those pictured here.
Tickets are $20 general, or $10 for past and present WCCUSD teachers, available by clicking here.
For more details contact Marnie Fricke Mufti at 510-410-5028 or marniemufti@gmail.com; or Donna Houser at 510-508-6830 houserini@sbcglobal.net.

portola fogerty 8th grade
Can you spot future music great John Fogerty in his Portola class picture from eighth grade in 1958-59? (Answer below).

portola growing up

portola polly posture


portola flier

(Answer: John Fogerty is in the front row behind the “6”.)


El Cerrito/Albany/Berkeley: East Bay Bike Party returning to area Friday

Video of EBBP riders at Del Norte BART in 2012.

The cacophonous mobile celebration known as the East Bay Bike Party returns to the on Friday, with more than 150 riders signed up for a rolling event that will gather at the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station at 7:30 p.m. and set out at 8 on a route that will pass through Albany on the way to the Downtown Berkeley BART station.

The theme for the August ride is something we are calling ‘A Gathering,'” the organizer of this month’s party says on the group’s Facebook event page.

I’m calling on all the bike crews that inhabit the bay area bike-o-sphere to come out and show your colors and rally around the flag. A flag of your own making. I’m sponsoring a flag contest. The best flag with the most righteous crew wins. Your tribe doesn’t have to be a bike crew. If you want to carry the Warriors banner, feel free, Maybe your tribe wants to carry the banner of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw or even Slytherin, go ahead. Burners, Zombie riders, DC Comic fans, yoga practitioners, the list goes on. One of the best things about bike party is how this diverse community, that calls the bay area their home, comes together for the big group bike ride. Let’s celebrate it.

The Gathering Ride is all about building up the strength of the bike crews in the area. Group rides are and should be happening all the time with or without EBBP. This next bike party is your crews chance to step up identify yourselves and let the everyone know you are here, you believe in the principles of bike party and you are ready to lead in our biking community.

Remember our 6 rules, and make sure all your friends and fellow crewmates do too:
*Stay to the Right
*Stop at lights
*Ride Straight
*Don’t Hate
*Pack your Trash
*Don’t get Smashed


Trees in East Bay hills will be El Cerrito Historical Society program topic

The El Cerrito Historical Society is presenting a timely talk about the trees in the East Bay hills on at 7 p.m. July 30.

The announcement from the society:

History program about the East Bay Forest will illuminate current issues

Trees are big news these days in the East Bay. Plans by the East Bay Regional Park District, the city of Oakland and UC Berkeley to remove thousands of eucalyptus trees because they pose a fire danger have outraged many tree lovers.

Opinions have blazed across the pages of local newspapers accusing Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf of planning the murder of squirrels by proposing to take away their habitat.

“When chainsaws decimate the vast forests which create their homes, reducing public lands once blanketed with their habitat to barren, empty hillsides, where, exactly, are these animals supposed to go?” one blogger demanded.

Proponents of the tree removal plan say it falls well short of clear cutting. According to the successful application for federal funds, the project, “would provide more effective protection over a large area by creating a continuous firebreak along the most vulnerable wildland-urban interfaces.”

“(The park district, Oakland and the university) propose to reduce fuel loads and fire intensity, primarily by thinning plant species that are prone to torching, and by promoting conversion to vegetation types with lower fuel loads. In many areas the proposed and connected actions would preserve oak and bay trees and convert dense scrub, eucalyptus forest, and non-native pine forest, to grassland with islands of shrubs.”

El Cerrito too has groves of eucalyptus trees, some of which help visually define such areas of our landscape as the Hillside Natural Area. The city also shares a large border with the East Bay Park District’s Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. Our city has many other trees that also present issues. Many of our trees are 50 years old and nearing the end of their lives. The city has already removed many.

To cast light on these issues and to get a deeper background the Historical Society, in conjunction with the city’s Environmental Quality Committee, is hosting Jerry Kent, former assistant general manager of the East Bay Park District. Kent’s talk, ‘How the East Bay Got its Forest,’ will take place Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. It is free and open to all and wheelchair accessible.

Of his talk, Jerry Kent writes: “Bay Area hills were mostly open grassland, with fringes of native trees in valleys when European settlers arrived in 1769. Large scale tree planting began in the West Bay in 1877 to forest Golden Gate Park, military posts, schools, and mountaintops.

“In the East Bay, one man began planting trees in 1895 to forest 13,000 acres for home sites in the hills and 3,000 acres for timber plantations. What became of his dream, and how do we deal with his legacy today, amid dense development, drought, changing climate, and wildfire risks?”
Kent retired after a 41-year career with the East Bay Regional Park District. A history lover, he has collected maps and photographs and researched many aspects of Bay Area nature and history. He will describe the history of large-scale tree planting projects, and discuss the benefits and responsibilities of owning planted urban forests.


El Cerrito announces road closures on Fairmount and Manila avenues

El Cerrito has announced road closures on Fairmount and Manila avenues this week for paving work.
Fairmount will be closed between Richmond Street and Colusa Avenue from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Manila will be closed between Richmond and Kearney streets from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Traffic will be detoured around both work sites.
The announcements from the city:

Fairmount Ave – Temporary Road Closure & Detours
Thursday, June 18
The City of El Cerrito, Public Works Department is completing a paving project on Fairmount Avenue between Colusa Avenue and Richmond Street. On Thursday, June 18th, this section of Fairmount will be closed to vehicular traffic from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Vehicles will be detoured to Colusa Avenue, Eureka Avenue, Ashbury Avenue, Central Avenue and Richmond Street. Garbage, Recycling and AC Transit, as well as, local traffic will be allowed through the work zone with minor delays. Emergency vehicles will always have access. Please expect minor delays. Thank you for your patience during this construction work. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact the Public Works Department at (510) 215-4382.

Manila Ave – Temporary Road Closure & Detours
Friday, June 19

The City of El Cerrito, Public Works Department is completing a paving project on Manila Avenue between Richmond Street and Kearney Street. On Friday, June 19th, this section of Manila will be closed to vehicular traffic from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Vehicles will be detoured to Richmond Street, Schmidt Lane and San Pablo Ave. Garbage, Recycling and AC Transit, as well as, local traffic will be allowed through the work zone with minor delays. Emergency vehicles will always have access. Please expect minor delays. Thank you for your patience during this construction work. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact the Public Works Department at (510) 215-4382.


West County Ed. Fund scholarship winners will be celebrated at April 30 ceremony in El Cerrito

The West County Ed. Fund has announced this year’s scholarship winners. Recipients will be recognized at a celebration on April 30 at El Cerrito High Schoo,.

Celebrating Excellence in Education:
Honoring Scholarship Recipients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Ed Fund, West Contra Costa County’s Public Education Fund, managed an extremely competitive scholarship application season this year. A total of 243 applications were received and reviewed by 66 volunteers to choose the top students with the grit and passion it takes to succeed in college and give back to their community. With the generous support of College Futures Foundation, Irene S. Scully Family Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, Schroeder Family Foundation, and Whittier Educational Foundation, $160,000 in scholarships will be awarded over the next academic year to 68 West Contra Costa Unified high school seniors to realize their college dreams.

The 2015 scholarship recipients from the West Contra Costa Unified School District will be honored and celebrated at the Ed Fund’s 27th Annual Soaring to Excellence Celebration on Thursday, April 30 from 6:30-9:00PM at El Cerrito High School’s Performing Arts Theater at 540 Ashbury Avenue in El Cerrito. One of the highlights of the evening will be hearing from two of the scholarship recipients speak to how they overcame all obstacles to become college-bound students. Tickets are $25 per person. To purchase your ticket, visit the Ed Fund website at www.edfundwest.org or call Zuhair at 510-233-1464.

You can also make a donation in tribute to a student to the Help a Student Soar to Excellence campaign at https://www.crowdrise.com/edfundscholarships/fundraiser/edfundwest. The campaign will culminate the night of the event.

Full list of 2015 Scholars
College Futures Foundation
Carlos Arauz-Hernandez, Kennedy High School
RaTrail Armstead, Kennedy High School
Lavonia Bobo, El Cerrito High School
Monet Boyd, El Cerrito High School
Saidy Brizuela, Richmond High School
Casina Butler, Kennedy High School
Astrid Flores Castillo, Richmond High School
Matthew Chamberlain, Middle College High School
Quincy Chapple, Pinole Valley High School
Alexis Garcia, Pinole Valley High School
William Garcia, Pinole Valley High School
Evelyn Corral Gonzalez, Richmond High School
Alexander Hagan, De Anza High School
Tyler Ho, Pinole Valley High School
Richard Howard, Vista High School
Tareke James, De Anza High School
Michael Jameson, Richmond High School
Jose Jimenez, De Anza High School
Latisha Katigbak, Hercules High School
Luis Ledesma, Leadership Public School – Richmond
Maggie Li, El Cerrito High School
Alfred Machacon, De Anza High School
Kenyatta Marcelous, El Cerrito High School
Christian Medina, Richmond High School
Andrea Munoz, Pinole Valley High School
Adrian Navarro, Richmond High School
Linda Ngo, De Anza High School
Luis Nunez, Kennedy High School
Francisco Ortiz, Kennedy High School
Mareiana Pembrook, El Cerrito High School
Cristina Pham, De Anza High School
Hannah Pham, Richmond High School
Yann Picouleau, Pinole Valley High School
Martin Ponce, De Anza High School
Andrew Preston, Richmond High School
Eva Arias Ramirez, Middle College High School
Serena Saelee, Middle College High School
Kimiko Satterfield, Middle College High School
Jay’La Donaville Smith, El Cerrito High School
Kimaree Solomon, Hercules High School
Nasario Sylvester, Kennedy High School
Ashley Tejada, Middle College High School
Keith Thomas, El Cerrito High School
Juliana Valencia, Leadership Public School – Richmond
Vanessa McMillon Vanbuskirk, Hercules High School
Deisy Villalobos, Richmond High School
Hero Vo, De Anza High School
Akeilah Ward-Hale, El Cerrito High School
Frederica Webster, De Anza High School
Brandon Wong, Hercules High School
Maria Zavala, Middle College High School

Ed Fund
Nanette Thompson, El Cerrito High School
Roberto Vega, Richmond High School

Irene S. Scully Foundation
Joan Binalinbing, Kennedy High School
Antonio Gonzales-Romero, Richmond High School
Dennis Pimentel, Richmond High School

James Irvine Foundation
Chi Chung, Hercules High School
Jing-Yi Chung, Hercules High School
Jasmine Gill, De Anza High School
Maria Nunez, Leadership Public School – Richmond
Jesus Pedraza, Richmond High School
Justin Rodriguez, El Cerrito High School
Brittany Tran, Pinole Valley High School

Schroeder Family Foundation
Lauren Darnell, El Cerrito High School
Jomoris Stewart, El Cerrito High School

Whittier Educational Foundation
Luis Perez Rodriguez, Kennedy High School
Daniella Vela, El Cerrito High School
Brizjon Wilright, De Anza High School


San Pablo: Why Doctor’s Medical Center hasn’t closed yet — a commentary by Dr. Sharon Drager

Why DMC Hasn’t Closed Yet

By Dr. Sharon Drager

If money were the only consideration, DMC would have closed years ago. Its financial challenges are no different than they have been. Hospitals close all the time; however, except for rural hospitals, there are usually other hospitals in the community to pick up the slack. So when Los Medanos closed, Sutter Delta was just down the road; the community still had a hospital and most of the medical staff was intact. The situation in West County is different, and everyone knows it. That’s why there’s a reluctance to see it close. DMC is not just the only public hospital in West County, it’s the ONLY hospital except for a Kaiser facility that has to take anyone who shows up in the emergency room, but is not open to the public for anything else.

Hospitals are ecosystems, not just inpatient facilities. In West County a medical community rich in specialists has grown up around DMC and cares for a community that has a high burden of chronic illness. So, when the hospital closes, so does the Cancer Center (radiation and chemotherapy), a busy Wound Care Center, advanced heart attack care, advanced comprehensive care for dialysis patients and comprehensive care for surrounding nursing homes, among other services.

Physicians won’t practice for long in offices surrounding a dead hospital. Many surgical specialists cluster around hospitals, which are their work places. They will disappear form West County and won’t be replaced.

The Hospital Council’s assertions that an Urgent Care Center will fulfill the needs of the community are disingenuous. Yes, many patients visiting any ER can be treated as outpatients, but many require advanced imaging, consultations and fairly aggressive treatment to allow them to go home. Urgent Care centers associated with hospital systems do can work like this but not small stand-alone units attached only to primary care clinics.

West County is in a relatively isolated position for an urban community as far as heart attack care is concerned. Without DMC, heart attack patients whether they’re Kaiser members or non-Kaiser members and whether they live in Richmond or Kensington have to be transported to Concord or Oakland. A 10-minute trip becomes an eternity.

The new hospital model for West County residents will be strictly 20th century, not up to date. Patients who require inpatient care will be treated episodically at whatever institution has room for them, often with a new set of specialists every admission. Kaiser has a vaunted coordinated care system, which applies only to its members. The default mode for non-members at Kaiser hospitals is “treat and street.” Pat Frost can argue that no one has yet died in an ambulance, but I know complicated patients who died because they were shipped to unfamiliar hospitals.

Finally, while I hope the community will consider a parcel tax, it is grossly unfair to tell West County residents that they don’t merit a hospital because they didn’t support another parcel tax. No one, including the editorial board of the Contra Costa Times, has ever suggested that residents of Walnut Creek or San Ramon or Antioch don’t deserve a hospital because they don’t pay a property tax. I guess those people are just luckier.

Dr. Sharon Drager is a vascular surgery doctor in San Pablo.


Pinole Historical Society seeking photo of former miniature golf course

If you have a snapshot of the miniature golf attraction that was once on San Pablo Avenue in Pinole, the Pinole Historical Society would love to hear from you.
Society Vice President Jeff Rubin sent out the following appeal on Jan. 6:

Hi all,

There used to be a miniature golf course on the north side of San Pablo Avenue, near The Embers.

The Pinole Historical Society is preparing a new book called “Pinole Through Time.” It will feature photos of buildings from the city’s past and what is on those sites today. The book will be similar to our “Pinole Then and Now” exhibit at the Pinole Library.

We are looking for an exterior photo of the miniature golf course. If you have one, we will scan it and return it to you.

Please let me know by January 31. The book is due at the publisher’s office on March 1.


Jeff Rubin
Vice President

The Pinole Historical Society can be contacted by email at info@PinoleHistoricalSociety.org, by phone at 510-724-9507, or by mail at P.O. Box 285, Pinole, CA 94564.


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.


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.


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?”