_Flower Power: Last November we told you the pitiful tale of small, family-owned businesses in San Leandro, who were being elbowed out of their longtime digs by the city's plan to turn over a stretch of Marina Boulevard to auto dealer Anthony Batarse. In what some city officials later regretted as a poorly planned scheme to generate more tax revenue, the city invested a bundle of dough in Batarse's ventures, while telling small businesses that their lands would be confiscated through the process of eminent domain to make room for still more new cars. But the older businesses objected; Yakota Nursery, still run by the family of a Japanese-American couple who started the flower business after their release from internment during WWII, drew dozens of concerned citizens to their cause. After all, what would Alameda County do without its last remaining flower-growing business?
Looks like we'll soon find out. The city withdrew its eminent domain proceedings on most of the businesses last year, but now the Yakotas have announced they're selling their property for $9.5 million to the city -- which will promptly turn around and hand it over to the car dealer, potentially at a reduced price. But that still leaves other longtime businesses -- like Martinelli's Poultry -- with an eminent domain takeover hanging over their heads. The Martinellis have sued the city, so it looks like this mess won't be cleaned up anytime soon.
_Omigod! Did you catch the *NSYNC show last weekend at the Oakland Coliseum? 7 Days totally did, along with, like, 999,999 of our closest screaming pre-adolescent friends. Here are a few of the super-important facts we wrote down once our ears finally stopped ringing:
Number of days it took to
assemble *NSYNC's set: 5
Number of people it takes to
set up each show: 500
Approximate cost of building the
Number of copies sold of No Strings
Attached, *NSYNC's previous album:
Approximate number of autographs
band will sign during tour:
Number of opening bands at
Number of opening bands featuring an
*NSYNC member's father:
Number of times a performer said
"Is Oakland in the house?":
Number of times a performer said,
"Alright, San Francisco!":
Number of commercials shown in first
ten minutes of the half-hour intermission between opening acts and *NSYNC:
Number of commercials based on
the idea of rioting preteen girls:
Britney Spears videos
shown during intermission:
Epithet shouted by actual preteen
girls in audience upon seeing
Number of mechanical bulls used in
Number of larger-than-life-size
Number of costume changes:
(but then we stopped counting)
Approximate volume increase in
preteen girls' screaming during
Justin Timberlake solos:
Products given prominent placement
in between-song background videos:
McDonald´s, Chia Pets, Barney
Crowd warm-up song chosen by emcee:
³If You´re Happy & You Know It Clap Your Hands²
Best T-shirt spotted on adult male audience member:
³Back off, girls, J.C. is mine!²
Best T-shirt overall:
³I used to live in O-Town,
but then I moved to *NSYNC!²
_Beauty bane: Hayward's downtown redevelopment plans are so far being met with some wary glances from the supposed beneficiaries of said neighborhood beautification. For the last year and a half, the city has been deliberating on the best way to spruce up its image, and it decided that its aging downtown district was the best candidate. Last week, downtown property owners were asked to vote on whether they would like to tax themselves to pay for improvements to the sidewalks and trees in the downtown district at a cost of $6.1 million. Even with the city's promises that the redevelopment agency would kick in forty percent of the cost, the vote failed. Hayward City Manager Jesús Armas says that the effort foundered because the improvements didn't look like an investment to the 114 property owners affected, it looked more like a big, unwieldy expense. "It's a little bit of a Catch-22," Armas says. "To the extent that rents are low and you don't have enough income to reinvest in the property, you don't [want to spend money to] enhance the appearance of the property. And because that doesn't happen, the kinds of tenants you can attract are limited as well."
It's not the first time that city residents and business owners have quailed at the city's improvement moves. When the city moved to extend their redevelopment area to much of the downtown area last June, the council chambers were packed with folks concerned about the possibility that their properties might be taken over through eminent domain.
Armas says that the city was so focused on the vote, it has no plans on what to do next. So, for the meantime, when you think of downtown Hayward, think of crumbling sidewalks pocked with diseased trees.
_Take a brake: City Carshare, the San Francisco-based nonprofit that offers members the opportunity to share cars and cut down on traffic and smog, has long been planning to jump over to the East Bay, but for some strange reason Berkeley has been less enthusiastic about the program than Oakland. Now, City Carshare codirector Kate White has announced that the program should be up and running in Oakland by October. Oakland has awarded the organization a $130,000 grant to buy a fleet of ten cars, which should provide 250 Oakland residents with the chance to drive without the headache of actually owning a car. Berkeley, meanwhile, is still hanging back, tentatively offering the group $55,000 -- but only if the university offers a matching grant. Why the delay? According to White, it's because the city still has no planning director -- and thus no one on staff to advocate for the program despite the enthusiastic support of Mayor Shirley Dean and city councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Linda Maio, and Miriam Hawley. Just one more way that Berkeley's three-year absence of leadership in the Planning Department has held the city back.
_Putting the wow back in bow-wow: Not too long ago, Berkeley opinion-leaders eradicated the word pet owner from the official city lexicon, replacing it with something that suggested more of an equal standing between man and beast: pet guardian. Soon, there will be signs around warning dogs to curb their guardians. Clearly, pet-precious Berkeley would be the perfect town for a ritzy doggie hotel. Tina Merrill, who already runs such a hotel in Oakland, is investigating the possibility of opening up another location in West Berkeley.
For readers who don't know about Citizen Canine, according to the company's Web site (www.citizencanine.net), it offers "spacious, private rooms with daily maid service. We provide each guest with very comfortable raised beds, cotton mats, and fleece blankets and pillow." Deluxe boarding rates are $38 a night and owners can keep an eye on the precious pup from wherever they may be via a Web camera. For an extra $12, doggies can get the super deluxe package that includes basic obedience training and something called "love supreme," "a special session for dogs who love to be brushed, petted, kissed, and snuggled." (In a human hotel, the latter service would earn a raid from the vice squad.) For bitches who have a tendency to get out of line, hotel operators never put the smack down. No, there's a sensitive professional trainer around to help with "your dog's special behavior issues."
But before we get too carried away, we should note that city economic development officials say discussions are very preliminary right now. Merrill apparently hasn't decided whether to open a new hotel in the space across the street from the Scharffen Berger Chocolate building. She might, after considering everything, decide she's barking up the wrong tree.
Seven Days - December 6, 9:52 AM
Seven Days - December 4, 9:20 PM
Seven Days - December 4, 5:31 PM
Seven Days - December 4, 8:35 AM
Seven Days - December 3, 7:55 PM