Cops vs. Cocks 

Does it really take a dozen cops to confiscate a rooster in Oaktown? Nacho's top aide moves into real estate; Plus, yet another reason to avoid the bus.

With Oakland experiencing one of its most murderous years on record, Rockridge animal lovers Catalina Chesley and Xavier Zapata were shocked when nearly a dozen cops showed up at their door because they were illegally harboring ... a rooster. Then, when the couple's three black labs began barking, Chesley recalls, an officer demanded the dogs be restrained or he'd have to shoot them. "You'd think there was an al-Qaeda cell in here," she says.

Police handed Zapata a search warrant they had obtained to confiscate the couple's rooster, Guapito, whose crowing was the subject of persistent complaints from neighbors. The cops wound up taking Guapito and four other chickens into "protective custody" because they couldn't tell if the others were hens or roosters.

Chesley and Zapata, local real-estate investors, say it was a totally unnecessary show of force. "It was such a waste of police resources to come here to confiscate five chickens," says Zapata, who says he keeps the birds as pets.

A new ordinance went into effect in January that prohibits Oakland residents from keeping roosters (hens are okay). So while Chesley and Zapata were indeed in violation of the law, they do have a point. Don't Oakland police have other priorities?

OPD Captain Frank Lowe maintains that it's best to play it safe when taking away someone's pets. Thirteen years ago, a pit-bull owner gunned down Officer William Grijalva when the officer tried to take the dog into custody. "The potential for violence in a lot of these situations is there," Lowe reasons. He adds that a combination of sworn cops and animal control officers executed the search warrant, although Zapata says he saw mostly regular uniformed police.

It wasn't the couple's first run-in with Oakland authorities over their fowl. Back in 2000, animal control seized their rooster Machito. Chesley and Zapata negotiated with shelter officials, who agreed to return Machito if they worked things out with their neighbors. But when they went to pick up the bird, they discovered the shelter mistakenly had put Machito to sleep. This time around, things didn't end so gruesomely: Officials returned the four hens, but are relocating Guapito to a more rural setting, says Sergeant David Cronin, who heads the animal shelter.

Zapata and Chesley, who both grew up on farms, say they like having the birds around. They feed them food scraps and in return get eggs and fertilizer for their fruit trees and plants. Zapata argues that keeping the birds helps the city meet its zero-waste goals. While Feeder interviews Zapata, one of his silky chickens makes a pleasant clucking sound. "That's what I love to hear," he says. "They soothe me."

But Guapito didn't soothe Rebecca Daniels, who lives one street over and a few houses down. She has butted heads with her neighbors for years over their roosters, and is happy that the loud birds are finally gone. Daniels works at home, and says she could hear Guapito crow all day. Her husband, a musician who often sleeps during the day, couldn't get any rest with all the rooster ruckus. "It can be maddening," she says. Chelsey and Zapata say Daniels has a personal vendetta against them, a charge she dismisses: "I have a legal right not to have to listen to a rooster crowing all day."

Carlito's Day

It wasn't all that long ago that Carlos Plazola looked like a political up-and-comer in Oakland. He's smart, handsome, and bilingual. The longtime chief of staff to City Council Generalissimo Ignacio De La Fuente, he was being groomed as De La Fuente's successor. He'd moved into Nacho's Fruitvale council district with an eye on running for office once the boss moved on.

Last week, however, the 37-year-old Plazola sent a surprise e-mail to City Hall denizens announcing his resignation to focus on his real-estate development venture, something he did on the side while working for De La Fuente. "On my free time, I began to invest in this city that I have grown to love," he wrote. "Some of my investments have matured, fortunately, and they are now giving me an opportunity to focus on more effectively supporting my growing family and their needs — college is approaching quickly for my oldest son."

Plazola sang a much different tune back in June when Feeder confronted him about a possible conflict of interest caused by one of his real-estate ventures in De La Fuente's district, which he hadn't disclosed to his boss (see "Carlito's Play," Bottom Feeder, 7/5). At that point, Plazola was worried about losing his safe City Hall job and being unable to support his kids.

Plazola didn't return a phone call, but De La Fuente insists his aide didn't quit because of any controversy over his land dealings. "We've been talking about this for a while," De La Fuente says. The council president says Plazola had to reassess his options after De La Fuente lost his mayoral bid in June, which ruined any hope of Plazola getting a high-paying job in the mayor's office or running for De La Fuente's council seat.

Speaking of that seat, there's speculation Nacho may not run for re-election in 2008 — something he doesn't dismiss out of hand: "At this point, I have no idea what I'm going to do." Then, he adds with a laugh: "Can I be the enforcer for Jerry Brown when he becomes attorney general?"

Roach Coach

Forget Snakes on a Plane. Try Roaches on a Bus. The hot summer months have brought out the cockroaches, according to maintenance folks at AC Transit. One supervisor at the Richmond depot says they've had to take three buses out of circulation to have them fumigated and, well, he's sick of all these muthafuckin' roaches on these muthafuckin' buses.

Transit agency spokesman Clarence Johnson couldn't confirm the Richmond infestations, but did say the district pays a pest control firm $17,500 a year to service all its buses every two or three months. Johnson adds that it's not uncommon for urban transit agencies to have pest problems. Indeed, Alameda County Vector Control chief Bill Pitcher says his department had to combat a lice outbreak on BART a few years ago.

How do roaches infest a moving target like a bus? AC Transit's Johnson blames passengers who unwittingly carry the bugs on their clothes or bags. "If you have a roach or two that gets on the bus and crawl into the seats and they lay some eggs, you'll have a few roaches at some point," he says.

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