July 2012


I have been thinking about being human ever since I was a boy in the East Bronx, in the forties. As a child I had the notion that I could go anywhere safely because I was sure I would be recognized as a fellow human being by anyone I met.

City officials have released a quintet of reports authored over the past eight years examining the services provided by the Alameda Fire Department that look at everything from calls handled and response times to staffing and the spacing of fire stations, nearly all done as city officials sought out ways to trim costs in the face of a challenging economy.


The statewide median home price was at $308,050 in April of this year, up almost 5 percent over last April. It was the first time the median price was above the $300,000 mark in nearly a year and a half (since December 2010).

Alameda’s Board of Education on Friday approved a controversial lease deal for new district office on a 3-2 vote, the latest in a string of efforts to address seismic safety concerns that have loomed at Historic Alameda High School for decades.

Alameda’s Board of Education has approved a controversial lease deal for new district office space at Marina Village, on a 3-2 vote.

The district will pay $552,000 a year for six years to lease a 26,720-square-foot space at 2060 Challenger Drive from Legacy Partners I Alameda LLC with an option to purchase the space for between $5.1 million and $5.5 million.


For a summer week, this past one brought a lot of news. Here’s what happened:

It’s probably not news to you that the news industry is struggling in the bloody wake of skyrocketing costs, plummeting revenues and yet another avenue of delivery that has arguably undermined the primacy of (almost) everything that came before.

The last decade has seen wave after wave of journalists laid off and print newspapers shrink and more recently, disappear under the crushing weight of delivery and newsprint costs. One of our primary goals at The Alamedan is to reverse that trend and to make more news available. But as I’ve said before, doing that costs money. So the question you may have is, “How much?”

The results of the November 6 election may not be the final word on Alameda’s elected officials for the next four years, as some are either running or considering a run for another office. But the rules for handling a midterm vacancy differ among Alameda’s different elected bodies.


Our Singlehanded TransPac sailors arrived in Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. Now the Pacific Cup sailors (with at least two on each boat) are out there in the Pacific with several approaching the halfway mark as I write this on Tuesday morning.

The board that oversees Alameda Hospital approved a new budget Wednesday whose success is premised on the strength of new programs hospital managers hope will boost the financially troubled hospital’s revenues into the black.


One of the lessons that I've learned after having been here in El Salvador for almost two months is about taking water for granted. Living in California, that should never be the case, but, living in California, water is always there from the tap and safe to drink.

Alameda Municipal Power’s managers want to set new rates for charging electric cars as the vehicles’ availability and popularity grows. They want to have a new rate structure to Alameda’s Public Utilities Board for a decision in November that will help the utility make more money while producing savings for customers.

Alameda’s City Council moved a step closer to hiring a professional operator to take over the Chuck Corica Golf Complex on Tuesday night, voting unanimously to introduce an ordinance that would make it so. The council is expected to approve a deal with Greenway Golf next week.

When city leaders voted last week to allow new apartment buildings to be built on 10 sites in Alameda – in apparent contravention Measure A, which bars such development – they were facing the very real possibility of a court challenge that could have nullified the four-decade-old voter initiative Island-wide.

Peet's Coffee to be acquired in $1 billion deal

Peet's Coffee & Tea

A private investment group is acquiring local coffee roaster Peet’s Coffee & Tea in an estimated billion-dollar deal. The public coffee company will become private but will remain headquartered in the Bay Area, with its roasting-to-order facility staying in Alameda.

The company announced early Monday morning that Joh. A. Benckiser, a private, German investment group, would acquire Peet’s for $73.50 per share in cash, 29 percent higher than Peet’s closing share price Friday, according to a company release. The deal was unanimously okayed by Peet’s board of directors.

The company’s current management team and employees will remain in place, the release said, and it will continue to be headquartered in Emeryville. BDT Capital, a Chicago-based merchant bank, will participate in the transaction as a minority investor and advisor.

Joh. A. Benckiser owns Labelux, a luxury goods company whose labels include Jimmy Choo and Bally, and also holds a majority stake in Coty, Inc. the beauty company.

Peet’s was founded in 1966 in Berkeley by Alfred Peet, who is credited with bringing custom coffee roasting to America and with training the founders of the Starbucks coffee chain. He sold Peet’s in 1979.

The company has 196 stores in 2011 and sells its products in grocery and other retail outlets. It earned $372 million in net revenues in 2011, a recent presentation showed.

Related: Joh. A. Benckiser to Buy Peet’s Coffee & Tea for $974 Million (New York Times)

Joh. A. Benckiser to Buy Peet’s Coffee for About $1 Billion (Bloomberg News)

I noticed some “coupons” for air duct cleaning in the mail and decided to take a closer look at the services offered. On the internet, I found examples of bait and switch artists ripping off unsuspecting homeowners and some seemingly legitimate contractors performing this service.

When the City Council contemplates a long-term lease deal that would put the Chuck Corica Golf Complex in the hands of a private operator, they’ll tread on ground that has been well worn by other Bay Area cities – to mixed results.


Welcome to a fresh edition of The Broad Brush, our weekly two-sentence news review. We’ve got a lot to share with you this week, so let’s get started.

It was nearly a year ago that I realized how much Alameda needed an additional news outlet that could keep an eye the public officials that make decisions on our behalf. I was at an untelevised school board meeting in a conference room that was attended by three people – myself, the president of Alameda’s teachers union and Kurt Peterson.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking for the first phase of the Alameda Landing development was a party that city leaders have been waiting more than seven years to hold.

The City Council on Tuesday approved new zoning rules allowing the development of multifamily housing in Alameda for the first time since Measure A passed in 1973. The vote was 4-1, with Councilman Doug deHaan casting the lone “no” vote.


Port. Starboard. Head. Tack. Lee. Jibe. All these darn words that keep regular folks from understanding sailors! Why can't we just speak regular English?


Walking along Shoreline I passed a couple coming toward me and noticed they were in a classic spatial relationship to each other.

The 0.83-acre site that occupies the corner of Eagle Avenue and Everett Street started its developed life as a farm plot tended by a squatter, in the 1800s. And if Melanie Wartenberg and hundreds of her other Alameda neighbors had their way, the site would become an urban farm once again, home to a learning garden, chickens and bees.

As VF Outdoor sets up shop in Alameda this month, they’ll become one of the largest private employers on the Island. And their new home will soon become the first corporate campus in the Bay Area to generate all of its own electricity.

Welcome to another edition of The Broad Brush, our two-sentence news review. Here’s your news for this week:

Over these past several months, we’ve worked hard to offer you a clear, unbiased view of what’s going on in your schools, at City Hall and across this Island we call home because we think it’s important that you have the tools you need to participate in local civic affairs.


Last week in this space, you read about the Singlehanded TransPac, a 2,120-mile run from San Francisco to Hanalei Bay on the island of Kauai.

No doubt about it, this is a tough time to be an artist. The extended recession is drastically limiting would-be patrons’ disposable income, and forcing some galleries out of business. Autobody Fine Art was one of these.

Once dubbed the “Coney Island of the West,” Neptune Beach was a popular resort in Alameda that attracted tens of thousands of weekend visitors.

A coalition of families, school districts and nonprofit groups that includes Alameda Unified and several Alameda students has appealed a local court’s dismissal of a 2010 lawsuit aimed at overhauling the state’s school funding system.


A friend of a friend holds an annual Celebration of Summer Party at the picnic grounds around Lake Lagunitas and this is the second year we’ve attended.

Alameda schools officials have offered a fresh accounting of the district’s Measure A spending, releasing a list of purchase orders and another detailing staff-related spending of parcel tax dollars in response to a public records request from The Alamedan.


Welcome to another edition of The Broad Brush, your two-sentence news review. Here’s what happened this past week:

We here at The Alamedan want to offer our heartfelt thanks today to Christopher Seiwald and the Perforce Foundation, for their support of our efforts to better inform you about all things Alameda.

Hope you're having a great July 4 holiday weekend and we'll have more news for you on Monday.


The America's Cup on "Real" TV

If you missed Alameda's annual Alameda Mayor's Fourth of July Parade this year (or just want to relive the highlights), here are our top 20 photos, in two posts. Enjoy!

Here's Part Two of our Alameda Mayor's Fourth of July slideshow. You can click the picture to your right to see the photos.

As the many parents, teachers, administrators and students involved in Alameda Unified School District begin to take a few weeks respite, I find this time to be an opportunity to not only relax and rejuvenate, but to reflect on our past year together. It has not been a year of smooth sailing, but one that at times has been emotional and difficult.

We’re here without a car of our own, so we are discovering how to get around in El Salvador. There are three main ways: on foot, by bus and by truck. Day to day, most people in Zaragoza have to walk for daily needs.

City leaders could seek to boost park acreage and create new trails, sports fields, urban farms and a new community center under a parks master plan accepted by the City Council on Tuesday.

The plan will serve as a reference point for future efforts to enhance Alameda’s park offerings.


When I first arrived in Alameda a couple of years ago I was introduced to a descriptive phrase applied to the local restaurant food as “Alamediocre.” The phrase drew laughter whenever it was trotted out though it seemed a little harsh to me.

Managers at Alameda Hospital secured provisional approval for the hospital’s board Monday to move forward with seismic retrofit projects they said they need to complete by the end of 2012 in order to win an extension on the state’s 2013 deadline to complete pricier retrofit work and keep the hospital’s doors open.

George Phillips, longtime director of the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda and the public face of an ambitious campaign to build a 25,000-square-foot, $10 million West End facility for the families it serves, has announced he is stepping down after 14 years on the job.