January 31, 2008

San Leandro Officer Moonlights as Voice Actor

San Leandro Police officer Brian Sommer was featured on the front-page of the Datebook section of the January 31, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle for his work as a voice actor for video games and advertising. There is also a podcast. Sommer has been working as a police officer in San Leandro since 1987.

According to Sommer's web site, he has done voice work for the video games SOCOM 3, America's Army, and Sam and Max. His web site also features samples of his work and a bio that says nothing of his day job in San Leandro.

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January 30, 2008

Belly/Pole Dancer Spotted on 880

According to the California Highway Patrol, a woman used a highway sign on Interstate 880 for a pole dance near the San Lorenzo/San Leandro border on Monday, January 28, 2008.

Officers responded, but the woman clad in a black halter top and black pants made her way across the freeway and escaped into the brush before she could be apprehended.

As reported in the Contra Costa Times.

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January 27, 2008

Ursula Reed Enters the Race for the District 2 City Council Seat

On January 24, 2008, Ursula Reed submitted paperwork to the San Leandro City Clerk indicating her intention to run for the District 2 City Council seat currently held by Surlene Grant. Grant is being termed out after nearly 10 years in office.

Although the filing period doesn't open until February 11, 2008, the Candidate Intention Statement (FPPC Form 501) is needed before a candidate can begin fundraising.

Reed has been a member of the San Leandro Library-Historical Commission since February 2006 and works for the Oakland Unified School District as the Coordinator of the Truancy Attendance Program. Reed has also been a teacher and a principal at Markham Elementary in Hayward.

Other possible candidates include Board of Zoning Adjustments member Charles Gilcrest, who is already seeking endorsements, and San Leandro School Board Trustee, Linda Perry, who hasn't decided yet whether to enter the race.

Reed, Gilcrest, and Perry all attended a recent event for candidates, which seems to indicate there will be at least a three-way race for the District 2 City Council seat.

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Free Screening of Made in L.A./Hecho en Los Angeles on Feb. 7 at Zocalo

Made in L.A. DVD CoverThe San Leandro Community Action Network (SLCAN) continues it monthly film series with a screening of Made in L.A./Hecho en Los Angeles at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 7, 2008.

According to the movie web site, "Made in L.A. follows the remarkable story of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from a mega-trendy clothing retailer. In intimate verite style, Made in L.A. reveals the impact of the struggle on each woman’s life as they are gradually transformed by the experience. Compelling, humorous, deeply human, Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity, and the courage it takes to find your voice."

Admission is free and the movie will be shown at Zocalo Coffeehouse.

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January 26, 2008

San Leandro Cop Reappointed to California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

Michael SobekSan Leandro Police Officer Michael Sobek was re-appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). POST sets "minimum selection and training standards for California law enforcement." Sobek's appointment requires confirmation by the California Senate.

According to the POST web site, Sobek, 45, of Dublin, "has over twenty years experience in law enforcement, serving with the San Leandro Police Department since 1991 and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department from 1984 to 1991. Additionally, Sobek has served as adjunct faculty at Chabot/Los Positas Community College since 2002. Sobek is an American Independent."

Sobek was the police officer who found the bodies of the USDA and state inspectors at the Santos Linguisa factory after they had been shot and killed by Stuart Alexander in June 2000.

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Finance Director Jesse Baloca Quietly Leaves Post

Jesse BalocaSan Leandro's Finance Director, Jesse Baloca, has quietly left his position without a send-off or acknowledgment from the City. The only evidence of his departure is the lack of a name for the Finance Director on the list of City Hall contacts on the City web site.

Baloca, 38, was hired as the City's Finance Director in May 2004 after working as Interim Finance Director in Sammamish, Washington, Interim Assistant Finance Director in Bellevue, Washington, and Administrative Services Director in Saratoga, California. Prior to Baloca, Assistant City Manager Ed Schilling had served as the acting Finance Director since October 2003, replacing Mike White.

When he was hired, San Leandro City Manager John Jermanis was quoted in the Daily Review as stating, "We are very happy to have him as part of our management team. Overall, he fits the San Leandro mold of quality employees through his academic and work experience."

Update: According to City Manager John Jermanis, Baloca resigned his position effective October 31, 2007. Perry Carter, the former Finance Director for the City of Hayward, has been hired part-time as the Interim Finance Director. On November 13, 2007, the City Clerk received Baloca's final Statement of Economic Interests (California Form 700).

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January 25, 2008

San Leandro Featured in New York Times Article

Uche Udemezue, San Leandro's Engineering & Transportation Director, is quoted extensively in an article about building costs in the January 26, 2008, edition of the New York Times.

From the article:

In San Leandro, a city of 78,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mr. Udemezue said the city could not afford to delay work on the parking garage and retiree center.
“We can’t wait,” he said, “because we don’t know if the prices are going to come down or go up.”
In the grading guide known as the Pavement Condition Index, zero is not far from a dirt strip and 100 is a fresh new roadway. When Mr. Udemezue began working for San Leandro 16 years ago, the average road ranking in the city was nearly 70. Now it is closer to 60, despite what Mr. Udemezue said were the city’s efforts to keep up maintenance.
Years ago, there was more money in the city’s general revenue stream that could be diverted to help with basic maintenance, which Mr. Udemezue said required about $5 million a year.
That general revenue now goes to other needs, like public safety, and the roads go wanting, with flat revenue from gas taxes and other declines leaving about $1.2 million to maintain roads each year. The $13 million retiree center and the $8 million parking garage have been affected, too, with the city dropping plans to build commercial space beneath the garage and reducing the space for social programs in the center.
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San Leandro BART to Get Electronic Bike Lockers

The BART Board decided at its January 24, 2008, meeting to install 198 electronic bicycle lockers at six East Bay BART stations, including San Leandro. The San Leandro station already has bicycle lockers, which are rented out to one person at a time for $30 a year. The BART Board also decided to increase the bicycle locker rental fee to $40 a year.

The lockers will be installed by late July 2008, can be opened and closed using a pre-paid charge card, and will cost three cents an hour. Funding for the lockers at the San Leandro BART station comes from the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority's Bike/Ped Countywide Discretionary Fund and the City of San Leandro.

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January 21, 2008

Sarah O'Neal Rush Speaks at San Leandro MK Jr. Celebration

Sarah O'Neal Rush, great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, spoke today, when we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. The event was held at the Marina Community Center.

Ms. Rush's speech had to be split into three parts. Here are parts two and three.

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January 20, 2008

Want to Run for City Council?

At its January 22, 2008, meeting, the San Leandro City Council will vote on whether to hold the next election for City Council districts 2, 4, and 6 on June 3, 2008.

Since the item is on the Consent Calendar, it is considered routine, and will likely be passed and the election will be held on June 3, 2008. If you're considering whether to run, this is what you need to know. First, take a look at these maps and see if you live in District 2, District 4, or District 6. Not knowing which district you reside in is a mistake made by one of the candidates in the 2006 election.

Second, if the election is held on June 3, 2008, the filing period begins on February 11, 2008, and ends on March 7, 2008. If an eligible incumbent fails to file nomination papers by the end of the filing period, the nomination period will be extended by five days until March 14, 2008. For District 2, there is no eligible incumbent, so the nomination period cannot be extended.

Third, any candidate who wants to run for the City Council must have been residing in the district for 30 days prior to filing their nomination papers. The candidate must also submit the signatures of 20 registered voters who reside in the district. Most candidates submit more than 20 signatures, because some are invalidated upon review by the City Clerk and Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

Each of the candidates will also be permitted an optional candidate statement, probably about 200 words long. In 2006, the filing fee was $900 for City Council candidates.

Until instant runoff voting (IRV) becomes a reality, City Council candidates face the possibility of run-off elections when no candidate receives greater than 50% of the votes. This occurred most recently in 2006, when Mayoral candidates Tony Santos and Orval "OB" Badger faced a runoff election.

Lastly, remember that although City Council candidates must reside in a specific district, the entire City of San Leandro votes for a candidate from each district.

Update: On January 22, 2008, the City Council decided to hold the election on June 3, 2008, and a runoff election, if needed, will be held on November 4, 2008.

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January 18, 2008

Mayor Tony Santos Takes Heat from Residents on Crime

Mayor Tony Santos displays a report with 2007 crime statistics to residentsAt a meeting at the San Leandro library on January 15, 2008, San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and Assistant City Manager Steve Hollister faced a crowd of more than 100 energetic and increasingly hostile residents.

Santos had originally sent letters inviting the leaders of 15 homeowners associations "to hear comments and concerns you have regarding crime and safety in our community." That invitation got sent to electronic mailing lists and published in the January 10, 2008, edition of the San Leandro Times. After noting that there more RSVPs for the meeting than invitations, the meeting was moved from a small conference room at the library to the lecture hall.

Mayor Santos focused on statistics provided by the San Leandro Police Department showing a 5% decrease in crime from 2006 to 2007 while meeting participants were more concerned about crime in their neighborhoods.

In response to a letter from a resident concerned about safety in the Best Manor neighborhood, Santos said that he parked at City Hall, walked back and forth to the Oakland border and saw that things were fine.

Similarly, he noted that he gets around town, which allows him to know what is going on in each neighborhood. In District 2, he noted that he goes to lunch at Harry's, Guadalajara, La Bella Italia and Carrow's for breakfast sometimes.

Santos went on, "You live in a very safe community. A lot of you don't believe that. Statistically, you're wrong."

After nearly 25 minutes of listening to Santos share some of the email he had received, letters-to-the-editor, and, strangely, crime statistics for the city of Adelanto, Santos asked the crowd how many had been affected by crime. Santos then shared that he had been a victim of crime 10 times, including having his car stolen three times. When Santos asked, "Is crime up in San Leandro? Do you know? Do you know? How many of you feel crime is up?", the crowd indicated crime was up and one resident answered, "On my street it is." There was grumbling from the crowd as Santos called the show of hands "a clear majority" and noted that nobody thought that crime was down. Santos showed the crowd statistics and stated that crime was down 25% over the last 10 years and that it was down an additional five percent in 2007. [Editor's note: The city's statistics show that the total number of crimes is down 24% from a high of 6412 crimes in 1994 to 4848 crimes in 2007, but without the population numbers for those years, it is difficult to know if the crime rate went up or down. It should also be noted that the years 1993 to 1995 had abnormally high numbers of crimes.] Tim Holmes, owner of Zocalo Coffeehouse and a Broadmoor-area resident, responded, "How do you define crime? What does that mean?...Car thefts are up 72%." Santos said, "Tim, you're wrong." Holmes cited the FBI as the source of the information. [Editor's note: According to the FBI, which gets it data from the San Leandro Police Department, auto thefts went from 725 in 1996 to 1247 in 2006, an increase of 72%.] .Santos then claimed that the most recent FBI statistics are from 2005, which was quickly refuted by a member o the audience [Editor's note: FBI crime statistics for 2006 are available at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/index.html].

Santos went on to state "The City of San Leandro Police Department responds to every single call..." which was greeted with loud skepticism from the crowd. After Santos asked, "In which year of the last 25 years did we have the most crime?" the crowd had had enough. People in the crowd shouted that they wanted to know about what was happening now. An audience member asked Santos to clarify whether he was discussing crime statistics or the crime rate. Santos first said that the numbers are down and then claimed that he was discussing the crime rate as well. When Santos indicated he was going to report the crime statistics to show that crime was down, Holmes interrupted by asking the crowd, "Is anybody here going to believe the statistics that he's about to provide us provide an accurate portrayal of the area in which you live?" and the crowd indicated that they didn't.

Throughout the meeting, Santos stated in defense that he had intended the meeting to be with the leaders of 15 homeowners associations, but residents questioned what Santos had expected to present to the homeowners association leaders. William Cousins was at the meeting representing residents of Aileen Street and complained about a resident on his block who had been arrested "200 times" and was quickly back on the street after each arrest.

Wafaa Aborashed of the Davis West Neighborhood Association said that the police chief needed to be there to the applause and agreement of the crowd.

Linda Perry, of the Halcyon-Foothill Homeowners Association, asked for crime information relevant for specific areas so that residents could be warned and be on the lookout.

Santos noted that the Washington Manor area had the lowest overall number of crimes and said that it was because of a "strong homeowners association going back the better part of 50 years," and because "they've established a neighborhood watch."

After asking and challenging Perry about attendance at Halcyon-Foothill Neighborhood Association meetings, Santos took questions from the audience.

Emmett Cadigan of the Assumption Parish neighborhood said that "it's more of a quality-of-life issue" than a crime and stats issue. When Cadigan complained about an event at the high school and a "rude" dispatcher, Santos challenged him to cite the date and time of the incident. Aborashed noted the large amount of graffiti in the Davis West area and five automobile break-ins in one block and said, "The elders in our neighborhood are terrorized."

Aurora Drive resident George Bond, a law enforcement officer, noted that the numbers being claimed to show a decrease in crime didn't necessarily affect the crime rate, which can be affected by changes in population. Santos didn't respond to Mr. Bond's comments and moved on to other comments.

Brenda Salgado, from the Farrelly Pond Neighborhood Association said, "The best thing that can come out of this meeting is if the homeowners associations and the people in our community put our heads together and say What concrete suggestions do we have ... to fix this problem together and it also means looking at our homeowners groups and saying ok, what can we be doing."

Santos noted that he has been pushing to hire more officers to get the number of sworn officers up to 100. In its presentation on Monday, January 14, 2008, Police Chief Attarian stated his goal of hiring nine more sworn officers and six more non-sworn staff. In response to concerns about auto thefts, Santos said that the San Leandro Police Department will begin using a camera on police vehicles that can automatically read license plate numbers and check them against a stolen vehicle database as a police car is driving through the city.

Bo Johansen of the Mulford Gardens Improvement Association suggested that the neighborhood associations organize together as the Associated Homeowners had done in the past to ensure that the residents of San Leandro "can tell the city what we want."

One resident complained about city's lack of responsiveness to her concerns about speeding in her neighborhood. She also said she didn't feel safe having her children see movies at the theater. Assistant City Manager Hollister agreed, saying that he wouldn't let his teens go to the theater and explained that Madison Marquette and the City have been demanding more security at the theater. Another resident said that she goes to the theater weekly, but never sees a police officer at the theater come out of his car.

Santos offered to walk residents' neighborhoods at their request at any time as often as requested. Holmes basically ended the meeting, stating, "I think everyone in the room knows that crime doesn't happen when there are people around watching. It makes a huge difference if you'll get out and walk. Twice a day, get on your block. Find out who on your block is home during the day. Ask to schedule something with them. See if they can go on a regular basis....It means calling in, it means getting people on board, it means getting to know your neighbors better, it means getting more involved. And every single person in the room here has some responsibility for that...Every single one of us has to do something. Paying for more police is extremely expensive and does a very poor job of deterring crime unless the cop happens to drive by at the right time...Tony didn't create this crime. This crime's been going on longer than he's been Mayor. He has little ability to affect it, in my opinion. Adding six more policemen, according to the stats the FBI has...does not make a significant difference in how much crime you have. It has a huge amount to do with how many people are out, how many people are involved in their community and know what's going on."

Many in the audience left frustrated by what they felt was Mayor Santos' failure to seriously address their concerns and in some cases being dismissive and even condescending. One resident also said that the Mayor came across as rude a few times while another left the meeting "disgusted."

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January 16, 2008

Presentation on Crime Posted on City Web Site

Council Report, Crime Trends, Staffing and Future TrendsSan Leandro Police Chief Dale Attarian's report entitled, "Council Report, Crime Trends, Staffing and Future Trends," which was presented at the City Council Work Session on Monday, January 14, 2008, has been posted to the city's web site.

The report received by Councilmembers at the Monday meeting included a few additional pages which reported crime information for each of the six City Council districts.

Copies of the report were handed out to leaders of homeowners associations at a meeting held by Mayor Tony Santos at the San Leandro Library on Tuesday, January 15, 2008.

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January 14, 2008

San Leandro Crime Statistics for 2007

The statistics on crime in San Leandro in 2007 are out and, as San Leandro Police Chief Dale Attarian has previously stated, crime is down overall in San Leandro. Despite statistics that show an overall decrease in crime and San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos assuring residents that "It's just fear" in response to concerns about public safety, heightened concern about crime is reflected in discussions at recent City Council meetings, a Town Hall held by Councilmembers Diana Souza and Joyce Starosciak, and a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 15, 2008, with the leaders of homeowner associations.

By the numbers, crime in San Leandro is down, from 5,115 crimes in 2006 to 4,848 in 2007. Those numbers include rapes, murders, robberies, aggravated assaults, simple assaults, burglaries, larcenies, auto thefts, and arson.

As reported previously, there were no murders in 2007 compared to four in 2006. Rapes declined 59% from 29 in 2006 to 12 in 2007. Aggravated assault declined 18% from 302 in 2006 to 248 in 2007. Larceny declined 11% from 2,176 in 2006 to 1,933 in 2007.

Arsons increased 33% from 12 in 2006 to 16 in 2007. Burglaries increased 3% and auto thefts increased one percent.

In 2006, Las Vegas was listed as the metropolitan area with the highest auto theft rate by the National Insurance Crime Bureau with a rate of 1,310 vehicles stolen for every 100,000 residents. In 2006, San Leandro had a rate of more than 1,580 vehicles stolen for every 100,000 residents.

According to Chief Attarian, some vehicles are now stolen just to remove the catalytic converters, from which the platinum catalyst is recovered for its value. Last year, four vehicles stolen from San Leandro were recovered at one Oakland address and all were missing their catalytic converters. The owner of Converters West, a San Leandro auto parts dealer, was recently arrested for buying stolen catalytic converters.

But the numbers don't tell the whole story. Crime in one area of the city could increase while crime in another area is flat or dropping. Unfortunately, that data isn't available yet, but San Leandro Bytes is working on it and will publish it once it becomes available.

At last night's City Council work session, the Councilmembers received a report entitled, "Council Report, Crime Trends, Staffing and Future Trends" by Chief Attarian. Included at the end of the report were specific crime statistics for each City Council District. That data is reproduced in the graph below. Chief Attarian noted that the total number of crimes when separated by district (4761) doesn't match the 2007 number of 4848 because of problems with identifying the proper district for each crime. Click here for the data used to create the graph.

San Leandro Crime Statistics for 2007 by District

Chief Attarian noted that the high number of larcenies (thefts) in District 2 is because the area includes Bayfair Center and the commercial corridor along E. 14th Street.

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City Council Work Session on Crime, Monday, January 14, 2008

The City Council will be discussing police services, a strategic plan for the police and crime statistics at its work session meeting on Monday, January 14, 2008.

The meeting starts at 7pm and is held in the Helen Lawrence South Offices Conference Room, located south of City Hall and the Police Department at 999 E. 14th Street.

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January 13, 2008

Substation Fire Near Georgia Pacific on Marina Blvd.

Around 10am on Sunday, January 13, 2008, a fire broke out at an electrical substation behind Georgia Pacific near 1990 Marina Boulevard. Firefighters first tried to access a vacant lot adjacent to the fire, but were unable to cut the locks using bolt cutters. By the time firefighters used a gas-powered grinder to cut through the lock, the fire appeared to be buring itself out. One of the bystanders noted that the lights in his house had flickered at about the time the fire started.

substation fire near Georgia Pacific on Marina Boulevard

Another photo and eyewitness account.

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January 10, 2008

San Leandro Store Owner Charged With Buying Stolen Catalytic Converters

Christopher Panarra, 44, owner of Converters West, was arrested today and charged with buying stolen catalytic converters from undercover police officers. According to CHP Sgt. Les Bishop, the store was a "central delivery and processing location for the stolen converters." Police reported that 40 stolen cars have been recovered and 14 other people have been arrested as part of the investigation.

There were 1,267 automobile thefts reported in San Leandro in 2007. According to San Leandro Police Chief Dale Attarian, four stolen cars were found at one address in Oakland, all with their catalytic converters removed. In the November 28, 2007, San Leandro Times, one resident noted that the catalytic converter from his vehicle had been stolen three times in eight months while parked at the San Leandro BART station.

Catalytic converters use precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium to reduce emissions from motor vehicle exhaust. These precious metals are what make catalytic converters so expensive.

Converters West sells remanufactured catalytic converters and is located at 1669 Abram Court in San Leandro.

Coverage from the Daily Review, San Francisco Chonicle and KTVU.

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January 8, 2008

Town Hall meeting for Washington Manor Residents Thursday January 10, 2008

On Thursday, January 10, 2008, Councilmembers Joyce Starosciak and Diana Souza will hold a Town Hall at the Marina Community Center for Washington Manor residents.

Issues to be discussed include crime, the Washington Manor Middle School gymnasium project, and the activities of the Washington Manor Homeowners Association. Refreshments will be served.

The meeting will start at 6:30pm. The Marina Community Center is located at 15301 Wicks Blvd. in San Leandro.

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January 2, 2008

San Leandro Ends 2007 With No Murders

According to San Leandro Police Chief Dale Attarian, there were no murders reported in the City of San Leandro during all of 2007. The most recent year prior to 2007 in which there were no murders in San Leandro was 1984, according to Chief Attarian.

This appears to at least partially corroborate Chief Attarian's previous claim that "San Leandro has seen the lowest crime rate in the past five years." The City of Oakland also recorded fewer murders in 2007 than in 2006.

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The Complete Presentation of the Revenue Measure Feasibility Study

Revenue_Measure_Feasibility_Study.jpgOn December 18, 2007, San Leandro Bytes reported on the results of a Revenue Measure Feasibility Study conducted by Godbe Research for the City of San Leandro. The results of that study were presented at the December 17, 2007, City Council meeting and the presentation is now available online.

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