July 26, 2011

San Leandro City Council to File Amicus Brief Supporting Keeping San Leandro Hospital Open

At a special meeting held on Monday, July 25, 2011, the San Leandro City Council voted 6-0 (Gregory was absent) to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of Eden Township Healthcare District in it fight with Sutter Health over San Leandro Hospital.

Councilmember Michael Gregory has spoken out in support of San Leandro Hospital at two Town Halls and a rally and current Mayor Stephen Cassidy has also been vocal in his support of San Leandro Hospital at town Town Halls and during his campaign for Mayor.

However, Monday night marks the first time that the San Leandro City Council has decided to spend money and offer concrete support for keeping San Leandro Hospital open.

According to San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams, the law firm of Meyers Nave will prepare the brief at a cost not to exceed $7,500. Williams also stated, "A letter will also be sent to the Attorney General on behalf of the City encouraging the AG [Attorney General] to file an amicus on behalf of the District with respect to the conflict of interest (Government Code 1090) issues that have been raised in the appeal.

The deadline to file an amicus brief is August 8, 2011.

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July 23, 2011

San Leandro in 1907

The following article about San Leandro appeared in the September 1907 edition of Out West Magazine:


"OH. HOW BEAUTIFUL! I had no idea this was such a lovely place."

This or some other similar expression, is the one which invariably falls from the lips of those beholding San Leandro for the first time; and a stay of any length in the town always convinces the sojourners that their first impression was no mistake.

This charming burg lies on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, about four miles below Fruitvale, and occupies about the same relative position to Oakland on the south as Berkeley does on the north.

It is no exaggeration to say that San Leandro has the most even climate of any locality in the State, the United States Weather Reports of 1906 showing the average to be sixty-two degrees Fahrenheit in summer, and sixty degrees in winter, which is unquestionably an incomparable record--a place where "Jack Frost" is a stranger and the severe rigors of winter unknown, likewise, a place never oppressive with the sultry heat of summer.

This remarkable equality in climate is due largely, if not entirely. to the proximity of the ocean, the cool breezes of which temper not only the sun's rays, but the severe chills of winter as well.

The damp fogs which creep through the Golden Gate seldom reach San Leandro, and when they do come that far, it is always at such an elevation as to be entirely unobjectionable.

San Leandro is on the line of two transcontinental railroads, the Southern Pacific and the Western Pacific. Additional passenger service is given by the Oakland Transit Consolidated, which runs through the main street of the city and connects with the ten-minute ferry-service across the bay to San Francisco. The other railroad improvements which are now under construction will undoubtedly in a very short time place the town on an equal footing with Berkeley as regards both service and rates.

View of San Leandro

Of all other things, San Leandro is probably best noted for its beautiful streets.. In the early history of the bicycle craze it was here that many a famous record-run was made. At the present writing the automobile enthusiasts are proposing to hold the Vanderbilt Cup races here, and the arrangements are in a fair way to be made.

Estudillo Avenue, which connects the San Leandro Road with the new Scenic Boulevard, is without a rival in the state for beauty. Tall overhanging locust-trees meeting overhead, give the appearance of a roadway through a veritable tunnel of green foliage.

The new Scenic Boulevard referred to is almost completed to San Leandro, It is a wide. finely-paved roadway, running along the foot-hills as far as Haywards, and will cost the county nearly half a million dollars. It is claimed that more automobiles run through San Leandro than anywhere else in California.

The Plaza in San Leandro

The fine climate makes. this locality a choice spot for fruits and flowers. Cherries and apricots are the principal fruit-products, with apples, peaches, pears and plums in lesser quantity. Berries and melon do equally well. San Leandro has on more than one occasion furnished the first raspberries to the San Francisco market. All kinds of table-vegetables do fully as well as fruits and melons, and the value of the vegetable products is quite equal to that of the fruit. Situated about a mail east of the town, nestling in the foot-hills, is beautiful Lake Chabot, famous not only for its scenic beauty, but also for the fact that its waters are restrained by the largest earth-dam in the world. A good roadway runs for five miles along the western shores of the lake, and makes an attractive drive. Lake Chabot furnishes the town with water, and also contributes to the water-supply of Oakland.

San Leandro is an ideal manufacturing city, by reason of being on the line of two transcontinental roads and having a climate which enables men lo work at their best in all seasons of the year. The largest plant now located here is that of the Best Manufacturing Company, devoted principally to making harvesting machinery, traction engines, crude-oil engines and other machinery of that class. It occupies over two square blocks and gives employment to over three hundred men. Its business is steadily on the increase.

The Junior Monarch Hay Press Works are also located here. The "Junior Monarch" and "Little Giant" hay presses are well known all over the West.

Here, also, is the home of the popular "Boss Ladder" made by Driver, Aber & Co., who, by the way, are the largest ladder-manufacturers on the Coast.

A Street in San Leandro

The Pacific Preserves Company and the California Fruit Canners' Association, both have large establishments here, which during the season give enjoyment to a considerable number of people.

San Leandro has its quota of schools and churches. The primary and grammar school buildings are well located in a spacious block with attractive grounds. Both schools have a good record. There is also a Catholic convent for young ladies, under charge of the Dominican Sisters, where all English branches are taught, besides foreign languages, music, painting and fancy work. Boarding pupils left in their care are given a complete education.

A modern paid fire department is one of the proud possessions of the city, which was recently augmented by the addition of a powerful gasoline fire-engine. The trustees now have in contemplation the installation of a fire alarm telegraph, which will put the town in first-class rank as regards fire protection.

Residence Near San Leandro

Bridge Over San Leandro Creek

Estudillo Avenue in San Leandro

The Suburban Electric Light Company has its head office here and supplies light and power to many surrounding towns. San Leandro itself is admitted to be one of the best lighted towns in the State.

Another distinguishing feature is the number of fraternal orders located here. Every prominent fraternal society is represented and they all have a good membership and apparently thrive. Consequently social entertainment is never lacking.

In conclusion, it can be truthfully said that this charming locality possesses extraordinary features. Its proximity to San Francisco and the fast growing city of Oakland makes it convenient for "suburbanites." The railroad improvements contemplated and those under construction will undoubtedly double its population within a short time.

As a manufacturing locality, as a place of residence or for investment, San Leandro offers exceptional attractions.

A San Leandro Home (Dunsmuir House)

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July 18, 2011

Bal Theatre's Hearing at San Leandro Board of Zoning Adjustments

Last week, the San Leandro Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) approved a new permit for the Bal Theatre, a restored 1946 theater owned by Dan Dillman.

Despite a Conditional Use Permit that explicitly prohibited live performances, the Bal Theatre held a comedy event on New Year's Eve 2010. Complaints about that event brought the theater to the attention of City staff, which sent a letter demanding that the theater not hold such events. Dillman rallied supporters to his cause to get his permit changed to permit live events, resulting in a new permit that allows a limited number of live performances each month.

Below are videos from the meeting. The first is a presentation by Elmer Penaranda, a Senior Project Specialist with the City of San Leandro:

The city presentation was followed by a presentation by Chris Crow, a neighbor of the Bal Theatre representing Dillman (Crow is also on the San Leandro Planning Commission). Crow asked to remove the restrictions on dancing, the hours of operation, the frequency of permitted activities (live performances), and a requirement to have changes in activities reviewed by the Community Development Department or BZA (for larger changes):

Supporters and opponents of the Bal Theatre's new permit then expressed their opinions:

In the end, despite members of the BZA expressing their displeasure at being asked by Crow for significant modifications to the proposed permit, the BZA approved the Bal Theatre's new permit (with no modifications) unanimously.

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July 8, 2011

Former San Leandro City Manager Lee Riordan Dies

Former San Leandro City Manager Lee Riordan
Former San Leandro City Manager LeRoy E. "Lee" Riordan died on July 2, 2011, after a brief illness. Riordan started working in San Leandro's finance department in 1952 after working as an Administrative Analyst for the US Air Force. He was appointed Assistant City Manager in 1956 and served in that position for 20 years before he was appointed City Manager in 1976 when Wes McClure retired. After ten years as City Manager, Riordan retired briefly and then served as the City Manager for Monterey from 1987 until 1991. From 1991 until 1996, Riordan served as the Advisor to the Mayor Association of Monterey County.

Elected officials and city officials who worked with Riordan had nothing but praise for him. John Jermanis, who worked under Riordan, said, "Lee was a great guy; he was highly regarded by his many friends and colleagues and will be missed." Jermanis noted that "he [Riordan] placed an emphasis on disaster training for staff" and also worked with the City Council to establish a reserve fund (later used in 1998 for the Hillside Drive landslides).

Former San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos said of Riordan, "He assisted me in learning about city budgets; I came from the private sector and did not have experience in city budgeting."

Bob Glaze, the former Councilmember for District 4, said, "He was strong but could sit down and help to bring people to consensus. His "can do" attitude was instrumental in the return of the Cherry festival, cherry tree plantings, the cherry symbol of the street signs and the celebration of the city and the people."

Former Mayor Shelia Young said she will "remember him as someone who had a passion for San Leandro and lived it."

Riordan was City Manager when Proposition 13 was passed and when recession drove interest rates to all-time highs. Financing became so prohibitive that a planned multi-story shopping center with underground parking could not be completed, but was salvaged in a public-private deal resulting in the large parking lot and single story buildings known as Washington Plaza Shopping Center.

Projects started while Riordan was City Manager include the Greenhouse Market Place, Parkside apartments, and Marina Square shopping center (formerly Pacific High School). The Marina Inn and the original Tony Lema 18-hole golf course were completed under Riordan's tenure.

After his second retirement, Riordan served as a Range Rider from 1997 until 2003, making "the counsel, experience and support of respected retired City Managers available to active local government Managers and Administrators."

Riordan served as the President of the Municipal Management Association of Northern California in the 1950s and was a member of the Board of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

Mayor Stephen Cassidy adjourned the July 5, 2011, meeting of the City Council in memory of Riordan and flags will be flown at half-staff at City facilities for one week. No information about funeral services was available.

Update: Corrected to eliminate Blue Dolphin as construction began in 1965, prior to Riordan's tenure as City Manager.

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July 6, 2011

City Council Votes to Contribute to Their Own Pensions

On July 5, 2011, the San Leandro City Council voted 5 to 2 for members of the City Council to pay the employee contribution portion of their pension contribution. Councilmembers Joyce Starosciak and Diana Souza voted against the change, arguing that a salary reduction would be more equitable. This means that Councilmembers Starosciak, Souza, Pauline Cutter and Michael Gregory will be receive an estimated $1,306 less each year and Mayor Stephen Cassidy will receive an estimated $2,600 less each year.

Previously, the City of San Leandro paid this for Councilmembers and all employees. For non-public safety employees, that is 8% of their salary and for police, it is 9%.

In 2010, the City of San Leandro paid $2,613 for former Mayor Tony Santos' employee CalPERS contribution, in addition to the employer portion of $4,363. That was the most for any elected official in the Bay Area, For three of the City Councilmembers (Souza, Starosciak, and Gregory) the City of San Leandro paid $1,306 each for the employee CalPERS contribution ($1,210 in 2011) and $2,181 each for the employer CalPERS contribution. The City of San Leandro did not pay any CalPERS contribution for Councilmember Ursula Reed and former Councilmember Bill Stephens because they were covered by their full-time jobs working for school districts. Although Councilmember Jim Prola is eligible to receive the pension benefit, he has voluntarily declined it since taking office.

If the Council decides to pay for their portion of the CalPERS contribution, the City will save $7,120 with the current City Council and up to $10,500 under future City Councils.

While the amount of money is small compared to an annual general fund budget of $71.76 million, the change sets the stage for contract negotiations in 2012.


San Leandro is one of just three cities in Alameda County that pays the entire portion of non-public safety employees' pension contribution. The other cities are Berkeley and Pleasanton, but Pleasanton excludes management employees.

Similarly, San Leandro pays the entire portion of public safety employees' pension contribution, along with the cities of Livermore and Oakland. Pleasanton pays the full employee contribution for police, but not fire. However, it appears that things will soon change in Oakland, where a draft of the new police contract contains a provision for Oakland Police to pay the full 9% employee portion of their pension contribution.

In 2011-2012, the average San Leandro police pension payment is 42.6 cents for every dollar of salary. That is more than any other city in Alameda County and it is projected to rise to 46.7 cents next year. Berkeley is the next highest, with 36 cents this year and 40 cents next year.

By contrast, the average pension payment for San Leandro's non-police employees is 13.2 cents for every dollar of salary this year, rising to 17.5 cents next year. Oakland, Hayward, Pleasanton, Livermore, Fremont, and Berkeley are projected to pay more than that next year.

If the City of San Leandro employee unions agree to a similar change in their contracts, the City of San Leandro would save an estimated $3 million per year. Changes made to the non-public safety employees contract in 2010 modified the amount new employees would receive at retirement (from 2.5% at 55 years old to 2.0%), but savings from that provision won't be realized until new employees are hired.

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July 4, 2011

Souza Seeks Support for Pot Ordinance at Town Hall Meeting

San Leandro District 3 Councilmember Diana Souza spoke at a recent Town Hall meeting about a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited marijuana collectives and cooperatives. That ordinance failed to pass on May 16, 2011, with Councilmembers Ursula Reed, Pauline Cutter, Jim Prola, and Michael Gregory voting against passing the ordinance.

While Souza did not explicitly encourage members of the audience to pressure their council members to pass an ordinance, it was clear that was her intent. The following is a transcript of her comments regarding the marijuana ordinance:

The thing that I'm going to talk to you about is medical marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities. How many of you know what those are? Great. We're moving along. So the Council directed staff at the end of last year, I believe it was, to put together an ordinance. Well first of all, we put a moratorium on medical marijuana in the City and we then directed staff to say create an ordinance to prohibit dispensaries and grow farms. So staff diligently did the work that we asked them to, When they brought that ordinance back to us, the ordinance was rejected by Council. So now we still have a moratorium and it's going to expire to expire, but we'll probably extend it another year. But we're going to be needing to give staff direction on what we want them to create. They have no direction right now and we haven't given them any. So I just want you as residents to be aware that coming down the road we're going to be giving them direction, so if you want to have a conversation with your council member or if you want to have input on how the council should provide that direction, I encourage you to contact your council members. And again, I don't really want to get into a debate about anything else about the situation right now. But I do want to just encourage - make you aware that's coming up and if you have an opinion, share it with your council members coming up.

The history of San Leandro's prohibitions of dispensaries dates back to December 2004 when the City Council enacted a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries to prevent one from opening in San Leandro. Subsequent ordinances were passed in January 2005 and January 2006.

However, the moratorium on marijuana dispensaries ended as of December 4, 2006, because the State of California places time limits on urgency ordinances like the ones San Leandro enacted to prohibit marijuana dispensaries within the City. According to the City Attorney, marijuana dispensaries cannot be licensed in San Leandro because they possess and distribute a federally-controlled substance. San Leandro Municipal Code Sec. 2.2.420 permits the Finance Director to reject a business license application if there is "reasonable cause to believe...that a proposed business will not comply with any applicable laws..." This seems to give the City of San Leandro the flexibility to ban or license marijuana-related businesses depending on the current climate.

More recently, on October 4, 2010, the City Council approved a 45-day interim urgency ordinance that placed a moratorium on dispensaries and grow facilities. After a work session on November 8, 2010, City staff recommended that the City Council adopt a 22-month moratorium at the November 15, 2010, meeting. That recommendation failed and a shorter 10-month moratorium was approved with only Councilmember Joyce Starosciak opposed (she voted for the longer moratorium).

At a February 28, 2011, work session, the City Council directed staff to prepare an ordinance prohibiting Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Cultivation. On May 16, 2011, that ordinance was defeated, as noted above.

The current moratorium expires on September 30, 2011. Since the City already has the authority, under its municipal code, to prohibit licensing of marijuana-related businesses, the expiration of the moratorium is unlikely to produce any change in the status of marijuana-related businesses in the City of San Leandro.

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July 3, 2011

District 3 & 4 Town Hall Focuses on Crime and Traffic Projects

Coffee with the COPS Coming This Fall

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Councilmember Diana Souza, and Councilmember Joyce Starosciak held a Town Hall meeting for council districts 3 and 4 on June 30, 2011, at the Marina Community Center.

San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli announced a new program for the fall called "Coffee with the COPS," in which officers will come to your neighborhood at your local business or neighborhood association and speak about crime issues in the local area and what residents can do to reduce crime.

After a brief introduction by Mayor Cassidy, Councilmember Starosciak spoke about construction at some San Lorenzo schools, construction of the dog park at Marina Park, and construction of Kaiser Hospital.

During her presentation, Spagnoli first described the capture of a burglar earlier in the day and credited the capture to residents who called it in and a smart officer. Spagnoli started off with programs offered by the San Leandro Police Department, including Neighborhood Watch, Crime Free Business, Crime Free-Multi-housing, and National Night Out.

Spagnoli also described new programs started within the last year: Citizens Police Academy and Teen Police Academy, which give residents the opportunity to learn more about the police and the resources that are available.

On-line reporting, which Spagnoli said "is not a replacement for an officer" is now available at http://sleservices.ci.san-leandro.ca.us/coplogic/start-report.html. Some of the crimes that can be reported include theft, vandalism, fraudulent credit card use, hit & run, and threatening phone calls.

Also in fall, the San Leandro Police will begin publishing an online police activity/arrest log. Spagnoli said that residents will be able to find out what is going on in a specific area when there is police activity - and will also relieve the police dispatchers.

According to Spagnoli, crime overall in San Leandro is up 6% from the same period last year. Spagnoli said that this is not unexpected, since crime last year was at a thirty-year low. She warned that "prison release and parole reform" would have a heavy impact in the Bay Area and San Leandro. The bulk of the increase appeared to be due to murders and rapes, according to the data from her presentation.

San Leandro Officer Tim Degrano spoke about crime statistics for District 3 and 4. DeGrano noted that auto thefts were concentrated at places like Bayfair, Greenhouse Shopping Center and Marina Square, which he described as target-rich environments. Most auto thefts took place during the day. Burglaries occurred evenly during the day and night.

During questions from the audience, Spagnoli noted that the Police Department just moved to an automated answering system for the non-emergency number. Spagnoli said that dispatched handled 65,000 calls last year. With the introduction of e-911 (San Leandro is one of the last communities to begin using this system), an additional 18,000 calls are being routed to the police dispatchers, making the automated system necessary.

Souza asked Spagnoli, "People see fireworks coming from the backyard but they can't see who's doing it - someone in the house can still be arrested, correct?" Spagnoli responded, "We would probably take it [the fireworks] and give them a citation."

Alameda County Fire Chief Sheldon Gilbert noted that the City of San Leandro has re-instituted it participation in the Fire Department's Emergency Preparedness program that had been victim of budget cuts. In this program, the first department helps train communities to be prepared, and map resources and needs in the community.

City of San Leandro Engineers Keith Cooke and Ken Joseph followed with a description of traffic projects in districts 3 and 4, touching on pavement projects and road work associated with the construction of Kaiser Hospital.

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